Sunday, March 18, 2007

In the Name of Improving People's Lives

Editor's note: I m posting at the other blog(also see Sunday articles below).
March 17 / 18, 2007

Mounting Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq


"On a trip to the market, Haji Lawania says he drove into a hail of US gunfire that shattered his windshield and killed his father, nephew and a village elder. In three separate incidents Sunday and Monday, Afghan witnesses and officials said US military action may have killed up to 20 civilians."

- AP Afghanistan, March 7, 2007

"US forces opened fire on an unarmed Iraqi family's car and killed a father and his two young daughters, the man's wife told AFP on Saturday . . . 'They just opened fire randomly on us,' said Akhlas Abduljabbar, a Sunni housewife . . . 'They killed my husband and two daughters and my three-year-old boy was wounded in the head'."

- AFP Iraq, March 10, 2007

"I don't think America gets enough credit for trying to help improve people's lives."

- George W Bush, March 9, 2007

Bush has lost his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world condemns the gulags operated by his secret agencies that are accountable to the laws of neither man nor God. The peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan dread and detest the foreign troops who occupy their country. The lives of few on earth have been improved by America, and those are mainly the already obscenely rich (the "haves and the have-mores", in the words of the vulgar Bush). And the United States, that wonderful country, is now regarded round the world as an aggressive barbaric empire whose soldiers and pilots kill at will.

Give credit where it's due.

Not so many years ago infantry soldiers lived by the principle that their duty was to "close with and kill the enemy in any weather, in any terrain, by day or by night" (or words to that effect). Nowadays it seems that soldiers live by the principle that they can kill anyone who might get in their way, either by random blazing away at civilian cars carrying kids or by calling in airmen daremen who just love slamming 2000 pound bombs onto the planet.

These pilots, these video-game warriors, are experiencing what Tom Wolfe called "fighter jock heaven". They love this ultra-modern warfare against ragheads (just like the old days of gooks, dinks, slopes and so forth), because they have war joy without the danger. These bombing and rocketing pilots face no enemy threat. There is not a chance of them facing an enemy aircraft that could meet them on equal terms. They never see blood unless they cut themselves shaving. They take off, like in the simulator, and zoom along to blast and shatter whatever the army wants to target and it doesn't matter a damn if there are kids down there.

There has not been a US strike aircraft shot down or had its paint job scratched in this century, except by friendly fire. And after the Air Force or Navy jet jocks kill kids with 2000 pound bombs they can go back and relax over a beer, because they never see (so cannot think about), the deaths so far below them. They mean nothing to them, because they are the Lords of the skies. Their job is to kill and question not. They are the nearest thing, so far, to living robots. These poor, soulless, happy savages are androids, and in a way we should pity them.

The spokesman for North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, the Alice-in-Wonderland Colonel Tom Collins, told the world why two thousand pound bombs thunder down on Afghan houses. He explained that "It would seem to me that the enemy benefits when forces take what we consider appropriate action against threatening behavior . . . Nonetheless, the enemy is able to gain from that because there is this perception that we're shooting people, civilians."

Of course your troops are "shooting people, civilians" you booby. And your pilots and their bombs and rockets are killing civilians like there's no tomorrow, thereby creating ever more hatred of Americans.

In the bombing Collins referred to it was said that two men ran into a house after an incident in which it was alleged that they had fired at US soldiers. Well, let's accept that this is fact. So what should the US soldiers have done? It was what Colonel Collins describes as "threatening behavior". So why were the men not pursued by the soldiers they shot at?

Nobody knew, nobody could have known, who else was in the house into which the men fled. But the immediate action was to obliterate it with a two thousand pound bomb which killed lots of people. This was "appropriate action" according to Collins who said that "We didn't know who was in that building, but we saw fighters move into that area who were legitimate targets. The building was struck and, as we all know, unfortunately civilians were killed."

The officer ultimately responsible for calling in the airstrike, LtCol Brian Mennes, commanding officer of the paratroop battalion that was shot at, went to the graves of three of the children killed by the bomb and gave some cash to the families, which isn't as crass as it might appear because this is what is expected in Afghanistan in such circumstances. What was insensitive was the statement by Mennes that "I doubt many countries in the world, particularly that have been fighting here, go to these lengths to show the people we're sorry when bad things happen, even in very complex situations when you have the enemy fighting among the people". This is an inane set of observations, not least because he was denigrating US allies in Afghanistan such as the UK and Canada. (He meant the former Soviet Union, apparently.) And of course he wasn't going to any extraordinary "lengths" : he was doing the least that should be done in Afghanistan by people who kill kids with 2000 pound bombs or any other weapon.

Do people like Collins, Menes and the jet jockey bombers manage to sleep at night? Probably they do, with smiles on their lips. Because they are not normal human beings. To them it is "unfortunate" that civilians are killed. Three little boys in their graves are an example of "bad things happening". Do they have children, these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kid-killers and apologists for kid-killing? Perhaps they do. No doubt if one of their kids was killed they would consider it an unfortunate bad thing. Or something. And probably they imagine, like their commander-in-chief, that they are "improving people's lives".

In shattering people's lives around the world, the Bush Administration is hurtling downwards to even murkier depths. Week by week there are more revelations of hideous incidents in which blameless citizens of Iraq or Afghanistan have been killed during military operations, drive-by shootings, or in acts of willful murder. No-one knows how many rapes, killings and beatings have taken place because it is only when the most horrible of them bobs, scum-like, to the surface that the media can take notice. The fetid bubbles that burst explosively on the public are disgusting. But they are only part of the evidence of deep-lying putrefaction.

Last month President Putin summed up America's position by saying that "Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper-use of military force in international relations ; force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts . . . We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. One country, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way."

Washington's actions, said President Putin, "have caused new human tragedies and created new centers of tension. Judge for yourselves : wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. And even more are dying than before. Many more."

But it's all in the cause of helping to improve people's lives.

Brian Cloughley is a former army officer who writes on political and military affairs. His website is

Poll: Confidence in Iraq war down sharply

Story Highlights• Percentage who say they're confident, proud of Iraq war drops by more than half
• In 2003, 83 percent of Americans said they were confident, 65 percent proud
• 61 percent of those polled now say it was not worth invading Iraq, poll says
• Support for Afghanistan war drops from 88 percent in 2001 to 53 percent today

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans are starkly less confident and proud of their country's involvement in Iraq, according to poll results released Sunday.

However, the poll -- results of which were released on the eve of the Iraq war's 4-year anniversary -- also indicated that Americans are no more worried about the conflict than they were when it began in March 2003.

The CNN poll of 1,027 adults was conducted March 9-11 by Opinion Research Corp. The sampling error for the poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

According to the results, 35 percent of Americans are confident about the war, the poll said. When the war began, 83 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the campaign.

Similarly, 30 percent of those polled this month said they were proud of the war, as opposed to 65 percent who expressed that sentiment in 2003.

The poll also showed that 33 percent of Americans are afraid of the war and 55 percent are worried by it. Those percentages are roughly the same as they were four years ago.

Sunday's results came on the heels of a Saturday release indicating that years of war had whittled away at Americans' support for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When the Iraq war began, 68 percent of Americans said they felt the situation in the country was worth fighting over. Now, 61 percent of those surveyed say it was not worth invading Iraq, according to the poll.

That survey of 1,027 adults by Opinion Research Corp. was conducted by telephone March 9-11 as well. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The poll showed that support for the Iraq war had dwindled to 35 percent. In 2004, support for the war was about 56 percent. Last year, the number dipped to 37 percent, and today about 35 percent of Americans say they support the war, according to the poll.

Support for the war in Afghanistan also has seen a considerable decline as 88 percent of those polled in 2001 said they were behind the conflict. This month's poll indicates that support lingers around 53 percent.

Also, according to the poll, about 55 percent of Americans feel the war in Afghanistan is "going badly," according to the poll.

CNN's Keating Holland contributed to this report.

Base Politics

To understand why the United States turns a blind eye to growing state repression in Central Asia, look no further than its air force base.

Web Exclusive: 03.15.07

On an unseasonably warm January day in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, Edil Baisalov, a young activist, found himself in yet another standoff with the government. Baisalov has had a dramatic run over the past year, speaking out against corruption in the government and leading a successful series of protests in the fall to amend Kyrgyzstan's constitution and decrease the powers of the president. His work has been dangerous; he has survived an assassination attempt and several attacks. Today, however, Baisalov was at the tax authority's office facing charges that he hadn't paid taxes on property nine years ago. “You have to remember Henry David Thoreau -- ‘To remain independent you have to own nothing,’” he said. "Many activists have had this problem, so I interpret this as intimidation.”

Worried about the development, Baisalov retreated to his home on the outskirts of Bishkek, where he lives with his wife, daughter, mother, and father. Baisalov is on what he calls "paternity leave" after the birth of his daughter, but his decision has more to do with wanting to take some time off from politics and fade from the public eye.

