Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Smears for Fears

Wes Clark just got caught up in the rigged rules for discussing Israel-related issues in America.
Web Exclusive: 01.23.07

Retired General Wesley Clark is, like me, concerned that the Bush administration is going to launch a war with Iran. Arianna Huffington spoke to him in early January and asked why he was so worried the administration was headed in this direction. According to Huffington's January 4 recounting of Clark's thoughts, he said this: "You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers."

This, of course, is true. I'm Jewish and I don't think the United States should bomb Iran, but Thursday night I was talking to a Jewish friend and she does think the United States should bomb Iran. The Jewish community, in short, is divided on the issue. It's also true that most major American Jewish organizations cater to the views of extremely wealthy major donors whose political views are well to the right of the bulk of American Jews, one of the most liberal ethnic groups in the country. Furthermore, it's true that major Jewish organizations are trying to push the country into war. And, last, it's true that if you read the Israeli press you'll see that right-wing Israeli politicians are anticipating a military confrontation with Iran. (For example, here's an article about the timing of the selection of a new top dog in the Israeli Defense Forces; Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted as saying that the new leader "will have to straighten the army out, rebuild Israel's deterrence and prepare the defenses against threats, first and foremost, against Iran.")

Everything Clark said, in short, is true. What's more, everybody knows it's true. The worst that can truthfully be said about Clark is that he expressed himself in a slightly odd way. This, it seems clear, he did because it's a sensitive issue and he worried that if he spoke plainly he'd be accused of trafficking in anti-Semitism. So he spoke unclearly and, for his trouble, got … accused of trafficking in anti-Semitism.

James Taranto, who writes the hack "Best of the Web" column for the online version of The Wall Street Journal's hack editorial page, likened Clark's views on this to the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Scott Johnson of the influential and moronic right-wing Power Line blog argued that "Clark's comments are not simply 'anti-Israel,'" and asked "[i]s it a only a matter only of parochial concern to American Jews that they are now to be stigmatized without consequence in the traditional disgusting terms -- terms that used to result in eviction from the precincts of polite society -- by a major figure in the Democratic Party?"

Needless to say, Clark did not stigmatize American Jews. Indeed, he went out of his way to note that the American Jewish community is divided on the issue. Michael Barone's sneering attack on Clark also managed, almost incidentally, to reveal Barone's own understanding that Clark's remarks are substantially correct. Barone observed that it's "interesting to see a Democratic presidential hopeful denounce 'the New York money people,' people whom Clark spent some time with in 2003-04."

And, indeed, it is interesting, for demonstrating the bizarre rules of the road in discussing America's Israel policy. If you're offering commentary that's supportive of America's soi-disant "pro-Israel" forces, as Barone was, it's considered perfectly acceptable to note, albeit elliptically, that said forces are influential in the Democratic Party in part because they contribute large sums of money to Democratic politicians who are willing to toe the line. If, by contrast, one observes this fact by way of criticizing the influence of "pro-Israel" forces, you're denounced as an anti-Semite.

Needless to say, the increasingly ridiculous Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, was swiftly located in order to ply his trademark tactic of accusing people of anti-Semitism that he knows perfectly well aren't anti-Semites. As The Jewish Week reported, "The ADL leader told Clark that he had 'bought into conspiratorial bigotry' that increasingly sees Israel, Jews and American Jewish organizations as the driving force behind U.S. involvement in Iraq and Iran." What's more, "Foxman said Clark’s comments are particularly worrisome because of the context, coming in the wake of," among other things, "a book by former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who accused Israel of pushing for war with Iran."

The context, I would say, is worrisome. "Israel" is not a unitary actor, but clearly some Israelis are pushing for war with Iran. More to the point, many American Jewish organizations are pushing for war with Iran. And before Foxman comes to lock me up, he might want to check out his own outfit's website, complete with a section on "The Iranian Threat." Meanwhile, over on AIPAC's site we can learn about the "escalating threat" from Iran. A group called The Israel Project has an Iran Press Kit page, linking only to alarmist takes on the Iranian nuclear issue and to a hawks-only set of expert sources. (Shockingly, none of these organizations are especially concerned that Israel won't join the Non-Proliferation Treaty Framework.)

For another example, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs gave Senator John McCain its "Scoop" Jackson Award in December; in his remarks accepting the award, McCain argued that "[t]he path to future success for Israel will not be an easy one, and there will be a number of difficult issues. Foremost on many minds, is, of course, Iran." He characterized "Tehran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons" as "an unacceptable risk" -- language clearly designed to lay the groundwork for war.

With this last bit, we not only see the accuracy of Clark's remark, but, once again, the stunning hypocrisy of the anti-anti-Semitism brigades. It's clear that McCain, just like Clark, sees American Jewish organizations as key players in the Iran-hawk movement in the United States, and also that he sees concern for Israeli security as motivating those groups. Nobody, however, is going to label McCain a Jew-hating conspiracy theorist -- because, of course, McCain wants to help these groups push the United States into a military confrontation with Iran. Thus, McCain gets an award, and Clark gets called an anti-Semite.

Since Clark would like to have a future in the politics game, he ended up backing down from his remarks, explaining he didn't mean what he said. Mission accomplished for those who smeared him. But would I ever suggest that Democrats have been unduly timid on the Iran issue because they fear crossing powerful "pro-Israel" institutions? Never. Only anti-Semites think stuff like that.

Matthew Yglesias is a Prospect staff writer.

Lying and Spying: How the Administration Slip-Slides Away

Tomgram: Elizabeth de la Vega, The State Spies on the Union

State of the what? Let's see, 28%, 31%, 33%, 35%. That pretty much sums up the State of the President -- or, at least, of his ever more dismal approval ratings in four of the latest major polls (and don't even mention his state of approval in similar nose-diving polls abroad). Only two Presidents, on the eve of a State of the Union Address have ever scored lower -- and one was Richard Nixon at 26%, seven months before he resigned his Presidency. (The other was Truman at 23% and mired in the Korean War.) Unbelievably enough, those aren't even the worst figures around for this administration. Try 26%, 29%, 29%, 30%; that's about how many Americans now think any presidential State of Iraq plan or strategy makes the slightest sense according to polls by Newsweek, CBS, the Washington Post/ABC News, and NBC/the Wall Street Journal. A little lower and you're in the polling basement, the sort of place not normally accessible even to a bunker-busting President.

Basically, if the networks didn't cut off all prime-time programming for the State of the Union Address, I suspect that the percentage of Americans bothering to listen to George W. Bush's words might prove infinitesimal. After all, as the latest polls all essentially indicate, but Mark Murray wrote of the NBC/WSJ poll, "Nearly two-thirds of Americans appear to have given up on success in Iraq and also on [George Bush's] presidency."

In fact, we would undoubtedly do better to stop listening to any of the official words of this administration, since they bear next to no relationship to administration acts. This State of the Union Address, which will be analyzed to death in the press and on TV, matters not a whit. Never has an administration reached for its dictionaries faster or more often to redefine reality to fit its needs. Seldom has the media spent more time parsing (and then generally passing on) words that were meant to do little but promote fantasies, escape responsibility, and confuse the public. It's the acts -- all aggrandizing, all aimed at promoting the unfettered power of a President and Vice President who never learned the word "enough" -- that matter, as former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, shows in exploring the latest administration maneuvers to slip past any congressional or judicial oversight of, or responsibility for, its illegal program to spy on Americans.

If you want to read some words that do matter, check out De la Vega's remarkable new book, United States v. George W. Bush et al., which, in the form of a hypothetical indictment of the President and his key officials and fictional grand jury testimony, brilliantly dissects the way the administration used language to defraud the Congress and the American people into war in Iraq. This Tomdispatch book is, as Chalmers Johnson has said, "Much more powerful than the 9/11 Report. A tour de force." (You can order it either from Amazon or directly from Seven Stories Press, its independent publisher, but whatever you do, don't miss it.)

Now, as a bow to the real state of our tattered, battered union, which will go unaddressed tonight, Tomdispatch turns to de la Vega to explore a few of the acts for which this administration should be held responsible. Tom.

