Monday, March 26, 2007

Lowering the bar to "egregiously illegal"

March 27, 2007 - Editor's note: I am posting at the overflow blog(see Mar 26 articles below).
Mar 26, 2007

Last night, after watching a rerun of the morning's Meet The Press where both David Iglesias and John McKay tore Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a new one over their firings, my wife turned to me and said "you know, it's like this administration is pissing all over the very foundation of this country" (yet another reason why my wife is the most awesome person ever).

And it dawned on me that the real intent and underlying theme of this administration was not only that (or as I liked to say "wipe their collective ass with the Constitution), but to push things so far past the point of right vs. wrong, or even upholding their oaths of office, but more so to the point where if it isn't so egregiously illegal that they can actually be hauled off to prison for it then it is ok.

That is how far things have devolved. That is the bar being used to judge the actions of this administration. By the mainstream media. By the wingnuts. By the talking meatsticks. And even by us here - it is not nearly enough that the Attorney General most probably lied to Congress under oath or even that he most definitely lied to reporters (which certainly is way past the point of an ethical lapse which should be grounds for disbarment).

It is not nearly enough that administration officials at the highest levels of government leaked classified information as revenge for calling bullshit. It is not nearly enough that the President knew about this and still did nothing to those who were involved. It is not nearly enough that an Executive Order was issued related to the ability of the Vice President to declassify information whenever and however he wants right before the leak.

It is not nearly enough that evidence was ignored or manufactured or twisted in order to hoodwink the world into the biggest and most deadly disaster in decades. It is not nearly enough for these officials to flout their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

It is not nearly enough to ignore all warnings about an impending hurricane and then ignore all calls for help - leaving the entire Gulf Coast to deteriorate. It is not nearly enough to change the laws in a sneaky manner in order to "legally" be able to fire US attorneys and replace them with partisan hacks. Especially when only 10 of the 468 prior US attorneys to leave office did so involuntarily (and those were for egregious cause).

It isn't nearly enough to retroactively change laws to make it ok to use formerly illegal methods to spy on Americans. It isn't nearly enough to act against the interest of Americans with respect to healthcare, social security, tax laws, education or the environment. It isn't nearly enough to use government money for paid propaganda. Or "faith based initiatives". Or to strong arm NASA, or other agencies to change the conclusions and reports of scientists and other experts to fit a preconceived agenda.

It isn't enough to lie. It isn't enough to do something that is clearly unethical and quite probably illegal. No, it must be so illegal that even all of the retroactive law changes and covering up STILL can't hide the illegality of the acts. It must be SO bad that the discussion isn't whether the perpetrators did something that clearly warrants them to resign or be removed from office in shame.

No, the bar has been lowered and the debate has shifted to such an unconscionable threshold. It doesn't matter if it is right or wrong. It doesn't matter if it is unethical. It doesn't matter if there were lies or coverups. What matters is whether it is so bad that even Congressional subpoenas will be fought all the way to the Supreme Court.

Just being a lying fucking scumbag who doesn't deserve to be in office isn't enough anymore. Not even enough to be the START of a conversation. Sadly, the conversation isn't about whether obstruction of justice is likely a major reason for the US attorney firings, the subsequent lies and coverups.

"Yeah, it was horrible and unethical, but it wasn't illegal". You know what? It probably was illegal. And shame on those who think that this is the new bar of what we should hold our "elected" officials to.

by: cmmyc

The Enemy Within

The Democrats' most dangerous opponent in '08 may be their own campaign consultants, who charge far more than GOP strategists -- and deliver far less


2008 has the makings of a banner year for Democrats. The wave of discontent that swept the GOP from Congress last November is growing, and the Iraq debacle will make it difficult for Republicans to retain the White House. But there is one group of powerful Washington insiders who have a proven ability to derail the Democrats. Working behind the scenes, these top-tier operatives humiliated Mike Dukakis in a tank, muzzled Al Gore on the environment and portrayed John Kerry -- a lifelong crusader for gun control -- as a rifle-toting Rambo. Year after year they have made sure that the Democratic message comes across as little more than a fuzzy, focus-grouped drone about child tax credits, prescription-drug plans and the "fight for working families."

And here's the depressing news: The Democrats pay them millions to do it.

The insiders are the political consultants hired by the Democrats to poll voters, shape strategy and devise campaign ads. With the exception of Bill Clinton, who brought in his own team of outside-the-Beltway mavericks, these top advisers have paved the way to Democratic defeat in every presidential election since 1980. "The political consultants," says longtime Gore policy staffer Elaine Kamarck, "have not served our presidential candidates well." Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, is even more blunt. "Forget what Shakespeare said," he advises. "First, kill all the consultants."

The party's campaign strategists operate under contracts that would make Halliburton blush. While their GOP counterparts work for a flat fee on presidential campaigns, Democratic media consultants profit on commission, pocketing as much as ten percent of every dollar spent on TV ads. It's a business model that creates "an inherent conflict of interest," concedes Anita Dunn, who served as a strategist for Bill Bradley in 2000. The more the candidate spends on TV advertising, the more the consultant cashes in. And that compensation is hidden from public scrutiny: Federal campaign reports reveal only what a campaign spends on ads, not how much the consultants skim off the top.

