Sunday, November 19, 2006

Iran turns up the Heat

November 19, 2006

By Mike Whitney

By now, anyone with a lick of sense can see that the war in Iraq has been a dead-loss. Still, few people understand how it has disrupted the region’s strategic balance and is quickening America’s decline as a world power.

The US is already facing fierce headwinds in the near future with the deflating housing market, the falling dollar, and the growing prospects of a deep recession. A sudden realignment in the Middle East would be a major hit to the American economy. Even so, it’s looking more and more like big changes are on the way.

The problem is that American power is waning just as Iran’s is ascendant. This doesn’t bode well for the "Great Satan" whose economy relies on dependable sources of cheap oil.

Iran is playing a clever game in Iraq using US occupation forces to crush the Ba’athist-led resistance while expanding their influence via the Shiite militias. This is a "lose-lose" situation for the United States. American troops must continue to focus on one enemy while they inadvertently strengthen the other. How long will it be before the Bush administration sees that they’ve been supporting the very group which is most hostile to American interests?

The smarter strategy would have been to replace Saddam but leave the Ba’ath Party in power. That way civil services and government bureaucracy could have continued without radical changes to the entire system. The Bush plan was the fast-track to anarchy, a phenomenon which now grips the entire country. Undoubtedly, the veteran-diplomats in James Baker’s "Iraq Study Group" will want to engage the leaders of the Iraqi resistance as a last-ditch effort to cobble together a coalition government and stem the violence. But time is running out.

The mass kidnapping of 150 employees at the Education Ministry shows that the Shiite militias in the Interior Ministry are getting more brazen by the day. The gunmen stormed the building in broad daylight wearing government-issue uniforms and abducted their victims without a struggle. Prime Minister al-Maliki offered a feeble defense of the kidnappers saying that it was "not an act of terrorism" but merely a dispute between competing militias.

Al-Maliki has clearly cast his lot with his Shiite base.

While the militias do not take their orders directly from Tehran, it’s clear that there’s a tacit agreement between the two and their objectives are nearly identical. Both are determined to defeat the Sunni-led resistance so that the Ba’ath Party can never return to power. The mass abductions show that they are moving as quickly as possible to execute their strategy.

The US military has fallen into a trap and is (unwittingly) helping Iran expand its influence. In fact, Bush’s plan to increase troop-strength by 20,000 in Baghdad just makes it easier for the militias to operate. The heavy American presence on the streets and checkpoints forces the Sunni resistance to remain underground while the Shiite militias conduct their round-ups and raids with complete impunity. It’s no wonder they’ve stepped up operations in recent weeks. The talk of an American withdrawal following the midterms has only increased their determination to crush the resistance while American troops still provide cover.

Who could have imagined that US forces would be acting as security guards for Iranian-backed militias?

In fact, members of the Iranian political establishment like Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh are now openly calling "for the US to REMAIN in Iraq until it has established a strong, stable central government capable of providing adequate security." (Kim Murphy LA Times)

Of course, Iranians have to be discreet in their support for the ongoing occupation, but the truth is obvious; Bush is laying the groundwork for a fundamentalist regime in Baghdad by quashing the secular, Ba’athist-backed resistance.

Does Bush really believe he can control a Shiite-dominated government? Or does he really understand what’s going on?

Can’t he see that the US-Shiite alliance is simply a "marriage of convenience" that will end as soon as the Sunnis are sufficiently weakened and there is no longer a threat of them returning to power?

The Baker group was formed as a last-gasp attempt to avert the greatest foreign policy train-wreck in American history. It’s no surprise that Bush and Israeli PM Olmert decided to conduct their high-level meetings on the same day that the Iraq Study Group met in the Oval Office. It was clearly meant to subvert Baker’s impact on the news-cycle. As soon as Bush had used Baker as a prop for his public relations photo-op (showing Bush’s "openness to new ideas") the ex-diplomats were bundled out the servants’ exit so Bush could put the final touches on the plans for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The whole event was perfectly choreographed to marginalize Baker and undermine the group’s recommendations.

This just proves that Bush’s throttling in the midterm elections has had no effect whatsoever. He’s still firmly in Cheney’s clutches and edging ever-closer to Armageddon. There’s no indication that anything substantial has changed.

Cheney’s approach is fundamentally flawed. It will take more than laser-guided munitions or "bunker busting" bombs to beat Iran. In fact, that will only speed up America’s inevitable withdrawal from Iraq. Even if half of Iran is buried beneath glowing-nuclear rubble, they still have the wherewithal to take out every oil tanker, every oil field, every oil depot, every oil-platform, and every oil pipeline in the entire gulf region. How long will America’s teetering economy persist with its Middle East arteries slashed and oil futures shooting through the stratosphere.

Then, of course, Iran has the option of smuggling high-tech weaponry, anti-tank missiles and the whole array of military hardware into Iraq, where they can swiftly cut off supply-lines, wreak havoc across the country, and force an American retreat.

A war against Iran is a foolhardy scheme that has no chance of succeeding.

Communiqué connects Iran to Iraqi Militias

A chilling communiqué from the Shiite-led "Badr Brigade" has appeared in Alliraqnews. The message warns of an agreement between the Sunnis and the "Anglo-American occupation forces" which threatens the continued dominance of the Shiite-led government. Leaders from the Badr Brigade" intend to intensify their attacks on all "public offices and institutions", to "neutralize the activities of journalists, media and intellectuals", to undermine "any attempt to rebuild the Iraqi army", and prepare for "an armed confrontation" with the enemy.

The message calls on all Shiites, including employees in the "Ministry of Defense and Interior Ministry to join the Badr Brigade, the Mahdi Army, and the Al-Dawa Party, to continue stealing weapons and equipment" to get ready for the conflagration.

The communiqué adds ominously: "The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, providing us with all weapons and equipment for the battle, as well as the preparations of troops from the Revolutionary Guards for rapid intervention near the border areas."

The message is signed by the Secretary-General Badr Organization.

Whether the communiqué is authentic or not is almost irrelevant. The blueprint is indistinguishable from the pattern of activity on the ground. The militias are using the occupation to strengthen their base and ready themselves for the inevitable confrontation with US forces. Behind the scenes, Iran is patiently waiting for America’s hourglass to run out of sand.

Prime Minister Al-Maliki has aligned himself with the main Shiite militias. He has issued a warrant for Harith al-Dhari, the head of Iraq’s prestigious Association of Muslim Scholars, on the charges of "inciting violence and terrorism among the Iraqi people". It is a baseless claim intended to drive the Sunnis to out of the government and set the stage for a Shiite dominated-regime.

The Sunnis have left according to plan. There will be no coalition government and civil war is all but certain. The bloodbath has just begun.

Bush has opened Pandora’s Box and there’ll be a terrible price to pay. He has allowed Iran to take root in Baghdad and upset the regional balance of power. Now, there really are no easy solutions. The only question is whether the impending holocaust is containable or if it will consume the entire region.

Case against Padilla 'light on facts'

Last update: November 18, 2006 – 9:04 PM

That was the assessment of a federal judge who dropped the most serious conspiracy count. Prosecutors are appealing.
Dan Eggen
, Washington Post

WASHINGTON - After he was arrested in 2002, Jose Padilla was considered so dangerous that he was held without charges in a military prison for more than three years -- accused first of plotting a radiological "dirty bomb" attack and later of conspiring with Al-Qaida to blow up apartment buildings with natural gas.

But now, nearly a year after his abrupt transfer into a regular criminal court, the Justice Department's prosecution of the former Chicago gang member is running into trouble.

A Republican-appointed federal judge in Miami has already dumped the most serious conspiracy count against Padilla, removing for now the possibility of a life sentence. The same judge has also disparaged the government's case as "light on facts," while defense lawyers have made detailed allegations that Padilla was tortured, threatened and perhaps even drugged during his detention at a Navy brig in South Carolina.

The Justice Department denied the allegations of torture last week and is pursuing an appeal of the conspiracy ruling in hopes that the charge will be reinstated. Prosecutors on Thursday also took the unusual step of revealing that Abu Zubaida, an Al-Qaida leader now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a key source who led authorities to Padilla.

Acquittal possible

Some legal scholars and defense lawyers argue that the government's case is so fundamentally weak and its legal options so limited that Padilla could draw a relatively minor prison term or even be acquitted. The trial has been postponed once, until January, and is almost certain to be delayed again.

The difficulties have reignited a debate in legal circles over whether terrorism suspects such as Padilla can be effectively prosecuted in regular criminal courts or whether the Bush administration blew its chances by relying on questionable interrogation methods that cannot be used to build a criminal case.

Stephen Vladeck, an associate law professor at the University of Miami, said an acquittal or mixed result "would certainly add fodder to the position that the courts are not set up to handle these kinds of cases. But it also adds fodder to the other side that says they never had anything to begin with."This is the government's shot," Vladeck said. "It's certainly not near as strong a case as it was made out to be when the indictment was unsealed."

From combatant to charges

Padilla, now 35, was first thrust into the spotlight in June 2002, when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Padilla's arrest and designation as an "enemy combatant."

