Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Iran Clock Is Ticking

While congressional Democrats test how far they should go in challenging George W. Bush’s war powers, the time may be running out to stop Bush from ordering a major escalation of the Middle East conflict by attacking Iran.

Military and intelligence sources continue to tell me that preparations are advancing for a war with Iran starting possibly as early as mid-to-late February. The sources offer some differences of opinion over whether Bush might cite a provocation from Iran or whether Israel will take the lead in launching air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But there is growing alarm among military and intelligence experts that Bush already has decided to attack and simply is waiting for a second aircraft carrier strike force to arrive in the region – and for a propaganda blitz to stir up some pro-war sentiment at home.

One well-informed U.S. military source called me in a fury after consulting with Pentagon associates and discovering how far along the war preparations are. He said the plans call for extensive aerial attacks on Iran, including use of powerful bunker-busting ordnance.

Another source with a pipeline into Israeli thinking said the Iran war plan has expanded over the past several weeks. Earlier thinking had been that Israeli warplanes would hit Iranian nuclear targets with U.S. forces in reserve in case of Iranian retaliation, but now the strategy anticipates a major U.S. military follow-up to an Israeli attack, the source said.

Both sources used the same word “crazy” in describing the plan to expand the war to Iran. The two sources, like others I have interviewed, said that attacking Iran could touch off a regional – and possibly global – conflagration.

“It will be like the TV show ‘24’,” the American military source said, citing the likelihood of Islamic retaliation reaching directly into the United States.

Though Bush insists that no decision has been made on attacking Iran, he offered similar assurances of his commitment to peace in the months before invading Iraq in 2003. Yet leaked documents from London made clear that he had set a course for war nine months to a year before the Iraq invasion.

In other words, Bush’s statements that he has no plans to "invade" Iran and that he’s still committed to settle differences with Iran over its nuclear program diplomatically should be taken with a grain of salt.

There is, of course, the possibility that the war preparations are a game of chicken to pressure Iran to accept outside controls on its nuclear program and to trim back its regional ambitions. But sometimes such high-stakes gambles lead to miscalculations or set in motion dynamics that can't be controlled.

‘You Will Die’

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq is seen as another factor pressing on Bush to act quickly against Iran.

Other sources with first-hand knowledge of conditions in Iraq have told me that the U.S. position is even more precarious than generally understood. Westerners can’t even move around Baghdad and many other Iraqi cities except in armed convoys.

“In some countries, if you want to get out of the car and go to the market, they’ll tell you that it might be dangerous,” one experienced American cameraman told me. “In Iraq, you will be killed. Not that you might be killed, but you will be killed. The first Iraqi with a gun will shoot you, and if no one has a gun, they’ll stone you.”

While U.S. war correspondents in most countries travel around in taxis with “TV” taped to their windows, Western journalists in Iraq move only in armed convoys to and from specific destinations. They operate from heavily guarded Baghdad hotels sometimes with single families responsible for security since outsiders can't be trusted.

The American cameraman said one European journalist rebelled at the confinement, took off on her own in a cab – and was never seen again.

Depression also is spreading among U.S. intelligence officials who monitor covert operations in Iraq from listening stations sometimes thousands of miles away. The results of these Special Forces operations have been so horrendous that morale in the intelligence community has suffered.

The futility of the Iraq War also is contributing to professional cynicism. Some intelligence support personnel are volunteering for Iraq duty not because they think they can help win the war but because the hazard pay is high and life in the protected Green Zone is relatively safe and easy.

Once getting past the risks of the Baghdad airport and the dangerous road into the city, U.S. civilian government personnel ensconce themselves in the Green Zone, which amounts to a bubble of U.S. creature comforts – from hamburgers to lounging by the pool – separate from the world of average Iraqis who are mostly barred.

Cooks are brought in from other countries out of the unstated concern that Iraqis might poison the food.

That American officials have come to view a posting in Iraq as a pleasant career enhancer – rather than a vital national security mission for the United States – is another sign that the war is almost certainly beyond recovery.

Another experienced observer of conflicts around the world told me that Bush’s new idea of putting small numbers of U.S. troops among Iraqi government forces inside police stations represents an act of idiocy that is sure to get Americans killed.

Conditions in Iraq have so deteriorated – and animosity toward Americans has so metastasized – that traditional counterinsurgency strategies are hard to envision, too.

Normally, winning the hearts and minds of a target population requires a commitment to move among the people and work on public action projects, from building roads to improving the judicial system. But all that requires some measure of political goodwill and personal trust.

Given the nearly four years of U.S. occupation and the devastation that Iraq has suffered, not even the most talented American counterinsurgency specialists can expect to overcome the hatred swelling among large segments of Iraqi society.

Bush’s “surge” strategy of conducting more military sweeps through more Iraqi neighborhoods – knocking down doors, gunning down hostile Iraqis and dragging off others to detention camps – is not likely to assuage hard feelings.

Wider War

So, facing slim odds in Iraq, Bush is tempted by the allure of escalation, a chance to blame the Iranians for his Iraq failure and to punish them with air strikes. He might see that as a way to buy time, a chance to rally his pro-war supporters and a strategy for enhancing his presidential legacy.

But the consequences both internationally and domestically – from possible disruption of oil supplies to potential retaliation from Islamic terrorists – could be devastating.

Yet, there is a sense of futility among many in Washington who doubt they can do anything to stop Bush. So far, the Democratic-controlled Congress has lagged behind the curve, debating how to phrase a non-binding resolution of disapproval about Bush’s “surge” of 21,500 troops in Iraq, while Bush may be opening an entirely new front in Iran.

According to intelligence sources, Bush’s Iran strategy is expected to let the Israelis take a lead role in attacking Iran's nuclear facilities in order to defuse Democratic opposition and let the U.S. intervention be sold as defensive, a case of a vulnerable ally protecting itself from a future nuclear threat.

Once American air and naval forces are committed to a new conflict, the Democrats will find it politically difficult to interfere at least in the near future, the thinking goes. A violent reaction from the Islamic world would further polarize the American population and let Bush paint war critics as cowardly, disloyal or pro-terrorist.

As risky as a wider war might be, Bush’s end game would dominate the final two years of his presidency as he forces both Republican and Democratic candidates to address issues of war and peace on his terms.

On Jan. 10, the night of Bush’s national address on the Iraq War, NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert made a striking observation about a pre-speech briefing that Bush and other senior administration officials gave to news executives.

“There’s a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue in the country and the world in a very acute way – and a prediction that in 2008 candidates of both parties will have as a fundamental campaign promise or premise a policy to deal with Iran and not let it go nuclear,” Russert said. “That’s how significant Iran was today.”

So, Bush and his top advisers not only signaled their expectation of a “very acute” development with Iran but that the Iranian issue would come to dominate Campaign 2008 with candidates forced to spell out plans for containing this enemy state.

What to Do?

The immediate question, however, is what, if anything, can Congress and the American people do to head off Bush’s expanded war strategy.

Some in Congress have called on Bush to seek prior congressional approval before entering a war with Iran. Others, such as Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, have asked Bush to spell out how expansive he thinks his war powers are.

"I would suggest respectfully to the President that he is not the sole decider," Specter said during a Senate hearing on war powers on Jan. 30. "The decider is a shared and joint responsibility."

But Bush and his neoconservative legal advisers have made clear that they see virtually no limits to Bush's "plenary" powers as Commander in Chief at a time of war. In their view, Bush is free to take military actions abroad and to waive legal and constitutional constraints at home because the United States has been deemed part of the "battlefield."

Nothing short of a direct congressional prohibition on war with Iran and a serious threat of impeachment would seem likely to give Bush more than a moment’s pause. But congressional Republicans would surely obstruct such measures and Bush might well veto any law that was passed.

Still, unless Congress escalates the confrontation with the President – and does so quickly – it may be too late to stop what could become a very dangerous escalation.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Logic of a Wider Mideast War.”]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Dems Give Bush More Bipartisan Cover

Editor's Note: Although President Bush refuses to make any concessions to his Iraq War critics – and indeed suggests they are helping the enemy – the Democratic congressional leaders have acquiesced to Bush's plan for a new bipartisan panel to advise him.

Initially, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the idea, noting that "Congress already has bipartisan structures in place" for such purposes. But on Jan. 30, they acceded to Bush's proposal, albeit insisting that they, not Bush, get to pick its Democratic members.