"Consulting," says former Gore campaign chair Tony Coelho, "is a business that can turn into a racket." Over the past two presidential elections, Rolling Stone estimates, that racket has cost the Democrats at least $10 million more in consultant fees than it did the Republicans. Even top GOP advisers, who usually counsel that greed is good, are amazed by the exorbitant fees. "If you want to elect your candidate, you ought to be able to work for a reasonable rate -- not try to haul off a sack full of profits," says Mark McKinnon, the lead media strategist for George Bush in both 2000 and 2004.

Overpaying consultants, McKinnon adds, may even have cost Democrats the White House. "Their consultants are getting ten percent -- that's outrageous." He laughs. "That's money that could have been spent on other parts of the campaigns. It might have captured 500 more votes in Florida for Gore in 2000 -- or maybe helped Kerry win Ohio in 2004."

Democratic consultants stand to walk away with an even bigger payday in 2008: The campaign could easily cost at least $2 billion, more than twice the '04 bill. And if the party continues to pay strategists a commission for every TV ad, much of that money will wind up wasted. "The consultants will be spending more money on bigger ad buys, trying to catch the few people who watch ads today," says Chris Lehane, a strategist on the Clinton and Gore campaigns. "It's a crazy, illogical position."

But as long as that's where the money is, that's what the consultants will do. "There's little impetus to try anything new," says Joe Trippi, who orchestrated Howard Dean's insurgency in 2004. "You can't get a ten percent commission on a million people viewing something for free on YouTube."

Top consultants interviewed by Rolling Stone refuse to reveal how they will be compensated in 2008. But when the dust settles, party insiders warn, those who write checks to the Democrats won't be happy with the results. "Donors will be shocked at how their money is spent," says Coelho, "and who walks away with multimillions."

Ask any consultant and they'll tell you they get too much credit when a candidate wins -- and too much blame when he loses. The candidate is the one who has the vision, sets the strategy and makes the decisions. "Consultants don't come to meetings with weapons," jokes Dunn, the former Bradley adviser.

But in a political era driven by media and technology, consultants have become kings of the campaign hill. "TV is so important that they're elevated to the top hierarchy," says Lehane. "They're in the room with the candidate when the doors are closed." The consultant then brings aboard a pollster who will back up his advice with hard data, selling the candidate on the kind of campaign they can "prove" appeals most to swing voters. "Candidates fall for what look like hard numbers," says Sabato, author of The Rise of Political Consultants. "But in fact they're not hard at all: The pollsters manipulate the questions and interpret the data, and too many candidates go along with it."

Which is precisely what happened in the last two presidential elections. In 2000, the chief Democratic consultant was Bob Shrum, a veteran known for orchestrating no fewer than six losing Democratic presidential bids. Shrum advised Gore to downplay his trademark issue -- the environment -- because it didn't rate as a top issue for enough voters. "They took his best gun and threw it in the river," says McKinnon, the Bush strategist. For his catastrophic counsel, Shrum's firm demanded fifteen percent of the ad buy, but Coelho knocked it down to ten percent. "They were not happy about it," he recalls. "So they pushed advertising expenditures even more." The consultants pocketed an estimated $5 million -- compared to $500,000 for McKinnon -- even though their ads were terrible. "The Republican spots were far more original," says Coelho. "We paid our consultants millions and got retread Mondale ads."

The 2004 campaign played out like a bad sequel. The Kerry team, once again headed by Shrum, advised the candidate to focus on prescription-drug benefits rather than national security and counseled Kerry not to respond to the Swift Boat attack ads. "The consultants turned him into Generic Democrat," says Jonathan Winer, a longtime Kerry counselor. "And Generic Democrat will always lose." Shrum's team spent an estimated $130 million for advertising -- roughly triple Gore's ad budget -- receiving a commission of 4.5 percent on top of a payment of $2.5 million. Once again, the ads were a disaster: While Bush's team used data-mining to microtarget voters with cable TV and Internet appeals, Shrum relied on network television. "The Bush campaign did everything a sophisticated Fortune 100 company would do," says Lehane. "The ads Kerry ran were so unfocused that they not only didn't help him, they actually helped Bush."

In the wake of such costly failures, Shrum has mercifully been put out to pasture -- but the track records of those vying to replace him hardly inspire confidence. Barack Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, got his start helping the last presidential candidate from Illinois -- Sen. Paul Simon -- lose to Mike Dukakis in 1988. John Edwards has hired Harrison Hickman, who served as a top pollster for Gore in 2000. And Stanley Greenberg, another Gore pollster who worked closely with Shrum, is helping Sen. Chris Dodd burn through his campaign war chest.