Lying and Spying

How the Administration Slip-Slides Away
By Elizabeth de la Vega

I hope I can be forgiven if animal images kept coming into my mind during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. On the eve of the first such hearing to be held by the newly-elected Democratic majority, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sent a letter to Committee Chairmen Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) announcing that, henceforth, the President's Terrorist Surveillance Program would be conducted under the supervision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Listening to Alberto Gonzales "answering" questions about this development during the hearing, the thoughts I kept having were of seals and snakes: Had the administration really flip-flopped on warrantless electronic surveillance -- like, say, a seal -- or was it merely attempting to slither away -- like, say, a snake?

Unfortunately, it appears to be the latter. As with so many of its other activities -- pre-invasion intelligence fraud, detention of enemy combatants, systematic torture -- the closer the Bush administration comes to intersecting with the law and with Congress on its illegal spying, in the words of Paul Simon, "the more you're slip-slidin' away."

Well, Where Have We Been?

Unbeknownst to the American people and Congress -- the phrase that should begin so many stories about the Bush administration -- the President, starting in late 2001, authorized a secret domestic surveillance program to be run by the National Security Agency (NSA). By the time the secret wiretapping was revealed in a New York Times article on December 16, 2005, George W. Bush had issued more than 30 orders authorizing surveillance for what the administration claimed were foreign intelligence purposes, without ever attempting to comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA"). A law Congress enacted in 1978 to prevent the Executive Branch from conducting such surveillance without any court supervision whatsoever, FISA was simultaneously to provide a more expeditious procedure than that required for a standard search warrant.

In the four years between the inception of the program and its revelation, the Bush administration affirmatively concealed its existence, with the President, famously, even going so far as to preemptively -- and falsely -- announce that "any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed by the way."

Even worse, in that time span, Attorney General John Ashcroft and then Alberto Gonzales successfully negotiated with Congress four rounds of requested changes to FISA, the very statute they were routinely violating. Not once during the faux debate about security and civil liberty generated by the amendments they sought did the administration advise Congress in any official or unofficial way that it was violating the statute on a daily basis; nor did it seek revisions that would address the problems it later claimed existed.

Given such egregious conduct -- conduct, in fact, unprecedented in our history -- one would think Congress would take swift and decisive action. Hardly. An astoundingly earnest debate ensued over the administration's ever-changing rationales and frivolous legal arguments (superbly reviewed at Glenn Greenwald's excellent blog, Unclaimed Territory), but as Patrick Leahy described this sorry state of affairs:

"On March 31, 2006, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Sen. Russ Feingold's call to censure the President. This was the Committee's fourth hearing to consider the President's domestic spying activities. But while the Committee has now heard from a total of 20 witnesses, only one had any knowledge of the spying activities beyond what was reported in the newspapers. That witness was Alberto Gonzales, who flatly refused to tell us anything beyond ‘those facts the President has publicly confirmed, nothing more.'"

In short, neither Congress, nor the public knew anything more at the end of the Senate hearings in 2006 than they had known when the hearings began. The administration slithered off without being held to account for, or required even to superficially reveal, its activities. And Congress itself simply slip-slided away.

Where Did We Think We Were Going on January 17, 2006?

On January 17, it appeared that, under the leadership of Democratic Senator Leahy, we might begin to get some answers from Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing scheduled for the next day about the President's secret surveillance program: What is it? When did it begin? Who does it target? How are its targets chosen? Is it, as the law requires, particularized -- directed toward a certain target -- or simply a data-mining program that collects massive amounts of corporate and public online information and then cross-references it against U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement records? Who carries it out? What is the legal justification for surveillance outside the FISA statute?

It also seemed that we were proceeding in an orderly fashion towards a judicial review of the NSA spying program. In August 2006, in the case of ACLU et al. v. NSA, United States District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that the administration's National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program must be stopped, both because it violated FISA and because it constituted an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The United States appealed and, although the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the execution of Judge Taylor's order pending that appeal, it scheduled the oral arguments on the case for January 31, 2007. How the Court would rule is impossible to predict, but one possible outcome, of course, would be a decision that the administration's domestic spying program is, as Judge Taylor had found, both unconstitutional and illegal under the U.S. Criminal Code; another would be a finding that the spying program was illegal based on one of those grounds.

From the administration's point of view, in other words, as of January 17, the NSA eavesdropping plan was careening towards not one, but two very dangerous, intersections. What does the Bush administration ever do under such circumstances? Address its adversaries and make its arguments openly and honestly? No. Its modus operandi is always the same. It evades; it manipulates the system; it darts away -- or at least it tries to.

In this case, by preemptively announcing that it was no longer going to conduct the program whose existence it had hidden completely for four years -- and sparred with Congress about for the next 18 months -- the administration clearly fervently hoped that it could wriggle away from congressional and judicial oversight. The ploy was, in other words, less a flip-flop than a slither. But the maneuver, clever as it appears at first blush, is hardly a surefire remedy for the administration's problems.

Where the Heck Are We Now?

On the same day that the Department of Justice announced its decision not to reauthorize its unilateral, illegal wiretapping program, it notified the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that it would be submitting documents setting forth its arguments regarding the effect of this decision on the pending appeal. Clearly, the government lawyers intend to argue that the case is moot: There's nothing left to decide because we're not doing it anymore.

There are, in fact, many legal counterarguments to this facile approach. For one thing, even if one assumes, for the sake of discussion, that the FISA problem has been addressed by the administration's new plan, the constitutional questions might still remain. There is another significant argument that weighs against the dismissal of the case for which the administration has been so cleverly maneuvering -- a doctrine holding that the court should still hear controversies that may have been resolved when the issue under consideration is "capable of repetition, yet evading review." This doctrine is particularly applicable to this situation, where neither the Court, nor Congress, nor the public have any way of knowing whether the administration has in fact abandoned its previous practices or whether it will ever decide to reinstate them. For such determinations, everyone has to rely on the word of Alberto Gonzales and the whims of the Department of Justice. The American Civil Liberties Union and the many diverse plaintiffs who have joined its lawsuit -- Greenpeace, writer Christopher Hitchens, and Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution, to name a few -- will certainly make this powerful argument in the weeks to come.

The same rationale argues powerfully in favor of Congress forging ahead, regardless of Gonzales's bland assurances. Not only do we not have any guarantee that the administration is doing what it says its doing, or will continue to do what it says it plans to do, we still don't have the remotest idea what that plan is. As Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pointed out during questioning of Gonzales, we don't know whether the warrants now being issued involve specific targets, as is required by FISA, or whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has simply agreed to give blanket approval to warrants directed at a large group of targets, the very problem that Congress has theoretically been trying to address since early 2006: "If it's a very broad-brush approval -- and again, because it's secret, we have no way of knowing -- it doesn't do much good," Schumer commented.

We do, however, have a remarkably consistent track record on this matter, which should tell us something. We know that none of the administration's conduct with regard to Congress and the National Security Agency domestic spying program has been undertaken in good faith. Indeed, the second phase of this odyssey, from December 2005 when the secret program was revealed, to the present, begins with the same phrase as the first: Unbeknownst to the American people and Congress…

Unbeknownst to the American people and Congress, during 2006, while everyone else -- naively thinking we lived in a democracy -– engaged in this ongoing faux debate, earnestly trying to divine what the administration was actually doing, discussing the pros and cons of the nearly laughable arguments they were making in support of whatever it was, and in good faith attempting to craft amendments to FISA that would accommodate the unique requirements of whatever it was that no one knew, the Bush administration was acting entirely on its own as if neither the public, nor Congress even existed.

We may still be stumbling around in the dark, struggling to get a grip on what the administration is doing, but we are getting nearer to the destination; this, then, is decidedly not a good time for Congress to be slip-slidin' away. On the contrary, wouldn't this be a good time to reach for a subpoena?

Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience in both Minneapolis and San Jose. Her pieces have appeared in the Nation Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon, among other places. A regular contributor to Tomdispatch.com and the author of United States v. George W. Bush et al., she is poised to start on a multi-state book tour that begins January 31 at Shaman Drum bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the scene of her college "crimes." She may be contacted at Elizabethdelavega@Verizon.net.

Copyright 2007 Elizabeth de la Vega

How We Can End the Occupation of Iraq

By David Swanson

President George Bush deflects criticism of his war plans by claiming that his critics have no plans of their own. Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, asserts that matters of war must be left in the hands of the President (presumably no matter how brilliant your alternative plan).

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) has had an exit plan on his website for over three years. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D., Calif.) has held several hearings discussing exit plans over the past year and a half. Peace activists, including Tom Hayden, have published and promoted a variety of exit plans over the past couple of years, and have even gone so far as to meet and discuss them with members of the Iraqi Parliament.