In many ways, Baisalov, who has a reputation as one of the brightest young reformists in Kyrgyzstan, is cooling his heels. This year, he has been cut off from his funding from the American organization the National Democracy Institute (NDI), which once supported his civic activities to the tune of $100,000 a year.

NDI says that Baisalov had become too political, crossing the line from activist to politician for his work supporting Kyrgyzstan's fledging opposition. "When you're providing support, one has to be careful of what the lines are to be sure not to look like we're funding political activities," said a representative of NDI in Washington. "[Baisalov] had adopted a much more political profile, with participation in the demonstrations in November. Our support was for election monitoring."

But the line separating politics from activist is a thin one in Kyrgyzstan. After the successful Tulip Revolution in 2005 succeeded in ousting authoritarian president Askar Akayev, many hoped that new president Kurmanbek Bakiyev would usher in real reforms. But soon enough, Bakiyev refused to move on his promised agenda. The media remains largely state-controlled, and corruption is rampant.

Baisalov, with his stylish black glasses and perfect English, could pass for a young media executive in New York. His media savvy and Western training allowed him to quickly rise to national and even international prominence for speaking out against corruption and mobilizing Kyrgyz citizens to criticize the government. Using a blog, he detailed insider politics in Kyrgyzstan. He organized government protests and helped opposition leaders craft their public message. In the protests last November that forced the government to rewrite the constitution, limiting the power of the president, Baisalov could be seen on television every day standing right next to opposition leaders.

Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous nation bordered by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China, and Tajikistan, has been seen as an islet of democracy by the West. The 2005 Tulip Revolution, which followed in the wake of democratic revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Serbia, appeared to signify a turning point for Central Asia, with Kyrgyzstan the leader of the emerging democracies. But in short order, U.S. pro-democracy funders have been losing their footing across the region. The International Republican Institute has had its offices closed in several countries, and now is primarily active only in Kyrgyzstan. NDI, while fairing better, has also seen a dramatic cooling off in Central Asia.

Meanwhile, democracy in Kyrgyzstan is losing ground fast. After the successful November protests, the Kyrgyz government reversed several amendments to the constitution during December holidays. Why then, would NDI cut off Baisalov from his funding right at a time when it seemed democracy reformists needed support the most?

Baisalov thinks it's because he didn't want to play ball. "It was an unhappy situation because they didn't want to be seen as representing my activism and criticism of the government," he said. A representative of a democracy organization working in Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, explained to the Prospect that popular suspicion and misunderstanding of the work of democracy organizations has grown since the color revolutions.

But others credit NDI's shift to something else: recent tensions over a U.S. air force base in Kyrgyzstan. That base was established -- giving the country a new strategic importance to the United States -- in 2001. After the government of neighboring Uzbekistan expelled a U.S. base from its territory, the Kyrgyz base took on even greater importance as the sole forward operating base into Afghanistan. Conflict has simmered ever since. In December, a Kyrgyz civilian was killed while trying to illegally enter the base, and that was merely the latest in a string of mishaps that has soured public opinion over the past year.

During base negotiations this summer, two U.S. diplomats were expelled from Kyrgyzstan for meddling in local affairs. Then, at the end of the summer, a U.S. air force major disappeared from a Bishkek mall. She surfaced some days later with her head shaved and dyed brown, saying she had been kidnapped. So far, there’s been no public disclosure of what happened. (Meanwhile, also during the summer, the U.S. and Kyrgyz governments reached an agreement on a new lease for the base, to the tune of $150 million dollars.) In the fall, a U.S. air tanker clipped a Kyrgyz passenger jet, almost causing a major crash. The local press has jumped on every episode, both trumpeting and fuelling public dissatisfaction with the base's existence. The discontent has spread to the highest levels of government. Most recently, the Kyrgyz speaker of parliament told State Department officials in Washington that the base agreement needed to be renegotiated. He warned of a perilous downturn in Kyrgyz-U.S. relations.

Some local analysts say that the United States is scaling back its support for activists like Baisalov Kyrgyzstan in order to maintain its air base. Alisher Mamasaliev is an analyst who runs the Public Association Civil Platform. "In the last year, the position of the U.S. has changed drastically," he said during a meeting at his offices in a dilapidated Soviet-era building. "It has to do with the diplomatic scandal and with the fact that it's unclear where the financial payments from the military base are going. There are a few American politicians whose comments intervene in internal politics and that instigate the anti-American sentiment."

One result of this souring of relations with the United States, says Mamasaliev, is that Kyrgyz officials are now increasingly taking marching orders from Russia. Mamasaliev, who was recently dispatched to a meeting of young political leaders across the region in Moscow, says the Kyrgyz government is looking to cement closer ties with Russia and that the Kremlin is having dramatic input into local politics. "The closest economic and political relationship is with Russia," he said. "Our government relies on the support of Moscow, and with the Kremlin, the support is very visible."

One example is a policy that closely mirrors a new nonprofit law in Russia which forces all nongovernmental organizations to register with a new government agency, reporting all their activities and foreign funding. In January 2006, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice ordered an investigation of all foreign-funded NGOs in the country. The prime minister at the time, Feliks Kulov, went a step further and suggested a ban on all foreign NGOs. Both measures were eventually reversed.

But for activists like Baisalov, the message has been clear. Not only has Baisalov lost his U.S. support, he still suffers locally for being tied to American funders. Discredited by the government, he’s often labeled an American lackey or agent. Even educated young people question his motives. A young Kyrgyz businessman, who regularly bribes government officials to import alcohol for sale in the country and who went to college in the United States, told me that he hates Baisalov above all because he makes it harder for him to operate. The same man asked me for any interview tape I had of Baisalov so he could tamper with it and damage Baisalov’s public image.

Baisalov once dreamed of going to graduate school in the United States. He finished his senior year of high school in South Carolina -- one of the most formative years of his life, he says. But in the wake of his “divorce” from NDI, Baisalov is considering totally cutting his ties to the United States. “You know, I'm already called a Western agent, an American lackey,” he said. “Imagine if I go to an American school. So I choose to stay here.”

Baisalov says he is firmly committed to working in the civil sector to reform Kyrgyz democracy. But he has a new destination in mind for his travels. “Why not China?” he said. “That seems to be the future.”

By Alexandra Poolos

Alexandra Poolos worked as a correspondent for Radio Free Europe, primarily covering the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. She has also worked for the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, and the Christian Science Monitor. In reporting this story, Poolos traveled to Kyrgyzstan on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a Washington-based organization that supports reporting on global issues. Additional photographs and related resources can be found here.

Keep Off The Hippies

Friday, March 16, 2007

by digby

Ron Brownstein and Matt Cooper were on Hardball today (a refreshingly excellent show when it's hosted by David Gregory instead of you-know-who) discussing the Plame hearing. Brownstein is a good reporter who usually gets it right, but today he betrayed a little bit of that beltway reflexive dismissiveness of anything "the left" finds important. He said that Waxman needed to pick his battles better because playing to the liberal blogosphere with hearings like this will create the same problems for Democrats that Republicans found themselves in when they went after Clinton. Setting aside the fact that the Republicans' "problems" resulted in them holding all three branches of government for six years, this sounds to me like one of those tired GOP talking points that reporters love to parrot because it distances them from the hippies.

It's especially ironic since we've just seen the mainstream press sporting dripping oozing egg yolk all over their faces over the US Attorney scandal, which they also dismissed as a figment of hippy conspiracy mongerer's imaginations. This knee jerk loathing of the left tends to lead them astray and they should check themselves before they do it.

Matt Cooper and David Gregory ably argued that the Democrats can hardly be called overly zealous since this is only the second hearing the congress ever held on the issue and Cooper pointed out that this is hardly a settled issue what with the possible pardon and all. Furthermore, the underlying "crime" that Waxman is getting at isn't the covert agent act which the lying Gorgon Toensing insists on arguing every five minutes. The crime was lying and misleading the United States of America into war, something that the congress damned well should be investigating. Valerie Plame's outing is a window into that crime and the Democrats are wise to explore her story to show just how far the administration was willing to go to cover their tracks. What a prosecutor cannot do --- prosecute a political crime --- the congress surely can.

There is a huge need for the Democrats to develop the record on this administration's many crimes. It's important for our future and it's important for history. What they have done should never, ever be repeated. You had the highest reaches of the white house casually revealing what was clearly "need to know" classified information (which they had no "need to know" in the first place) to reporters, for purely political purposes. The same people who did this later turned around and said that reporters for the Washington Post and NY Times should be investigated by the Justice Department for revealing classified information that was not released purely to punish a political enemy, but rather in true whistleblower fashion, to tell the nation what its government was illegally doing.

We now know that in the case of the NSA spying stories, the Attorney General personally intervened to stop an internal investigation of the program when it came too close to him, but allowed those who were investigating that alleged treason of the NY Times to carry on.