In this guest essay, Democratic political strategist Brent Budowsky argues that the Democrats are falling into another trap of phony bipartisanship set by a President who alternatively calls himself "the Decider" and "the Decision-maker":

Today, George W. Bush is one of the most dangerous men in the world. With an Iraq policy in collapse, escalating the mistakes that led to failure and catastrophic loss of public support, he is considering another preemptive war, against Iran.

For Democratic leaders to agree to a sham bipartisan group at this time sends a radically dangerous signal to Bush and Cheney. They will conclude rightly or wrongly, that Congress lacks the will to resist whatever moves Bush makes.

Today there is a perception management campaign underway, similar to the pre-war campaign about WMD in Iraq, designed to condition the public and Congress to accept action against Iran.
Since the November elections, the President has shown contempt for any semblance of bipartisanship, contempt for what the voters sought in the election, contempt for the military judgment of commanders he ignored, contempt for Democrats and Republicans in Congress, contempt for the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton group, and contempt for the very idea of diplomacy.

Meanwhile, the gunboats have been sent to threaten Iran; the selective and deceptive leaks have begun; and the totality of policy is escalation in Iraq and war threats against Iran.

This is disastrous policy. Attacking Iran could set off a great conflagration across the Middle East that would inflame regional religious war and even graver threats to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Today, American troops are not only in the middle of a civil war, they are under attack from both Sunni and Shi'ite forces, armed and funded not only from Shi'ite Iran but from wealthy Sunnis in nations the President calls America's friends, including wealthy Saudis.

Regarding Iran, there is a clear alternative: redeploying American troops out of Bagdhad to the protect the border with Iran, while opening negotiations as Baker-Hamilton and most congressional leaders in both parties support. Given this background,

1. It is a dangerous mistake for Democrats to give any cover of bipartisanship to a policy rooted in the extremism of escalating Iraq on one hand, threatening Iran on the other, while rejecting all diplomacy.

2. Democrats should preferably withdraw from this "bipartisan" group. If they must proceed they should name Murtha, Kennedy and Feingold as part of any group.

3. Democrats should reiterate that any attack on Iran without prior authorization by Congress would be a violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Act and would therefore be illegal.

Such an attack would be catastrophic disaster and would open a serious national debate about high crimes and misdemeanors. The right and honorable thing is to make this clear today.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky can be reached at

Bush's budget math doesn't add up

Dave Zweifel

Politicians like to manipulate numbers when it comes to justifying their positions on taxes and spending, but our president definitely needs to be crowned the champion manipulator just by virtue of his State of the Union speech last week.

Regardless of what one thought of his Iraq strategy or even his convoluted health care plan, the worst was his pronouncement that his policies will produce a balanced budget by the year 2012.

Indeed, the budget deficit today is about half of what had been predicted last year, but first let's put things in perspective. Our country is still running more than $200 billion in the red every year when just six years ago it was showing a surplus. Our national debt has now ballooned to $8.7 trillion, about 55 percent higher than it was when George Bush took office.

The Congressional Budget Office agrees that the budget could be balanced by 2012, but that assumes that Congress will let President Bush's tax cuts expire in 2010 along with many of the corporate tax breaks enacted by the Republican Congresses of the past 12 years. It also assumes that nothing will be done with the increasingly unpopular alternative minimum tax which was once aimed at millionaires but now catches many in the middle class.

And guess who is fighting against allowing the tax cuts to expire? The same guy, of course, who contends we're on course toward a balanced budget. Is that an incredible game or what?

According to a piece in the New York Times that ran a few days after the speech, an official in the budget office said that if the tax cuts are extended, the cost to the U.S. treasury would be $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. The impact on the deficit in the year 2017 alone would be more than $400 billion.

South Carolina Democratic Rep. John Spratt, chairman of the House Budget Committee, told the newspaper that it is far too early to cheer any of the budget news. Rather, he added, it's a "bleak reminder of how much current policy will need to be changed to return the budget to a fiscally responsible course."

Further, none of Bush's rosy predictions consider increased spending for the war in Iraq. The logistical support for those 21,500 new soldiers isn't going to be free.

It wasn't hard to predict, though, that the president's talk was going to be a little hard to figure. At the very beginning he called on the now Democratic-controlled Congress to do away with the expensive practice of attaching "earmarks" to spending bills to send billions of dollars of extra money to pet projects back home, often without even identifying the member of Congress who proposed the earmark.

Funny, he never asked Congress to stop that practice in the days when his own party controlled both Houses and could have easily done something about it. Perhaps that's because the Republicans perfected the idea.

Jury: Seattle Liable for WTO Arrests


The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 30, 2007; 7:26 PM

SEATTLE -- A federal jury found the city of Seattle liable Tuesday for the unlawful arrests of a group of protesters during the World Trade Organization meeting in 1999, a ruling that could cost the city millions of dollars.

The jury found the city liable for violating the rights of about 175 protesters against unreasonable search and seizure, but did not find a violation against their free speech rights.

A lawyer for the city argued that the mixed verdict shows the jury was confused by its instructions, and said Seattle will seek to dismiss the case.

Barring that challenge or an immediate appeal, the class-action lawsuit will move to a damages phase in which the city could be forced to pay millions of dollars. Seattle has already paid $800,000 in lawsuits and settlements stemming from the protests.

"The key point, the lesson learned, is you cannot arrest peaceful protesters here in Seattle or anywhere else in the country," said Kenneth Hankin, a Boeing worker and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The trial stemmed from the arrest of Hankin and the other protesters at a downtown park Dec. 1, 1999, where they were sitting and singing patriotic anthems. At the time, 50,000 demonstrators had swarmed Seattle, overwhelming police and closing down parts of the WTO meeting.

The park was in a "no-protest" zone established by the mayor, but officers made no effort to determine whether the protesters had other legitimate reasons to be there before making the arrests, the jury decided.

In a pretrial ruling, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled the city had made the arrests without probable cause. Arrest reports were not filled out properly, she noted.

The jury's job was to determine whether the city could be held financially responsible for the false arrests. Lawyers for the protesters had to convince the jurors that the city had a policy targeting the protesters for their anti-WTO views or that city higher-ups approved the illegal arrests.

The city argued that it did have legitimate cause to arrest the protesters, that a shortage of manpower precluded officers from properly filling out arrest reports, and that the plaintiffs presented no evidence the protesters were arrested because of their political views.

"We think it's pretty clear that because the plaintiffs couldn't prove viewpoint discrimination, the city cannot be held liable for false arrest," attorney Ted Buck said.

But a lawyer for the protesters called the decision "a victory for the constitutional rights we all enjoy."

"The city is going to have its hands full trying to prove there was something wrong with this verdict," said attorney Mike Withey. He has not said how much the plaintiffs are seeking damages.

Former Time reporter said Libby, Rove told him of Plame

By Richard B. Schmitt, Times Staff Writer
10:33 AM PST, January 31, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper testified today that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told him he had "heard" that the wife of a Bush administration war critic had been involved in sending the critic on a CIA-backed trip to Africa.

Cooper said at Libby's perjury and obstruction trial that the conversation with the former vice presidential aide occurred on Saturday, July 12, 2003, two days before the identity of operative Valerie Plame was disclosed in a column by syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

Cooper also testified that the day before he spoke to Libby he talked to White House political strategist Karl Rove, asking questions about a column that war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV, Plame's husband, had written a few days earlier in the New York Times.

Cooper testified that Rove cautioned to "don't get too far out on Wilson," and that among other things, told him that his wife worked at the CIA.

"He said she worked on [weapons of mass destruction] for the agency," Cooper said. "By that, I took it to mean the Central Intelligence Agency, not the Environmental Protection Agency. We talked about it a bit more. He said words to the effect, 'I've already said too much, I've got to go.'"

Cooper also described a phone conversation with Libby the next day. He said Libby was concerned about an implication in the Wilson article that his then-boss — Vice President Dick Cheney — was involved in dispatching Wilson to Africa to assess claims that Iraq was seeking nuclear material there. Wilson found the claims baseless, and attacked the Bush administration in the New York Times on July 6, 2003.

Cooper said Libby returned a call he had placed, on his cell phone.

"He called me, and said he had a statement to read that was on the record. The gist of it was that the vice president did not know about the Wilson trip, that he had made an inquiry as he had often did about things, and that this trip had gone on without his knowledge.