"If you fail regularly in the commercial world, you don't get hired anymore," says Bill Hillsman, the consultant who engineered the long-shot victory of Sen. Paul Wellstone in Minnesota and helped the unknown Ned Lamont topple Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut. "But if you fail regularly in the political arena, it has no bearing on your future income stream. You seem to get hired more and more -- simply because other people have hired you."

The only candidate with winning consultants on her team is Hillary Clinton, who is relying on pollster Mark Penn and media consultant Mandy Grunwald, both of whom are veterans from Bill's presidential victories. But stripped of their charismatic frontman, neither Grunwald nor Penn has made much of a splash in presidential politics. In 2004, the pair teamed up on the failed "Joementum" candidacy of Lieberman, who never rose above a second-place finish in Delaware. And so far they have only contributed to the impression that Clinton is the most scripted and poll-tested of all the candidates. In the online video Grunwald created to unveil Clinton's candidacy, Hillary engages viewers in a teleprompted "chat" from the deep-cushioned confines of her living room sofa. "It's such a put-on," says Sabato. "Her consultants said, 'Act natural.' And that's exactly what she did: She acted natural. Primping the pillows. It was hilarious."

The return of so many of Bill's top guns also runs the risk of making Hillary sound like a stand-in, lip-syncing the same old lines. She promises to fight -- as her husband did -- for people who "work hard and play by the rules," and has trotted out his chestnut, "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what is right with America." Such lack of innovation, says Sabato, is part of the problem with drawing from the same small pool of consultants year after year. "They've all worked on dozens of campaigns together," he says. "They have formula campaigns, formula ads. They even transfer slogans."

Axelrod, who is advising Obama's campaign, insists that he doesn't plan to package his candidate based on polls. "We will rise or fall based on who Barack Obama is," he says. "We're not going to reinvent him." In reality, though, Axelrod's emphasis on authenticity is itself a formula -- the same one he used twenty years ago to try and sell Paul Simon. In a voice-over for one of Axelrod's spots in 1988, the famously dowdy Simon intoned, "The public-relations specialists tell me, 'Get rid of the bow tie, get rid of the horn-rimmed glasses, change your views to accommodate public-opinion polls.' My bow tie is . . . my declaration of independence. You'll have to take me for what I am."

In addition to repeating old messages, consultants are likely to push the Democrats to buy TV ads that accomplish little -- except driving up the commissions for consultants. "There's no market incentive for the consultant class," says Lehane. "It pays whether they win or lose." When a Democratic candidate asks why their campaign isn't getting traction, says Hillsman, the answer from consultants will be the same as always: "You're not spending enough on TV advertising."

The single-minded emphasis on television could be more disastrous than ever next year, given the GOP's ability to target voters at the micro level. "Our strategic targeting remains primitive," admits Dunn, the former Bradley consultant. Lehane is even more incensed by the lack of technological sophistication. "People are not getting their information the same way they were five years ago, yet the consultants have been very slow to react," he says. "Why aren't campaigns doing what Google and Yahoo do: using algorithms to analyze e-mail lists and figure out what moves people on a daily basis? If you had this conversation with a consultant in Washington, they'd say, 'What do you mean, algorithm?' "

In fact, the ads that work today are almost never the ones a candidate pays to keep on TV -- they're the ones that earn free airtime when they're covered on CNN or spread virally on YouTube. "Earned media like the Swift Boat ads are the ones that change things, because people talk about them," says Markos Moulitsas, founder of the influential Daily Kos blog. Hillsman, considered a maverick among consultants, has had success selling candidates the way Apple sells Macs: with memorable, creative, even funny spots. Last summer, one of his commercials for Lamont became the second-most-viewed video on YouTube.

Yet consultants insist on airing the same spots over and over -- even though ads wear out their welcome after they have been seen ten or twelve times. "They really do believe that you can annoy someone into voting for your candidate," Hillsman says. "Viewers are seeing political ads as often as thirty times in the same market. It's asinine! Not only do the ads stop having any positive effect, you actually get a backlash against it."

The only solution, say Democratic veterans, is to take a page from the GOP playbook and eliminate the commissions that motivate consultants to go ad-crazy. "Our candidates need a Karl Rove," says Kamarck, the former Gore staffer. "Somebody who is on their side -- not in it for fifteen percent of the media buy." Based on recent discussions, Dunn believes that commissions will be increasingly rare. "Candidates are moving to a fixed fee," she says.

But fixed fees are only an improvement if they're negotiated down. For her work on Hillary Clinton's re-election campaign last year, Grunwald received an estimated fee of nearly $1 million -- double what consultants on Senate campaigns typically make from commissions. Penn also pocketed some $1 million for his role in helping Clinton spend $30 million -- more than any other Democrat -- for what was essentially an uncontested election.

Those figures suggest that, commission or no commission, consultants will continue to find ways to bleed the Democrats dry. In recent weeks, Clinton has raised $1 million in small-dollar donations online. If the past is prelude, that money won't cover what Clinton will shell out for a single consultant in 2008. Win -- or lose.