Two years later -- facing growing legal challenges -- the administration took the unusual step of outlining a host of new allegations against Padilla, playing down the original accusations involving a "dirty bomb" plot. The indictment instead alleged that Padilla joined two other defendants, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, in funneling money to terrorist groups for battles overseas.

In a motion to dismiss the case in October, federal public defender Michael Caruso and his team alleged that Padilla "was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention."

The government counters that Padilla offers no evidence to back up the allegations and that his treatment is irrelevant to the criminal case.

A problem of evidence

Robert Chesney, a specialist in national security law at Wake Forest University, said he thinks the government will be able to fend off many of the current challenges to its case, including the decision by Judge Marcia Cooke, appointed by Bush in 2004, to throw out the murder conspiracy charge.

But Chesney and other legal scholars on both sides say that the government's case could prove troublesome in front of a jury.

"I think the prosecution is ultimately going to emerge victorious" Chesney said. "But, from Day One, we've never had sufficient admissible evidence to fully prosecute Jose Padilla."

Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”


November 18, 2006

Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

“Hegemony is as old as Mankind…” -Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor

The term “New Middle East” was introduced to the world in June 2006 in Tel Aviv by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was credited by the Western media for coining the term) in replacement of the older and more imposing term, the “Greater Middle East.”

This shift in foreign policy phraseology coincided with the inauguration of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Oil Terminal in the Eastern Mediterranean. The term and conceptualization of the “New Middle East,” was subsequently heralded by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Israeli Prime Minister at the height of the Anglo-American sponsored Israeli siege of Lebanon. Prime Minister Olmert and Secretary Rice had informed the international media that a project for a “New Middle East” was being launched from Lebanon.

This announcement was a confirmation of an Anglo-American-Israeli “military roadmap” in the Middle East. This project, which has been in the planning stages for several years, consists in creating an arc of instability, chaos, and violence extending from Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria to Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and the borders of NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan.

The “New Middle East” project was introduced publicly by Washington and Tel Aviv with the expectation that Lebanon would be the pressure point for realigning the whole Middle East and thereby unleashing the forces of “constructive chaos.” This “constructive chaos” --which generates conditions of violence and warfare throughout the region-- would in turn be used so that the United States, Britain, and Israel could redraw the map of the Middle East in accordance with their geo-strategic needs and objectives.

New Middle East Map

Secretary Condoleezza Rice stated during a press conference that “[w]hat we’re seeing here [in regards to the destruction of Lebanon and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon], in a sense, is the growing—the ‘birth pangs’—of a ‘New Middle East’ and whatever we do we [meaning the United States] have to be certain that we’re pushing forward to the New Middle East [and] not going back to the old one.”1 Secretary Rice was immediately criticized for her statements both within Lebanon and internationally for expressing indifference to the suffering of an entire nation, which was being bombed indiscriminately by the Israeli Air Force.

The Anglo-American Military Roadmap in the Middle East and Central Asia

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech on the "New Middle East" had set the stage. The Israeli attacks on Lebanon --which had been fully endorsed by Washington and London-- have further compromised and validated the existence of the geo-strategic objectives of the United States, Britain, and Israel. According to Professor Mark Levine the “neo-liberal globalizers and neo-conservatives, and ultimately the Bush Administration, would latch on to creative destruction as a way of describing the process by which they hoped to create their new world orders,” and that “creative destruction [in] the United States was, in the words of neo-conservative philosopher and Bush adviser Michael Ledeen, ‘an awesome revolutionary force’ for (…) creative destruction…”2

Anglo-American occupied Iraq, particularly Iraqi Kurdistan, seems to be the preparatory ground for the balkanization (division) and finlandization (pacification) of the Middle East. Already the legislative framework, under the Iraqi Parliament and the name of Iraqi federalization, for the partition of Iraq into three portions is being drawn out. (See map below)

Moreover, the Anglo-American military roadmap appears to be vying an entry into Central Asia via the Middle East. The Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are stepping stones for extending U.S. influence into the former Soviet Union and the ex-Soviet Republics of Central Asia. The Middle East is to some extent the southern tier of Central Asia. Central Asia in turn is also termed as “Russia’s Southern Tier” or the Russian “Near Abroad.”

Many Russian and Central Asian scholars, military planners, strategists, security advisors, economists, and politicians consider Central Asia (“Russia’s Southern Tier”) to be the vulnerable and “soft under-belly” of the Russian Federation.3

It should be noted that in his book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geo-strategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. National Security Advisor, alluded to the modern Middle East as a control lever on an area he calls the Eurasian Balkans. The Eurasian Balkans consists of the Caucasus (Georgia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Armenia) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan) and to some extent both Iran and Turkey. Iran and Turkey both form the northernmost tiers of the Middle East (excluding the Caucasus4) that edge into Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The Map of the “New Middle East”

A relatively unknown map of the Middle East, NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan, and Pakistan has been circulating around strategic, governmental, NATO, policy and military circles since mid-2006. It has been causally allowed to surface in public, maybe in an attempt to build consensus and to slowly prepare the general public for possible, maybe even cataclysmic, changes in the Middle East. This is a map of a redrawn and restructured Middle East identified as the “New Middle East.”


Note: The map was prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters. It was published in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006, Peters is a retired colonel of the U.S. National War Academy. (Map Copyright Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters 2006).

Although the map does not officially reflect Pentagon doctrine, it has been used in a training program at NATO's Defense College for senior military officers. This map, as well as other similar maps, has most probably been used at the National War Academy as well as in military planning circles.


This map of the “New Middle East” seems to be based on several other maps, including older maps of potential boundaries in the Middle East extending back to the era of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and World War I. This map is showcased and presented as the brainchild of retired Lieutenant-Colonel (U.S. Army) Ralph Peters, who believes the redesigned borders contained in the map will fundamentally solve the problems of the contemporary Middle East.

The map of the “New Middle East” was a key element in the retired Lieutenant-Colonel’s book, Never Quit the Fight, which was released to the public on July 10, 2006. This map of a redrawn Middle East was also published, under the title of Blood Borders: How a better Middle East would look, in the U.S. military’s Armed Forces Journal with commentary from Ralph Peters.5

It should be noted that Lieutenant-Colonel Peters was last posted to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, within the U.S. Defence Department, and has been one of the Pentagon’s foremost authors with numerous essays on strategy for military journals and U.S. foreign policy.

It has been written that Ralph Peters’ “four previous books on strategy have been highly influential in government and military circles,” but one can be pardoned for asking if in fact quite the opposite could be taking place. Could it be Lieutenant-Colonel Peters is revealing and putting forward what Washington D.C. and its strategic planners have anticipated for the Middle East?

The concept of a redrawn Middle East has been presented as a “humanitarian” and “righteous” arrangement that would benefit the people(s) of the Middle East and its peripheral regions. According to Ralph Peter’s:

"International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa’s borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally.

While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone — from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism — the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region’s comprehensive failure isn’t Islam, but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats.

Of course, no adjustment of borders, however draconian, could make every minority in the Middle East happy. In some instances, ethnic and religious groups live intermingled and have intermarried. Elsewhere, reunions based on blood or belief might not prove quite as joyous as their current proponents expect. The boundaries projected in the maps accompanying this article redress the wrongs suffered by the most significant "cheated" population groups, such as the Kurds, Baluch and Arab Shia [Muslims], but still fail to account adequately for Middle Eastern Christians, Bahais, Ismailis, Naqshbandis and many another numerically lesser minorities. And one haunting wrong can never be redressed with a reward of territory: the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians by the dying Ottoman Empire.

Yet, for all the injustices the borders re-imagined here leave unaddressed, without such major boundary revisions, we shall never see a more peaceful Middle East.

Even those who abhor the topic of altering borders would be well-served to engage in an exercise that attempts to conceive a fairer, if still imperfect, amendment of national boundaries between the Bosphorus and the Indus. Accepting that international statecraft has never developed effective tools — short of war — for readjusting faulty borders, a mental effort to grasp the Middle East’s “organic” frontiers nonetheless helps us understand the extent of the difficulties we face and will continue to face. We are dealing with colossal, man-made deformities that will not stop generating hatred and violence until they are corrected."6

"Necessary Pain"

Besides believing that there is “cultural stagnation” in the Middle East, it must be noted that Ralph Peters admits that his propositions are “draconian” in nature, but he insists that they are necessary pains for the people of the Middle East. This view of necessary pain and suffering is in startling parallel to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s belief that the devastation of Lebanon by the Israeli military was a necessary pain or “birth pang” in order to create the “New Middle East” that Washington, London, and Tel Aviv envision.

Moreover, it is worth noting that the subject of the Armenian Genocide is being politicized and stimulated in Europe to offend Turkey.7

The overhaul, dismantlement, and reassembly of the nation-states of the Middle East have been packaged as a solution to the hostilities in the Middle East, but this is categorically misleading, false, and fictitious. The advocates of a “New Middle East” and redrawn boundaries in the region avoid and fail to candidly depict the roots of the problems and conflicts in the contemporary Middle East. What the media does not acknowledge is the fact that almost all major conflicts afflicting the Middle East are the consequence of overlapping Anglo-American-Israeli agendas.