"Toward the very end of the conversation, I asked what he had heard about Wilson's wife being involved in sending him to Niger," Cooper continued.

"He said, words to the effect, 'Yeah, I've heard that, too.'"

Libby is charged with lying to investigators about conversations he had with Cooper and two other reporters about how he came to know about the identity of Plame. Libby has said that he heard about Plame through other journalists rather than dispensing the information to them. The government claims the alleged lies obstructed an investigation into whether Plame was illegally outed.

Libby was the only person charged in that investigation; Rove testified repeatedly before a federal grand jury but was not charged with a crime.

Cooper is expected to resume testifying after lunch.

Another journalist with whom Libby spoke, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, concluded her testimony this morning.

More Air Force flights along Iranian border

U.S.-Iran tensions could trigger war

Air Force's role in Iraq could grow

More flights are likely along the Iranian border, sources say.
By Julian E. Barnes, Times Staff Writer
January 31, 2007


Some Pentagon officials worry that an escalation of military pressure that included strikes on Iranian territory could prompt Iran to go after targets it could easily hit, such as oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

"We need to be very careful about getting into one-to-one trades," the senior Pentagon official said. "That can very quickly get out of control."


[The rationale for more flights:]

... to counter the smuggling of bomb supplies from Iran, a senior Pentagon official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing future military plans.

[The IED's (bombs) Iran has been supposedly sending to Iraq? They are manufactured and shipped by from Zapata Engineering(an offshoot of
Zapata Oil) of North Carolina, Hawaii and Tel Aviv.]

The Lies Of Our Times

Write a Letter to the New York Times:

The New York Times today ran an article supporting Bush administration claims that Iran is supporting attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq – claims that seem intended to clear the way for a military attack on Iran. The story includes no named sources and no direct evidence of Iranian involvement, just speculation. Tell the Times editors that such reporting is unacceptable:

Letters to the Editor:
Public Editor:
News Editor:
Are the NY Times writer's, AMES GLANZ and MARK MAZZETTI, Judith Miller wannabee's?

Iran May Have Trained Attackers That Killed 5 American Soldiers, U.S. and Iraqis Say

Two index fingers way up for The NYT.

AJC is the new Anti-Semite

From the "I am a Liberal Jew and I am Pissed" blog:

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

While it is cute that the little disclaimer on the cover page states that the “American Jewish Committee protects the right and freedoms of Jews the world over,” it doesn’t protect or support the rights of Jews who disagree with their regressive political and social stances.

After reading this pseudo-academic 30 page diatribe, I have come to this conclusion: the AJC is the new Anti-Semite.

While they do point to the extremes of the left-wing Jewish thinkers, all while making a nice and shinny “think piece” for their donors, they neglect to point out that because of the work of progressive and liberal Jews the world over Israel exists and is working towards peace. They neglect to mention the ten or so people whom they quote are not mainstream progressive or liberal thinkers. They are extremists.

The authors state that “criticizing [Israeli] policies and action is, in itself, not anti-Semitic” (Page 8). However they then jump to the conclusion in the next sentence that all progressive or liberal Jews who choose to point out the flaws in Israel and its government are calling Israel a Nazi state with Apartheid like governance. Patently false.

This piece of “academia” is bias and useless as the extreme pieces it addresses to explain the “new progressive anti-Semitism.”

AJC is flawed and is acting in the long tradition of Sinat Chinam – Blameless Hatred.

I applaud JTA for putting the report into the briefing today as apposed to only the reviews in the Times and such. Thank you for providing us with the background.

In the News: Sinat Chinam in the Arts Section of the NYTimes...

Cheap money threatens to wash away global growth

Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:10 AM GMT

By Natsuko Waki and Stella Dawson

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - A flood of cheap money is putting pressure on the world's financial system, threatening to burst its banks and wash away five straight years of strong economic growth.

Leading financial officials discussing risks to the global economy at the World Economic Forum here say central bankers have limits to what they can achieve by raising interest rates to reduce the danger that under-priced risk and imbalances in financial markets will upset the rosy growth picture.

"Over liquidity is killing us," said Zhu Min, group executive vice president of the Bank of China, the country's second largest bank.

Policymakers have trained their sights on better monitoring of the $1.7 trillion (870 billion pound) asset hedge fund industry and the complex new financial instruments they use that are fuelling a credit problem.

"Monetary policy can play only a very small role in correcting these problems," said Wu Xiaoling, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China.

Very low bond yields, known as tight credit spreads, show investors are underpricing risk and it is "not necessarily sustainable" for global financial markets, warned European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet.

"Clearly this phenomenon is not probably induced by ... good work produced by central banks," Trichet said, referring to over two years of interest rate rises by major central banks.

"Capital ... is chasing all over the world. You have to be prepared for a possible global re-appreciation of risks."

Persistently low bond yields have surprised policymakers, who had expected that over two years of major central banks pushing up financing costs would cool off bouyant financial markets and help restore a more balanced pattern of global growth with less market risk. But that hasn't happened, top International Monetary Fund official John Lipsky said.

"This has prompted a reassessment, not of global imbalances, but of the time scale for the adjustment," he said.

They also are looking at other ways of addressing the issue.


European Central Bank Governing Council member Axel Weber told Reuters that higher official borrowing costs are not making credit more expensive partly because banks are under-pricing loans in order to win business.

Weber added they offset the risk using new instruments such as credit derivatives, which have exploded into a $27 trillion market, which also attract hedge funds looking for leverage positions and lucrative returns.

Growth of hedge funds and private equity pools, which often operate outside the reach of regulators, accelerated with cheap money put in place as a result of series of interest rate cuts after the technology bubble burst in 2001-2002.

"A lot of activities within the private sector, hedge funds, private equity -- we are not sure where it's going and what it's doing," said Andrew Crockett, the former head of the forum for central banks - the Bank for International Settlements - and now president of JP Morgan Chase International.

"You don't quite know how they are going to be exposed if there is correction in financial markets of a substantial size. We don't know how this will happen, it can happen on geopolitical risks."

"I think there is a lack of transparency there... It will take us too long to get into this."


German Chancellor Angela Merkel, addressing the Davos gathering, called for greater transparency in hedge funds.

Bankers agreed tighter regulation was not an answer to control the emerging forces of hedge funds and private equity.

"More rigid, more intrusive regulatory regime is not easy and in many cases it's not reliable," Crockett said.

Top European Union financial regulator Charlie McCreevy said he saw no need for more hedge fund rules in Europe.

"It's not correct to say that there is no regulation of hedge funds in Europe. It's a bit of a myth," McCreevy said.

Weber said: "I prefer a market-based orientation to regulatory actions. But we have to see how deep we can wade into these waters."

Building a Case for War with Iran: Jafarzadeh and the Downing Street Dossier Redux

Tuesday January 30th 2007, 12:40 pm

Is it possible we are stupid enough to fall for it again?

“US officials in Baghdad and Washington are expected to unveil a secret intelligence ‘dossier’ this week detailing evidence of Iran’s alleged complicity in attacks on American troops in Iraq. The move, uncomfortably echoing Downing Street’s dossier debacle in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, is one more sign that the Bush administration is building a case for war,” reports the Guardian.

Not to worry, declares Nicholas Burns, the senior diplomat in charge of Iran policy and, hardly coincidentally, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Order of St. John, the latter run by the ruling houses of Europe, headed until his death by the former SS official, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

The neocons are “not looking for a fight” with Iran (indeed, they don’t want to fight the Iranians, simply shock and awe them into submission) and instead are eager to “push back,” never mind there is no defensible reason to do so. “Primarily that means Tehran’s perceived meddling in Iraq, where its influence with the Shia-led government and Shia majority population appears to be increasing as Washington’s weakens,” the Guardian would have us believe.

Once again, we are subjected to the discredited accusation “Iranians are smuggling into Iraq sophisticated explosive devices, mortars, and detailed plans to wipe out Sunni Arab neighborhoods,” never mind that Pentagon has done a mighty fine job of accomplishing the latter without the help of Iran.

“But as was also the case in the days before Saddam Hussein fell, powerful external forces, ranging from exiled Iranian opposition groups to leading Israeli politicians, appear intent on stoking the fire—and winding up the White House,” an unabashedly fair assessment, although it would help if the Guardian told us the rest of the story, namely the so-called “case” against Saddam Hussein consisted of a transparent passel of lies, fabrications, and fairy tales.