Posted Mar 20, 2007 2:22 PM

Let Iran enrich uranium

Verification rather than condemnation is the strategy for avoiding conflict over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

March 26, 2007 9:00 AM

Christoph Bertram

There is a wise American saying: "If you are in a hole, stop digging." The six governments currently considering the next steps to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb - the five permanent members of the UN security council and Germany - should heed that advice. Otherwise, they could end up without any handle on the Iranian nuclear programme and with only one (useless) option left: a military strike.

Yet the six governments seem determined to continue with what has been their strategy so far. Their condition for negotiating with Iran is a prior halt of its nuclear enrichment activities. Only in exchange for Iran's permanent renunciation of enrichment will they provide major rewards - from lifting all sanctions and trade restrictions to security guarantees.

This strategy has not worked and will not work. Under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), of which Iran is still a member, countries are entitled to engage in enriching uranium for civilian purposes, and Iran claims that this is all it wants.

True, Iran's total halt of its enrichment programme would be welcome, not least because its government has hidden these activities for almost two decades from treaty inspectors, suggesting other than purely civilian motives.

But the issue of enrichment has been blown up into such a symbol of national sovereignty in Iran that no government there, never mind the Ahmadinejad administration, will climb down. Indeed, when the UN security council formally demanded a stop to the enrichment programme and imposed mild sanctions last December, Iran's defiant answer was to step it up.

So what to do now? The Bush administration, predictably, is pushing for new and tougher sanctions, based on an implied warning in the earlier UN resolution and arguing, as it did in the run-up to the invasion in Iraq, that the UN's credibility is at stake. But the only real test of UN credibility in this conflict is whether it can succeed in restricting Iran as much as possible to a purely civilian nuclear programme.

If the security council fails to agree on new sanctions - which is likely, given Chinese and Russian objections - it would be exposed as a paper tiger. If, on the other hand, it works out a consensus on more economic, and possibly even military, punishment, the UN's credibility would depend on whether these moves produced Iranian compliance.

That, however, is unlikely. Tougher economic sanctions will not force Iran to comply; instead, sanctions will merely hit this oil- and gas-rich country's trading partners. More threats will only push the international community further along the spiral of escalation and, possibly, into military action.

There are those in Bush's entourage who would like nothing better. While even a major air attack would fall short of destroying all of Iran's nuclear installations and, moreover, leave the technical knowhow intact, it might at least slow down the programme for a while and serve as a warning to other potential proliferators. But it is a foolhardy gamble.

Today, Iran declares that it wants to observe the NPT and that it has no intention of building a nuclear bomb. After a military attack by the US, both promises would be history.

If the six governments want to avoid the escalation spiral and curb the proliferation dynamic, they need to change strategy and objective. Instead of making a halt to uranium enrichment the be all and end all of their effort, their central objective should be to subject the Iranian activities to as much verification as possible: if Iran wants to enrich, so be it, but it must accept intrusive international inspections.

This is a bargain the Iranians themselves have repeatedly hinted at. The six have refused because verification cannot provide an absolute guarantee against the diversion of some enriched uranium to military use. But as the superpowers learned in the cold war, the absence of airtight verification does not render inspections useless. They would still submit the Iranian programme to greater restrictions than is the case today. And such an agreement would open the way to a wider agreement between Iran and the west for cooperation and regional stability.

That is why the six should stop digging a deeper hole. Instead of formulating new sanctions for the UN security council, they should use the next few months to explore confidentially what level of restrictions, combined with verification, Iran would consider in exchange for undisputed enrichment.

By all means, the six should keep the option of more biting resolutions as an inducement to Iranian compromise. But those who now call on the security council to issue rapid condemnations of Iran's behaviour should keep two things in mind: they are unlikely to have any effect, and the US has already used such resolutions as a pretext for launching military action on its own.

© Project Syndicate, 2007.

Christoph Bertram was formerly director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

Christoph Bertram’s work for Cif is copyright Project Syndicate, 2007.

Interview: Mayor Rocky Anderson on Bush Impeachment

Mar 26, 2007

You may be interested in an hour-long interview I did for "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook this morning. In the interview, I lay out key elements of the case I've been making for the impeachment of President Bush. Tom also interviewed Dick Wadhams, Chair of the Colorado Republican Party, who ran George Allen's unsuccessful 2006 Senate campaign.

Best regards,

Rocky Anderson

Chavez asks world to halt alleged planned US attack on Iran

Caracas, March 26: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called on nations around the world to help stop what he says is a planned US attack on Iran.

Chavez, speaking one day after the UN Security Council voted to tighten sanctions on Iran over Tehran`s refusal to curtail its nuclear programme, cited a Russian press report which purportedly details the time and place of an attack on Iran by the United States, which he has dubbed "The Empire."

"The Empire is moving aircraft carriers and has been moving troops on Iran," said Chavez, speaking on his broadcast programme "Hello, Mr President" yesterday.

Hopefully the world "will halt this imperial craziness of attacking whomever it pleases. Hopefully the Congress of the United States, the United Nations and the most powerful countries of the world can halt this madness of the American empire," said Chavez.