Many of the problems affecting the contemporary Middle East are the result of the deliberate aggravation of pre-existing regional tensions. Sectarian division, ethnic tension and internal violence have been traditionally exploited by the United States and Britain in various parts of the globe including Africa, Latin America, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Iraq is just one of many examples of the Anglo-American strategy of “divide and conquer.” Other examples are Rwanda, Yugoslavia, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan.

Amongst the problems in the contemporary Middle East is the lack of genuine democracy which U.S. and British foreign policy has actually been deliberately obstructing. Western-style "Democracy" has been a requirement only for those Middle Eastern states which do not conform to Washington's political demands. Invariably, it constitutes a pretext for confrontation. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan are examples of undemocratic states that the United States has no problems with because are firmly alligned within the Anglo-American orbit or sphere.

Additionally, the United States has deliberately blocked or displaced genuine democratic movements in the Middle East from Iran in 1953 (where a U.S./U.K. sponsored coup was staged against the democratic government of Prime Minister Mossadegh) to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, the Arab Sheikdoms, and Jordan where the Anglo-American alliance supports military control, absolutists, and dictators in one form or another. The latest example of this is Palestine.

The Turkish Protest at NATO’s Military College in Rome

Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters’ map of the “New Middle East” has sparked angry reactions in Turkey. According to Turkish press releases on September 15, 2006 the map of the “New Middle East” was displayed in NATO’s Military College in Rome, Italy. It was additionally reported that Turkish officers were immediately outraged by the presentation of a portioned and segmented Turkey.8 The map received some form of approval from the U.S. National War Academy before it was unveiled in front of NATO officers in Rome.

The Turkish Chief of Staff, General Buyukanit, contacted the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, and protested the event and the exhibition of the redrawn map of the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.9 Furthermore the Pentagon has gone out of its way to assure Turkey that the map does not reflect official U.S. policy and objectives in the region, but this seems to be conflicting with Anglo-American actions in the Middle East and NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan.

Is there a Connection between Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “Eurasian Balkans” and the “New Middle East” Project?

The following are important excerpts and passages from former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geo-strategic Imperatives. Brzezinski also states that both Turkey and Iran, the two most powerful states of the “Eurasian Balkans,” located on its southern tier, are “potentially vulnerable to internal ethnic conflicts [balkanization],” and that, “If either or both of them were to be destabilized, the internal problems of the region would become unmanageable.”10

It seems that a divided and balkanized Iraq would be the best means of accomplishing this. Taking what we know from the White House's own admissions; there is a belief that “creative destruction and chaos” in the Middle East are beneficial assets to reshaping the Middle East, creating the “New Middle East,” and furthering the Anglo-American roadmap in the Middle East and Central Asia:

"In Europe, the Word “Balkans” conjures up images of ethnic conflicts and great-power regional rivalries. Eurasia, too, has its “Balkans,” but the Eurasian Balkans are much larger, more populated, even more religiously and ethnically heterogeneous. They are located within that large geographic oblong that demarcates the central zone of global instability (…) that embraces portions of southeastern Europe, Central Asia and parts of South Asia [Pakistan, Kashmir, Western India], the Persian Gulf area, and the Middle East.

The Eurasian Balkans form the inner core of that large oblong (…) they differ from its outer zone in one particularly significant way: they are a power vacuum. Although most of the states located in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East are also unstable, American power is that region’s [meaning the Middle East’s] ultimate arbiter. The unstable region in the outer zone is thus an area of single power hegemony and is tempered by that hegemony. In contrast, the Eurasian Balkans are truly reminiscent of the older, more familiar Balkans of southeastern Europe: not only are its political entities unstable but they tempt and invite the intrusion of more powerful neighbors, each of whom is determined to oppose the region’s domination by another. It is this familiar combination of a power vacuum and power suction that justifies the appellation “Eurasian Balkans.”

The traditional Balkans represented a potential geopolitical prize in the struggle for European supremacy. The Eurasian Balkans, astride the inevitably emerging transportation network meant to link more directly Eurasia’s richest and most industrious western and eastern extremities, are also geopolitically significant. Moreover, they are of importance from the standpoint of security and historical ambitions to at least three of their most immediate and more powerful neighbors, namely, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, with China also signaling an increasing political interest in the region. But the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals, including gold.

The world’s energy consumption is bound to vastly increase over the next two or three decades. Estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy anticipate that world demand will rise by more than 50 percent between 1993 and 2015, with the most significant increase in consumption occurring in the Far East. The momentum of Asia’s economic development is already generating massive pressures for the exploration and exploitation of new sources of energy, and the Central Asian region and the Caspian Sea basin are known to contain reserves of natural gas and oil that dwarf those of Kuwait, the Gulf of Mexico, or the North Sea.

Access to that resource and sharing in its potential wealth represent objectives that stir national ambitions, motivate corporate interests, rekindle historical claims, revive imperial aspirations, and fuel international rivalries. The situation is made all the more volatile by the fact that the region is not only a power vacuum but is also internally unstable.


The Eurasian Balkans include nine countries that one way or another fit the foregoing description, with two others as potential candidates. The nine are Kazakstan [alternative and official spelling of Kazakhstan] , Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia—all of them formerly part of the defunct Soviet Union—as well as Afghanistan.

The potential additions to the list are Turkey and Iran, both of them much more politically and economically viable, both active contestants for regional influence within the Eurasian Balkans, and thus both significant geo-strategic players in the region. At the same time, both are potentially vulnerable to internal ethnic conflicts. If either or both of them were to be destabilized, the internal problems of the region would become unmanageable, while efforts to restrain regional domination by Russia could even become futile."11

Redrawing the Middle East

The Middle East, in some regards, is a striking parallel to the Balkans and Central-Eastern Europe during the years leading up the First World War. In the wake of the the First World War the borders of the Balkans and Central-Eastern Europe were redrawn. This region experienced a period of upheaval, violence and conflict, before and after World War I, which was the direct result of foreign economic interests and interference.

The reasons behind the First World War are more sinister than the standard school-book explanation, the assassination of the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo. Economic factors were the real motivation for the large-scale war in 1914.

Norman Dodd, a former Wall Street banker and investigator for the U.S. Congress, who examined U.S. tax-exempt foundations, confirmed in a 1982 interview that those powerful individuals who from behind the scenes controlled the finances, policies, and government of the United States had in fact also planned US involvement in a war, which would contribute to entrenching their grip on power.

The following testimonial is from the transcript of Norman Dodd's interview with G. Edward Griffin;

We are now at the year 1908, which was the year that the Carnegie Foundation began operations. And, in that year, the trustees meeting, for the first time, raised a specific question, which they discussed throughout the balance of the year, in a very learned fashion. And the question is this: Is there any means known more effective than war, assuming you wish to alter the life of an entire people? And they conclude that, no more effective means to that end is known to humanity, than war. So then, in 1909, they raise the second question, and discuss it, namely, how do we involve the United States in a war?

Well, I doubt, at that time, if there was any subject more removed from the thinking of most of the people of this country [the United States], than its involvement in a war. There were intermittent shows [wars] in the Balkans, but I doubt very much if many people even knew where the Balkans were. And finally, they answer that question as follows: we must control the State Department.

And then, that very naturally raises the question of how do we do that? They answer it by saying, we must take over and control the diplomatic machinery of this country and, finally, they resolve to aim at that as an objective. Then, time passes, and we are eventually in a war, which would be World War I. At that time, they record on their minutes a shocking report in which they dispatch to President Wilson a telegram cautioning him to see that the war does not end too quickly. And finally, of course, the war is over.

At that time, their interest shifts over to preventing what they call a reversion of life in the United States to what it was prior to 1914, when World War I broke out.

The redrawing and partition of the Middle East from the Eastern Mediterranean shores of Lebanon and Syria to Anatolia (Asia Minor), Arabia, the Persian Gulf, and the Iranian Plateau responds to broad economic, strategic and military objectives, which are part of a longstanding Anglo-American and Israeli agenda in the region.

The Middle East has been conditioned by outside forces into a powder keg that is ready to explode with the right trigger, possibly the launching of Anglo-American and/or Israeli air raids against Iran and Syria. A wider war in the Middle East could result in redrawn borders that are strategically advantageous to Anglo-American interests and Israel.

NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan has been successfully divided, all but in name. Animosity has been inseminated in the Levant, where a Palestinian civil war is being nurtured and divisions in Lebanon agitated. The Eastern Mediterranean has been successfully militarized by NATO. Syria and Iran continue to be demonized by the Western media, with a view to justifying a military agenda. In turn, the Western media has fed, on a daily basis, incorrect and biased notions that the populations of Iraq cannot co-exist and that the conflict is not a war of occupation but a "civil war" characterised by domestic strife between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

Attempts at intentionally creating animosity between the different ethno-cultural and religious groups of the Middle East have been systematic. In fact, they are part of carefully designed covert intelligence agenda.

Even more ominous, many Middle Eastern governments, such as that of Saudi Arabia, are assisting Washington in fomenting divisions between Middle Eastern populations. The ultimate objective is to weaken the resistance movement against foreign occupation through a "divide and conquer strategy" which serves Anglo-American and Israeli interests in the broader region.

2 Professor Mark LeVine, The New Creative Destruction, Asia Times, August 22, 2006.

3 Professor Andrej Kreutz; The Geopolitics of post-Soviet Russia and the Middle East, Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Washington D.C., January 2002.