More recently, former Senator George McGovern and William Polk have published a detailed exit plan, one that helped shape a bill introduced on January 17th by a dozen Democrats led by Woolsey. It's a comprehensive bill that lays out a plan to safely bring our troops home, end the war, reconstruct Iraq, and take care of our veterans for a change. The Woolsey bill is one of several new bills in Congress that would end the war. At least two others, sponsored by Congressmen Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) and Jerrold Nadler (D., New York) include, as does Woolsey's, a key component that shatters Cheney's vision of executive power: they cut off the funds for the war. Of course, they do so while providing for the safe return of our troops.

While the U.S. Constitution actually does not give to any branch of our government the authority to launch aggressive and endless wars against other countries, that beleaguered document does give the Congress the authority to declare war. When that authority is neglected by Congress or overrun by the White House, Congress can make use of another Constitutional power, the power of the purse. While the President might argue that he has the legal authority to continue or escalate a war once underway, even if opposed by Congress, he cannot do so if Congress denies him the necessary funding.

Of course, Congress must also provide the funding to begin a war or to do anything else whatsoever. Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" reports that in the summer of 2002 Bush took money appropriated by Congress for Afghanistan and other programs and, with no Congressional notification, used it to build airfields in Qatar and secretly begin a war on Iraq. According to Woodward, the amount was $700 million; the Congressional Research Service later found it was actually $2.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Bush was marketing his proposed (and secretly begun) war to Congress and the American public, making claims that have proven false in virtually every detail. Amazingly, four years later, Congress has yet to investigate this apparently fraudulent marketing campaign.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the so-called WMD Commission have both done investigations and produced reports, but both were barred from addressing the central question of whether the Bush administration had presented the intelligence honestly.

There are some Democrats, newly in power, proposing to investigate this war, just as there are some proposing to cut off the funding and end it. But both groups are currently small minorities in Congress, even if they speak for the majority of Americans who oppose this war and want the truth brought to light. The only reason that even these moral leaders in Congress have begun to act on this issue is the intensity of the public pressure they are feeling. We are planning to dramatically increase that pressure on every member of the House and Senate on January 27th and 29th.

On February 15, 2003, we organized with our allies around the world the single largest day of protest in world history, a protest aimed at preventing this war before it began. While we failed to influence President Bush or the Republican Congress, our position won out in nations around the world which refused to take part in the war, and in the United Nations which refused to sanction it. Had our government been more democratic, more open to the concerns of its citizens, this war would not have happened.

We now have a Congress controlled by Democrats. Will they be more responsive than the Republicans? There is one way to find out. On January 27th we are organizing a massive march in Washington, D.C., followed by a day of organized citizen lobbying for peace on January 29th. We'll find out if the change of party we voted for in November changed something more than the names of committee chairs. Learn more at www.unitedforpeace.org

NATO’s Hidden Terrorism

22 January 2007

The Strategy of Tension

by Silvia Cattori

Daniele Ganser, professor of contemporary history at Bale University (France) and chairman of the ASPO - Switzerland, published a landmark book about "NATO’s Secret Armies." According to him, during the last 50 years the United States have organized bombings in Western Europe that they have falsely attributed to the left and the extreme left with the purpose of discrediting them in the eyes of their voters. This strategy is still present today, inspiring fear for the Islam and justifying wars on oil.

Silvia Cattori: Your book about NATO’s Secret Armies [1] explains that the strategy of tension [2] and the False Flag terrorism [3] imply great dangers. It teaches us how NATO - together with the intelligence services or the West European countries and the Pentagon - utilised secret armies during the Cold War, hired spies among the extreme right wing, and organized terrorist acts for which they blamed the left. Becoming aware of this, we can wonder about what is likely to happen today behind our back.

Daniele Ganser: It is extremely important to understand what the strategy of tension truly represents the way it works nowadays. This can help us clarify the present and to see more clearly to what extent it is still in action. Only a few people know what the expression ’strategy of tension’ means. It is very important to talk about it, to explain it. It is a tactic that involves carrying out criminal acts and attributing them to someone else. By the term ’tension’, we mean emotional tension, all that which creates a feeling of tension.
By ’strategy’ we make reference to that which increases people’s fear in regard to a determined group. These secret structures of NATO had been equipped, financed and trained by the CIA, in coordination with the M16 (the British secret service), to fight against the Army of the Soviet Union in a case of war, but also according to the information to which he have access today, to commit terrorist acts in several countries [4]. That is how, since the 70s, the Italian secret services have been using these armies to foment terrorist attacks, with the purpose of causing fear among the population, and later, to accuse the communists of being the authors. The strategy of tension was designed to serve the purpose or discrediting, weakening and stopping communism from reaching executive power.

Silvia Cattori: To learn what it means is one thing. But it is still difficult to believe that our government could have let NATO, the West European intelligence agencies and the CIA act in such a way that could threaten their own citizens’ security!

Daniele Ganser: NATO was at the core of this clandestine network linked to terror; the Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC) and the Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC) were two substructures of the Atlantic Alliance, and they are clearly identified today. But, now that this has been established, it is still hard to know who was doing what. There are not any documents proving who was at the head, who organized the strategy of tension, how NATO, the West European intelligence services, the CIA, M16, and the hired terrorists among the extreme right, distributed each other’s roles. The only certainty that we have is that there was, inside these clandestine structures, some elements that used the strategy of tension. The terrorists from the extreme right have explained in their statements that it was NATO’s secret services that had supported them in this clandestine war. But when we ask for explanations from some members of the CIA or NATO - which I have done for many years - they limit themselves to say that it could be possible that a few criminal elements might have managed to avoid control.

Silvia Cattori: Were these secret armies active in every Western European country?

Daniele Ganser: In my research, I put forward evidence that these secret armies not only existed in Italy, but also in all Western Europe: in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Luxembourg and Germany. In the beginning, we thought that there existed only one guerrilla-structured organization, and therefore, that all these secret armies had participated in the strategy of tension, and therefore, in terrorist acts. However, it is important to know that not all these secret armies have been involved in attacks, and to understand what differentiated them.
What appears to be clear today, is that NATO’s clandestine structures, usually called ’Stay Behind groups’ [5], were created in the beginning to act as a guerrilla in case of an occupation of Western Europe by the Soviet Union. The United States stated that the guerrilla networks were necessary to overcome the lack of preparedness of the countries attacked by Germany.
Several of the countries that were occupied by the Germans, like Norway, wanted to learn the lessons of their incapacity to resist the occupier, and they said to themselves that, in case of a new occupation, they had to be better prepared, to have another option at hand and to count with a secret army in case that the official one were to be defeated. Inside these secret armies, there were honest people, sincere patriots, who only wanted to defend their countries from an occupation.

Silvia Cattori: If I understand well, these Stay Behind groups, whose original goal was to be prepared in case of a Soviet invasion, have been deviated from that goal and were reorganised to defeat the left. From that, it is difficult to understand why the left parties have not investigated this or denounced this earlier.

Daniele Ganser: When we take the case of Italy, it appears that, every time that the communist party has interviewed the government to find an explanation about the secret army that was operating in this country under the coded name of Gladio [6], there was never any answer, under the pretext that it was a ’state secret’. It wasn’t until 1990 that Giulio Andreotti [7] recognised the existence of Gladio and its direct links with NATO, the CIA, and M16 [8]. _ It is also during that time that the judge Felice Casson was able to prove that the true author of the bombing in Peteano in 1972, that had shocked Italy, and that had been attributed up to that moment to the extreme left militants, was Vincenzo Vinciguerra, linked to ’Ordine Nuovo’, a group of the extreme right wing. Vinciguerra avoided blame for the bombing in Peteano with the help of the Italian secret services. Vinciguerra also spoke about the existence of this secret army, Gladio. He explained that, during the Cold War, these clandestine acts had caused the death of women and children [9]. He stated as well that this secret army controlled by NATO, had branches all around Europe. When this information was released, there was a political crisis in Italy. And it is thanks to the investigations of the judge Felice Casson that we got to know about NATO’s secret armies.