“The al-Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards is stepping up terrorism and encouraging sectarian violence in Iraq,” Alireza Jafarzadeh—a US-based Iranian dissident who is linked to the Marxist cult Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), officially listed by the State Department as a terrorist group—told the Moonie, er Washington Times earlier this month. In essence, Jafarzadeh is but another Ahmed Chalabi, pedaling lies and exaggerations, the vile stuff of neocon pretext.

In the not too distant past, Jafarzadeh was happy to proffer scary stories about mullahs with nukes. Now, however, as a neocon team player, he has adopted the Iran meddling in Iraq theme, apparently the emerging rationale conjured up as a flimsy excuse to be used in the upcoming effort to shock and awe Iranian school children and grandmothers.

“There is a sharp surge in Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and sectarian violence in the past few months,” Jafarzadeh told a conference organized by the Iran Policy Committee, an organization connected at the hip to the American Enterprise Institute, a criminal operation where Bush’s get his psychopathic “minds.”

According to Right Web, the “two leading figures at IPC are Raymond Tanter, who cofounded the organization in January 2006, and Clare Lopez, IPC’s executive director. IPC members have close ties with the U.S. military, intelligence community, and high-tech military contractors,” death merchants who stand to profit handsomely from any attack launched against Iran. It is hardly a surprise that Clare Lopez, an operations officer with the CIA for two decades, is an adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the AIPAC and Zionist created think tank.

“Israel is also pushing the intelligence case while upping the ante, claiming to have knowledge that Tehran is within a year or two of acquiring basic nuclear weapons-making capability,” explains the Guardian, trotting out what should by now be a threadbare and thoroughly discredited lie. “In a BBC interview last week former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu compared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime to Hitler’s Nazis. Speaking in Davos the deputy prime minister, Shimon Peres, demanded immediate regime change or failing that, military intervention.”

Finally, the New York Times, responsible for eagerly disseminating war propaganda in the lead-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, tells us “Bush and his aides [read: criminal neocons] calibrate how directly to confront Iran, they are discovering that both their words and their strategy are haunted by the echoes of four years ago—when their warnings of terrorist activity and nuclear ambitions were clearly a prelude to war…. To many in Washington, especially Mr. Bush’s Democratic critics, the new approach to Iran has all the hallmarks of an administration once again spoiling for a fight.”

Of course, there will be no “fight,” at least not in a traditional military sense, but rather a cowardly air bombardment, designed not only to take out Iran’s fictional nuclear weapons labs but also decimate the country’s civilian infrastructure, producing in essence a repeat of the situation in Iraq.

Although the perfidious neocons and their Fox News apologists and enablers tell us repeatedly they look forward to taking out Iran’s supposed nuke capability—and, in the process, deposing the mullahs for the sake of the poor besieged Iranian people—last year Seymour Hersh revealed the “U.S. Air Force proposals for an air attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity [include] the option of intense bombing of civilian infrastructure targets inside Iran,” as should be expected, as the attack Iran plan is simply another step in the Zionist and neocon agenda engineered to decimate Muslim and Arab society and culture.


If we are to believe “American analysts,” Iran manufacturers have carelessly left identifying serial numbers on “explosive devices used as makeshift roadside bombs,” according to the New York Sun, a notorious neocon disinfo outlet.

Of course, we will have to take these nameless sources at their word because “details may not be publicly disclosed if such a disclosure would tip off Iran’s intelligence services as to how America’s intelligence services collect information inside Iran.”

Moreover, the “protection of sources and methods is only one concern … for the directorate of national intelligence. Another issue is political. Some of the intelligence collected in the last six weeks from raids of Iranian outposts implicates the Islamic Republic in funding Sunni jihadists. Making this information public could jeopardize the political standing of some of America’s allies that have also forged alliances with Iran out of political necessity.”

As usual, it is not explained why the Shia of Iran would work with the Sunni resistance, comprised in large part of former Saddam loyalists. But then please remember no small number of Congress critters are unable to tell the difference between the two—or that they fought a bloody and bitter war in the 1980s—obviously considering one Muslim no different than another, a simplicity inculcated over the last few years by our corporate media.

In order to cover all bases, the anonymous sources mentioned above state the IEDs bearing convenient identifying serial numbers are also handed out to Jaish al-Mahdi, aka the Mahdi Army, a Shi’ite militia.

Don’t Flirt with the Occupation - February 10th Mass Demonstration Against Carmel-Agrexco in London

January 31st, 2007

Agrexco is Israel’s largest exporter of fresh agricultural produce. The company is 50% owned by the Israeli state. Agrexco accounts for 70% ofIsraeli fresh produce sold abroad with annual sales of $750 million in 2006. Agrexco boast of being able to get produce to European markets within 24 hours.

The Valentines Day period is one of Agrexco UK’s busiest times as the company deals with large amounts of fresh flowers from Israel and the settlements.

The Boycott Israeli Goods campaign is planning a mass picket of the depot on Saturday February 10th in opposition to the sale of Israeli goods and in support of Palestinian farmers who are not able to market their goods internationally

In the UK Agrexco is known under the Carmel, Coral and Jaffa brands. The UK is the most important foreign market for Israeli fresh produce. Agrexco exports a wide range of produce to the UK including peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, herbs, spices, flowers and avocados.

Agrexco is the largest exporter of settlement produce for sale overseas. Much of this produce comes from colonies in the Jordan Valley. Carmel Agrexco hgave had dealings with the colonies of Tomer, Mehola, Hamra, Ro’i, Massua, Patzael, Mekhora, Netiv Ha-Gdud and Bet Ha-Arava.

Palestinian workers in the settlements suffer much worse working conditions and receive half the pay of Israelis.

Carmel-Agrexco’s UK depot has been blockaded 3 times by Palestinian solidarity activists.

Palestinians are calling for the solidarity movement to take action against Carmel Agrexco. 180 Palestinian organisations and unions, in response to the Israeli onslaught, have called for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel.

Meet at 11am, (Bridge Place, Behind Victoria Station, Opposite UK Passport Office, outside the Hisperia Hotel) Central London, for transport to Agrexco’s depot in Middlesex.

Meet at Carmel, Swallowfield Way, Hayes at 1pm (see map) if you are making your own way there. Email to let us know you are coming.

Posted in Press Releases, International Actions, Boycott & sanctions


Click here for YNet report on Israeli flower exports.

by Boycott Israeli Goods

Memo to the GOP: SHUT UP

Jan 30, 2007


NEW YORK — Attention right-wing neoconservative Republicans: We Americans have done things your way since 1981, when an actor named Reagan convinced us that we weren’t entitled to anything from the government other than a canceled check for our taxes. We supported dictators against democratic movements. We started wars against tiny, weak countries like Grenada and Panama and Afghanistan just because we could.

Even when we had a Democratic president, he bought into Reagan Republicanism; Clinton cut rich people’s taxes, signed NAFTA and got rid of social welfare programs.

Twenty-six years into the NeoCon nightmare, everybody hates the United States. We’re broke. Here’s how screwed up we are: We can’t even get out of a war that 91 percent of Americans are against.

Republicans got us into this mess.

I say: Enough is enough. Three thousand dead soldiers and $2 trillion say it’s time for anyone who ever argued in favor of invading Iraq to shut up. Sell your laptop on eBay, Ms. Coulter. Use your ill-gotten gains to take some Middle Eastern history classes, Mr. Friedman. Step away from the golden EIB microphone, Mr. Limbaugh. Resign, Senators Clinton and McCain, and never show your faces in public again.

Yeah, right.

Since these pundits and politicians were and are so spectacularly wrong about such a straightforward and momentous issue as this idiotic war, no one should take them seriously again. Right-wingers deserve to be marginalized and ignored. The American left — the real, non accommodationist, non Hillary, left — ought to define the mainstream from now on. Only the left, from Noam Chomsky on the left left to Howard Dean on the right left, have been consistently correct. Not to worry, we still have two legitimate political parties: Democrats and the Greens.

The post-Iraq bankruptcy of the GOP thinkers came into sharp relief the other night in the form of Dinesh D’Souza’s latest radio editorial, on NPR, of all venues. “Iraq,” he began, “is not Vietnam. And here’s why.”