4 The Caucasus or Caucasia can be considered as part of the Middle East or as a separate region

5 Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Ralph Peters; Blood borders: How a better Middle East would look, Armed Forces Journal (AFJ), June 2006

6 Ibid

7 Crispian Balmer; French MPs back Armenia genocide bill, Turkey angry, Reuters, October 12, 2006.

James McConalogue; French against Turks: Talking about Armenian Genocide, The Brussels Journal, October 10, 2006.

8 Suleyman Kurt; Carved-up Map of Turkey at NATO Prompts U.S. Apology, Zaman (Turkey), September 29, 2006.

9 Ibid

10 Zbigniew Brzezinski; The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geo-strategic Imperatives, Basic Books, New York, 1998

11 Ibid

America Today - Dangerously Vulnerable

15 Reasons Why America Is In A Major State Of Decline

-Wholesale sellout of core strategic assets to foreign acquirers: according to official figures, more than 8,000 American companies have been sold to foreign corporations in the last 10 years for at least $1.2 trillion (US Dept of Commerce)

-Decline of vital industries through bankruptcy, foreign predatory competition, and foreign acquisition: foreign interests now own a majority of US industries in areas like mining, publishing/movies, cement, mineral manufacturing, rubber and plastics, and engine manufacturing and own substantial portions in areas like pharmaceuticals, glass, coal, chemicals, industrial machinery, transportation equipment, petroleum, and others (Internal Revenue Service)

-Inability to manufacture competitively: American manufacturers suffer a 30+ percent structural cost disadvantage compared to overseas competitors through taxes, health and pension benefits, litigation, regulation, and energy costs – this disadvantage is more than the total labor cost of production in many other countries (National Association of Manufacturers)

-Overdependence on imports: $1 in $4 of US consumption of manufactured goods now goes immediately and directly to imports (US Dept of Commerce)

-Massive wealth transfer to foreign ownership: our trade deficit, at $723 billion in 2005, is funding foreign competitors with $1.4 million per minute of our dollars or $2,400 per US person per year spent on imported cars, clothes, toys, and thousands of other products (US Census)

-Loss of job and career opportunities for people at all educational levels: 3 million high-paying manufacturing jobs lost over past 5 years (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

-Transition to low-paying services-oriented (“servant”) economy: high-paying goods-producing industries have lost net employment over the past 25 years while non-tradable service-providing employment has nearly doubled (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

-Insourcing of foreign manufacturers destroys our domestic industries, takes profits and taxes overseas, and provides only low-skill jobs for American workers: foreign manufacturers operating in the US now account for over 20 percent of our exports and manufacturing assets, and a large percentage of our employment (Internal Revenue Service)

-Foreign financing of vast majority of government debt: foreign countries now control 47 percent of our total federal deficit and finance nearly 100 percent of all new borrowings – our competitors are now our bankers (US Federal Reserve)

-Outsourcing key manufacturing, research, and design: unchecked offshore outsourcing benefits individual companies and shareholders but destroys entire industries and communities

-Lost scientific, engineering, technological prowess: in 2004, China and India graduated a combined 950,000 engineers versus 70,000 in the US. US ranks near the bottom of science/math proficiency (Associated Press)

-Wealth shift into less productive assets: residential real estate now represents a record 38 percent of household net worth on record over-inflated home valuations and record mortgage levels (US Federal Reserve)

-Record levels of personal and government debt: household liabilities at record levels, federal government adding record levels of debt each year financed mostly by foreign countries, trade deficits transferring unprecedented accelerating amounts of wealth to foreign hands each year (US Federal Reserve)

-Misleading commonly used economic statistics: misleading incomplete statistics like GDP, job creation, and productivity belie our crumbling economic infrastructure

-Proven failed trade policies and other legislation contributing to our demise continue unchallenged: destroying our industry and allowing our assets to be sold or taken from us

If these trends continue unabated, what future could we possibly have? This wealth of this country was created under far different conditions than those that now exist. We are being misled into believing a false sense of perpetual invulnerable self-sufficiency. We largely fail to acknowledge just how extremely vulnerable we are. Given the scale of the problems outlined below, any single major disruption to our economy could have devastating consequences. Decide for yourself.

The Bush administration's distortion of history to justify infinite war

November 19, 2006

By Carolyn Baker

Nixon had no readiness at all to see Saigon under a Vietcong flag after a “decent interval” of two or three years—or ever….And so it meant that the war would essentially never end. His campaign promise of ending the war was a hoax. Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and The Pentagon Papers

On Friday, George W. Bush arrived in Vietnam with the intention of strengthening business ties with that nation and used his photo op to make one of the most jaw-dropping statements of his presidency regarding the subject of history. “History has a long march to it,” he banally proclaimed as we all yawned, recalling that his major at Harvard, where he barely managed to maintain a 2.3 average, was history. Then came the clincher as Bush was asked if any lessons from Vietnam apply to the war in Iraq: “One lesson,” he babbled, “is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile. It’s just going to take a long time for the ideology that is hopeful, and that is an ideology of freedom, to overcome an ideology of hate. We’ll succeed unless we quit.”

Oh really, the “lesson” of Vietnam is that we shouldn’t “quit”? There it is again, that Orwellian mindset that has pervaded this administration; war is peace, and evil is good. No one should be shocked that Bush has no sense of history, that he has never read anything beyond the Reader’s Digest version of it, and that he willfully ignores the genuine lessons of the Vietnam era, but every American should be outraged by this statement, but one of the myriad reasons the vast majority of Americans have allowed the most criminal administration in the history of this nation to continue unabated, with nary a peep of indignation, is that they themselves have so little knowledge of their history.

Listen further to Daniel Ellsberg: “What I was hearing was not just that the war was going to go on, indefinitely, but that it would get larger, eventually larger than it had ever been.” In his memoir, Secrets, we are shown incontrovertible evidence that what drove the former Rand Corporation economic analyst to hide top-secret, classified documents, which became the Pentagon Papers, in his brief case upon leaving the Defense Department every night and thereby risk serving decades in prison, was moral outrage over the appalling reality that the Nixon administration had no intention whatsoever of ending the Vietnam War, but in fact, was actively engaged in continuing it for as long as possible. Are we shocked that the Bush administration lied us into war? Almost all U.S. presidential administrations have lied into war, but never as blatantly as this one has.

As noted in my new book U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You, in the early 1960s, a decade prior to Ellsberg’s employment at the Defense Department, Air Force Colonel, L. Fletcher Prouty worked in the Pentagon as chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kennedy administration. His experience corroborates seamlessly with Ellsberg’s as Prouty observed that in the early days of the Vietnam conflict, the U.S. was not only financing the French against the North Vietnamese, but was also financing the North Vietnamese. Why? Because the military-industrial complex is amoral and doesn’t quibble over “sides” but how to most effectively bloat the profits of war. “War is the best business in town,” opines Prouty, echoing the words of the World War I hero, General Smedley Butler and his famous indictment that “War is a racket.”

In my book I recount the story of an attempt by pro-fascist corporate capitalists in the 1930s to enlist Butler into leading a coup against Franklin Roosevelt in order to implement a fascist government. Pretending to go along with the coup, Butler later disclosed its details to Congress, but no action was taken against the coup plotters.

Lest my inbox become glutted with emails reminding me that Prouty was a Scientologist, I hasten to add that his religious beliefs pale by comparison with the documentation he provided us regarding the JFK assassination and the Pentagon’s Vietnam policies. My point is that we can pick an administration—any administration, Democratic or Republican, since the end of World War II, and despite its rhetoric, it will upon investigation, reveal itself as subservient to the war machine, doing whatever it takes to feed that mechanism, either during the infinite wars it has fueled or in between them.

Moreover, another lesson of history that the Bush administration ignores is that asymmetric wars cannot be “won” but merely endured, and while that serves the strategy of infinite war, history is replete with examples of how it decimates a citizenry and its resources. Stan Goff, Ret. U.S. Army Special Forces, former West Point instructor, and author of Full Spectrum Disorder, describes asymmetric warfare as “When they retreat, pursue. When they attack, retreat. Match your strengths to their weakness.”

A stunning example of asymmetric warfare is Hezbollah’s victory over the Israeli occupation forces in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Asymmetric warfare is a gradual wearing down of the enemy and his resources and morale. Furthermore, Goff writes, “The U.S. inflicted a terrible empirical toll on Southeast Asia and ultimately lost the Vietnam War. The U.S. never grasped the political character of that war.” Nor did the U.S. grasp the will of traditional peoples to use non-conventional means to fight conventional wars. For example, even though the U.S. military had highly sophisticated weapons technology in the Vietnam War, hundreds of Vietnamese people were willing to rip up railroad tracks with their bare hands, dealing strategic blows to American forces as sectarian violence in Iraq, a textbook example of asymmetric warfare, is now doing.