Today it may be Iran, Chavez said, "but tomorrow it could be Belarus, Venezuela, or anyone they dislike."

Chavez is a close ally of Cuba`s Fidel Castro and a vehement critic of US President George W Bush. He hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Caracas in January.

Bureau Report

Two US, one French aircraft carrier in Gulf region


26 March 2007

LONDON - The United States and France have bolstered their naval presence in the Gulf region to three aircraft carrier groups to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, US and French naval sources said on Monday.

The USS Stennis carrier strike group arrived in late February with an additional 6,500 sailors to join the USS Dwight D Eisenhower carrier strike group.

‘The Stennis is in the region, in the Arabian sea outside the Gulf and Eisenhower is inside the Gulf,’ said Lieutenant-Commander Charlie Brown, a spokesman for US Naval Central Command in Bahrain.

‘Having a second strike group here is to support ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and to reassure our regional partners of our commitment to the area,’ he said.

Strike groups are typically deployed with four to five frigates and destroyers and one submarine, but are then split up between different coalition task forces on arrival, he said.

The French aircraft carrier group Charles de Gaulle arrived in the Arabian Sea in mid-March for operations relating to Afghanistan, a spokesman for the French naval forces in Paris confirmed.

He said the carrier deployed with an air-defence frigate, two anti-submarine frigates, a supply ship and a submarine.

Lieutenant Commander Bertrand Bonneau, chief of press for the French navy, said the carrier group would be restricted to actions over Afghanistan.

He said the carrier’s deployment had ‘nothing at all’ to do with exerting pressure on Iran. Tensions are high between the West and Iran over Teheran’s nuclear programme.

Bonneau said the carrier would only enter Gulf waters at the end of April for a port call in Abu Dhabi.

Asked if the carriers, the Stennis and Charles de Gaulle, were within easy reach of the Gulf, the US Navy’s Brown replied: ‘I don’t know about easy reach of the Gulf...They are here to fly missions over Afghanistan.

‘You can’t fly missions over Afghanistan from the Gulf because you’d have to fly over Iran.’

Iran’s southern coastline stretches into the Gulf of Oman and into the Arabian Sea.

On Sunday Iran said it would limit cooperation with the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog and resolved not to halt its atomic work after the Security Council voted to impose new sanctions.

Bush Reorients Rhetoric,Acknowledges Income Gap


March 26, 2007; Page A2

WASHINGTON -- Until January, President Bush seldom acknowledged the widening gap between the rich and the middle class. Then, in a speech, he declared: "I know some of our citizens worry about the fact that our dynamic economy is leaving working people behind. ...Income inequality is real." He has raised the subject several times since.

This isn't a sudden change in Mr. Bush's economic philosophy, but rather a change in tactics forced by the changing political environment, say current and former administration officials and outsiders in touch with the White House.

Top White House economic officials still don't consider today's inequality -- the growing share of income going to those at the top -- an inherently bad thing; they believe it simply reflects the rising rewards accruing to society's most skilled and productive members. Nor do they see merit in various Democratic proposals to reduce inequality, such as ending Mr. Bush's tax cuts on the highest-earners, raising the minimum wage, making it easier to form unions and including labor standards in trade agreements.

But Democrats' takeover of Congress makes avoiding the issue difficult, particularly if the president is to win congressional backing for free-trade pacts and for extending his authority to negotiate new ones.

Pushed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who raised the inequality issue in his first big speech after taking office, the administration is reorienting its rhetoric. Treasury has framed Mr. Bush's health-care proposal as a form of income redistribution, because it caps the tax break for employer-provided health insurance for more affluent workers in order to finance tax breaks for individuals who buy it on their own.

In his January speech, Mr. Bush cited several education initiatives he thinks are particularly important in addressing inequality -- making schools more accountable for their performance; improving math and science education; and making it easier for lower-income students to afford college.

To offset globalization's impact, the administration is pondering improvements in Trade Adjustment Assistance, a federal program to aid workers hurt by trade. That program is up for renewal this year.

But the administration hasn't yet offered any sweeping proposals to resist the market forces producing inequality -- and probably won't. Indeed, skeptics say the administration will address inequality only as much as needed to win votes in Congress, where the widespread public belief that globalization benefits only a small share of Americans has become an obstacle to Bush-backed efforts to liberalize trade and foreign investment.

The election wasn't "a wake-up call" in which the White House discovered " 'people are worried about wages and we have to get on board,' " says Howard Rosen of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who has a longstanding interest in programs to aid dislocated workers. Rather, he says, the White House realized: " 'We have a new Congress, and it will be harder to get our agenda through.' "

Top administration officials, however, play down the election result as a factor in their new rhetoric.

Income inequality by most measures has been growing since the 1970s, and is one reason the typical worker's pay has grown only 0.3%, adjusted for inflation, since the expansion began at the end of 2001 while the economy has grown 16%. The share of total income going to the richest 1% of Americans rose to a postwar record of 17.4% in 2005, according to economist Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley. And the premium employers paid to hire the most-educated workers has grown.