I listened closely, for Stanford University’s D’Souza is one of America’s most — arguably the most —respected conservative thinkers. He has written several New York Times bestsellers. His speaking fees start at $10,000. D’Souza has done so well as a pundit that he lives in an exclusive gated community near San Diego. According to the San Diego Reader, his “nearly 8,000-square-foot house has six bedrooms, seven and a half baths, and a four-car garage, where (he and his wife) keep their maroon 1992 Jaguar XJS.”

I thought I already knew why Iraq wasn’t like Vietnam: we might have won in Vietnam. Since D’Souza is raking in a lot more pundit bucks than me, however, I paid close attention.

“First, we had no vital interest in Vietnam,” he said. “The United States got involved in Vietnam starting in the 1950s, due to an elaborate, but misguided theory of dominos. So if Vietnam went communist, the whole of Asia would become communist. Well, it didn’t happen. But my larger point is that when Vietnam did fall to the communists, America’s foreign policy interests and economic interests were largely unaffected.”

Fair enough. The Domino Theory was used to sell the war by political leaders, some of whom actually believed it.

D’Souza continued: “Iraq, by contrast is strategically vital.” How? My butt crept up to the edge of my seat.

“Consider [Iraq’s] neighbors: Iran. Turkey. Kuwait. Jordan. Syria. Saudi Arabia. If Iraq falls into the hands of the Islamic radicals, they would control two major countries: Iran and Iraq. Next we would expect them to target Egypt and Saudi Arabia.” Huh?

Call me a loser who couldn’t afford to heat an 8,000-square-foot home, much less buy one, but isn’t that — well — a Domino Theory?

“Second, in Vietnam,” D’Souza continued, “we were allied with the bad guys. The South Vietnamese government was corrupt and tyrannical, and our only reason for supporting it was that it was a better alternative to the communist regime in the North. In politics, it is often a necessity: you ally with the bad guys in order to avoid the worse guys. But the bad guys remain bad guys. They alienate their people and the popular resentment that they provoke often carries over to us.”

OK. I was with him again. We’ve repeatedly paid a high price for our partnerships with unsavory regimes — most recently on 9/11.

“By contrast, in Iraq,” D’Souza went on — “we are allied with an elected government. Braving bullets, the Iraqi people went to the polls and elected the current regime.”

Ahem. Iraq’s government is so corrupt that it sells weapons we give it to fight insurgents on the black market, often to the insurgents themselves. Oh, and South Vietnam did hold presidential elections in 1967, a year before the Tet Offensive turned the American public against the war. Doesn’t D’Souza know that?

“We have a government that represents the will of the Iraqi majority. That’s a good thing, because it means we have local allies in Iraq who have popular support.”

I’d had it. “Moron! Idiot!” I shouted at the radio. This was a succinct way of expressing what I was thinking, which was: Even if it’s true that the current Iraqi regime has majority (i.e., Shiite) support — and it’s doubtful — the problem is what it does with that electoral legitimacy. Prime Minister Maliki employs Iraqi police units that carry out ethnic cleansing operations against Sunni citizens. Shiite death squads employed by the Maliki government dump the bodies of dozens of Sunnis in the streets of Baghdad every day, some murdered by electric drills driven into their heads. Definitely not “a good thing.”

D’Souza’s pleasant voice droned on.

“Finally, in Vietnam, there was no way to win the war and preserve our dignity. The United States and Vietnam faced several hundred thousand resolute communists on the other side. These were guerilla fighters fighting on familiar territory against American boys who didn’t know why the heck they were going over there...Vietnam was a no-win situation. Iraq is not.”

Sigh. The Pentagon itself estimates that at least 90 percent of Iraqi insurgents are locals fighting on their own turf. These guerillas are fighting American soldiers who’ve been fooled into thinking Saddam had something to do with 9/11. What’s the difference?

“America can win in Iraq...All the strength in the world is useless if you don’t have the will to fight. We saw the same loss of will over the Vietnam War. But Vietnam was a lost cause. In Iraq, we are in danger of losing a war we can win.” And...? That was it. Not one single line supporting his thesis that Iraq isn’t another Vietnam; if anything, I am now more convinced than ever that the two quagmires have a lot in common.

D’Souza wallows in the circular logic that has become the rhetorical currency of the right:

1. The Domino Theory that led us into Vietnam was bogus but we have to stay in Iraq because of a New Domino Theory (but we won’t call it that).

2. Our South Vietnamese ally was unpopular but our Iraqi ally isn’t (if you ignore the millions of Iraqi refugees voting with their feet).

3. We couldn’t win Vietnam but we can win in Iraq because, well, we just can.

If this eye-rolling sophistry were a sloppy homework assignment turned in by a student in 10th grade debate, it would merit an “F” and a chuckle in the teachers’ lounge. But these scattered ravings are the product of one of the brightest minds of our current political establishment, representative of thinking at the highest levels of government, and thus contribute to the deaths of thousands of people.

It’s frightening that conservatives continue to believe in economic and military theories that have been proven wrong again and again. What’s downright terrifying is the way they think. They don’t bother to present proof, evidence or even arguments to support their claims. They believe what they believe because they believe it.

I’ve been against the Iraq War since the beginning, yet I could compose a logical argument for staying the course. Why can’t those who are for it do the same? And why is NPR — or any other media outlet —paying attention to these idiots’ faith-based reasoning?

Ted Rall is the author of “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next foreign policy challenge. Contact Rall at:

Liquidity, toxicity and the changing perception of risk

Jan 31, 2006

An eerie stability has prevailed in financial markets for the best part of a decade, John Plender notes in a detailed examination of what might happen once the current glut of global liquidity dries up.

The surge in liquidity has been accompanied by the development of newer markets, such as in Credit Default Swaps, which have encouraged a belief that since risk is now more widely spread across the financial system it is now less of a concern.

Yet central bankers do not believe we are witnessing the end of volatility or the demise of the credit cycle, even if some youthful financiers are prepared to argue the case. Instead, the confluence of speed, complexity and tighter linkages across institutions and markets portends greater toxicity in the system: the chances of a major shock might have got lower, but if and when it arrives that shock is likely to be bigger.

A particular concern is the existence of “embedded leverage,” encouraged by the rise in derivatives trading, and which is impossible to quantify. And, while risk management models may have improved, it remains the case that these models can ignore the potential occurrence of very low-probability scenarios with potentially extreme outcomes.

So hedge funds are encouraged, by their fee structure, to pursue trading strategies that produce positive returns most of the time as compensation for a very rare negative return. And big financial institutions have no incentive to incorporate the potential costs and risks to the system of their own collapse in their market pricing.

Central banks are expected to be there to coordinate bail-outs. But the world is very different now from 1998, when Long Term Capital Management had to be rescued. Putting a failing firm’s bankers in a room and persuading them to do their stuff may no longer be possible.

Israel mixes rhetoric with realism

Alarmist Israeli statements about Iran do not necessarily reflect the strategic thinking of Israeli national security officials. Jerusalem's veiled threats to attack Iran's nuclear facilities are also at odds with its internal assessment of the feasibility and desirability of such an attack.

Feb 1, 2006

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared last week that his country could not risk another "existential threat" such as the Nazi Holocaust, he was repeating what has become the dominant theme in Israel's campaign against Tehran - that it cannot tolerate an Iran with the technology that could be used to make nuclear weapons, because Iran is fanatically committed to the physical destruction of Israel.

The internal assessment by the Israeli national-security apparatus of the Iranian threat, however, is more realistic than the government's public rhetoric would indicate.

Since Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005, Israel has effectively exploited his image as someone who is particularly fanatical about destroying Israel to develop the theme of Iran's threat of a "second Holocaust" by using nuclear weapons.

But such alarmist statements do not accurately reflect the strategic thinking of Israeli national-security officials. In fact, Israelis began in the early 1990s to use the argument that Iran was irrational about Israel and could not be deterred from a nuclear attack if it ever acquired nuclear weapons, according to an account by independent analyst Trita Parsi on Iranian-Israeli strategic relations to be published in March. Meanwhile, the internal Israeli view of Iran, Parsi said in an interview, "is completely different".

Parsi, who interviewed many Israeli national-security officials for his book, said, "The Israelis know that Iran is a rational regime, and they have acted on that presumption."