In Germany, when in 1990 the SPDs (German Social Democrat Partisans) became aware that in their country - as well as in all the other European countries - there was a secret army, and that this structure was linked to the German secret services, they loudly denounced it as a scandal and accused the Christian democratic Party (CDU). This party reacted by saying: "If you accuse us, we are going to say that, you too, together with Willy Brandt, you have been involved in this conspiracy". This happened at the same time as the first elections of the reunified Germany, which the SPD hoped to win. The leaders of the SPD understood that that was not a good electoral subject; in the end, the story was twisted in such a way as to make the existence of these secret armies seem justified.
In the European Parliament, in November 1990, many members exclaimed that the existence of such clandestine armies could not be tolerated and that the European people needed to know the true origin of terrorist acts and that an inquiry was needed. Therefore, the European Parliament wrote a complaint to NATO and to president George Bush Senior. But nothing was done. It is only in Italy, Belgium and Switzerland that there have been public queries. And they are the only three countries that have set some order in this subject, and that have published a report about their secret armies.

Silvia Cattori: What about today ? Are these secret armies still active? Is it possible that there exist secret national structures which escape the control of each State?

Daniele Ganser: For a historian, it is difficult to answer that question. We haven’t got an official report of each country. In my books, I analyse some facts that I can prove. Concerning Italy, there is a report stating that the secret army Gladio has been destroyed. About the existence of the secret army P26 in Switzerland, a report was also issued by the Parliament, in November 1990. Therefore, these clandestine armies, which had stocked explosives in hidden places everywhere in Switzerland, have been dissolved.
But in the other countries, nothing was done. In France, while president François Mitterrand stated that all that belonged to the past, we discovered later that these secret structures had always been present when Giulio Andreotti suggested that the French president was lying: "You say that the secret armies do not exist anymore; but, during 1990’s secret meeting in the autumn, you, the French, were also present; don’t say that this doesn’t exist anymore." Mitterrand became quite angry with this Andreotti because, after this revelation, he was forced to rectify his statement. Later, the head of the French secret services, admiral Pierre Lacoste, confirmed that these secret armies existed in France as well, and that France had also been involved in terrorist attacks. [10]. It is therefore difficult to say whether all this has been solved or not. And, even if the Gladio structures have been dissolved, new armies might have been created, still utilizing this technique of the strategy of tension and the False flags.

Silvia Cattori: Can we speculate that, after the fall of the USSR, the United States and NATO have continued developing the strategy of tension and of the false flags in other fronts?

Daniele Ganser: My research is based in the period of the Cold War in Europe. But it is known that there have also been false flags in other places, where the States’ responsibility was proved. For example: the Iran bombings in 1953, for which the communist Iranians were blamed at first. So it happened that the CIA and the Mi6 had used some agents provocateurs to orchestrate the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh’s administration, within the framework of the war, to control the oil. Another example: the bombings in Egypt, in 1954, for which the Muslims were accused first. It was proved later that, in what was called the Lavon affair [11], it was the agents of Mossad who had been the perpetrators. This time, it was for Israel to stop the British troops from leaving Egypt, to make them stay there, and also to ensure the protection of Israel. Therefore, we have examples in history showing that the strategy of tension and the false flags have been used by the US, Great Britain and Israel. Given that throughout their history other countries have also used the same strategy, the research must continue in these fields.

Silvia Cattori: These clandestine structures of NATO, created after the Second World War, to supply the European countries with a guerrilla capable of resisting the Soviet invasion, ended up serving nothing but to build criminal operations against the European Citizens? Everything leads to the thought that the United States have another purpose!

Daniele Ganser: You are right in raising this question. The United States were interested in the political control. This political control is an essential element of Washington and London’s strategy. General Geraldo Serravalle, at the head of Gladio, the Italian network Stay-behind, gives an example of this in his book. He tells us that he understood that the United States were not interested in the preparation of the guerrillas against an eventual Soviet invasion, when he saw that, what interested the CIA agents who went to the training exercises of the secret army that he was leading, was to make sure that the army worked, could control the communist militants. Their fear was that the communists took the power in countries such a Greece, Italy and France. Therefore, the strategy of tension was meant to serve that purpose: to orient and influence the politics of certain countries of Western Europe.

Silvia Cattori: You have talked about an important emotional factor in the strategy of tension. Therefore, the terror, whose origin is vague, uncertain, the fear that it causes, all that helps to manipulate the public opinion. Are we not assisting today to the same kind of procedure? Yesterday, we fuelled the fear of communism, today aren’t we fuelling the fear of Islam?

Daniele Ganser: Yes, there is a very clear parallel. During the planning of the war in Iraq, it was said that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons in his possession, that there was a link between Iraq and the Al-Qaeda terrorists. But none of that turned out to be true. By means of these lies, it was intended to make people believe that Muslims wanted to spread terrorism all around, and that this war was necessary to fight against terror. However, the true reason for this war is the control of energy resources. This is due to the fact that the geology, the richness in gas and oil, are concentrated in the Muslim countries. He who wants to monopolize them, must hide behind this type of manipulations.
We cannot say that there is not a lot of oil left because the global production - the ’peak oil’ [12] - is going to arrive probably before 2020, and that therefore oil must be taken from Iraq, because people would say that children must not be killed to obtain oil. And they are right. They can’t be told, either, that in the Caspian Sea there are huge reserves and that there is a plan to create a pipeline that would go to the Indian Ocean but, given that it’s is not allowed to go through the South of Iran or the North of Russia, it must pass through the East, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, and therefore, this country must be under control. That is why Muslims are labelled as "terrorists". It is all a big lie, but if it is repeated a thousand times that Muslims are "terrorists", people will end up believing it and thinking that the wars against Muslims are useful; and to forget that there are several types of terrorism, that violence is not necessarily a feature of Islam.

Silvia Cattori: So, these clandestine structures might have well been dissolved, but the strategy of tension continues?

Daniele Ganser: Exactly. The structures might have been dissolved, and other ones could have been formed. It is important to explain how, in the strategy of tension, the tactic and manipulation work. None of that is legal. But, for the governments, it is easier to manipulate people than to tell them that they are trying to get hold of somebody else’s oil. Nevertheless, not all these attacks arise from the strategy of tension. But it is difficult to know which ones are the manipulated attacks. Even those who know the amount of attacks that have been manipulated by the governments to discredit a political enemy, can be confronted by a psychological obstacle. After every bombing, people are afraid, they feel confused. It is very difficult to accept the idea that the strategy of tension, the strategy of false flag, is a reality. It is easier to accept the manipulation and to say: "I have kept informed for 30 years, and I have never heard about these criminal armies. The Muslims are attacking us; this is why we fight against them."

Silvia Cattori: Since 2001, the European Union has created anti-terrorist measures. Later, is has been seen that these measures have allowed the CIA to kidnap people, to move them to secrete places and torture them. Have the European States become a sort of hostages to their submission to the United States?

Daniele Ganser: The European countries have had quite a weak attitude concerning the United States after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. After having confirmed that the secret prisons were illegal, they let them continue. The same happened with the prisoners in Guantanamo. Many voices stood up in Europe to say: "The prisoners cannot be deprived of a lawyer or defence." When Mrs. Angela Merkel mentioned this question, the United States clearly suggested that Germany was a little bit involved in Iraq, that its secret services had contributed to prepare this war, and therefore they must shut up.

Silvia Cattori: Within this context, where there are still many unclear areas, what type of security can NATO give to the peoples it is supposed to protect if it allows the secret services to manipulate in this way?

Daniele Ganser:Concerning the terrorist attacks carried out by the secret armies of the network Gladio during the Cold War, it is important that we are able to determine clearly which is the real implication of NATO in this, to know what really happened. Is this about isolated acts secretly organised by NATO? Until this day, NATO refuses to talk about the strategy of tension and terrorism during the Cold War. NATO refuses all questions related to Gladio.
Today, NATO is used as an offensive army, even though this organization was not created to play that role. It was activated in that sense on September 12th 2001, immediately after the attacks in New York. NATO’s leaders affirm that the reason for their involvement in the war against the Afghans is to fight against terrorism. However, NATO is in danger of losing that war. Therefore, when that happens they will be a big crisis, a debate. And this will allow us to know whether NATO is really fighting a war against terrorism, or if it is trying to create an analogous situation to that of the Cold War with the secret army Gladio, where she had a link to terror. The next few years will tell us if NATO has acted outside the mission that was accorded to it: to defend the European countries and the Unites States in case of Soviet invasion, an event that has never occurred. NATO was not funded to take over the oil and gas of the Muslim countries.