Try as you may, Mr. President, you cannot “pretzelize” history to fit your political and war machine agenda. Distort it however you wish, it will have the last word. Goff said it best in his recent article, “Reflecting On Rumsfeld:

The United States is not suffering from some collective personality disorder called compassion fatigue. We are suffering from the most well-funded thought-control experiment in history, more sophisticated and deadly by many orders of magnitude than anything contrived by Kim Jong Il—the latest bete noir of American public discourse, and we are suffering from the complicity of journalistic hacks like Judith Miller and the anodyne intellectual narcotics of policy think tanks. It is our empathy that is under attack, because if it is aroused to a point where Iraqis or Afghans or even our own imperial soldiers become real people (and not a yellow-ribbon magnet), the jig is up. So here is a simple reminder. This war is wanton cruelty in our name; there is no rationalization that can mitigate or excuse it; “we” will not win it and somehow transmogrify a swine into a swan … and it is not over.

What Vietnam teaches us, Mr. President, is that war is the “health of the state” as described by World War I progressive Randolph Bourne, and as long as the American people allow you or any other president to lie us into wars, you will do so, perpetuating the Iraq War as long as possible—as long as the Nixon administration attempted to perpetuate Vietnam: forever. And, in order to justify your crimes against the world and the American people, you and your military industrial complex must turn history into chopped liver.

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. is author of U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You which can be ordered at her website where she may also be contacted.

The Dutch are dicks

Remember all those who died to liberate this filth from the Nazis?

What a waste.

Same could be said for the Brits I suppose, or the Americans who have spit on their forefathers' freedom earned in blood.


Time to flush...

17 November 2006, 22:17 GMT

Dutch government backs burqa ban

The proposed burqa ban comes ahead of Dutch elections

The Dutch cabinet has backed a proposal by the country's immigration minister to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places.

The burqa, a full body covering that also obscures the face, would be banned by law in the street, and in trains, schools, buses and the law courts.

The cabinet said burqas disturb public order, citizens and safety.

The decision comes days ahead of elections which the ruling centre-right coalition is expected to win.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, who is known for her tough policies, said it was important that all people in the Netherlands were able to see and identify each other clearly to promote integration and tolerance.

Last year a majority of MPs in the Dutch parliament said they were in favour of a ban.

An estimated 6% of 16 million people living in the Netherlands are Muslims.

But there are thought to be fewer than 100 women who choose to wear the burqa, a traditional Islamic form of dress.

Civil rights debate

The latest move came after an expert committee judged that it would not contravene Dutch law.

Other forms of face coverings, such as crash helmets with visors that obscure the face, would also be covered by a legal ban.

[It is] undesirable that face-covering clothing is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens

Rita Verdonk

The Islamic veil in Europe
Why women wear the veil
Send us your comments

Ms Verdonk insisted the burqa was not an acceptable part of public life in the Netherlands.

"The Cabinet finds it undesirable that face-covering clothing - including the burqa - is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens," she said.

Critics of the proposed ban say it would violate civil rights.

The main Muslim organisation in the Netherlands, CMO, said the plan was an "over-reaction to a very marginal problem", the Associated Press reported.

But the minister told the BBC that social interaction would be easier if faces were not covered.

"It is very important that we can see each other and can communicate with each other. Because we are so tolerant we want to respect each other."


The issue of the type of clothing worn by Muslim women has become a hotly-debated subject in a range of European countries.

France has passed a law banning religious symbols, including Muslim headscarves, from schools.

Find out about different styles of Muslim headscarf

In graphics

Some German states ban teachers in public schools from wearing headscarves, but there is no blanket rule against burqas.

Italy has banned face-coverings, resurrecting old laws passed to combat domestic terrorism, while citing new security fears.

The issue of Muslim women's dress also surfaced in the UK, where former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said women should not wear the veil.

The Dutch relationship with its Muslim community has been under scrutiny since the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh by Islamic extremists in November 2004.

Earlier this year Ms Verdonk clashed with a minority party in the governing coalition over her handling of the citizenship case of Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The MP scripted a controversial film about the treatment of women in Islamic society, directed by van Gogh before he was killed.

But she admitted lying on her 1992 application for Dutch citizenship, and Ms Verdonk initially called for the MP to be deported.

Israeli Rights group says Israel engaged in "wilful killings"

Rights group says Israel engaged in "wilful killings"
Fri Nov 17, 2006 3:42 PM GMT

By Luke Baker

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli human rights group has called for an immediate military investigation into the deaths of two wounded and unarmed Palestinians shot during an army raid in the occupied West Bank this month.

B'Tselem, an independent group that monitors Israel's actions in the Palestinian territories, said eyewitnesses had described a sequence of events that contradicted the Israeli military's account of the raid on November 7-8, and that there was evidence Israeli forces had engaged in unlawful killing.

"B'Tselem's investigation indicates that Salim Abu al-Heijah and Mahmoud Abu Hassan were executed by soldiers while they lay wounded, unarmed and posed no risk to the soldiers," the group said in a report posted on its Web site.

"Even if the operation in Yamun was part of combat rather than law-enforcement activities, as Israel often claims, the killing of the two men constituted a grave breach of the laws of war in international humanitarian law.

"These laws categorically prohibit wilful killing of combatants who can no longer defend themselves due to injury... Such a killing is defined as a war crime," it said.

In an official response to the report, the Israeli army said its troops had entered a house in Yamun, near Jenin, only after being told by residents that there was no one left inside, and then discovered several suspected militants hiding there.

"During the searching, the force identified several suspicious figures inside the structure and fired at them," the army said in a statement faxed to Reuters.

"It is important to stress that the Palestinians who were asked by the force whether all of the structure's residents had left not only concealed the fact that the gunmen were inside, but told the force that the structure was totally vacant."

The army said troops had found assault rifles, a handgun and matching ammunition in a subsequent search of the property.

It is not the first time Israeli troops have been accused of "wilful" killing. In May 2005, B'Tselem said it had found evidence Israeli soldiers were conducting "assassinations rather than arrest operations" during West Bank raids.

Israeli troops carry out almost daily raids in towns across the West Bank, especially around Jenin, which is regarded as a militant stronghold. Israeli forces have occupied the West Bank since capturing the territory in the 1967 Middle East war.

Hollow visions of Palestine’s future

November 17, 2006

Peace will need more than David Grossman -- or Uri Avnery

By Jonathan Cook

David Grossman’s widely publicised speech at the annual memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin earlier this month has prompted some fine deconstruction of his “words of peace” from critics.

Grossman, one of Israel’s foremost writers and a figurehead for its main peace movement, Peace Now, personifies the caring, tortured face of Zionism that so many of the country’s apologists -- in Israel and abroad, trenchant and wavering alike -- desperately want to believe survives, despite the evidence of the Qanas, Beit Hanouns and other massacres committed by the Israeli army against Arab civilians. Grossman makes it possible to believe, for a moment, that the Ariel Sharons and Ehud Olmerts are not the real upholders of Zionism’s legacy, merely a temporary deviation from its true path.

In reality, of course, Grossman draws from the same ideological well-spring as Israel’s founders and its greatest warriors. He embodies the same anguished values of Labor Zionism that won Israel international legitimacy just as it was carrying out one of history’s great acts of ethnic cleansing: the expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians, or 80 per cent the native population, from the borders of the newly established Jewish state.

(Even critical historians usually gloss over the fact that the percentage of the Palestinian population expelled by the Israeli army was, in truth, far higher. Many Palestinians forced out during the 1948 war ended up back inside Israel’s borders either because under the terms of the 1949 armistice with Jordan they were annexed to Israel, along with a small but densely populated area of the West Bank known as the Little Triangle, or because they managed to slip back across the porous border with Lebanon and Syria in the months following the war and hide inside the few Palestinian villages inside Israel that had not been destroyed.)

Remove the halo with which he has been crowned by the world’s liberal media and Grossman is little different from Zionism’s most distinguished statesmen, those who also ostentatiously displayed their hand-wringing or peace credentials as, first, they dispossessed the Palestinian people of most of their homeland; then dispossessed them of the rest; then ensured the original act of ethnic cleansing would not unravel; and today are working on the slow genocide of the Palestinians, through a combined strategy of their physical destruction and their dispersion as a people.

David Ben Gurion, for example, masterminded the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 before very publicly agonising over the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza -- even if only because of the demographic damage that would be done to the Jewish state as a result.

Golda Meir refused to recognise the existence of the Palestinian people as she launched the settlement enterprise in the occupied territories, but did recognise the anguish of Jewish soldiers forced to “shoot and cry” to defend the settlements. Or as she put it: “We can forgive you [the Palestinians] for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.”

Yitzhak Rabin, Grossman’s most direct inspiration, may have initiated a “peace process” at Oslo (even if only the terminally optimistic today believe that peace was really its goal), but as a soldier and politician he also personally oversaw the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian cities like Lid in 1948; he ordered tanks into Arab villages inside Israel during the Land Day protests of 1976, leading to the deaths of half a dozen unarmed Palestinian citizens; and in 1988 he ordered his army to crush the first intifada by “breaking the bones” of Palestinians, including women and children, who threw stones at the occupying troops.

Like them, Grossman conspires in these original war crimes by prefering to hold on to what Israel has, or even extend it further, rather than confront the genuinely painful truth of his responsibility for the fate of the Palestinians, including the hundreds of thousands of refugees and the millions of their descendants.