Until recently, talking about inequality was considered almost taboo among administration officials. Even raising the issue was seen as handing Democrats an advantage. When Bush advisers discussed inequality, it was often to play down negative connotations.

'The term 'income inequality' is a bit misleading because it suggests in a somewhat pejorative way that the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor," Edward Lazear, a Stanford University labor economist who is now chairman of Mr. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, said last May. While it's a concern that some people are being left behind, he said, "There is some good news...most of the inequality reflects an increase in returns to 'investing in skills.'"

Mr. Lazear has nurtured his relationship with Mr. Bush. His office is decorated with photos of the two mountain biking. When he gave Mr. Bush a copy of the Economic Report of the President this year, Mr. Bush gave him a bear hug and kissed the top of his bald head, according to people who were present.

Some economists question Mr. Lazear's assertion that, for instance, raising taxes on higher-wage earners will reduce individuals' incentive to acquire new skills. Lawrence Katz, a Harvard University labor economist who served in the Clinton Labor Department, says there's "not a shred of evidence" lower taxes boost educational attainment. "That's first-order goofball."

Even before Republicans' November defeat at the polls, some administration allies were warning that economic insecurity was eroding Republican support. A business coalition hired pollster David Winston to figure out why voters remained so dissatisfied with the economy. His focus groups of middle-income voters in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh found voters going deeper into debt to keep up with rising costs of health care and energy. Executive compensation "is getting to the point where it's obscene," said one focus-group participant.

The more politicians talked about how good the economy was, the worse these voters felt. "It's almost as if these folks are floating around in the ocean, watching the yachts and speedboats go by, thinking, 'Hey, I'm here, someone notice me,'" says Dirk Van Dongen, a co-chairman of the coalition and president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. Mr. Winston advised Republicans: "Our message should be that while the economy is getting back on track, we need to do more to help people with the cost of living."

But Republican strategists largely ignored the findings. Led by Karl Rove, they wanted to avoid blunting one of their few advantages in the 2006 campaign -- the economy's broad strength. One adviser adds that Iraq would have overshadowed any new economic proposals. Mr. Rove notes the president did talk about health care, college and other pocketbook issues during the campaign.

Over the past several months, debate inside the administration has shifted some. When he ran Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Mr. Paulson had invited former Clinton aides Gene Sperling and Princeton University labor economist Alan Krueger to brief him on the impact of globalization on wages and inequality. At a staff meeting soon after taking the Treasury post in July, he expressed puzzlement about the administration's opposition to raising the minimum wage, a person familiar with the meeting says. He has dispatched Undersecretary Robert Steel, another Goldman alumnus, to scout for ideas to boost the lower middle class.

Other officials -- including White House international-economics aide David McCormick and Matthew Slaughter, until recently a member of Mr. Lazear's council -- argued internally that addressing inequality was needed to damp protectionist sentiment fueled by voters who believe they are hurt, not helped, by globalization, insiders say.

Mr. Bush's acknowledgment that inequality is widening and the renewed focus on health care and revamping aid to dislocated workers suggest the administration appreciates the issue's political potency. "Voters' perceptions of economic health are very different than they used to be," said Mark McKinnon, Mr. Bush's former media adviser and now an adviser to Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican seeking to succeed Mr. Bush. "The old indicators that we reliably counted on -- unemployment, the stock market -- don't seem to matter much anymore. And other things do -- health care and pensions."

Adds former Treasury Secretary John Snow, now chairman of private-equity buyout firm Cerberus Capital Management: "The Democrats sense they have an issue here and are going to try to push it, and the Republicans are going to have to have an answer."

Write to Greg Ip at and John D. McKinnon at

Interview: Seymour Hersh on US plan to attack Iran

Our Correspondent Mehdi Geramifard has interviewed Seymour Hersh, an investigative journalist with "New Yorker", on his recent statements about the US plan to attack Iran.

Question: Mr. Hersh there is so many people who predict that there would be a US military strike on Iran, most of them to say this is going to be an air strike. According to Iran's geo- strategic position which is mountainous and the US air strike could not be followed by ground strike, what could the US military do in order to be successful and does the US have the ability to launch a ground strike on Iran or not?

Answer: I am somebody who has an opposition to the government and so I do not sit down at the table with people in the White House and the Pentagon officially and discuss these things. The best I can tell you is nobody knows for sure what is going to happen. It is very possible that President Bush and Vice President Cheney, all their language is just a bluff and it is designed to make Iran give up and stop its nuclear fuel cycle research. I don't think so, but it is possible. I do know there is an intensive planning for an air strike and one of the problems you have when you start the process is if the air strike isn't successful or it doesn't lead to what they want, I mean a capitulation by Iran. The next step would be they are considered some sort of on the ground operation. All of this has to be considered in the planning but this is just planning. What I have been writing about for over year is still planning. It is going to be planning until the president wakes up one morning and says I want to strike Iran and then it happens. That order so far has not come.