Silvia Cattori: We could understand that Israel, who is interested in widening the conflicts in the Arabic and Muslim countries, encourages the United States in that direction. But, we cannot see what it is that interests the European countries and that makes them engage their troops in the wars decided by the Pentagon, as was the case in Afghanistan.

Daniele Ganser: I think that Europe is confused. The United States are in a strong position, and the Europeans have a tendency to think that the best thing is to collaborate with the strongest one. But we would have to think about this more thoroughly. The European politicians give in easily to the pressure put by the US, who is always asking for more troops in this or that front. The more the European countries give in, the more they subordinate, and the more they will find themselves confronted to bigger and bigger problems. In Afghanistan the Germans and the British are under the command of the American army. Strategically, it is not an interesting position for these countries. Now, the US has asked the Germans to engage their soldiers in the South of Afghanistan as well, in the areas were the battle is the hardest. If the Germans accept, they take the risk of being massacred by the Afghan forces which refuse the presence of any king of occupier. _ Germany should ask itself seriously whether she should not rather withdraw their 3000 soldiers from Afghanistan. But, for the Germans, to disobey the US’ orders, to which they are a bit like lieges, it is a very hard step to make.

Silvia Cattori: How much do our current government know today about the strategy of tension ? Can they just let the war-doers foment coups d’état, kidnap and torture people without reacting? Have they any means to stop these criminal activities?

Daniele Ganser: I do not know. As an historian, I observe and take notes. As a political adviser, I always say that one must never give in to the manipulations that try to induce fear and to make people believe that the "terrorists" are always the Muslims; I say that this is about a struggle for controlling the energy resources; that some means of surviving the lack of energy must be found without needing to go to a militarization. Problems cannot be solved in this way; they only become worse.

Silvia Cattori: When we observe the demonisation of the Arabs and Muslims in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, we might think that this does not have anything to do with the oil.

Daniele Ganser: No. In this case not. But, in the US perspective, it is definitely about taking control of the energy reserves of the Eurasian block that is situated in a ’strategic ellipse’ that goes from Azerbaijan to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, passing through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. It is precisely over there, in that region where this false war ’against terrorism’ is taking place, that the biggest oil and gas reserves are concentrated. In my opinion, it is not about anything else but a geo-strategic game inside which the European Union can do nothing but lose. Because, if the US takes hold of the resources, and the energy crisis becomes worse, it will tell them: "You want gas, you want oil. Very well, in exchange we want this and that." The US is not going to give the oil and gas for free to the European countries. A few people know that the "peak oil", the maximum production of oil in Europe - the production to Norway and Great Britain - is declining.
The day when people will realise that these wars ’against terrorism’ are manipulated, and that the accusations against the Muslims are, among other things, propaganda, they are going to be surprised. The European countries must wake up and understand once and for all how the strategy of tension works. And they must also learn to say "no" to the US. Moreover, in the US also, there are many people who do not want this militarizing of the international relationships.

Silvia Cattori: You have also done some research on the attacks that took place in September 11th 2001 and you have signed a book [13] jointly with other intellectuals who worry about the inconsistencies and contradictions of the official version of these events, as well as the conclusions of the commission of survey ordered by Mr. Bush. Do you not fear being accused of being a "conspiracy theorist"?

Daniele Ganser: My students and other people have always asked me : if this "war against terrorism" concerns indeed the oil and gas, the 911 attacks have also been manipulated, haven’t they? Or is it a coincidence that Osama Ben Laden’s Muslims have struck exactly at the precise moment that the occidental countries were starting to understand that an oil crisis was announcing itself?
Therefore, I became interested in what had been written about September 11th and I also studied the official report that was presented in 2004. When we dig into this subject, we realize from the start that there is a big worldwide debate around what really happened on 911. The information that we have is not very precise. What makes one question this 600 page report is that the third tower that collapsed on that day is not even mentioned. The commission only talks about the collapsing of two towers, the Twin Towers. But there is a third 170 meters high tower that collapsed too; the WTC 7 tower. A small fire is mentioned concerning it. I have talked to professors who know very well the building structures; they say that a small fire cannot destroy such a big structure. The official story of 911 and the commission’s conclusions, are not reliable. This lack of clarity puts the researchers in a difficult situation. The confusion predominated as well about what really happened at the Pentagon. In the pictures that we have, it is very difficult to see a plane. We cannot see how a plane would have fallen there.

Silvia Cattori: The Venezuelan Government has asked the US for further explanations to clarify the origin of the attacks. Would this not be the example to follow?

Daniele Ganser: There are many uncertainties about September 11th. Politicians, members of the academia and citizens can all claim to explain what really happened. I think that it is important to continue asking questions. It is an event that no one can forget; everybody remembers where he/she was at that precise moment. It is unbelievable that five years later, we still cannot see clearly what happened.

Silvia Cattori: It is almost as if none of the structures created wanted to doubt the official version. Is it possible that they let themselves be manipulated by the lack of information organized by the ones who organize the strategy of the tension and the False flags?

Daniele Ganser: We are prone to manipulation if we are afraid. Afraid of losing the respect from the people that we love. We cannot go out of this spiral of violence and terror if we let the fear take over. It is normal to be afraid, but we must overtly talk about this fear and about the manipulations that generate it. Nobody can escape their consequences. This is even more serious when the politicians in charge react often under the effect of fear. One must find the strength to say: "Yes, I am afraid to know that these lies make people suffer; yes, I am afraid to think that there is less oil left; yes, I am afraid to think that this terrorism they talk about is the consequence of manipulations, but I will not let myself become intimidated."

Silvia Cattori: Up to what extent do countries like Switzerland participate, right now, in this strategy of tension?

Daniele Ganser: I do not think there is any strategy of tension in Switzerland. This country does not know any terrorist attacks. But, it is true that, in Switzerland as everywhere else, the politicians are afraid of the US and its strong position, and they have a tendency to say to themselves: "They are good friends, we’d better not fight against them."

Silvia Cattori: Doesn’t this way of thinking and of covering up the lies that arise from the strategy of tension make everyone an accomplice of the crimes that it causes? To start with the journalists and the political parties?

Daniele Ganser: I personally think that everyone - journalists, professors, politicians - must think about the implications of the strategy if tension and the false flag. Here we are, indeed, in presence of phenomena that escape from every kind of agreement. That is why, every time that there are terrorist attacks, we must ask questions and try to understand what that implies. It is only on the day that we officially admit that the false flags are a reality, that it will be possible for us to create a list of the false flags that took place in history and to agree upon what should be done.
The subject that interests me is how to achieve peace. It is important to open a debate on the strategy of tension and to take cognizance of the fact that this is a very real phenomenon. Since as long as we do not recognize its existence, we cannot act. That is why it is important to explain what the strategy of tension truly means. And, once we have understood, we must not let fear and hatred against one group win. We must say to ourselves that it is not only one country that is involved in this; that it is not only the United States, Italy, Israel or the Iranians, but that it occurs everywhere. Even if certain countries participate in a more intensive way than others. We must understand, without blaming one country or one person. Fear and hatred do not help us to advance, they paralyse the debate. I see many accusations against the Unites States, against Israel and against great Britain, or alternatively against Iran and Syria. But the search for peace teaches us that one must not get lost in accusations based on nationalism, and that neither hatred nor fear are needed; that the most important thing is to explain the reality. And this comprehension will be beneficial for everybody.

Silvia Cattori: Why is your book about NATO’s secret armies published in English, translated into English, Turk, Slovenian and soon Greek, but it is not published in French?

Daniele Ganser: I haven’t found any publisher in France, yet. If any publisher happens to be interested in publishing my book, I will be very pleased to see it being issued in French.

 Silvia Cattori
Swiss journalist.