Every day that Grossman denies a Right of Return for the Palestinians, even as he supports a Law of Return for the Jews, he excuses and maintains the act of ethnic cleansing that dispossessed the Palestinian refugees more than half a century ago.

And every day that he sells a message of peace to Israelis who look to him for moral guidance that fails to offer the Palestinians a just solution -- and that takes instead as its moral yardstick the primacy of Israel’s survival as a Jewish state -- then he perverts the meaning of peace.

Another Israeli peace activist, Uri Avnery, diagnoses the problem posed by Grossman and his ilk with acute insight in a recent article. Although Grossman wants peace in the abstract, Avnery observes, he offers no solutions as to how it might be secured in concrete terms and no clues about what sacrifices he or other Israelis will have to make to achieve it. His “peace” is empty of content, a mere rhetorical device.

Rather than suggest what Israel should talk about to the Palestinians’ elected leaders, Grossman argues that Israel should talk over their heads to the “moderates”, Palestinians with whom Israel’s leaders can do business. The goal is to find Palestinians, any Palestinians, who will agree to Israel’s “peace”. The Oslo process in new clothes.

Grossman’s speech looks like a gesture towards a solution only because Israel’s current leaders do not want to speak with anybody on the Palestinian side, whether “moderate” or “fanatic”. The only interlocutor is Washington, and a passive one at that.

If Grossman’s words are as as “hollow” as those of Ehud Olmert, Avnery offers no clue as to reasons for the author’s evasiveness. In truth, Grossman cannot deal in solutions because there is almost no constituency in Israel for the kind of peace plan that might prove acceptable even to the Palestinian “moderates” Grossman so wants his government to talk to.

Were Grossman to set out the terms of his vision of peace, it might become clear to all that the problem is not Palestinian intransigence.

Although surveys regularly show that a majority of Israelis support a Palestinian state, they are conducted by pollsters who never specify to their sampling audience what might be entailed by the creation of the state posited in their question. Equally the pollsters do not require from their Israeli respondents any information about what kind of Palestinian state each envisages. This makes the nature of the Palestinian state being talked about by Israelis almost as empty of content as the alluring word “peace”.

After all, according to most Israelis, Gazans are enjoying the fruits of the end of Israel’s occupation. And according to Olmert, his proposed “convergence” -- a very limited withdrawal from the West Bank -- would have established the basis for a Palestinian state there too.

When Israelis are asked about their view of more specific peace plans, their responses are overwhelmingly negative. In 2003, for example, 78 per cent of Israeli Jews said they favoured a two-state solution, but when asked if they supported the Geneva Initiative -- which envisions a very circumscribed Palestinian state on less than all of the West Bank and Gaza -- only a quarter did so. Barely more than half of the supposedly leftwing voters of Labor backed the Geneva Initiative.

This low level of support for a barely viable Palestinian state contrasts with the consistently high levels of support among Israeli Jews for a concrete, but very different, solution to the conflict: “transfer”, or ethnic cleansing. In opinion polls, 60 per cent of Israeli Jews regularly favour the emigration of Arab citizens from the as-yet-undetermined borders of the Jewish state.

So when Grossman warns us that “a peace of no choice” is inevitable and that “the land will be divided, a Palestinian state will arise”, we should not be lulled into false hopes. Grossman’s state is almost certainly as “hollow” as his audience’s idea of peace.

Grossman’s refusal to confront the lack of sympathy among the Israeli public for the Palestinians, or challenge it with solutions that will require of Israelis that they make real sacrifices for peace, deserves our condemnation. He and the other gurus of Israel’s mainstream peace movement, writers like Amos Oz and A B Yehoshua, have failed in their duty to articulate to Israelis a vision of a fair future and a lasting peace.

So what is the way out of the impasse created by the beatification of figures like Grossman? What other routes are open to those of us who refuse to believe that Grossman stands at the very precipice before which any sane peace activist would tremble? Can we look to other members of the Israeli left for inspiration?

Uri Avnery again steps forward. He claims that there are only two peace camps in Israel: a Zionist one, based on a national consensus rooted in the Peace Now of David Grossman; and what he calls a “radical peace camp” led by … well, himself and his group of a few thousand Israelis known as Gush Shalom.

By this, one might be tempted to infer that Avnery styles his own peace bloc as non-Zionist or even anti-Zionist. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Avnery and most, though not all, of his supporters in Israel are staunchly in the Zionist camp.

The bottom line in any peace for Avnery is the continued existence and success of Israel as a Jewish state. That rigidly limits his ideas about what sort of peace a “radical” Israeli peace activist ought to be pursuing.

Like Grossman, Avnery supports a two-state solution because, in both their views, the future of the Jewish state cannot be guaranteed without a Palestinian state alongside it. This is why Avnery finds himself agreeing with 90 per cent of Grossman’s speech. If the Jews are to prosper as a demographic (and democratic) majority in their state, then the non-Jews must have a state too, one in which they can exercise their own, separate sovereign rights and, consequently, abandon any claims on the Jewish state.

However, unlike Grossman, Avnery not only supports a Palestinian state in the abstract but a “just” Palestinian state in the concrete, meaning for him the evacuation of all the settlers and a full withdrawal by the Israeli army to the 1967 lines. Avnery’s peace plan would give back east Jerusalem and the whole of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians.

The difference between Grossman and Avnery on this point can be explained by their different understanding of what is needed to ensure the Jewish state’s survival. Avnery believes that a lasting peace will hold only if the Palestinian state meets the minimal aspirations of the Palestinian people. In his view, the Palestinians can be persuaded under the right leadership to settle for 22 per cent of their historic homeland -- and in that way the Jewish state will be saved.

Of itself, there is nothing wrong with Avnery’s position. It has encouraged him to take a leading and impressive role in the Israeli peace movement for many decades. Bravely he has crossed over national confrontation lines to visit the besieged Palestinian leadership when other Israelis have shied away. He has taken a courageous stand against the separation wall, facing down Israeli soldiers alongside Palestinian, Israeli and foreign peace activists. And through his journalism he has highlighted the Palestinian cause and educated Israelis, Palestinians and outside observers about the conflict. For all these reasons, Avnery should be praised as a genuine peacemaker.

But there is a serious danger that, because Palestinian solidarity movements have misunderstood Avnery’s motives, they may continue to be guided by him beyond the point where he is contributing to a peaceful solution or a just future for the Palestinians. In fact, that moment may be upon us.

During the Oslo years, Avnery was desperate to see Israel complete its supposed peace agreement with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. As he often argued, he believed that Arafat alone could unify the Palestinians and persuade them to settle for the only two-state solution on the table: a big Israel, alongside a small Palestine.

In truth, Avnery’s position was no so far from that of the distinctly unradical Oslo crowd of Rabin, Peres and Yossi Beilin. All four of them regarded Arafat as the Palestinian strongman who could secure Israel’s future: Rabin hoped Arafat would police the Palestinians on Israel’s behalf in their ghettoes; while Avnery hoped Arafat would forge a nation, democratic or otherwise, that would contain the Palestinians’ ambitions for territory and a just solution to the refugee problem.

Now with Arafat gone, Avnery and Gush Shalom have lost their ready-made solution to the conflict. Today, they still back two states and support engagement with Hamas. They have also not deviated from their long-standing positions on the main issues -- Jerusalem, borders, settlements and refugees -- even if they no longer have the glue, Arafat, that was supposed to make it all stick together.

But without Arafat as their strongman, Gush Shalom have no idea about how to address the impending issues of factionalism and potential civil war that Israel’s meddling in the Palestinian political process are unleashing.

They will also have no response if the tide on the Palestinian street turns against the two-state mirage offered by Oslo. If Palestinians look for other ways out of the current impasse, as they are starting to do, Avnery will quickly become an obstacle to peace rather than its great defender.

In fact, such a development is all but certain. Few knowledgeable observers of the conflict believe the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines is feasible any longer, given Israel’s entrenchment of its settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank, now numbering nearly half a million. Even the Americans have publicly admitted that most of the settlements cannot be undone. It is only a matter of time before Palestinians make the same calculation.

What will Avnery, and the die-hards of Gush Shalom, do in this event? How will they respond if Palestinians start to clamour for a single state embracing both Israelis and Palestinians, for example?

The answer is that the “radical” peaceniks will quickly need to find another solution to protect their Jewish state. There are not too many available:

* There is the “Carry on with the occupation regardless” of Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud;
* There is the “Seal the Palestinians into ghettoes and hope eventually they will leave of their own accord”, in its Kadima (hard) and Labor (soft) incarnations;
* And there is the “Expel them all” of Avigdor Lieberman, Olmert’s new Minister of Strategic Threats.

Paradoxically, a variation on the last option may be the most appealing to the disillusioned peaceniks of Gush Shalom. Lieberman has his own fanatical and moderate positions, depending on his audience and the current realities. To some he says he wants all Palestinians expelled from Greater Israel so that it is available only for Jews. But to others, particularly in the diplomatic arena, he suggests a formula of territorial and population swaps between Israel and the Palestinians that would create a “Separation of Nations”. Israel would get the settlements back in return for handing over some small areas of Israel, like the Little Triangle, densely populated with Palestinians.