Question: It seems that President Bush is under pressure from neo-cons according to the fact that some Republicans along with majority of Democrats voted for non-binding resolution in the House of Representatives to limit President Bush and according to decreasing popularity of President Bush could Democrats and moderate Republicans resist against President Bush's strategy in the Middle East and stop him or he would act upon guideline from neo-cons circle and influential lobbies in Washington?

Answer: Of course, it is not clear that President Bush is going to be influenced by the Democrats. The congressional elections in the Last fall clearly showed that the American people want this war ended in Iraq. There is no sign that the president has done that. What has been done is surge, increase number of troops. My country is also in big trouble in Afghanistan, the war that has got much worse. The Taliban clearly have not been defeated as we had thought. We have huge problems. But you would think normally the president would be working very closely with the Democrats and trying to figure out the best way to resolve the crises in such a way that we are not defeated and the world is in jeopardy that he doesn't seem to be doing that. It seems to be doing exactly what he wants to do. So the politics of the day make very little difference to Bush.

Question: How about if Democrats and some Republicans in the House of Representatives vote for limiting President Bush's authority which the majority of senators voted in 2002 for his war authority?

Answer: It was not the resolution, the language of the actual resolution said that the President could go wherever in the world he saw a threat to the United States and act preemptively. In other words act before we are attacked not in response but the before. It did not limit the president authority to just by Iraq. It said basically the President attacks any place he wants. So he has the legal authority, what congress can do is cut off funds but right now there is one of the issues as in the story, just wrote for the New Yorker, there is billions of dollars that nobody knows where it is gone. These dollars are missing in Iraq as many as 9 billion dollars that they have not accounted for. That is a lot of money to run a war. What Congress can do is cut off funds to do it where the war on Iraq but I guess I don't think they are going at once and it is not clear that even if they did the House which is very democratic, voted it. The Senate make up is very close almost perfectly divided between Republicans. So change in the election does not change what Bush does at all.

Question: Do you mean that Senators or members of the House of Representatives could not cancel that authority given to President Bush in 2002?

Answer: The Senate could. The vote was in the Senate and then there was Democrat-Republican Senate. only 27 members voted against the resolution. Now you have a different Senate. It is 51 Democrats or 50 Democrats and one independent. But I am not sure they could get enough vote to override. I think they had to vote again. It would be very close and I think they probably could override their legislation and put an amendment on it. But so far nobody is talking about doing that yet. What they did vote was a non-binding resolution in the House. They had no authority. It was just everybody was a political state man that we don't like this war on Iraq. I think I have to say that the Democrats so far want running for presidency or even more critical of Iran and some other Republicans.

Question: As our supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei has stated in case of any attack upon us we have got the right to retaliate against American interests and bases at any place of our choice. So doesn't US administration fear about targeting its bases around our country and its establishments or killing its forces and etc?

Answer: You know I can just tell you it should and again as I wrote in the New Yorker magazine we are doing more than targeting Iran where inside your country. There are a lot of aggressive activities by the United States. I think we and the Israelis, I have written this, have contacts with Baluchis and the Iranian Kurds all of whom in some cases are happy with the government or in opposition to the government and we are also setting our troops across the border. So there is a lot of aggression by the United States right now on Iran and what happens next nobody knows. So far, Iran has been very quiet.

Question: Most international analysts believe that the US ultimate goal is to fight against revolutionary Islam and to dominate of the region's energy and oil. But Mr. Jimmy Carter stated that the overthrow of Saddam did not have anything do with energy and oil. So what is the real goal of the US administration in the Middle East?

Answer: Nobody knows what is in the president mind and Mr. Cheney. We don't know what they think. He attacked Iraq in 2003 in response to the Sunni Al- Qaeda in America. Why he would attack Iraq have never been clear because Saddam Hussein was secular. He was a Sunni but he did not like Jihadists. So it is unclear to me what Bush was doing. You could argue that the neo-cons want to get rid of any threat. They never liked Saddam. He was a threat to the other countries in the Middle East, to Israel. Perhaps what we are doing is for Israel and oil but I don’t think this president believes that he really thinks his mission is to spread democracy in the Middle East, even though, you could argue that Iran is probably the most democratic country. The elections there certainly indicate people vote what the way they believe but he believes to spreading democracy and right now we are working with some of the most undemocratic countries in the Middle East, you know Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that do so. It is very strange.

Question: Some analysts believe that Iranian nuclear case is just an excuse for the US attack on Iran and if Iran's nuclear case is going to be solved the White House will find another excuse to fight against Iran. What is your take on this Mr. Hersh?

Answer: You asked me what is inside the president's mind. I can tell you that they believe that despite Iran's denials, despite the fact that there is no intelligence showing a significant weapons program in Iran. I think the President and the Vice President believe that Iran will have a bomb soon and it will give it to Hizbullah and ask them to spread it in America. They believe that Hizbullah has the capability to operate inside America. There is no real evidence for any of this but that is what they believe. Therefore we may end up with some terrible events because there is a belief for this President. President believed that Iraq had WMDs and it did not.