Exclusive PDA interview with Rep. Jim McGovern

Exclusive PDA interview with Rep. Jim McGovern
Breaking News: Rep. Jim McGovern to introduce "The Safe and Orderly Withdrawal Act"

Rev. Moon's Anti-Obama Agit-Prop

Rev. Moon's Anti-Obama Agit-Prop
As Rev. Sun Myung Moon's media operations have done for two decades, the Korean cult leader's Insight magazine has stepped up to inject an early dose of poison into Campaign 2008. In this case, Moon's weekly magazine was peddling a bogus story suggesting that Barack Obama is a clandestine Islamic agent and that Hillary Clinton's operatives were dishing the dirt. Though the anti-Obama agit-prop was quickly disproved, it revealed again how valuable Moon and his mysterious money have been to the Republicans and especially to the Bush family. January 23, 2007

The GOP's $3 Billion Propaganda Organ
When history tries to make sense of what happened to American politics in this era, it should take into account the extraordinary story of how a right-wing Korean cult leader, Sun Myung Moon, bought influence with the U.S. political class by pouring billions of dollars into conservative causes, including a daily newspaper, the Washington Times. Though Moon operatives have tried to hide the total price tag for this pro-Republican propaganda organ, a longtime Times employee has pegged Moon's spending at more than $3 billion in cash. The other big question is where did all this money come from? A Special Report. December 27, 2006

An ominous strategic blunder

By Columnist Gene Lyons

During the propaganda campaign preceding the invasion of Iraq, it was still possible to delude oneself about the Bush administration’s integrity, competence and respect for democratic institutions. Even a skeptic like me of White House claims about Iraq’s arsenal of WMDs thought it made sense to vote for the president authority to use military force if Saddam Hussein refused U.N. weapons inspections. The issue needed to be resolved.
This time, there’s no kidding ourselves. Judging by his recent address to the nation, President Bush’s intentions could not be more ominous. To secure his place in history, The Decider intends not only to “surge” troop levels in Iraq, but also to launch an unprovoked attack upon neighboring Iran. That this would be a strategic blunder on a par with Napoleon’s (or Hitler’s) invasion of Russia deters him not. Instead of negotiating with the Persians, as the Iraq Study Group advised, Bush evidently means to bomb them to smithereens.
Along with the Israeli extreme right, the same neoconservative fantasists who sold Bush on “regime change” in Iraq have clamored for the United States to make war on Iran. They see their last hope expiring with Bush’s political power. So they’ve amped the rhetoric.
Last December, Israeli cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman, a West Bank “settler” who emigrated from Russia in 1978, told The New York Times that “the Iranian problem ... (is) the biggest threat facing the Jewish people since the Second World War.” (Lieberman also advocates revamping citizenship laws to eliminate most Israeli Arabs.)
Stung by Israel’s bloody, inconclusive war with Iranian-supported Hezbollah militias in southern Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has compared Iran with Nazi Germany. Two weeks before Bush’s speech, Sen. Joe Lieberman wrote a very peculiar Washington Post op-ed arguing, “(if) Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous battlefield victory for Al Qaeda and Iran.”
At the time, pairing these two mortal enemies appeared entirely bizarre. Hadn’t Lieberman noticed Shiite and Sunni death squads butchering each other in Iraq? Then Bush adopted the same rhetoric, aimed at blurring the distinction exactly as he’d conflated 9/11 and Saddam Hussein.
Declaring that Iran was providing “material support” to Iraq’s insurgents, Bush vowed to, “interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria ... and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
Bush also announced that he was adding an aircraft-carrier battle group to naval forces already patrolling the Persian Gulf, and equipping them with Patriot anti-missile batteries useless against Iraqi insurgents. The next day, U.S. soldiers raided an Iranian consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan, arresting diplomats and confiscating computers.
Like an earlier raid on the compound of Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (soon after his White House visit), the raid was conducted without the knowledge of Iraq’s government, which promptly demanded the Iranians’ release.
In a coordinated propaganda blitz reminiscent of October 2002’s crackpot warnings of Iraqi “mushroom clouds,” the selfsame White House spokesmen — Condi Rice, Dick Cheney and national security advisor Stephen Hadley — hit the TV talk show circuit. Exactly as it was once Saddam, Saddam, Saddam, suddenly it was Iran, Iran, Iran.
It’s merely bitter irony that the Iraqi dictator’s last words were to curse the “devil-worshipping Persians.” If the United States didn’t want Iranian influence inside Iraq to increase, it shouldn’t have invaded at all, much less supervised elections certain to empower Shiite religious-based parties. (Prime Minister al-Maliki himself spent years in Iranian exile.) It’s too late now for Bush to scapegoat the Persians for incoherent U.S. policy.
Evidence of Iranian misdeeds is laughably thin. Unnamed American officials charge Iran with providing “infrared triggering devices,” for roadside bombs. People, that’s a TV remote.
But getting sucked into one of these tit-for-tat debates about technicalities — aluminum tubes, yellowcake uranium, etc. — Iranian President Ahmadinejad is precisely what these warmongering loons want. Let’s stick to the big picture: Yes, Iran has an authoritarian religious government. Yes, like virtually every Muslim country, it’s unfriendly to Israel. President Ahmadinejad’s promotion of a Holocaust-deniers convention in Tehran made him look like a Persian George Wallace. He also lost support in recent elections, and has no authority over Iran’s military whatsoever.
The Iranian “threat,” exists mainly in the fevered minds of neoconservatives. Persians generally mistrust Arabs and despise Al Qaeda. Iran made several attempts to help the United States in Afghanistan after 9/11. It hasn’t launched an aggressive war for centuries.
But even if you think I’m wrong about all that, do yourself a favor and spend five minutes scrutinizing a world map. Iran’s population is three times larger than Iraq’s. Its land area is twice Texas, five times Iraq’s. It has a more cohesive, nationalistic populace, and a mountainous landscape. It’s precisely halfway around the world. Even if war with Iran were inevitable, the United States is in no shape to fight it.
This crackpot scheme must be prevented by any legitimate political means.

You can e-mail Gene Lyons at genelyons2@sbcglobal.net.

Copyright © 1999-2006 cnhi, inc.

Thousands face loss of homes

Rash of foreclosures stirs debate on blame

EAST PRICE HILL - Diane Swain's house serves as a sanctuary in a life filled with challenges.

Her husband died young in 1990. A car wreck left her with an injured leg, a bad back and a daily regimen of expensive drugs. Her 31-year-old son hangs around the house, too severely autistic to work.

To pay for food, medical care, utilities and the mortgage on her century-old house on West Eighth Street, Swain squeezes every last penny from a $1,400-a-month Social Security check.

But her difficulties don't end there. Now a mortgage company in Southern California is foreclosing on her house.

Ameriquest Funding says Swain fell behind on a $91,000 loan. Her lawyers at the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati counter that predatory lenders and mortgage brokers duped her into a series of six loans saddled with high closing costs, suspiciously high appraisals and escalating monthly payments.

Swain, 56, wants to keep the house for her son, Jimmy, whose autism requires familiar surroundings.

"I'm going to fight for the house till the day I die," Swain said. "If I lose it, where are Jimmy and I going to live?"

While Swain's circumstances are especially dire, similar foreclosure notices were tacked to the front doors of more than 10,000 homeowners in almost every neighborhood of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky last year.

For the seventh straight year, foreclosure filings hit record highs not only here but in all of Ohio and Kentucky.

Record foreclosures were also a national phenomenon, and Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky were at the front. Through Sept. 30, Ohio led the nation with 3.32 percent of its home loans in foreclosure, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Indiana was second at 2.9 percent; Kentucky, fifth at 1.76 percent. The national average was 1.05 percent.

Economists, lenders and consumer advocates blame the upswing on a stew of culprits: an unemployment bubble in the Midwest, an unquenching thirst for consumer debt, and mortgage scams on low-income homebuyers.

The unemployment rate stood at 5.1 percent in Ohio and 5.2 percent in Kentucky at the end of November, compared with a national rate of 4.3 percent. In the Cincinnati-Middletown market, the rate was 4.8 percent.

"What's going on in the job market is the most important factor in foreclosure and (loan) delinquency rates," said Mike Fratantoni, a senior economist with the Mortgage Bankers Association. "In the Midwest, unemployment rates have been higher in the rest of the country, in the automotive industry in particular. If a homeowner loses his job in a market that were strong, he could quickly sell his home" instead of losing it to foreclosure.

Jim Russell, managing director of core strategies and assets management at Fifth Third Bank, said Ohioans are vulnerable to the vagaries of the auto industry.

"Ohio has the second-largest exposure to automobile manufacturing in the United States," he said. As the Big Three close plants and cut jobs, "this creates job loss pressure, especially in the northern part of the state," Russell said.

Foreclosures rose disproportionately across Greater Cincinnati in 2006. The number of new filings rose an estimated 27 percent in Butler County and 22.8 percent in Clermont County, but less than 9 percent in Warren County.