A generous version of such an exchange -- though a violation of international law -- would achieve a similar outcome to Gush Shalom’s attempts to create a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. Even if Avnery is unlikely to be lured down this path himself, there is a real danger that others in the “radical” peace camp will prefer this kind of solution over sacrificing their commitment at any price to the Jewish state.

But fortunately, whatever Avnery claims, his peace camp is not the only alternative to the sham agonising of Peace Now. Avnery is no more standing at the very edge of the abyss than Grossman. The only abyss Avnery is looking into is the demise of his Jewish state.

Other Zionist Jews, in Israel and abroad, have been grappling with the same kinds of issues as Avnery but begun to move in a different direction, away from the doomed two-state solution towards a binational state. A few prominent intellectuals like Tony Judt, Meron Benvenisti and Jeff Halper have publicly begun to question their commitment to Zionism and consider whether it is not part of the problem rather than the solution.

They are not doing this alone. Small groups of Israelis, smaller than Gush Shalom, are abandoning Zionism and coalescing around new ideas about how Israeli Jews and Palestinians might live peacefully together, including inside a single state. They include Taayush, Anarchists Against the Wall, Zochrot and elements within the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions and Gush Shalom itself.

Avnery hopes that his peace camp may be the small wheel that can push the larger wheel of organisations like Peace Now in a new direction and thereby shift Israeli opinion towards a real two-state solution. Given the realities on the ground, that seems highly unlikely. But one day, wheels currently smaller than Gush Shalom may begin to push Israel in the direction needed for peace.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His book, Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State, is published by Pluto Press. His website is

No choice but to live together

Chicago Tribune

November 17, 2006

By Ali Abunimah

As I watched the images last week of destruction from the Gaza Strip, where an Israeli shelling attack had killed an entire family, as a Palestinian I could understand the feelings of one survivor who said, "I cannot see a day when we will live in peace with them." But I also know there is no other choice.

When Israel was established, its founders said it would be an exemplary, moral state. For many Jews, it seemed like a miraculous redemption after so much suffering and loss in the Nazi Holocaust.

Palestinians experienced a different reality. Israel became a "Jewish state" in a country that had always been multicultural and multireligious. The expulsion and exclusion of Palestinians from their own homeland has led Israelis and Palestinians into an endless nightmare of mutual non-recognition and bloodshed.

For decades, the conventional wisdom has been that this conflict can only be resolved by partitioning the country into two states. Yet despite enormous political and diplomatic efforts to achieve this, the two peoples remain thoroughly if unhappily intertwined. Israel's project of establishing settler-colonies inside the territories where Palestinians wanted to create a state has rendered separation impossible.

At the same time, Israel finds itself in a conundrum. For the first time since the state was founded, Israeli Jews no longer form an absolute majority in the territory they control. Today there are roughly 5 million Jews and 5 million Palestinians living in the same land. The trends are incontestable. Within a few years, Palestinians will form the clear majority.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recognized in 2003 what this would mean: "We are approaching the point where more and more Palestinians will say, `There is no place for two states,'" in this country, and "`All we want is the right to vote.' The day they get it, we will lose everything." Warning that Israel could not remain both a Jewish state and a democracy if it held on to all of the occupied Palestinian territories, Olmert added, "I shudder to think that liberal Jewish organizations that shouldered the burden of struggle against apartheid, will lead the struggle against us."

Some Israeli extremists, like the new Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman, believe this "demographic problem" can be solved by expelling non-Jews. Israel's chosen solution, which it calls "unilateral separation," walls Palestinians into impoverished ghettos Palestinians compare to the townships and Bantustans set up for blacks by the apartheid government of South Africa. The result of this approach, as we see in Gaza, is more hopelessness, resistance and defiance, and sure disaster for both peoples.

The two-state solution remains attractive and comforting in its apparent simplicity and finality. But in reality, it has proved unattainable because neither Palestinians nor Israelis are willing to give up enough of the country that they love. Faced with this impasse, a small but growing group of Israelis and Palestinians are tentatively exploring an old idea long dormant: Why not have a single state in which both peoples enjoy equal rights and protections and religious freedom? Many people dismiss this as utopian dreaming.

Allister Sparks, the legendary editor of the anti-apartheid Rand Daily Mail newspaper, observed that the conflict in South Africa most resembled those in Northern Ireland and Palestine-Israel, because each involved "two ethno-nationalisms" in a seemingly irreconcilable rivalry for the "same piece of territory." If the prospect of "one secular country shared by all" seems "unthinkable" in Palestine-Israel today, then it is possible to appreciate how unlikely such a solution once seemed in South Africa. But "that is what we did," Sparks says, "without any foreign negotiator [and] no handshakes on the White House lawn."

To be sure, Palestinians and Israelis would not simply be able to take the new South Africa as a blueprint. They would have to work out their own distinct constitution, including mechanisms for ethnic communities to have autonomy in matters that concern them, and to guarantee that no one group can dominate another. There would be hard work to heal the terrible wounds of the past. Such a solution offers the chance that Palestine-Israel could become for the first time ever the truly safe home where Israelis and Palestinians can accept each other. It may be an arduous path, but in the current impasse we cannot afford to ignore any ray of light.

Ali Abunimah is a Palestinian-American and the author of "One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Don't Iraq Iran

November 19, 2006

By Rostam Pourzal and Antonia Juhasz

By virtually any measure, Iraq is a disaster. Tragically, those who bear responsibility for the ruin in Iraq not only fail to view it as such, they also appear headed down a similar path in Iran. Unless we change course, Iran is poised to become the next victim of a dangerously misguided U.S. foreign policy.

More than three and half years after the invasion, Iraq is more dangerous, deadly, and either on the verge of or engaged in a civil war – depending on your definition. The provision of basic services, employment, and economic opportunity are insufficient and in most cases worse then before the war. Iraq's democracy is, at very best, thread-bare.

Not surprisingly, nearly three-quarters of Baghdad residents polled by the U.S. State Department this month said they would feel safer if coalition forces left Iraq, with 65% of those asked favoring an immediate withdrawal. More than 70% of U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq polled in February said they believed they should be out of Iraq within a year.

President Bush disagrees. In a recent answer to a reporter's question, he declared, "absolutely, we're winning" in Iraq. What does the President know that the rest of the population does not? Possibly that the U.S. oil industry is poised to become an actual "winner" in Iraq with the passage of a new hydrocarbons law which Iraq's oil minister recently announced would be passed this year. The law, which mirrors an earlier State Department proposal, opens Iraq's previously nationalized oil industry to private foreign investment on terms that are unprecedented in the Middle East, or virtually any oil rich nation, in their bias towards the interests of private companies.

If, as the Iraqi government has all but promised, U.S. oil companies are among those awarded these contracts, they will have won that which they were denied prior to the war: access to Iraq's oil under the ground. Of course, they'll still need some security to get to work. That may well be where America's 140,000 troops come in.

Despite and because of the current situation in Iraq, U.S. foreign policy is repeating itself in Iran. The Bush administration is isolating and antagonizing Iran instead of negotiating and seeking resolution. As with Iraq, it is lobbing the same threats of sanctions and regime change. The administration specifically refuses to take the "military option" off the table, despite frequent requests to do so from our European allies.

Among its other benefits, Iran certainly has the lure of having the third largest reserves of oil in the world. The "victors" in Iran may well be the same as those in Iraq.

The Bush administration's foreign policy, based on intimidation and violence to advance the interests of the few irregardless to the harm
of the many, is making war with Iran increasingly likely. It is time for the administration to heed the advice of its European allies and return to a multilateral approach to global security. Specifically this requires direct U.S. negotiations with Iran without pre-conditions. There will be no "coalition of the willing" to participate in any form of military confrontation with Iran. The White House alone will bear the responsibility for an unnecessary regional conflagration that would be sure to dramatically increase future terrorist attacks on American targets.

According to the Bush administration's own intelligence reports, the war in Iraq is making the United States and its allies significantly less safe. A war with Iran, whatever its composition, will undoubtedly do the same. At the same time, it will all but guarantee Iranians the same cruel fate that befell their brothers and sisters in Iraq. A war against Iran may well serve the interests of those who have benefited from the war in Iraq, but it will most certainly harm the rest of us. We simply cannot afford to continue the same failed foreign policy.

Rostam Pourzal is president of the U.S. Branch of Campaign Against Sanction and Military Intervention in Iran. Antonia Juhasz is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time. Raed Jarrar is director of the Iraq Project of Global Exchange. The three were recently speakers on a 16-city tour of the Northeast organized by Just Foreign Policy.

Happy Independence Day

Rima Merriman
, The Electronic Intifada, 15 November 2006

The rate of unemployment in the occupied Palestinian territories has reached through the roof - 31.1% in the first quarter of 2006. Palestinian academics are concerned, even as they quibble over methodologies and exact figures. The Palestinian Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) held its annual conference on the 13th of November at Birzeit University to discuss this problem. Unfortunately, very little by way of original ideas came out of this conference. What is sorely needed is consensus over a bold governmental policy that deals squarely with the current major cause of unemployment - Israel's closing of its labor market, which at one time absorbed as many as 200,000 Palestinian workers.