This is all part of a very large mosaic of government secrecy, political backstabbing and abuse of power. Those of us who were screaming about this until we are hoarse were dismissed out of hand when we argued that no administration should be allowed to seize such unchecked power and the assumption among the establishment was that it was just more of our "unhinged" hysteria.

It wasn't. This stuff happened and it's likely only the tip of the iceberg. If the press can get past their loathing of the dirty hippies for five minutes they will see that not only have we been right, we have been flogging some amazingly good stories for the past six years that had they bothered to report them would have been journalistic coups. We really aren't that nuts --- and the Bush administration really is that bad.

Comments (101) | Trackback (0)

Video of Encampment to Stop the War Arrests

Anti-War Protests
Video of Encampment to Stop the War Arrests Yesterday
By Troops Out Now Staff
Mar 16, 2007, 16:5

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, 9 participants in the Encampment to Stop the War were arrested at the House Appropriations Committee Meeting in the Rayburn Building. The Democrat-led committee met to execute their first step toward increasing funding for the U.S. war on the people of Iraq. The following video was taken by Troops Out Now during the arrests. Our attorneys worked throughout the day yesterday to gain their release late last night. Watch for more direct action against the Democrat-backed war on Iraq as people are pouring into Washington this evening for the March on the Pentagon tomorrow. You can find more action updates on the Encampment to Stop the War Blog.



Major New Problems At Walter Reed

Written by Bruce Leshan
Created:3/16/2007 3:40:22 PM
Last Updated:3/16/2007 6:30:26 PM

Washington, DC (WUSA) -- A major 9NEWS NOW EXCLUSIVE -- allegations from a former inspector at Walter Reed of widespread and dangerous problems in nearly all the buildings at the Army's premier hospital.

Burst steam pipes near electrical cables, rats, mold, and holes in floors and walls -- all of that extends far beyond the well-publicized problems at the notorious Building 18.

And 9NEWS NOW has learned managers may have been slow to respond.

A worried quality control inspector, Mark Cordell, finally quit last week in frustration, and brought his fears to 9NEWS NOW.

"I won't sit back and watch someone get killed," he says while running through 81 pictures of the problems on a laptop computer.

Cordell says the worst of it may be Building 40. The old research institute has been condemned, but last week, the private contractor now responsible for maintaining Walter Reed sent workers in to fix a leak.

Cordell points to a picture showing the terrible decay inside the building and says, "The water is actually on the ground floor here. There is water halfway across the ground floor. And there's electricity too. There's high voltage that goes to this building. Two thirteen thousand volt transformers. Through the basement filled with water."

Cordell took more pictures in Building 1, the old hospital, that's now the main administration building. Water damage in the walls; holes in the ceilings next to electric cables and computer servers; hazardous waste stored between occupied floors; and leaking pipes that are rotting floor joists.

"The steam pipes below these buildings have burst, and it's making the rafters on the basement floor wet. People work on those floors," says Cordell.

When the Washington Post exposed the black mold in Building 18, where wounded soldiers recover, the contractor sent Cordell in to coordinate repairs. He says he did 250 to 300 work orders in two weeks.

The Army moved many of the injured soldiers to Building 14 -- and Cordell says as soon as they arrived the troops found more problems.

"So the building the soldiers moved to is just as messed up as Building 18?" asked 9NEWS NOW Reporter Bruce Leshan.

"Yes. Every one of the buildings at Walter Reed is the same way, or worse."

Cordell has a stack of e-mails -- nearly a week of trying to get managers to hire a qualified high voltage electrician to shut off the power to the flooded Building 40.

He finally went to the Garrison Commander who thanked him. But he's still unsure if it's been fixed.

He says, "They more or less told me, just be quiet and let it go. Well you know what, I can't let that go. Look at this, this is corrosion, stuff just wasted away. When they fix one steam leak, it just bursts somewhere else."

A spokesman for Walter Reed declined to offer any comment on the situation. But a Pentagon public affairs officer called and promised a response soon.

IAP, the private contractor that took over maintaining the hospital last month, released a written statement, saying it acted "without delay" to deal with the situation at Building 40, but that it took a little while to find "electrical schematics" and bring in a "high voltage subcontractor."

It also says Cordell's photographs were part of a survey it's using to develop a comprehensive building maintenance and assessment plan.

Related Video
Bruce Leshan Reports


Al-Jazeera released video clip from Iraqi resistance operation

This video released by Al-Jazeera few minuets ago, showing one member of Iraqi resistance putting explosives under a US tank in Ramadi.


U.S. troops in Iraq often abuse prisoners: report

The United States has a flagrant record of violating the Geneva Convention in systematically abusing prisoners during the Iraqi War and the War in Afghanistan, says the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2006 issued on Thursday.

A report released in News Night of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), originally provided by the U.S.-based Human Rights First, showed that since August 2002, 98 prisoners had died in American-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the dead, 34 died of premeditated murder, 11 deaths were suspicious, and 8 to 12 were tortured to death, according to an AFP report on Feb. 21, 2006.

A Human Rights Watch report in July 2006 said torture and other abuses against detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq were authorized and routine.

Detainees were routinely subject to severe beating, painful stress positions, severe sleep deprivation, and exposure to extreme cold and hot temperatures.

Soldiers were told that many abusive techniques were authorized by the military chain of command and Geneva Conventions did not apply to the detainees at their facility.

Detainees at Camp Nama, a U.S. detention center at the Baghdad airport- in violation of international law- not registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, were regularly stripped naked and subject to beatings.

Some detainees were used for target practice. In May 2006 human rights group Amnesty International condemned the detention of some 14,000 prisoners in Iraq without charge or trial.

On February 15, 2006, Australia's SBS TV aired more than 10 pictures and video clips taken at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison; the images included: a man's throat was cut off, left forearm of a man was left with burns and shrapnel wounds, a blood-stained interrogation room, and a seemingly insane ma's body covered with his own feces.

U.S. army's criminal investigation division gathered materials including 1, 325 photographs and 93 video clips of suspected abuse of detainees, 546 photographs of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, all recorded between Oct. 18 and Dec. 30, 2003, reported the Guardian on Feb. 17, 2006.

Another report carried by the New York Times in December 2006 says a man named Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor, was detained by American soldiers and put into detention center Camp Cropper for 97 days.

The man said American guards arrived at his cell periodically, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation.

When he was returned to his cell, he was fatigued but unable to sleep, for the fluorescent lights were never turned off and at most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor.

He was not allowed to use telephone and denied the right to a lawyer at detention hearings.

The New York Times reported on March 18, 2006 that an elite Special Operations forces unit Task Force 6-26 converted one of Saddam Hussein's former military bases near Baghdad into a top-secret detention center.

There, American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government's torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room. In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts.

According to another report by British newspaper The Independent, 460 people were confined in the Guantanamo prison camp, including dozens of adolescent prisoners, with more than 60 under 18 and the youngest only 14.

A young man named Mohammed el-Gharani was allegedly accused of member of al-Qaeda and conspiracy in the 1998 al-Qaeda London terrorist conspiracy when he was only 12. In 2001, he was arrested at the age of 14.

According to a report by the Washington Post, on May 30, 2006, 75 prisoners in Guantanamo went on a hunger strike against U.S. soldiers' maltreatment.

On June 10, 2006, three prisoners hung themselves with bed sheets and clothing, reported the Associated Press on June 11, 2006.

Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi's family said his organs including the brain, liver, kidney and heart were all taken away when the corpse arrived.

Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi's cousin said that might be done to conceal the truth behind his brother's death.

Another Saudi Arabian prisoner's father thought his son's death was not suicide but intentional hanging as he found bruises on his son's body.

The Amnesty International described it as another "indictment" of the worsening U.S. human rights record.

Human rights experts with the United Nations have condemned the United States for long-term arbitrary detention of suspects and abuses of detainees as serious violations of international law and relevant international conventions.

The U.S. Military Commissions Act signed into law on October 17, 2006 allows more severe means be used to interrogate terrorist suspects.

The War on Terror Ended

16 Mar 2007

. . . And the Winner Was Not the United States
by Leon Hadar

Baghdad, 2027 (Year of the Goat). Special for the Shanghai Post (proud member of the Global Murdoch Group).

Unlike some of my readers, I’m old enough to remember the time, during the American occupation of Baghdad, when this part of the city was known as the Green Zone. It was renamed the Yellow Peace Zone ten years ago, after Iraq joined the China-led Association of South-West Asian Nations (ASWAN). In fact, I’m digital-delivering this report on my Chinese-made RedPeony from Ali Baba’s Pagoda Hotel, which is located near the embassy of Greater China and which was built in 2015 in exactly the same location where, two years earlier, a devastating explosion triggered by fighters allied with the al-Sadr brigades destroyed the gigantic U.S. embassy, forcing thousands of American citizens to flee Baghdad and make their way to the Turkish-controlled northern part of Iraq.