Butler County bore the brunt of AK Steel's lockout of 1,800 workers in Middletown last February. The county's unemployment rate averaged more than 6 percent from March to September, when the steelworkers' joblessness benefits ran out. Unemployment stood at 4.8 percent in November.

Jim Tyler, a spokesman for Local 1943 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at AK, said he knows of "quite a few" foreclosures among the rank and file.

"A lot of them have gone from not having a paycheck to losing their homes and having their cars repossessed," Tyler said.

Banks can lose, too

Homeowners aren't the only losers when foreclosures happen. Banks themselves stand to lose a bundle on loans that go bad and collateralized homes worth barely more than the ground they stand on, said Kirk Sampson, a Cincinnati lawyer who has filed foreclosure cases for lenders for 32 years.

"Lenders are getting killed by this stuff," Sampson said. "There's no lender out there that wants a foreclosure. Lenders lose a lot of money on foreclosures. By the time they complete the foreclosure process in Ohio, they take a huge bath - 50 cents on the dollar sometimes."

Among lenders, the biggest losers are those that lend to the riskiest customers, so-called "subprime" borrowers with the worst credit. As of Sept. 30, 12.56 percent of all subprime mortgage loans were delinquent, compared with 2.44 percent of loans made at prime interest rates to people with good credit, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"Banks are choking on what is know as real estate owned," Sampson said. "It's generally junk property that needs a lot of work."

If foreclosed homes aren't sold at public auction, they end up in the listings of real estate brokers such as Butch Magner of Huff Realty in Fort Mitchell. He sells foreclosure homes in "as is" condition for about 10 lenders. Most properties, he said, fetch less than their previous selling price. Most bring down the value of homes around them.

"For the most part, they're in fair to poor condition," Magner said.

"Over 2½ years, foreclosures have tripled or quadrupled," he said. "They're everywhere, from the inner city of Covington and Newport up to Edgewood and Burlington and Fort Mitchell."

Sampson said lenders work with defaulting customers by putting them on a repayment plan. But for now, the combination of easy credit and free spending is fuel on the foreclosure fire. "It's a social epidemic, but one that will eventually run its course because lenders will realize that their rate of return on these loans is not what they expected and they'll stop making these types of high-risk loans," Sampson said.

The mill grinds steadily

Nick DiNardo gags at the notion of out-of-town lenders working to keep struggling homebuyers out of foreclosure. A lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, he blames home-flipping, deceptive lending and mortgage fraud for the rash of foreclosures. The victims are typically unsophisticated working-class people buying their first house, responding to home-equity loan pitches or rent-to-own schemes.

Trying to negotiate a modified repayment plan with a lender is futile most of the time, he said. "It's almost impossible to get a person to talk to you."

"There've been times when the client had the money, but we couldn't get ahold of the attorney to see how much was needed to resolve the case," he said. "The way these things work in court, it's almost like a mill. There's almost nothing that can slow the process down."

In Swain's case, Legal Aid couldn't find the mortgage broker who handled four of her six loans. But it was able to help in the case against her in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

The nonprofit organization filed a counterclaim against eight lenders, brokers, salespeople and an appraiser. It alleges fraud, negligence, conspiracy, unjust enrichment and violations of various state laws.

The appraiser valued Swain's house at $90,000 in 2003, almost four times its current appraisal of $25,000. Most of the $91,800 that Swain borrowed went toward the payback of her original mortgage, medical expenses and home improvements required by the city of Cincinnati's building department. But $23,300 of it was paid out in loan closing costs and prepayment penalties.

"It' never crossed my mind that I could lose the house," Swain said.

Summers, Trichet Warn Davos Party-Goers They Underestimate Risk

By John Fraher

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Lawrence Summers has a message for investors heading to the Swiss mountain resort of Davos this week to toast a year of booming returns and record bonuses.

``It's worth remembering that markets were very upbeat in the early summer of 1914,'' the former U.S. Treasury secretary observes.

While Summers isn't predicting the onset of another world war, he and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet are among those who are warning the more than 2,200 movers and shakers at the 37th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum that they've become too complacent about risks ranging from trade imbalances to terrorism.

A glut of cheap money and the strongest global economic growth in three decades have encouraged banks, private-equity firms and hedge funds to bet that the good times will keep rolling.

``It's too good to be true,'' says Vittorio Corbo, head of Chile's central bank, who will speak at a seminar in Davos about the dangers of derivatives. ``Tomorrow the mood could change. We have to be prepared.''

Davos attendees -- who are likely to include U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. Senator and possible 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Charles Prince and Carlyle Group Inc. co-founder David Rubinstein -- have heard the warnings about complacency before.

Last Year's Warnings

In fact, they heard them last year at Davos, when Summers, the former president of Harvard University, billionaire George Soros and Bundesbank President Axel Weber cited the potential consequences of trade imbalances, budget deficits and the then- surging price of oil.

Since then, the rewards have just gotten better for investors. Prices of London's most expensive homes surged 29 percent last year, bonuses at the five largest U.S. investment firms rose 30 percent to $36 billion and the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to a record.

``We shouldn't pour cold water on everything,'' Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann, 58, said in a Jan. 16 interview. ``We, the eight or nine players in global investment banking, have a very good future.''

Profits are soaring, the value of takeovers last year rose to a record $3.6 trillion and the Morgan Stanley Capital International World Index of global stocks climbed to a record on Jan. 3. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, another Davos attendee, last year earned a bonus of $53.4 million.

An Appetite for Risk

With banks tapping what Trichet calls an ``ample'' pool of liquidity, investor appetite for risk has never been greater.

Several measures show perception of risk is near historic lows. The gap between the yield demanded by investors to hold emerging-market and U.S. government bonds narrowed to a record on Jan. 17, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co., while the amount of debt used to finance European buyouts rose to 8.7 times earnings in the third quarter, the most ever.

Hedge funds in the U.S. are the most leveraged since 1998, the year that Long-Term Capital Management collapsed, according to Bridgewater Associates Inc., a Westport, Connecticut-based fund manager. Regulators from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.K.'s Financial Services Authority, concerned that credit standards for hedge funds are too lax, are jointly probing whether lenders set strict enough limits on loans.

Little Concern

Meanwhile, one gauge of stock-market volatility -- the Chicago Board Options Exchange's VIX index -- shows that concern about a slump in equity prices is at a 13-year low.

Trichet, 64, who's scheduled to speak at a Davos seminar on the topic along with Israel central-bank chief Stanley Fischer, People's Bank of China Deputy Governor Wu Xiaoling and Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, said at a Jan. 11 news conference that ``we continue to see, overall, a low level of risk appreciation, and a disorderly unwinding of this situation would be a risk that we have to be fully conscious of.''

Willem Buiter, professor of European political economy at the London School of Economics, is considerably more blunt.

``Current risks are ludicrously underpriced,'' says Buiter, a former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee. ``At some point, someone is going to get an extremely nasty surprise.''

Among things that might go wrong: a renewed surge in oil prices. Jim Rogers, chairman of New York-based Beeland Interests Inc. and co-founder with Soros of the Quantum hedge fund, says crude is likely to exceed $100 a barrel, almost double its current level.

$100 Oil

``Within the context of the bull market, oil will go over $100,'' Rogers, who predicted the start of the commodities rally in 1999, said in a Jan. 18 interview in Tokyo. ``It will go over $150. Whether that is in 2009 or 2013, I don't have a clue, but I know it's going to happen.''

Higher interest rates might also topple exuberant markets. The Bank of England surprised investors this month with a quarter point increase in its benchmark rate. Trichet's ECB is raising borrowing costs to try to rein in soaring asset prices and credit growth.

The ECB, unlike other major central banks, explicitly uses money supply to gauge inflation. Growth of M3, the broadest measure of money supply and the bank's preferred measure, unexpectedly accelerated to the fastest pace in more than 16 years in November, climbing 9.3 percent.

Already Stung

Some investors have already been stung. Venezuela's Caracas Stock Exchange Index has lost more than a quarter of its value in the past three weeks after President Hugo Chavez pledged to nationalize industries. The prices of copper and other commodities have plunged partly on concern a slowing U.S. economy will cool demand.

``We've seen a taste of what's to come in the last few days,'' says Nouriel Roubini, a professor of economics at New York University who will attend the forum's opening seminar on the state of the global economy with Summers. ``You'll see declines in equity prices, further falls in commodity prices.''