His primary evidence of such an Israeli assessment is that the Israelis purchased Dolphin submarines from Germany in 1999 and 2004, which have been reported to be capable of carrying nuclear-armed cruise missiles. It is generally recognized that the only purpose of such cruise-missile-equipped submarines could be to deter an enemy from trying to take out its nuclear weapons with a surprise attack by having a reliable second-strike capability.

Despite the fact that Israel has long been known to possess at least 100 nuclear weapons, Israeli officials refuse to discuss their own nuclear capability and how it relates to deterring Iran.

Retired US Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Rick Francona, a former Pentagon official who visited Israel last November, recalls that Israeli officials uniformly told his group of eight US military analysts they believed Iran was "perfectly willing to launch a first strike against Israel" if it obtained nuclear weapons.

But when they were asked about their own nuclear capabilities in general, and the potentially nuclear-armed submarine fleet in particular, Francona said, the Israelis would not comment.

In fact, Israeli strategic specialists do discuss how to deter Iran among themselves. An article in the online journal of a hardline think-tank, the Ariel Center for Policy Research, in August 2004 revealed that "one of the options that [have] been considered should Iran publicly declare itself to have nuclear weapons is for Israel to put an end to what is called its policy of nuclear ambiguity or opacity".

The author, Shalom Freedman, said that in light of Israel's accumulation of "over 100 nuclear weapons" and its range of delivery systems for them, even if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons within a few years, the "tremendous disproportion between the strength of Israel and an emergent nuclear Iran should serve as a deterrent".

Even after Ahmadinejad's election in mid-2005, a prominent Israeli academic and military expert has insisted that Israel can still deter a nuclear Iran. In two essays published in September and October 2005, Dr Ephraim Kam, deputy head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former analyst for the Israel Defense Forces, wrote that Iran had to assume that any nuclear attack on Israel would result in very serious US retaliation.
Therefore, even though he regarded a nuclear Iran as likely to be more aggressive, Kam concluded it was "doubtful whether Iran would actually exercise a nuclear bomb against Israel - or any other country - despite its basic rejection of Israel's existence".

Kam also pointed out that the election of a radical like Ahmadinejad would not change the fundamental Iranian policy toward Israel, because even the more moderate government of president Mohammad Khatami had already held the position that the solution to the Palestinian problem should be the establishment of a Palestinian state in place of the Zionist Israeli state. Furthermore, he wrote, Iran's basic motive for aspiring to nuclear weapons in the first place had not been to destroy Israel but to deter Saddam Hussein's Iraq and later to deter the United States and Israel.

Despite the existence of a more realistic appraisal of the actual power balance and its implications for Iranian behavior, Israeli officials do not see it as in their interest even to hint at the possibility of deterring a nuclear Iran. "They don't talk about that," said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born analyst based in Tel Aviv, "because they don't want to admit the possibility of defeat on Iran's nuclear program. They want to stop it."

Occasionally, Israeli officials do let slip indications that their fears of Iran are less extreme than the "second Holocaust" rhetoric would indicate. In November, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh explained candidly in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that the fear was not that such weapons would be launched against Israel but that the existence of nuclear capability would interfere with Israel's recruitment of new immigrants and cause more Israelis to emigrate to other countries.

Sneh declared that Ahmadinejad could "kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That's why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs."

Israel's frequent threat to attack Iran's nuclear facilities is also at odds with its internal assessment of the feasibility and desirability of such an attack. It is well understood in Israel that the Iranian situation does not resemble that of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, which Israeli planes bombed in 1981. Unlike Iraq's program, which was focused on a single facility, the Iranian nuclear program is dispersed; the two major facilities, Natanz and Arak, are hundreds of kilometers apart, making it very difficult to hit them simultaneously.

In mid-2005, Yossi Melman, who covers intelligence issues for the daily newspaper Ha'aretz, wrote, "According to military experts in Israel and elsewhere, the Israeli Air Force does not have the strength that is needed to destroy the sites in Iran in a preemptive strike." He added that that the awareness of that reality was "trickling down to the military-political establishment".

Javedanfar, Melman's co-author in a forthcoming book on Iran's nuclear program, agrees. "There is no way the Israelis are going to do it on their own," he said.

That is also the conclusion reached by Francona and other air force analysts. Francona recalls that he and two retired US Air Force generals on the trip to Israel told Israeli Air Force generals they believed Israel did not have the capability to destroy the Iranian nuclear targets, mainly because it would require aerial refueling in hostile airspace. "The Israeli officers recognized they have a shortfall in aerial refueling," Francona said.

In the end, the Israelis know they are dependent on the US to carry out a strike against Iran. And the US is the target of an apocalyptic Israeli portrayal of Iran that diverges from the internal Israeli assessment.

Gareth Porter is a historian and national-security policy analyst. His latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in June 2005.

(Inter Press Service)

The Crime of the Century

January 31, 2007

By Paul Craig Roberts

President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq is the greatest crime of the 21st century.

Armed with a powerful moral case against Bush, whose lies are responsible for a war that has caused thousands of U.S. casualties and killed vast numbers of Iraqi civilians, Democratic leaders are damning Bush's war because it did not succeed!

The Bush regime lied and fabricated "evidence" that was used to deceive Congress, the American people, and the United Nations. The vice president of the United States and the national security adviser created public images of mushroom clouds going up over American cities unless Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein's terrible weapons of mass destruction were destroyed.

At the time that these absurd claims were being made, experts knew that they were false. Today everyone knows that the claims were lies.

The invasion of Iraq under false pretenses comprises solid grounds for impeaching both Bush and Cheney and for turning them over to the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague. Under the Nuremberg standard, to commit unprovoked aggression is a war crime.

Among the consequences of Bush's monstrous war crime are the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, the destruction of Iraqi civilian infrastructure, the outbreak of civil war between Iraqi Sunnis and Shi'ites, the spreading of this sectarian conflict throughout the Middle East, and the consequent destabilization of the region.

Try to imagine all the lives, careers, hopes, and families that Bush has destroyed. Try to imagine the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees, the departure of educated and skilled Iraqis from Iraq, the ultimate horror of civil war that is only beginning.

Official U.S. casualties (dead, wounded, and maimed) at time of writing total 26,194. Experts have estimated the cost of the invasion and attempted occupation to be in excess of the enormous sum of 1,000 billion dollars.

This expenditure has made profits for Vice President Cheney, for Cheney's firm, Halliburton, for the U.S. military-industrial complex, and for private contractors, but it has done nothing whatsoever for Americans. Sen. Frank Lautenberg reports that "Halliburton has already raked in more that $10 billion" from the Iraq war and that the value of Cheney's Halliburton stock options has jumped from $241,498 to more than $8,000,000.

Moreover, the cost of Bush's aggression in Iraq has been covered by red ink and foreign borrowing, which is financially punishing every American by pushing down the value of the dollar and pushing up the tax burden to service the war debt.

The conclusion is unavoidable that Bush has committed a massive crime against Iraqis, against the Middle East, against American citizens and military families, and against America's reputation.

Finally coming to their senses and realizing the pointlessness of Bush's war, the American people gave the Democratic Party control over the House and Senate in the hopes that the Democrats would put a stop to Bush's war.

Was the electorate's faith in the Democrats justified?

Listen to the Democrats' statements and judge for yourself.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden declared on ABC's This Week that "it's the failed policy of this president, going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely, going to war without enough troops, going to war without enough equipment."

Sen. Hillary Clinton, a likely Democratic candidate for president, says, "This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy."

The Democrats are damning Bush not for his monstrous crime but for failing at it!

Instead of holding Bush accountable for his crimes with impeachment proceedings, Hillary Clinton merely wants Bush to get rid of the problem so she will not be troubled with it on her watch: "We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office." Hillary says it would be "the height of irresponsibility" for Bush to pass the war along to the next president.

A moral, humane, decent, honest person would define "the height of irresponsibility" as the act of taking two countries to war on the basis of lies and deception.

Now that Bush and Cheney have lost their war due to their incompetence and faulty execution, the Democrats are going to pass a nonbinding resolution against escalating the war in Iraq. While Congress negotiates a posture on the Iraq war, the Bush regime moves forward with its plans to attack Iran.

Everyone can see the U.S. buildup of massive air and naval attack forces on Iran's borders. Fox "News," the Bush regime's main disinformation agency, is busy preparing its viewers for the U.S. attack by whipping up fear and hysteria over Iran. The Bush regime suddenly changed its line and now blames Iran instead of al-Qaeda for its defeat in Iraq. The Israel Lobby is working around the clock for a U.S. strike on Iran. On Jan. 30 Bush again threatened that he will respond firmly if Tehran escalates its involvement in Iraq.