Indeed, I was there in Baghdad on that historic day, October 12, 2013, and I watched as Lauren Bush, the last U.S. ambassador to Baghdad (and daughter of Neil Bush, a brother of former President George W. Bush), as well as other U.S. officials and Iraqi public figures, including Ahmed Chalabi, were evacuated. That last U.S. helicopter left the city on its way to the aircraft carrier USS Richard Cheney, which was positioned somewhere in the Persian Gulf. It was a sad and traumatic moment for many older Americans, recalling memories of another humiliating evacuation of U.S. diplomats and citizens from Ho Chi Minh City, following its liberation by the People’s Army of Vietnam on April 30, 1975 (an event the Americans refer to as the “Fall of Saigon”).

Long before the Americans decided to end their diplomatic presence in Baghdad in May 2013 (Mexico, a member of the North American Union, represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Iraq now), American pundits had already started debating the question of “Who lost Iraq?” After the Americans decided to close their last naval base near Haifa in Israel-Palestine, on September 17, 2016, the most popular topic at major conferences in think tanks in Washington, D.C., became “Who lost the Middle East?”

As an old Middle East hand, I was invited to address one such conference, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C., on June 11, 2017. The event, held in the Richard Perle Auditorium at the Leo Strauss Building and sponsored by the Weekly Standard, was bursting with symbolism. After all, it was in the offices of this think tank that the so-called neoconservatives, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington of September 11, 2001, had drawn up the plans for the ousting of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and for “remaking” the Middle East under U.S. leadership. The neoconservative agenda of trying to establish U.S. hegemony in the Middle East—or an American Empire, as some had referred to it—as a way of advancing American interests and values was embraced by the administration of President George W. Bush. That, in turn, created the conditions for the collapse of U.S. power in the Middle East. In the aftermath of the Five-Year War (2008-13) between Iran and the Arab-Sunni Coalition headed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria, the Quartet (China, India, Russia, and the European Union) helped bring some stability to the region, with Turkey playing a leading role in ending the civil wars in Iraq and Lebanon.

The conference at AEI brought together some of the surviving neocons, including former Weekly Standard editor (and advisor to failed Republican presidential candidate John McCain) Bill Kristol; Michael Ledeen, who, with aging Italian politician Alessandra Mussolini, is now running the Gabriele D’Annunzio Institute in Rome; and Paul Wolfowitz, the president of AEI, then writing The First Neocon, his biography of Leon Trotsky. Unfortunately, Perle, after whom the auditorium was named, passed away three years ago after choking on a bone in a fish restaurant in Paris—although some conspiracy theorists allege that he was poisoned by an agent of a “foreign power” who was worried that Perle was planning to reveal in his memoirs new details about the events that led to the U.S. decision to oust Saddam.

The title of my address was “The Gulf Wars: Was U.S. Strategic Loss Inevitable?” Discussing the dramatic events that unfolded in the first decade of the 21st century, starting with the September 11 terrorist attacks, I tried to draw the outlines of the counterfactual “what if” scenario and contrast it with what really happened. I started by suggesting that September 11 had highlighted the costs of the strategy of maintaining U.S. hegemony in the Middle East after the end of the Cold War and, particularly, in the aftermath of the Gulf War of 1991. That strategy had been embraced by both Republican President George H.W. Bush and the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, and it was based on the notion that an “over the horizon” presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states would be sufficient to contain the anti-status-quo powers of Iraq and Iran (a policy known as “off-shore balancing”) and that continuing American diplomacy aimed at fostering peace between Israel and the Palestinians would help win the support of the moderate Arab regimes in the region. In short, it was a low-cost strategy aimed at deterring potential challenges from regional players, such as Baghdad and Tehran, as well as global powers such as the European Union.

But the collapse of the Camp David talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in 2000 and the start of the Second Intifada, followed by September 11, illustrated the need for replacing the Pax Americana approach in the Middle East and also provided Americans with a glimpse of Hell-on-Earth, of what could happen if the tensions between the West and the Islamic world degenerated into a bloody global confrontation. “In retrospect, it seems to me that a mix of the right policies, including effective security measures and creative diplomatic efforts following September 11, could have ensured that the primary goal of Osama bin Laden—forcing the United States and the West out of the Middle East and creating the conditions for a War of Civilizations—would not have been achieved,” I argued in my address.

“But as we know now, after September 11, U.S. foreign policy was hijacked by a bunch of American ideologues who exploited the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in order to advance a U.S.-led messianic crusade to remake the Middle East—in the most devastating way, as far as U.S. national interests and the Western presence in the Middle East was concerned,” I continued. And I speculated that, “in retrospect, the United States and the European Union, backed by Russia, China, and the rest of the international community as an effective Concert of Great Powers—a U.S.-led global oligopoly as opposed to the model American monopoly envisioned by the neocons—could have attempted to ensure that the goals of the invasion of Afghanistan were accomplished through the capture of Osama and the rest of the Al Qaeda leadership. That could have been followed by pursuing a common strategy aimed at the radical Muslim terrorist networks in Europe, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, while working together with the pro-Western governments in the Middle East, including Hussein’s in Iraq.” The United States and her allies, in a 21st-century version of the Congress of Vienna, could also, with a little political imagination, have tried to manage some of the explosive policy issues that helped to ignite anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, including the tensions with Iraq and Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the rise of political Islamic movements.

In raising this “what if” scenario, I stressed that I was not arguing that there would have been easy and quick solutions to these issues. When you are trying to treat a headache, however, there is a difference between banging your head against the wall and taking a rest and an aspirin. The Bush administration, led by a powerful group of neoconservative policymakers and their allies in the think tanks, media, and even the blogosphere, ended up placing the hunt for Osama on Washington’s back burner and, instead, launching a unilateral invasion of Iraq. The stated aims became “liberating” Iraq from the rule of Saddam Hussein and his secular regime and turning it into a shining model of freedom and democracy for the greater Middle East. The decision produced a fissure in the transatlantic relationship, ignited anti-American hostility in the Middle East and other parts of the world, and weakened the antiterrorism alliance. The Bush administration exacerbated the situation by giving a green light to Israel to destroy the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority and refusing to move toward some form of rapprochement with Iran, with which Washington shared common interests in post-Taliban Afghanistan and in post-Saddam Iraq. At the same time, the neocon Democracy Project helped bring to power in Baghdad a coalition of Shiite clerics with ties to Iran, led to the election of the radical Islamic group Hamas in Palestine, and strengthened the power of the Shiite radical Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Putting all of these historic developments into context, I told the audience at AEI, one could have concluded that the post-September 11 U.S. policies were nothing short of a revolutionary attempt to weaken the very fragile foundations of the political status quo in the Middle East—without coming up with a viable and sustainable strategy aimed at replacing them in a way that would help protect long-term American and Western interests. The United States destroyed Iraq’s military power, the only counterbalance to Iran, without making an effort to co-opt Iran into the system. She got rid of an Arab-Sunni dictator who had kept the lid on the ethnic and religious powder keg of Iraq, and she helped create the conditions for a bloody civil war there without deploying the necessary military troops to deal with such an outcome. In the process, the United States strengthened the power of the Shiites in the Middle East who threatened the Arab-Sunni regimes, while empowering Kurdish nationalism, which alarmed Turkey and Iran. At the same time, U.S. policies that helped radicalize the Palestinians also enabled the election of the Palestinian offshoot of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, ensuring that the Palestinian-Israeli peace process would not be revived and providing a sense of political momentum to Muslim Brotherhood groups in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.

Add to all of that the growing anti-Western emotions among Muslims worldwide, as demonstrated in the “cartoons war”; Iran’s drive to achieve nuclear-weapons capability; and the continuing domestic challenges faced by the pro-American regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, and it became quite obvious that no one, not even the group of Wise Men (and one Wise Woman) who constituted the Iraq Study Group, could have pushed the rewind button, restored the status quo ante, and saved President Bush and the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. The powerful forces unleashed by the United States could not be stopped and ended up intertwining with other global developments, including Sino-American competition over energy and rising economic nationalism in the West, not to mention the expanding U.S. budget and trade deficits and the domestic political discontent that led to the election of an anti-Bush Democratic Congress in 2006. Not unlike the aftermath of World War I, which brought about the collapse of great empires (including that of the Ottomans in the Middle East), the dramatic changes that had taken place in the Middle East helped produce much instability in the coming years and ignited forces that challenged U.S. supremacy in the region and around the world.