Summers, 52, in an e-mail drawing his World War I parallel and expanding on a column he wrote in the Financial Times, says that ``financial history demonstrates that the biggest liquidity problems always follow the moments of greatest confidence.'' The six months after the Sarajevo assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average lose a third of its value -- an object lesson in the perils of failing to adequately price risk.

``Complacency can be a self-denying prophecy,'' Summers says.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Fraher in Berlin at jfraher@bloomberg.net .

Last Updated: January 21, 2007 19:03 EST

Travel to U.S. has dropped 17 percent since 9/11

2 hours, 1 minute ago

A 17 percent drop in overseas travelers to the United States since the September 11 attacks has cost the country more than $15 billion in lost taxes and nearly 200,000 jobs, a study showed on Tuesday.

Since the September 11 attacks, the United States has tightened security measures and toughened its visa and entry requirements. As a result, the country was ranked as the world's most unfriendly to visitors in a survey conducted last year of travelers from 16 nations.

"Our economic security is suffering from a drastic decline in overseas travelers and we are missing an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen America's image around the globe," said Stevan Porter, president of Intercontinental Hotels Group and chairman of the association's Discover America Partnership. "We are in the midst of a travel crisis."

The study released on Tuesday by the Travel Industry Association said the U.S. market share of the $6 trillion worldwide travel market had dropped to about 6.1 percent in 2006, from about 7.5 percent in 2000. Since September 11, overseas travel to the United States has dropped by 17 percent.

The study, which looked at the economic ripple effect over time, said the drop resulted in 194,000 lost jobs, $25.9 billion in lost payroll and $15.6 billion in lost taxes to federal, state and local governments.

Moqtada al Sadr Speaks

by Renato Caprile

"A secret army is against us, but the Shi'is will know how to resist"

BAGHDAD -- He feels hunted and is lying low. He never sleeps in the same bed for more than one night. A few of his most faithful have already turned against him. He has even transferred his family to a secret location. Moqtada al Sadr feels that the end is near. Too many enemies, too many infiltrators among his people. Nevertheless, he doesn't have it in for al Maliki, whom he considers little more than a puppet, as much as for Iyad Allawi, the former premier, on whom he believes the Americans would never give up on betting. Allawi, in his view, would be the real director of the operation aimed at wiping him and his Mahdi army off the face of Iraq.

How is that al Maliki, in whose government until recently six ministers of your political current actually served, has suddenly become aware that the religious militias, and yours above all, are the true problem to be solved?

"Between me and Abu Assara (the 'father of Assara ,' the name of Maliki's daughter -- ed.) there never was any deep feeling. I always suspected that he was manipulated, and I never trust him. We met only on two occasions. On the last one, he said to me, 'You are the backbone of the country,' and then he confessed to me that he was being 'obliged' to fight against us. Obliged, understand?"

The fact remains that an iron fist is about to be unleashed against your people.

"It is already unleashed in the meantime. Last night, they already arrested more than four hundred of my people. It is not us that they want to destroy, but Islam. We are only an obstacle. For the time being, we will not make a stand."

Does it mean that you will surrender the weapons?

"During the muharram (the sacred month during which the martyrdom of Hussein, which happened more than six centuries ago, is commemorated -- ed.), the Qur'an prohibits us from killing. May they also kill us, then. For a true believer, there is no better moment to die than this: the Paradise is assured. But God is generous: not all of us will die. After the muharram, we'll talk about it again."

Some claim that the army and police are widely infiltrated by your militia and that the Marines alone will never be able to make it disarm.

"The exact opposite is true: it is our militia that teems with spies. On the other hand, it doesn't take much to infiltrate into a people's army. And it is these very infiltrators who, by disgracing themselves with dishonorable deeds, have discredited the Mahdi army. There are at least four armies ready to unleash themselves against us. A "shadow" army about which no one speaks, trained in great secret in the Jordanian desert by the American military. And then there is that private army of Allawi, an infidel who will soon succeed Maliki, which is being trained at the former military airport of Muthanna. Then, there are Kurdish peshmerga, and finally the regular American troops."

If what you say is true, you do not have any hope of resistance.

"We are many also. We represent the majority of the country who do not want, contrary to what Allawi dreams, Iraq to becomes a secular state, a servant of the Western powers."

For a week you have officially been in the crosshairs. The government holds that without their leaders the religious militias are militarily weaker.

"I am aware of that. For this reason, I have transferred my family to a secure location. I have even made my will, and I move continuously, so that few would know exactly where I am. But even if I had to die, the Mahdi would continue to exist. Men can be killed -- faith and ideas cannot."

It is said that you were also in the middle of the crowd present at the execution of Saddam. Is that true?

"That is utter nonsense. If I had been there, they would have killed me, too. As for Saddam, I certainly did not cry for the man who massacred my family and my people by tens of thousands. But I would have executed him in a public square so all the world could see."

If you were not there, do you deny that there were many of your men in that room?

"No, they were not my men. They were people paid to discredit me. In order to make me appear to be the one who was really in charge of that hanging. The proof lies in the fact -- just play back the audio -- that in reciting my prayer they omitted some key passages. A mistake that even a child in Sadr City would never have made. The objective was to make Moqtada seem like the true enemy of the Sunnis. And the results are here. In the past I was received with all the honors in Saudi Arabia. But immediately after that staged performance under the gallows, my spokesman, al Zarqani, who was on pilgrimage to Mecca, was arrested. An all too explicit way to give me to understand that I was no longer on the list of friends."

In any case the war between you and the Sunnis continues.

"It is true that we are all Muslims and all sons of the same country, but they must first distance themselves from Saddamists, radical groups, Bin Laden's men, in addition to confirming their "no" to the Americans. It would be enough for the ulema to accept our conditions hereof. They have not done so yet."

Is it possible that there is nothing but bloodshed in the future of Iraq?

"If the future is a country divided in three, it does not seem to me that there are alternatives. That's what Bush wants in order to control us better -- certainly not what the Iraqis desire. In my opinion, there is only one means to arrive at a solution: the immediate American withdrawal."

(19 January 2007)

Libby: Bush Administration Set Me Up

Lawyers Paint Libby As Sacrificial Lamb

'Scooter' Libby Laywers Paint Former Aide As Sacrificial Lamb in CIA Leak Case


The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald described for jurors Tuesday a detailed Bush administration effort to beat back early criticism of the Iraq war and accused former White House aide "Scooter" Libby of covering up his role leaking the identity of a CIA operative.

I. Lewis Libby's attorney countered with a White House effort of his own, one in which Libby was blamed for the leak to protect Bush political adviser Karl Rove's own disclosures.

"They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb," attorney Theodore Wells said, recalling a conversation between Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, as the leak investigation heated up in 2003. "I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected."

As the trial opened with a preview of each side's position, it was clear that the jury will be tasked with sorting through conflicting statements in a high-profile case that has opened a very public window on the behind-the-scenes Washington practice of leaking sensitive information to the news media.

The investigation began after syndicated columnist Robert Novak revealed that a chief Bush administration critic, Joseph Wilson, was married to CIA operative Valerie Plame. Rove was one of two sources for Novak's story.

Nobody, including Rove, has been charged with the leak. Libby is accused of lying to investigators and obstructing the probe.

By putting the focus on Rove, whom Wells referred to as "the lifeblood of the Republican party," Wells sought to cast Libby as someone who was drawn into discussions about Plame only to clear his own reputation. White House officials publicly cleared Rove of wrongdoing but originally stopped short of doing so for Libby.

Using a computerized calendar during opening statement, Fitzgerald cast Libby's actions much differently. Fitzgerald described a tumultuous week in 2003 when he said the White House was under "direct attack" from Wilson.

Fitzgerald said Libby learned from five people from Cheney to members of the CIA and State Department that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Libby discussed that fact to reporters and others in the White House, Fitzgerald said.

"But when the FBI and grand jury asked about what the defendant did," Fitzgerald said, "he made up a story."

Libby told investigators he learned about Plame from NBC News reporter Tim Russert. But Fitzgerald told jurors that was clearly a lie because Libby had already been discussing the matter inside and outside of the White House.

"You can't learn something on Thursday that you're giving out on Monday," Fitzgerald said.

Libby says he didn't lie but was simply bogged down by national security issues and couldn't remember his conversations with New York Times report Judith Miller, Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper and Russert.

Opening statements were expected to continue into Tuesday afternoon. The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.