Bush's threats are part of the propaganda that is creating an excuse that Bush can use to attack Iran.

Bush plans to bomb Iran. U.S. war doctrine has been altered to allow Bush to use nuclear weapons to attack Iran. American neoconservatives and Israel's right wing have argued in behalf of attacking Iran with nuclear weapons, and a number of foreign experts are forecasting such an attack.

While Bush prepares in public view his war on Iran, the Democrats turn a blind eye. For the Democrats the only issue is whether or not Bush should send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq.

The issue is whether the war in Iraq can be quickly ended, or Bush and Cheney impeached, before the two war criminals create a more monstrous crime and a more dangerous situation for America and the world by attacking Iran.

Enough! Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes has called on fellow Jews to stand up to Israel and fight to end the occupation of Palestine

Margolyes Palestinian campaign
Miriam Margolyes
Miriam Margolyes

Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes has called on fellow Jews to stand up to Israel and fight to end the occupation of Palestine.

The 65-year-old officially launched the Enough! campaign in London today to campaign for Palestinian justice, and a series of major events are already planned later this year to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

“I am a Jew and I want Palestinians to know that not all Jews are from the cruel branch of Zionism which they’ve had to experience over the past 40 years,” she says. “The Jews are supposed to be bright people but my God, they are making mistakes. The policy of this government is disgraceful. Forty years is too long - let’s stop it right now.”

Enough! already has celebrity support from other Jews including writer Stephen Fry and director Mike Leigh.



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Why Nemesis Is at Our Door: Chalmers Johnson

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis on the Imperial Premises

The dream of the Bush administration -– eternal global domination abroad with no other superpower or bloc of powers on the military horizon and a Republican Party dominant at home for at least a generation -- long ago evaporated in Iraq. A midterm election and subsequent devastating polling figures tell the tale. The days when neocons, their supporters, and attending pundits talked about the U.S. as the "new Rome" of planet Earth now seem to exist on the other side of some Startrekkian wormhole.

And yet the imperial damage remains everywhere around us. Give the Bush administration credit. They moved the goalposts. They created the sort of dystopian imperial reality (as well as a mess of future-busting proportions) that a generation of relative sanity might not be able to fully reverse. The facts on the ground -- the vastness of the Pentagon, the power of the military-industrial complex, the inept but already bloated Homeland Security Department (and the vast security interests coalescing around it), the staggering alphabet (or acronym) soup of the "Intelligence Community" -- all of this militates against real change, which is why we need Chalmers Johnson.

Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, the final volume of his Blowback Trilogy, is about to storm your local bookstore (and can be pre-ordered at Amazon now). It is a reminder of just how far we've moved from the sort of democratic America that the President is always holding up as a model to the rest of the world. As with Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire before it, Nemesis, Johnson's grand, if grim, conclusion to our American tragedy, is simply a must-read. While you're waiting for the book to arrive in your hands, you can get a little preview of its themes below. Tom

Empire v. Democracy

Why Nemesis Is at Our Door
By Chalmers Johnson

History tells us that one of the most unstable political combinations is a country -- like the United States today -- that tries to be a domestic democracy and a foreign imperialist. Why this is so can be a very abstract subject. Perhaps the best way to offer my thoughts on this is to say a few words about my new book, Nemesis, and explain why I gave it the subtitle, "The Last Days of the American Republic." Nemesis is the third book to have grown out of my research over the past eight years. I never set out to write a trilogy on our increasingly endangered democracy, but as I kept stumbling on ever more evidence of the legacy of the imperialist pressures we put on many other countries as well as the nature and size of our military empire, one book led to another.

Professionally, I am a specialist in the history and politics of East Asia. In 2000, I published Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, because my research on China, Japan, and the two Koreas persuaded me that our policies there would have serious future consequences. The book was noticed at the time, but only after 9/11 did the CIA term I adapted for the title -- "blowback" -- become a household word and my volume a bestseller.

I had set out to explain how exactly our government came to be so hated around the world. As a CIA term of tradecraft, "blowback" does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to, and in, foreign countries. It refers specifically to retaliation for illegal operations carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. These operations have included the clandestine overthrow of governments various administrations did not like, the training of foreign militaries in the techniques of state terrorism, the rigging of elections in foreign countries, interference with the economic viability of countries that seemed to threaten the interests of influential American corporations, as well as the torture or assassination of selected foreigners. The fact that these actions were, at least originally, secret meant that when retaliation does come -- as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 -- the American public is incapable of putting the events in context. Not surprisingly, then, Americans tend to support speedy acts of revenge intended to punish the actual, or alleged, perpetrators. These moments of lashing out, of course, only prepare the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.

A World of Bases

As a continuation of my own analytical odyssey, I then began doing research on the network of 737 American military bases we maintained around the world (according to the Pentagon's own 2005 official inventory). Not including the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, we now station over half a million U.S. troops, spies, contractors, dependents, and others on military bases located in more than 130 countries, many of them presided over by dictatorial regimes that have given their citizens no say in the decision to let us in.

As but one striking example of imperial basing policy: For the past sixty-one years, the U.S. military has garrisoned the small Japanese island of Okinawa with 37 bases. Smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands, Okinawa is home to 1.3 million people who live cheek-by-jowl with 17,000 Marines of the 3rd Marine Division and the largest U.S. installation in East Asia -- Kadena Air Force Base. There have been many Okinawan protests against the rapes, crimes, accidents, and pollution caused by this sort of concentration of American troops and weaponry, but so far the U. S. military -- in collusion with the Japanese government -- has ignored them. My research into our base world resulted in The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, written during the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

As our occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq turned into major fiascoes, discrediting our military leadership, ruining our public finances, and bringing death and destruction to hundreds of thousands of civilians in those countries, I continued to ponder the issue of empire. In these years, it became ever clearer that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their supporters were claiming, and actively assuming, powers specifically denied to a president by our Constitution. It became no less clear that Congress had almost completely abdicated its responsibilities to balance the power of the executive branch. Despite the Democratic sweep in the 2006 election, it remains to be seen whether these tendencies can, in the long run, be controlled, let alone reversed.

Until the 2004 presidential election, ordinary citizens of the United States could at least claim that our foreign policy, including our illegal invasion of Iraq, was the work of George Bush's administration and that we had not put him in office. After all, in 2000, Bush lost the popular vote and was appointed president thanks to the intervention of the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision. But in November 2004, regardless of claims about voter fraud, Bush actually won the popular vote by over 3.5 million ballots, making his regime and his wars ours.

Whether Americans intended it or not, we are now seen around the world as approving the torture of captives at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, at Bagram Air Base in Kabul, at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at a global network of secret CIA prisons, as well as having endorsed Bush's claim that, as commander-in-chief in "wartime," he is beyond all constraints of the Constitution or international law. We are now saddled with a rigged economy based on record-setting trade and fiscal deficits, the most secretive and intrusive government in our country's memory, and the pursuit of "preventive" war as a basis for foreign policy. Don't forget as well the potential epidemic of nuclear proliferation as other nations attempt to adjust to and defend themselves against Bush's preventive wars, while our own already staggering nuclear arsenal expands toward first-strike primacy and we expend unimaginable billions on futuristic ideas for warfare in outer space.

The Choice Ahead

By the time I came to write Nemesis, I no longer doubted that maintaining our empire abroad required resources and commitments that would inevitably undercut, or simply skirt, what was left of our domestic democracy and that might, in the end, produce a military dictatorship or -- far more likely -- its civilian equivalent. The combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, an ever growing economic dependence on the military-industrial complex and the making of weaponry, and ruinous military expenses as well as a vast, bloated "defense" budget, not to speak of the creation of a whole second Defense Department (known as the Department of Homeland Security) has been destroying our republican structure of governing in favor of an imperial presidency. By republican structure, of course, I mean the separation of powers and the elaborate checks and balances that the founders of our country wrote into the Constitution as the main bulwarks against dictatorship and tyranny, which they greatly feared.

We are on the brink of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire. Once a nation starts down that path, the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play -- isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and global forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy.