What happened in the Middle East could be described as dialectical thinking run amok. President Bush and his neoconservative advisors had pledged that, after ousting Saddam Hussein, they would succeed in transforming “liberated” Iraq into a prosperous democracy that would serve as a model of political and economic freedom for the Middle East. Westernized and secular Mesopotamia was supposed to have a “domino effect” on the rest of the authoritarian governments in the region. Hence, the withdrawal of Syria’s troops from Lebanon in the aftermath of the so-called Cedar Revolution, which was celebrated as an important chapter of the U.S.-led “democratization” of the Middle East, was supposed to help eradicate the sectarian splits in that country and make it possible to disarm and co-opt the Shiite-led Hezbollah into the political system. The expectation in Washington was that this would be followed by the collapse of the Ba’ath regime in Damascus, leading even to the downfall of the ayatollahs in Tehran. And finally, as the Bushies envisioned it, “the road from Baghdad would lead to Jerusalem.” That is, the dramatic explosion of freedom in the Arab world would make it more likely that the Palestinians would move to establish their own independent state and conclude a peace accord with Israel. In the first stage of that process, the Palestinians would hold a free election that would bring to power a moderate and peace-oriented leadership.

President Bush’s project to remake the Middle East collapsed within a year of its launch in 2003. Iraq did indeed become a model for the entire Middle East—a model of sectarian violence, religious extremism, and growing anti-American and anti-Western sentiments. If anything, Bush’s policies had made the Middle East safer for ethnic and religious strife, not for democracy. His policies helped to shift the balance of power in the region in the direction of Iran and Shiite and Sunni radicals. Iraq started exporting war and instability to the rest of the Middle East. Arab-Shiites and Arab-Sunnis were massacring each other throughout the country; the fighting gradually degenerated into a civil war and the splitting of Iraq into Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish ministates. In Baghdad, Saddam’s secular regime was replaced through an open election by a coalition of Shiite religious parties with links to the ruling Shiite clerics in Iran.

The main beneficiaries of these developments were Iran’s religious Shiite rulers, who strengthened their influence in Iraq and encouraged radical Shiite groups—including Hezbollah in Lebanon—in the so-called Shiite Triangle stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Levant to reassert their power and challenge the ruling (pro-American) Arab-Sunni governments there. In Iran herself, instead of the Democratic Spring that the neocons had predicted, the ayatollahs actually strengthened their hold on power, and a virulent anti-American (and anti-Israeli) figure was elected president through a mostly democratic process. In Lebanon, U.S. pressure forced the withdrawal of Syrian troops that had been invited by the Arab League to bring stability into that country in the aftermath of the civil war and the Israeli occupation in early 1982 (which had also helped give birth to Hezbollah). Then, the Americans celebrated the sectarian parliamentary election that helped increase the political power of Hezbollah and brought it into the government. Hence, Hezbollah gained more power and representation, while a weak central government lacked the power to disarm its militias, which continued to dominate southern Lebanon and the border with Israel. And the road from Baghdad did not lead to Jerusalem. The Bush administration failed to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and increased U.S. backing for Israel. At the same time, the Americans, resisting advice from Israelis and moderate Palestinians, insisted on holding free elections in the West Bank, which led to the victory of Hamas, an anti-Israeli, anti-American, radical Sunni group that is opposed to holding peace negotiations with Israel.

On one level, on the “democratic” side of the democratic empire in the Middle East, the Bush administration launched a revolutionary process that brought to power, and played into the hands of, the more radical, anti-American players in the region: Iran and her alliance of Shiite groups in Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Hamas in Palestine and, by extension, the Muslim Brotherhood in the rest of the Arab-Sunni world. On another level, on the “imperial” side of the democratic empire in the Middle East, the Americans moved aggressively to strengthen their hegemony in the region directly (Iraq), indirectly (Lebanon), and through proxies (Israel). They attempted to build up an international coalition to contain and isolate Iran and force her to give up her ambition to develop nuclear-weapons capability, and adopted a similarly punitive approach to Damascus while trying to oust Hamas from power.

“Was it surprising,” I asked, “that this mishmash of idealistic democracy-promotion crusades and a unipolar approach aimed at establishing U.S. hegemony in the Middle East ended up producing an ad hoc, informal coalition of anti-American players, who were emboldened thanks to Washington’s policies and who are now trying to challenge U.S. power?” Iran, whose leaders sensed that she was gradually becoming a regional power, and an isolated and angry Syrian regime decided in 2006 to utilize their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, to deliver an indirect blow to American power by making aggressive moves against an American proxy, Israel. Indeed, it was in that geopolitical and regional context that one must place the killing and kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers on Israel’s borders with Gaza and Lebanon that led to the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. The goal of this action was to demonstrate that, against the backdrop of the U.S. quagmire in Iraq and the increasing influence of Iran, Washington would find it difficult to maintain the status quo in the region. And that is exactly what happened. The Bush administration had given Israel a green light to attack Hezbollah, hoping that Israeli military power would succeed in defeating Hezbollah and Hamas and leave the Americans in a position to counterbalance Iran’s growing power. Instead, by launching missile attacks against targets in Israel, including Haifa, and resisting an Israeli ground invasion of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah demonstrated its growing military and political power, while the Israeli air bombardment of Lebanon only produced more anti-American sentiments in the Middle East. “Ironically, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained to me and other reporters, who had traveled with her to Lebanon as she was trying to defuse the crisis, that the scenes of death, destruction, and human misery from Beirut, Haifa, and Gaza are—get this!—‘birth pangs of a new Middle East,’” I recalled.

If anything, the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war was probably the turning point in the American imperial project in the Middle East. The war exposed the weakness of Israel and her American patron while shifting the balance of power in the direction of Iran and Syria. Demonstrating the rising U.S. problems in the region, Washington, with its military overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, had to plead with the French and the Germans (and the Chinese) to deploy peacekeeping troops to Lebanon. And, in another attempt to counterbalance the Iranians, the Americans, with the support of the Saudis, gave a green light to the Israelis at the end of 2007 to strike alleged nuclear military sites in Iran. As in Lebanon, the Israeli aerial bombardment resulted in thousands of civilian casualties while failing to destroy the main and secret nuclear military site. Iran retaliated by attacking oil platforms and tankers, closing the Strait of Hormuz, and hitting oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates. Iraq’s Shiite government announced its support for Tehran and called on the United States to withdraw her troops from Iraq. And Hezbollah’s forces in Lebanon launched another set of devastating missile attacks on Israel, hitting Tel Aviv and oil refineries in Haifa, while its militias succeeded in overrunning the forces that backed the pro-Western government in Beirut. Israel reacted by invading southern Lebanon and taking control of the roads leading to Damascus, while U.S. Marines and French forces landed in Beirut. At the same time, American air and missile attacks destroyed Iran’s oil installations and crippled her economy.

While the United States and Israel emerged as victorious from the military campaign, not unlike the British, French, and Israelis after the 1956 Suez Campaign against Egypt, they found themselves totally isolated in the international community and facing enormous diplomatic and economic pressure to reverse their policies. As oil prices soared to more than $125 per barrel, Venezuela imposed an oil embargo on the United States, and China threatened to create the conditions for the collapse of the dollar by selling her U.S. Treasury bonds if Washington did not agree to convene an international conference on the Middle East that would determine the political future of Iraq and Lebanon, as well as take steps toward imposing a peace accord on Israel and Palestine. This international pressure, combined with a deteriorating economy at home and growing political opposition, including threats by Congress to impeach Bush, forced the White House to agree to take part in such a conference, which produced an interim and loose confederal arrangement backed by fragile cease-fires in Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel-Palestine in June 2008. Unfortunately, growing tensions between Damascus and Baghdad along the border, following the deployment of Syrian troops into the Arab-Sunni enclave of Iraq, resulted in the collapse of the cease-fire agreements in the region and marked the start of the bloody Five-Year War. The only good news for Washington was the decision by the government of the Israel-Palestine Federation to refrain from taking sides in the Sunni-Shiite conflict and to ask the Americans and the Europeans to provide it with security guarantees. However, after President George P. Bush (the nephew of George W.), a.k.a the First Hispanic-American President, announced his decision to close down the U.S. naval base in Israel-Palestine, the government in Jerusalem decided to follow in the footsteps of most of its neighbors and join the China-led ASWAN. In fact, Beijing announced that the headquarters of its alliance in Western Asia—Americans still refer to the region as the “Middle East”—would be located in Tel Aviv.

Leon Hadar is a research fellow in foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, where he analyzes global politics and economics.

This article first appeared in the March 2007 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.

Velkomin to the United States of Foreclosure

Subprime Defaults to Soar, Hurt Lenders, Funds Say
Mar 18, 2007

By Mike Whitney

The stock market is about to crash. The only question is whether it will quickly drop down the elevator shaft or follow the jerky flight-path of a man pushed down a stairwell. Either way, the outcome will be the same; stocks will nose-dive, the dollar will plummet, and the bruised US economy will be splattered on the canvas like George Foreman in Rumble in the Jungle.