An indication as to why nothing helpful came out of this conference is in the title of one of the papers: "Unemployment in the Palestinian Territory: Reality and Strategy to Alleviate it!" The studious absence of the word "occupied" before "territory" reflects the weird politics at play behind sponsored research in the oPt (in this case by German funds). Such funding imposes political restrictions in order to reinforce the general pretense or wishful thinking that the Palestinian Authority is just like any other government; it simply must get its act together, must ensure "some kind of planning in the budgeting process" (to quote one of the recommendations in the paper), and development is sure to follow.

What is needed is a new kind of approach and a new kind of research û one that is driven by a well-defined Palestinian political/economic strategy û in other words, a Palestinian political economic program. The Israeli "disengagement" plan from Gaza included a resolve to reduce the number of Gazans working in Israel to zero by 2008. Is this good or bad for Palestinians from a political standpoint and for the long run? If the political answer is "yes", then the Palestinians are in need of research that shows how economic growth and wellbeing can be achieved with the Israeli labor market taken out of the equation. What must Palestinians do? How can aid be focused on achieving economic prosperity and job creation without having to rely on the Israeli labor market or Israeli ports? What are the alternatives? How can the international community be enjoined to help Palestinians carry this alternative out?

Although some participants in the MAS conference nostalgically brought up the 1999 economic performance of the oPt as an example of how healthy growth had been achieved in the political atmosphere prior to Al Aqsa uprising, they failed to mention that such growth was unaccompanied by any real development. As articulated by the political economist Sara Roy, the Palestinian economy under the Oslo Accords meant the "de-development" of the Palestinian economy through its integration into the Israeli economy.

Palestinians must develop an indigenous economy. Clearly, if the Palestinians are to have an economically viable independent state, they need economic as well as social, political and cultural autonomy. Where is the MAS research on how to achieve such economic autonomy?

The idea of the Paris protocol was built on the integration of the Palestinian economy with the Israeli economy. What this integration meant in practice, and what the Paris protocol allowed to happen is the following: "Israel's expropriation of Palestinian land and water, prohibitions on Palestinian land and water-use planning, prohibitions on the development of financial and credit institutions, low levels of government investment in economic and social infrastructures, restrictions on research and training, restrictions on foreign trade and the lack of protection from Israeli imports, and limitations on the legal and regulatory system, e.g., in the process of industrial and commercial licensing, and agricultural production planning."

Before the Paris protocol, the Palestinian economy had been under direct control of Israel for 26 years, being dependent on Israel and vulnerable to the occupying power's "security needs" and strategic plans. During that time, Israel collected more taxes from the Palestinians than it invested in the oPt and left the Palestinian economy weak and "structurally disfigured": Between 1972 and 1990, structural unemployment in the oPt was "chronic in that the domestic economy was unable to absorb its own labor force."

Where is the Palestinian research that will posit a different way of doing things? Since free-form occupation has failed, since the Paris protocol has failed, and since the Palestinians' political goal is clearly an "independent" state (Wednesday, November 15, the PA celebrates "independence Day" in the oPt), why is there no research that shows how an independent economy could be achieved in cooperation with Jordan and Egypt, for example, rather than with Israel?

Israel is building its wall, it has closed its labor market to Palestinians, it has expropriated as much Palestinian land as it could, it has divided the occupied territories into isolated pockets, it's ready to leave the Palestinians to their own devices. Where is the Palestinian economic plan that will turn its back on Israel and look to the Arab world for cooperation? What are the alternative mechanisms and measures to a quasi-customs union between Israel and the occupied territories?

If the international community is really invested in seeing a viable independent Palestinian state emerge, it must be prevailed upon to support bold research into restructuring economic relations between the Palestinian and Israel.

Rima Merriman is a Palestinian-American living in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Enemy to 9/10ths of Humanity Dies

Friday, November 17, 2006

by Stephen Gowans

Milton Friedman, who was instrumental in providing the intellectual justification capitalist classes needed to claw-back the reforms they had conceded to labor in the post-WWII period, has died.

Friedman’s neoliberalism – the idea that enterprises and markets must be free, and if they’re not, governments must intervene to make them so -- has two bookends.

The first is Chile, following the other 9/11 – September 11, 1973. That was the date Augusto Pinochet, backed by US companies, the CIA and Henry Kissinger, overthrew the leftist government of Salvador Allende.

Friedman’s intellectual janissaries, the Chicago Boys, a group of class warrior economists from the University of Chicago where Friedman taught, rushed to Chile to advise the new military government on the harsh-to-the-poor-indulgent-to-the-rich economic ideas of Friedman and his intellectual cronies Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek.

Nationalizations were reversed, public assets were sold off, natural resources were opened to untrammeled exploitation, and social security was privatized. Foreign firms were courted, indulged and guaranteed the right to repatriate profits.

Thirty years later neo-liberalism was brought to Iraq, also by the gun. On September 19, 2003, Paul Bremer, the US proconsul in Iraq, imposed Friedman’s ideas on a country that had been brought under US suzerainty by force.

Bremer defined a bill of rights for foreign capital, including the right: to buy Iraq’s public enterprises; to own Iraqi businesses; to repatriate profits; to own Iraqi banks; to be free from barriers to trade and investment; and to pay little tax. To ensure foreign capital would also have the right to cheap labor, Bremer banned strikes in key sectors and severely restricted unionization.

Neoliberalism promised to stimulate economic growth, but failed miserably. Ever since neoliberal ideas became ideologically hegemonic in the late 70s, economic growth has slowed globally, not increased.

But what neoliberalism has succeeded in doing quite spectacularly is to reduce inflation (by increasing unemployment) and to distribute wealth upward. In other words, neoliberalism hasn’t made the world wealthier, but it has made those at the top richer.

Was Friedman an enemy to nine-tenths of humanity? In a way. But it’s not as if his ideas changed the world.

On the contrary, Friedman’s neoliberal ideas were plucked from obscurity (the ideas were developed in the 30s and remained on the fringes for decades) because they were congenial at a particular moment in time to the interests of the hereditary capitalist families, corporate directors and bankers whose political and economic interests were being eroded by the growing social welfare Keynesianism of the 70s.

Rampant inflation was reducing the value of their assets, muscular unions and progressive tax-supported social welfare programs, were cutting into their bottom lines, and colonial liberation was undermining overseas profits.

In boardrooms and private clubs, it was clear something had to be done.

Social welfare Keynesianism, which had been made possible by the high growth rates of the post war era (the growth had been stimulated by the pent-up demand from the war years, the development of the automobile industry and its multiplier effect in stimulating allied industries, and the heavy military spending of the cold war and space program) had run its course.

Neoliberalism offered an attractive veneer to policies capitalist class-dominated governments would pursue anyway. If Friedman didn’t exist, he would have been invented, which is to say, someone else, with similar views, would have been plucked from obscurity and thrust into the limelight, celebrated as an intellectual giant, just as he was.

To elevate his views to respectability, Friedman, and Hayek too, were awarded the Nobel Prize for economics. The award wasn’t part of the other (the real) Nobel Prizes, but was handed out by the Swedish banking elite, a group, which, for obvious reasons, smiles fondly on anyone who says they, and those who share the same class interests, should be indulged.

That neoliberalism was only a veneer, a stalking horse behind which plunder and trickle up policies were pursued, is clear in the abandonment of neoliberal policy wherever it conflicted with capitalist class interests.

Ronald Reagan, who styled himself a champion of neoliberalism, didn’t follow neoliberal tenets of reducing the public sector or bringing down taxes.

(Nor does George Bush, who rhapsodizes about free trade while maintaining a program of subsidies and tariff barriers to protect the US steel industry, as well as the agricultural, aerospace, biomedical and military sectors.)

To be sure, Reagan supported Paul Volker’s neoliberal policies at the Fed, crushed unions, and took a wrecking ball to labor relations policy.

But while he slashed taxes for the top 20 percent of income earners, he increased taxes for the remaining 80 percent – the greatest tax increase for the greatest number of people in peacetime ever.

He did this to fund a massive increase in the public sector through a military buildup -- also debt-financed, fueling a colossal growth in public sector debt.

Investment bankers who held government bonds and war contractors like Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and General Electric reaped the bonanza of growing government orders for bombers, cruise missiles and other expensive gadgetry of war. Everyone else picked up the tab.

Rather than being neoliberal, Reagan’s policies were pragmatically pro-capitalist – a mix of Keynesian militarism and monetarism put together to meet the challenges the capitalist class faced at the time. Neoliberalism, in its pure form, was to be a doctrine applied in practice to the Third World alone, where its emphasis on free markets, free trade and free enterprise would benefit investors and transnational corporations based in the West.

John Williamson, one of Friedman’s intellectual children, acknowledged that the neoliberalism “the US government promotes abroad, the US government does not practice at home.”

The day after he died, my morning newspaper ran a photograph of Friedman on the front page, under the headline “A staunch champion of freedom.”

While he may have been a staunch champion of freedoms that reached beyond free enterprise and free markets alone, Friedman’s ideas became a convenient justification for the pursuit by rich families, corporations and investment banks of capitalist freedom: the freedom to plunder and exploit.

For more on neoliberalism I recommend Vincente Navarro’s “The Worldwide Class Struggle(” and David Harvey’s “A Brief History of Neoliberalism,” Oxford University Press, 2005.

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