History is instructive on this dilemma. If we choose to keep our empire, as the Roman republic did, we will certainly lose our democracy and grimly await the eventual blowback that imperialism generates. There is an alternative, however. We could, like the British Empire after World War II, keep our democracy by giving up our empire. The British did not do a particularly brilliant job of liquidating their empire and there were several clear cases where British imperialists defied their nation's commitment to democracy in order to hang on to foreign privileges. The war against the Kikuyu in Kenya in the 1950s and the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 are particularly savage examples of that. But the overall thrust of postwar British history is clear: the people of the British Isles chose democracy over imperialism.

In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, the political philosopher Hannah Arendt offered the following summary of British imperialism and its fate:

"On the whole it was a failure because of the dichotomy between the nation-state's legal principles and the methods needed to oppress other people permanently. This failure was neither necessary nor due to ignorance or incompetence. British imperialists knew very well that 'administrative massacres' could keep India in bondage, but they also knew that public opinion at home would not stand for such measures. Imperialism could have been a success if the nation-state had been willing to pay the price, to commit suicide and transform itself into a tyranny. It is one of the glories of Europe, and especially of Great Britain, that she preferred to liquidate the empire."

I agree with this judgment. When one looks at Prime Minister Tony Blair's unnecessary and futile support of Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq, one can only conclude that it was an atavistic response, that it represented a British longing to relive the glories -- and cruelties -- of a past that should have been ancient history.

As a form of government, imperialism does not seek or require the consent of the governed. It is a pure form of tyranny. The American attempt to combine domestic democracy with such tyrannical control over foreigners is hopelessly contradictory and hypocritical. A country can be democratic or it can be imperialistic, but it cannot be both.

The Road to Imperial Bankruptcy

The American political system failed to prevent this combination from developing -- and may now be incapable of correcting it. The evidence strongly suggests that the legislative and judicial branches of our government have become so servile in the presence of the imperial Presidency that they have largely lost the ability to respond in a principled and independent manner. Even in the present moment of congressional stirring, there seems to be a deep sense of helplessness. Various members of Congress have already attempted to explain how the one clear power they retain -- to cut off funds for a disastrous program -- is not one they are currently prepared to use.

So the question becomes, if not Congress, could the people themselves restore Constitutional government? A grass-roots movement to abolish secret government, to bring the CIA and other illegal spying operations and private armies out of the closet of imperial power and into the light, to break the hold of the military-industrial complex, and to establish genuine public financing of elections may be at least theoretically conceivable. But given the conglomerate control of our mass media and the difficulties of mobilizing our large and diverse population, such an opting for popular democracy, as we remember it from our past, seems unlikely.

It is possible that, at some future moment, the U.S. military could actually take over the government and declare a dictatorship (though its commanders would undoubtedly find a gentler, more user-friendly name for it). That is, after all, how the Roman republic ended -- by being turned over to a populist general, Julius Caesar, who had just been declared dictator for life. After his assassination and a short interregnum, it was his grandnephew Octavian who succeeded him and became the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar. The American military is unlikely to go that route. But one cannot ignore the fact that professional military officers seem to have played a considerable role in getting rid of their civilian overlord, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The new directors of the CIA, its main internal branches, the National Security Agency, and many other key organs of the "defense establishment" are now military (or ex-military) officers, strongly suggesting that the military does not need to take over the government in order to control it. Meanwhile, the all-volunteer army has emerged as an ever more separate institution in our society, its profile less and less like that of the general populace.

Nonetheless, military coups, however decorous, are not part of the American tradition, nor that of the officer corps, which might well worry about how the citizenry would react to a move toward open military dictatorship. Moreover, prosecutions of low-level military torturers from Abu Ghraib prison and killers of civilians in Iraq have demonstrated to enlisted troops that obedience to illegal orders can result in dire punishment in a situation where those of higher rank go free. No one knows whether ordinary soldiers, even from what is no longer in any normal sense a citizen army, would obey clearly illegal orders to oust an elected government or whether the officer corps would ever have sufficient confidence to issue such orders. In addition, the present system already offers the military high command so much -- in funds, prestige, and future employment via the famed "revolving door" of the military-industrial complex -- that a perilous transition to anything like direct military rule would make little sense under reasonably normal conditions.

Whatever future developments may prove to be, my best guess is that the U.S. will continue to maintain a façade of Constitutional government and drift along until financial bankruptcy overtakes it. Of course, bankruptcy will not mean the literal end of the U.S. any more than it did for Germany in 1923, China in 1948, or Argentina in 2001-2002. It might, in fact, open the way for an unexpected restoration of the American system -- or for military rule, revolution, or simply some new development we cannot yet imagine.

Certainly, such a bankruptcy would mean a drastic lowering of our standard of living, a further loss of control over international affairs, a sudden need to adjust to the rise of other powers, including China and India, and a further discrediting of the notion that the United States is somehow exceptional compared to other nations. We will have to learn what it means to be a far poorer country -- and the attitudes and manners that go with it. As Anatol Lieven, author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism, observes:

"U.S. global power, as presently conceived by the overwhelming majority of the U.S. establishment, is unsustainable. . . The empire can no longer raise enough taxes or soldiers, it is increasingly indebted, and key vassal states are no longer reliable. . . The result is that the empire can no longer pay for enough of the professional troops it needs to fulfill its self-assumed imperial tasks."

In February 2006, the Bush administration submitted to Congress a $439 billion defense appropriation budget for fiscal year 2007. As the country enters 2007, the administration is about to present a nearly $100 billion supplementary request to Congress just for the Iraq and Afghan wars. At the same time, the deficit in the country's current account -- the imbalance in the trading of goods and services as well as the shortfall in all other cross-border payments from interest income and rents to dividends and profits on direct investments -- underwent its fastest ever quarterly deterioration. For 2005, the current account deficit was $805 billion, 6.4% of national income. In 2005, the U.S. trade deficit, the largest component of the current account deficit, soared to an all-time high of $725.8 billion, the fourth consecutive year that America's trade debts set records. The trade deficit with China alone rose to $201.6 billion, the highest imbalance ever recorded with any country. Meanwhile, since mid-2000, the country has lost nearly three million manufacturing jobs.

To try to cope with these imbalances, on March 16, 2006, Congress raised the national debt limit from $8.2 trillion to $8.96 trillion. This was the fourth time since George W. Bush took office that it had to be raised. The national debt is the total amount owed by the government and should not be confused with the federal budget deficit, the annual amount by which federal spending exceeds revenue. Had Congress not raised the debt limit, the U.S. government would not have been able to borrow more money and would have had to default on its massive debts.

Among the creditors that finance these unprecedented sums, the two largest are the central banks of China (with $853.7 billion in reserves) and Japan (with $831.58 billion in reserves), both of which are the managers of the huge trade surpluses these countries enjoy with the United States. This helps explain why our debt burden has not yet triggered what standard economic theory would dictate: a steep decline in the value of the U.S. dollar followed by a severe contraction of the American economy when we found we could no longer afford the foreign goods we like so much. So far, both the Chinese and Japanese governments continue to be willing to be paid in dollars in order to sustain American purchases of their exports.

For the sake of their own domestic employment, both countries lend huge amounts to the American treasury, but there is no guarantee of how long they will want to, or be able to do so. Marshall Auerback, an international financial strategist, says we have become a "Blanche Dubois economy" (so named after the leading character in the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire) heavily dependent on "the kindness of strangers." Unfortunately, in our case, as in Blanche's, there are ever fewer strangers willing to support our illusions.

So my own hope is that -- if the American people do not find a way to choose democracy over empire -- at least our imperial venture will end not with a nuclear bang but a financial whimper. From the present vantage point, it certainly seems a daunting challenge for any President (or Congress) from either party even to begin the task of dismantling the military-industrial complex, ending the pall of "national security" secrecy and the "black budgets" that make public oversight of what our government does impossible, and bringing the president's secret army, the CIA, under democratic control. It's evident that Nemesis -- in Greek mythology the goddess of vengeance, the punisher of hubris and arrogance -- is already a visitor in our country, simply biding her time before she makes her presence known.

Chalmers Johnson is a retired professor of Asian Studies at the University of California, San Diego. From 1968 until 1972 he served as a consultant to the Office of National Estimates of the Central Intelligence Agency. Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, the final volume in his Blowback Trilogy, is just now being published. In 2006 he appeared in the prize-winning documentary film Why We Fight.

Copyright 2007 Chalmers Johnson