Troubles in the sub-prime market have just begun to materialize and already 38 main sub prime lenders have gone kaput. Foreclosures have reached a 37 year high, and an estimated 2 million homeowners will be put out on the street in the next few years.

And that’s just for starters.

The contagion has spread beyond the sub prime sector to other ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages) where late payments and defaults are cropping up faster than their sub-prime counterparts. According to Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius, “Prime ARM delinquencies are above their worst levels of the 2001 recession…. By contrast, sub-prime fixed-rate delinquencies are well below their recession levels.” (Barrons)

Sub prime loans and other “Prime ARMs” (alta-A loans) make up roughly 35% of current mortgages. That means that millions of homeowners are struggling to meet their “upwardly-adjusted” payments. If Congress does not come up with a bailout strategy, then we will face a “downturn worse than that resulting from the NASDAQ collapse”. (Barrons)

Sub prime loans are loans that are made to people with poor credit. The lender requires a higher rate of interest to cover his risk. For the last 5 years, the sub prime market has skyrocketed due to the loosening of lending practices. The traditional criterion for determining whether a loan applicant is credit-worthy has been abandoned. Now, it is not uncommon to have mortgage lenders provide 100% financing to shaky borrowers who are unable to provide documentation of their real earnings (“no doc” loans) and cannot even scrimp together 4 or $5 thousand for a down payment.(“piggyback” loans)

Why on earth would the banks and mortgage lenders take such a risk?

In a word; greed.

The mortgage industry is driven by fees. Lenders (and agents) are able to fatten their bottom line through loan origination fees and then they tack on additional fees for shipping the loans off to Wall Street where they are bundled into Mortgage Backed Security (MBS). Collateralized debt has become a Wall Street favorite and these otherwise shaky loans have become staples in the hedge funds industry. In fact, last year Wall Street purchased nearly 60% of all mortgages--ignoring the risks associated with sub prime “debt instruments”. Also, through the magic of derivatives, many of these Mortgage Backed Securities have been leveraged to the extreme; sometimes at a ratio of 35 to 1.

In other words, a home loan of $300,000--that may have been secured by a young man with bad credit who makes $12.50 per hour picking up mill-ends and bits of insulation on a construction job site--has been leveraged into a $10,500,000 securities investment. This may explain why Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is trying to sooth jittery investors with words of encouragement while he dispatches the Plunge Protection Team (PPT) to shore up the trembling stock market behind the scenes. Every effort is being made to keep this monstrous equity bubble from pirouetting to earth.

Currently, derivatives and mortgage-backed bonds total more than all US Treasuries, Notes and US Bonds combined!?! The stock market is one gigantic pyramid of debt and it’s ready to blow.’s Doug Casey puts it like this:

“The rocket-shot rise of hedge funds and the advances in financial modeling techniques have spawned something of a competition among the so-called best and brightest to find ever-more-complex ways of skimming pennies from very large piles of money. The collective result is that our financial system has been wired up to $370 trillion dollars of privately negotiated investment contracts. They’re usually written to shift risk from one bank, pension fund, insurance company or brokerage firm to another. And many are linked together in long chains, with each contract providing collateral for the next.

It’s all very clever, but layering the enormous size– $370 trillion dollars, far more than the net worth of all the financial institutions in the world – on top of all that complexity is downright scary. In simpler times, a home loan going bad would affect only the particular lender. Enough defaults would put the lender out of business. And that would be the end of it. But today a wave of defaults can send a shock through the portfolios of financial institutions around the globe, including hedge funds, banks and pension funds far removed from the troubled borrowers.

Imagine an electrical circuit with thousands of connections. No one designed it. No one tested it. No one has a diagram for it. It just grew. Now, because of its size and power and pervasiveness, everything depends upon it. So what happens when one of those thousands of connections burns out? No one really knows.” ( commentaries)

That’s right; no one really knows what will happen, but there is growing concern about what MIGHT happen. And, what might happen is disaster!

(Derivatives numbers are staggering. The Bank for International Settlements estimates that the notional amount of derivatives traded on regulated exchanges topped a quadrillion dollars last year) Ann Berg “War Drags the Dollar Down”

Casey gives an apt summary of our present predicament. There is currently $370 trillion in derivatives, hedge funds and over-leveraged marginal investments. There is no coherent relationship between this mass of cyber-wealth and actual deposits or investments. It is merely a fractional banking scam on steroids; computer-generated capital with no basis in reality. As the sub prime market comes under greater strain; hedge funds will teeter, derivatives will tremble, liquidity will dry up and the whole debt-plagued system will crash in a heap. The frantic efforts of the PPT with their flimsy bits of scaffolding will amount to nothing. Wall Street is quick-stepping towards the gallows and there’s little hope of a reprieve.

As we watch the sub-prime market unwind; we should keep in mind that this massive expansion of credit took place on Alan Greenspan’s watch and with his implicit approval. The former Fed-chief was a big fan of sub-prime mortgages and he wasn’t hesitant to extol their merits. In April 2005, Greenspan said:

“Innovation has brought about a multitude of new products, such as sub-prime loans and niche credit programs for immigrants… With these advances in technology, lenders have taken advantage of credit scoring models and other techniques for efficiently extending credit to a broader spectrum of consumers… Where once more marginal applicants would simply have been denied credit, lenders are now able to quite efficiently judge the risk posed by individual applicants and to price that risk appropriately. These improvements have led to rapid growth in sub-prime mortgage lending… fostering constructive innovation that is both responsive to market demand and beneficial to consumers.” (Thanks Jim Willie

“Innovation”? Is that what Maestro Greenspan calls this fiendish, economy-busting Ponzi-swindle?

Greenspan is like a jungle-monkey swinging from one massive equity bubble to the next. The housing bubble turned out to be his “piece de resistance”, a bottomless black hole sucking up the nations’ wealth into its dark vortex. His “low interest” doctrine may have kept the moribund economy on life support after the bust, but it has ruined the country’s prospects for the future. We’ll be digging out of this mess for decades.

Greenspan nodded approvingly as trillions of dollars were funneled into shaky sub primes, but he chose to cheerlead rather than slow-down the process. He scorned the idea of government regulation preferring his own type of Darwinian “natural selection” or, rather, survival of the shrewdest. Now the pundits and the talking heads are trying to shift the blame to struggling low-income wage-slaves who thought they could live the American dream by buying a home on credit. They were seduced by the promise of cheap money and then led by the nose to the slaughter. The whole charade was orchestrated by Greenspan and his buddies in the banking cabal. They alone are responsible.

Here’s another tidbit which sheds light on Greenspan’s culpability in the sub prime fiasco:

"The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency took little action in public to police the $2.8-trillion boom in the U.S. mortgage market -- whose bust now risks worsening the housing recession. The Fed, which is responsible for the stability of the banking system, didn't publicly rebuke any firm for failing to follow up warnings on home-lending practices between 2004 and 2006. The OCC, which supervises 1,793 national banks, took only three public mortgage-related consumer-protection enforcement actions over the same period.

Consumer advocates and former government officials say the regulators, by acting behind the scenes rather than openly advertising the shortcomings of some firms, failed to discipline an industry that loaned too much money to borrowers who couldn't repay it. Now, more lenders are being forced to shut and foreclosures are rising, threatening to scuttle any chance of an early recovery in housing. (Chuck Butler; “The Daily Pfennig”)

The Federal Reserve knows where every dime winds up in the economy. They even provide a detailed account of the relevant data. Ignorance is not an excuse. The Fed looked on while trillions of dollars flowed to “unqualified” applicants who had no chance of repaying their loans. The lax standards and easy money kept Wall Street and the mortgage industry happy, but the “predatory lending” hurt millions of hard working Americans who are now in danger of losing their homes.

The End of the Liquidity Party?

All of the major investment firms are heavily invested in the $6.5 trillion mortgage securities market. The sudden decline in the sub prime market is shutting down the funding sources for low income people while increasing home inventories. It is also boosting unemployment, putting pressure on the banks, and thrusting the country towards recession.

As the housing market continues to languish, home equity loans (which amounted to $600 billion in 2006) will shrivel reducing consumer spending and GDP accordingly. That means that the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates and remove the last crumbling cinder block propping up the greenback.

When Bernanke lowers interest rates, foreign investment in US Treasuries and dollar-based securities will drop off, the dollar will fall and we will undergo a painful cycle of hyperinflation. These are the inescapable consequences of Greenspan’s policies.

Equity bubbles are an expression of class interest. They are a way of shifting wealth from working class people--whose hourly wages or fixed-incomes can’t keep pace with a hyperinflationary monetary policy—to the wealthy and powerful, who benefit from overheated markets and rampant speculation. The investor class and their plutocratic peers are the only ones who profit from interest rate manipulation and increases in the money supply. For everyone else, inflation is just a hidden tax. Greenspan used the money supply and interest rates as weapon against working class people. It became his preferred method of “social engineering”; creating greater division between rich and poor while ensuring the upward redistribution of wealth consistent with his plans for a new world order. (NWO)

Greenspan is the plutocrat’s champion; America’s all-time serial bubble maker.

The rest of the world is eying America’s housing slump with growing apprehension. The downturn in the sub prime market is just the first crack in the façade. Other disruptions are bound to follow. Another jolt from the Yen “carry trade” or a sudden blip in the Chinese stock market could send Wall Street sprawling and put the economy on a fiscal-respirator. A substantial dip in securities could trigger a liquidity crisis which would traumatize our credit-dependent society. If consumer spending slows down, the economy will grind to a halt and living standards will sharply decline. The sub primes are just the first domino.

These are some of the things that Fed chief Bernanke will have to consider before resetting interest rates: Does he keep rates where they are and turn away foreign investment or lower rates and try to salvage the faltering housing market? Either choice will result in a certain amount of pain.

A cloud of uncertainty has descended on the over-leveraged United States of Foreclosure. The storm is just ahead. The stewards of the system--Paulson, Bush, Bernanke--could care less about the public welfare. All their energy is devoted to building a lifeboat for themselves and their fat-cat buddies. Once, they’ve robbed the last farthing from the public till they’ll be gone, and we’ll still be marching along the path to national calamity.

High-flying US fund manager Jim Rogers summed up the impending crisis like this:

“You can’t believe how bad it’s going to get. It’s going to be a disaster for many people who don’t have a clue about what happens when a real estate bubble pops. Real estate prices will go down 40-50% in bubble areas. There will be massive defaults. And it’ll be worse this time because we haven’t had this kind of speculative buying in U.S. history.”

Then he added ominously, “When markets turn from bubble to reality, a lot of people get burned.”


March 18, 2007

By Uri Avnery

NOT ONLY the Palestinians must be breathing a deep sigh of relief after the swearing in of the Palestinian National Unity Government. We Israelis have good reason to do the same.

This event is a great blessing, not only for them, but also for us - if indeed we are interested in a peace that will put an end to the historic conflict.

FOR THE Palestinians, the immediate blessing is the elimination of the threat of civil war.

That was a nightmare. It was also absurd. Palestinian fighters were shooting at each other in the streets of Gaza, gladdening the hearts of the occupation authorities. As in the arena of ancient Rome, gladiators killed each other for the amusement of the spectators. People who had spent years together in Israeli prisons suddenly acted like mortal enemies.

That was not yet a civil war. But the bloody incidents could have led there. Many Palestinians were worried that if the clashes were not stopped immediately, a fully-fledged fratricidal war would indeed break out. That was, of course, also the great hope of the Israeli government - that Hamas and Fatah would annihilate each other without Israel having to lift a finger. The Israeli intelligence services did indeed predict this.

I was not worried on that account. In my view, a Palestinian civil war was never in the cards.

First of all, because the basic conditions for a civil war are absent. The Palestinian people are unified in their ethnic, cultural and historical composition. Palestine does not resemble Iraq, with its three peoples who are distinct ethnically (Arabs and Kurds), religiously (Shiites and Sunnites) and geographically (North, Center and South). It does not resemble Ireland, where the Protestants, the descendents of settlers, were fighting the Catholic descendents of the indigenous population. It does not resemble African countries, whose borders were fixed by colonial masters without any consideration of tribal boundaries. It certainly had no revolutionary upheaval like those that brought on the civil wars in England, France and Russia, nor an issue that split the population like slavery in the USA.

The bloody incidents that broke out in the Gaza Strip were struggles between party militias, aggravated by feuds between Hamulahs (extended families). History has seen such struggles in almost all liberation movements. For example: after World War I, when the British were compelled to grant Home Rule to the Irish, a bloody struggle among the freedom fighters broke out at once. Irish Catholics killed Irish Catholics.

In the days of the struggle of the Jewish community in Palestine against the British colonial regime ("the Mandate"), a civil war was averted only thanks to one person: Menachem Begin, the commander of the Irgun. He was determined to prevent a fratricidal war at all costs. David Ben-Gurion wanted to eliminate the Irgun, which rejected his leadership and undermined his policies. In the so-called "season", he ordered his loyal Haganah organization to kidnap Irgun members and turn them over to the British police, which tortured them and put them in prison abroad. But Begin prohibited his men from using their weapons to defend themselves against Jews.

Such a struggle among the Palestinians will not turn into a civil war, because the entire Palestinian people oppose this strenuously. Everybody remembers that during the Arab Rebellion of 1936, the Palestinian leader at that time, the Grand Mufti Hadj Amin al-Husseini, butchered his Palestinian rivals. During the three years of the rebellion (called "the Events" in Zionist terminology) Palestinians killed more of each other than they killed of their British and Jewish opponents.

The result: when the Palestinian people came face to face with their supreme existential test, in the war of 1948, they were split and splintered, lacking unified leadership and dependent on the mercies of the bickering Arab governments, who were intriguing against each other. They were unable to stand up to the much smaller organized Jewish community, which rapidly set up a unified and efficient army. The result was the "Naqba", the terrible historic tragedy of the Palestinian people. What happened in 1936 still touches the life of every single Palestinian to this very day.

It is difficult to start a civil war if the people are against it. Even provocations from outside - and I assume that there has been no lack of these - cannot ignite it.

Therefore I did not doubt for a moment that in the end a Unity Government would indeed come about, and I am glad that this has now happened.

WHY IS this good for Israel? I am going to say something that will shock many Israelis and their friends in the world:

If Hamas did not exist, it would have to be invented.

If a Palestinian government had been set up without Hamas, we should have to boycott it until Hamas was included.

And if negotiations do lead to a historical settlement with the Palestinian leadership, we should make it a condition that Hamas, too, must sign it.

Sounds crazy? Of course. But that is the lesson history teaches us from the experience of other wars of liberation.

The Palestinian population in the occupied territories is almost evenly divided between Fatah and Hamas. It makes no sense at all to sign an agreement with half a people and continue the war against the other half. After all, we shall make serious concessions for peace - such as withdrawing to much narrower borders and giving East Jerusalem back to its owners. Shall we do so in return for an agreement that half the Palestinian people will not accept and will not be committed to? To me this sounds like the height of folly.

I shall go further: Hamas and Fatah together represent only the part of the Palestinian people that lives in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. But millions of Palestinian refugees (no one knows for sure how many) live outside of the territory of Palestine and Israel.

If we strive indeed for a complete end to the historic conflict, we must reach out for a solution that includes them, too. Therefore I strongly question the wisdom of TzipI Livni and her colleagues, who demand that the Saudis drop from their peace plan any mention of the refugee problem. Simply put: that is stupid.

Common sense would advise the exact opposite: to demand that the Saudi peace initiative, which has become an official pan-Arab peace plan, include the matter of the refugees, so that the final agreement will also constitute a solution of the refugee problem.

That will not be easy, for sure. The refugee problem has psychological roots that touch the very heart of the Palestinian-Zionist conflict, and it concerns the fate of millions of living human beings. But when the Arab peace plan says that there must be an "agreed upon" solution - meaning agreed upon with Israel - it transfers it from the realm of irreconcilable ideologies to the real world, the world of negotiations and compromise. I have discussed this many times with Arab personalities, and I am convinced that an agreement is possible.

THE NEW Palestinian government is based on the "Mecca agreement". It seems that it would not have been possible without the energetic intervention of King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia.

The international background has to be considered. The President of the United States is now busy with desperate efforts to bring his Iraqi adventure to a conclusion that will not go down in history as a total disaster. For this purpose he is trying to bring together a Sunni Front that would block Iran and help to put an end to the Sunni violence in Iraq.

That is, of course, a simplistic idea. It disregards the enormous complexity of the realities of our region. Bush has presided over the setting up in Iraq of a government dominated by the Shiites. He has tried to isolate Sunni Syria. And Hamas is, of course, a pious Sunni organization.

But the American ship of state is beginning to turn around. Being a giant ship, it can do this only very slowly. Under American pressure, the Saudi king has agreed (perhaps unwillingly) to take upon himself the leadership of the Arab world, after Egypt has failed in this task. The king has persuaded Bush that he has to speak with Syria. Now he is trying to persuade him to accept Hamas.

In this picture, Israel is a hindrance. A few days ago Ehud Olmert flew to America and told the conference of the Jewish lobby, AIPAC, that a withdrawal from Iraq would be a disaster (contrary, by the way, to the opinion of more than 80% of American Jews - who support early withdrawal.) This week, the US ambassador in Tel-Aviv hinted that from now on the Government of Israel is allowed to conduct negotiations with Syria - and it may be assumed that this hint will turn into an order before long. In the meantime, no change in the position of the Israeli government is noticeable.

UNFORTUNATELY, JUST at this moment, with a newly formed Palestinian government that has a good chance of being strong and stable, the government of Israel is becoming more and more destabilized.

Olmert's support rating in the polls is approaching zero. The percentage points can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Practically everybody speaks about his political demise within weeks, perhaps after the publication of the interim report of the Vinograd commission on the Second Lebanon War. But even if Olmert manages to survive, his will be a lame duck government, unable to start anything new, and certainly no bold initiative vis-à-vis the new Palestinian government.

But if Bush supports us on one side, and the Saudi king on the other, perhaps we shall after all take a few steps forward. As people in this region say: in sha Allah, if God wills.

An Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli peace movement, Gush Shalom.

Israeli MP refuses to sing national anthem

He's Arab, one among millions in Israel. Here's the national anthem:

"As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,

With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,

Then our hope - the two-thousand-year-old hope - will not be lost:

To be a free people in our land,

The land of Zion and Jerusalem."

Imagine the US national anthem, "... home of the brave, land of the free white people..."

Majadele refuses to sing national anthem

Rightist MKs slam Israel's first Arab minister, who said in newspaper interview he would not sing anthem, because song was written 'only for Jews'

Amnon Meranda Published: 03.17.07, 23:37 / Israel News

Rightist Knesset members strongly criticized Minister Raleb Majadele Saturday, after he said in an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth this weekend that he refuses to sing Israel's national anthem, Hatikva.

In the interview, Majadele said, "Of course I would not sing the anthem in its current form. But before we talk about symbols, I wantמודעto talk about equal education for my children. It's more important that my son would be able to buy a house, live with dignity… the Arabs are not in a mood to sing right now."

Majadele told Ynet following interview that, "As a government minister, I swore allegiance to the laws of the State of Israel, and I intend to honor them." Majadele noted that he expresses his respect to the national anthem by standing up whenever the song is being sung.

"To the best of my knowledge, the law does not require me to sing the anthem, but to honor it. I fail to understand how an enlightened, sane Jew allows himself to ask a Muslim person with a different language and culture, to sing an anthem that was written for Jews only," he added.

'Majadele must apologize'

Majadele's statements prompted harsh responses among right-wing MKs. MK Arieh Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party) said that a man who refuses to sing the national anthem should not be a minister.

"I don't want to force Minister Majadele to sing the anthem, but I don't want to see as a minister a man who does not identify with Israel's character, and who declares he does not identify with the national anthem," he stated.

MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union-NRP) was also furious with Majadele's words and said that the prime minister should order the minister to apologize.

"Majadele's statements should raise deep concern. They represent a clear violation of his ministerial oath to be loyal to the State of Israel and its laws. I call on the prime minister to demand that he make it clear he is loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish state," he declared.

Tibi: Attacks are hypocritical

Meanwhile, MK Ahmed Tibi voiced his support for Majadele, and said that he too never sings the anthem.

"The attacks on him from the Right are hypocritical, self-righteous and ridiculous. Hatikva's words cannot be sung by any Arab citizen," Tibi said, adding that any reasonable Jew should sympathize with this sentiment, "Including honest rightists who have already accepted the fact that the words are aimed at the Jewish, not the Arab, soul."

"Lately we have witnessed a torrent of anti-Arab statements, and this should be understood in this context," he concluded.

Human rights advocate and defender of Palestinian Rights Professor Tanya Reinhart passed away

(of a stroke).

On Academic Boycotts and Divestment

A tribute to Tanya is posted here in French with photos

English text (translated by Robert Thompson)

We are going to miss Tanya Reinhart terribly badly.

We were staggered to learn of the sudden death of our friend Tanya Reinhart, yesterday in New York (she had a stroke). Words fail us because we are so stricken by the loss of our friend, of this great lady, of this indefatigable militant against the policy of the Israeli government towards the Palestinians, of this warm woman who never stopped denouncing injustice and lies, through her articles, her books, and her actions.

Ii is particularly difficult for us to speak of Tanya in the past tense. Tanya, who gave us so much pleasure when she came to the opening of the Résistances book-shop in Paris on 7th December last, when she gave an extraordinary address with her companion, the great poet Aharon Shabtai. Tanya, who took part in all the battles against the colonisation and the occupation of Palestine, and who was one of the most lucid analysts of the criminal policy of her government.

Tanya Reinhart could have been content to be a brilliant linguist and to perfect her university career in Israel. But she made the choice of denouncing and resisting pressures. In her weekly column in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahoronot, as in her books, "Destroy Palestine" and "Sharon's heritage", she systematically painted a picture which made no concession to the terrible situation created by the rulers of her country, with a rare faculty for anticipating the future.

"Destroy Palestine" (in French "Détruire la Palestine" published by the Editions La Fabrique) is a masterly description of all the stratagems always used by the Israeli rulers to avoid engagement in a genuine peace process, and to make believe that this was the sole fault of the Palestinians. Tanya Reinhart especially examined in detail the 7 years during which the "Olso agreement" lasted and showed the contrast between what was presented as being the "generous offer" of Ehud Barak, and its reality. This was to show how the vice was being closed around the Palestinians during the same period (between 1993 and 2000), and the totally inacceptable "proposals" put forward by the Israelis, since they allowed for no viable Palestinian state which would instead find itself in pockets, without territorial continuity, and deprived of East Jerusalem.

More recently, Tanya Reinhart was the first to denounce the "red herring" of the announcement by Sharon of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, in which she never believed. "Behind the smokescreen of the 'withdrawal' from Gaza can be seen the transfer of the Palestinians", she wrote, while our rulers praised the "great man of peace".

Tanya was also one of the rare Israeli opposition personalities to support the boycott of her country's institutions, especially the Universities. "We shall stop having to worry about the boycott when we respect international law", she replied not only to the Israeli establishment, but also to that timid, supposedly pacifist, Israeli "left-wing" which accepted the impunity from which the state of Israel and all its institutions benefitted. Tanya Reinhart did not hesitate to give her support to the Paris 6 University, when its Administrative Council, in 2003, voted to surpend its special relations with Israeli Universities.

During her last lecture in France, on 7th December last at the Résistances book-shop, she strongly denounced the embargo imposed on the Palestinian people, explaining that the European countries, including France in which we live, had no right to cut off food supplies from the Palestinians. "It was not an act of generosity which Europe could either carry on or not", she explained. "It was a choice which had been made to take on the obligations imposed by international law on the Israeli occupier to see to the well-being of the occupied populations. Europe chose not to oblige Israel to respect its obligations, and preferred to pay money to the Palestinians. When it put an end to this, it breached international law".

Tired out, Tanya "apologised" for not having the strength to remain in Israel where, she let it be known, physical repression against genuine opponents had become more and more brutal. She had therefore decided to go to teach in the United States and had just settled in New York.

This marvellous woman, whom we had the joy of welcoming to several of our meetings and concerts, is going to be terribly badly missed by us. We express all our sadness and our sympathy to her companion, Aharon Shabaï, a man with a great heart and talent.

We'll organize an evening in her honour in Paris, at the Bookshop "Librairie Résistances" on the 27th of March, from 7 pm.


Tanya on CCNWON
Tanya Reinhart - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Palestinian American Congress statement and action alert on the formation of the Unity Government

Virginia, 3/18/07.--The Palestinian American Congress congratulates all Palestinians at home and in the Shatat on the formation of a unitary Palestinian authority in the West Bank and Gaza. The Zionist lobby in America is mobilizing to continue the siege on the people of Palestine who live in the illegally occupied areas. We salute countries like Norway who took the courageous step of recognizing the new unity government and extending aid. We call on all Palestinian Americans and all people of conscience to mobilize and disseminate information to media and all elected officials and candidates for office to:

a) Support the Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination including the right of refugees and displaced Palestinians to return to their homes and lands, the right to live in equality and justice without discrimination based on religion, and the right to be free from occupation and oppression.

b) Support an immediate lifting of all remaining sanctions, embargoes, and financial restrictions on the Palestinian society under occupation. This includes releasing the Palestinian tax money illegally held by Israel. For those who insist on putting conditions on Palestinians under occupation, they should be called upon to demand at least the same conditions from the occupiers (renouncing violence, accepting previous agreements, recognizing Palestine).

c) Support the Palestinian Civil Society call to action which includes boycotts, divestment and sanctions on Israel until it complies with human righst and international law (see full call to action at and )

We also call on all activists to join in these critical initiatives:

1) Mobilize and attend the PAC national convention to be held in Connecticut June 2-3 (email if interested to attend and we will send you details)

2) Mobilize and attend the national march and rally in Washington organized by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (see for details)

3) Mobilize for the 60 year anniversary of the Nakba (literally the Catastrophe as it commemorates the ethnic cleansing of 70% of the native inhabitants of what became Israel). PAC and other organizations and individuals are planning a Palestinian national conference and a number of other events.

Media contacts

Congressional contacts