Question: We hear some contradictory statements from American leaders. Cheney in Australia says that, all options including military option are on the table but Tony Snow immediately rejected that statement and said that we don't have any military option on the table. Condoleezza Rice says that we are going to talk to Iran to solve the Iraqi crisis but when she is asked about regime change in Iran she refrained from answering that question. Are these contradictory statements intentional or accidental or what is it?

Answer: I think that it is pretty clear that Mr. Cheney is very powerful. We always have stories that Condoleezza Rice is getting more powerful. I think Cheney is the powerful one and he is the one I listen to. But that doesn't make me right, but he is the one I listen to. I think what they mean by no planning is that there is no planning with the immediate intention to bombing but they have of course this planning. I can't believe they are denying that. But trying to understand what inside this government is, it's very hard.

UN Security Or United Rape?

UNSC: Sanctioning the next war of aggression
Security Council resolution on Iran a grave threat to international peace and security
March 26, 2007

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

We must defend justice with our lives lest we need justice to defend our lives

As I watched Iran being hauled in front of the United Nations ‘Security’ Council, a vivid picture conjured up in my mind – my native country Iran, a vulnerable and defenseless beauty being prepared for violation by brutal savages. As she struggles to defend her honor, no one is prepared to come to her aid, save a few. Even her own children, those raised on her soil hope she will be brutally raped. With lust-filled eyes, they hope to fulfill their ambitions on her ravaged ruins, her broken pride.

Who are these beasts, and what has transformed this United body to such a menace?

The most uninformed among us knows that the United States is dictating the rules at the ‘Security’ Council. The driving force behind the American policy makers’ actions is Israel represented by AIPAC and other Israeli representatives in the United States. However, while Zionism gives motivation to the neo-conservatives in Washington to rape and ravage the Middle-East, Washington stands to benefit from AIPAC’s/Israel’s commands.

Theodor Herzl, witnessing discrimination against Jews in Europe, was convinced that sovereign control over territory would guarantee Jews against discrimination. The location was not important. He sought the support of Europe’s wealthiest Jews to colonize territory. Max Nordau, a close friend of Herzl’s, stated that “we are going to Palestine to extend the moral boundaries of Europe as far as the Euphrates”. Chaim Weizmann’s analogy for the comparison of Arab to Jew was “the desert against civilization”. The attraction of Palestine was its appeal to the colonial powers, specifically Great Britain and the imposition of imperial control such as the British and Dutch East India Companies.

Today, the United States is the colonial power and the major investor in the region. Furthermore, as The Center for Public Integrity has demonstrated, The Carlyle Group profits from government and conflict ; a company that employed some of Washington’s most powerful figures, including former Secretary of State James Baker, former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and former FCC Chairman William Kennard, as well as former British Prime Minister John Major – not foregoing the Ladin and Saudi ties. Israel is no longer a nascent state, but en par with the world’s only super power – for not only does it have an arsenal of illegal nuclear warheads and one of the strongest conventional armies, but it has influence over US Congress, and many believe, the White House. Both Israel and the US need stretching room for expansion and more profit. Iran is key, it would appear.

One must surely question why Iran would be shunned by all the ‘Security’ council members. India’s case has demonstrated that non-permanent members are subject to coercion, but what of the permanent members?

France - If Iran’s legitimate rights are recognized, Iran would have to have her wealth returned to her; to the dismay of the Europeans. In 1973 France, Belgium, Spain, and Sweden, formed the joint stock company EURODIF. Sweden withdrew from the project in 1974. In 1975 Sweden’s 10 per cent share in EURODIF went to Iran as a result of an arrangement between France and Iran. The French government subsidiary company Cogema and the Iranian Government established the Sofidif (Société franco–iranienne pour l’enrichissement de l’uranium par diffusion gazeuse) enterprise with 60 per cent and 40 per cent shares, respectively. In turn, Sofidif acquired a 25 per cent share in EURODIF, which gave Iran its 10 per cent share of EURODIFI. In 1974, the Shah lent 1 billion dollars (and another 180 million dollars in 1977) for the construction of the factory, to have the right to buy 10% of the production. Iran remains a shareholder of Eurodif via Sofidif, a Franco-Iranian consortium shareholder which owns 25 % of Eurodif. According to The Wall Street Journal of Dec. 5, 2006, the price of enriched uranium has increased by 800 percent since 2001, and given the recent growing interest in nuclear fuel, and the commitment of suppliers, Eurodif would likely prefer to have Iran sanctioned than recognize her legitimate right. Especially if as before, they are not the ones who have to send soldiers to battlefields.

Bulletin 26 – Dual Use: Avoiding The Nuclear Precipice of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation not only confirms Iran’s share in Eurodif, but lends legitimacy to her wishes to exercise her inalienable right under Article IV of the NPT to enrich uranium indigenously versus the Russian import due to her past experience with foreign dealings [ ].

It must also be noted that Iran has a stake in the world's biggest open-pit uranium mine in the African state of Namibia where the United States buys its uranium for its nuclear power plants . Much like the 1953 era when the Americans and the British had their eyes on Iran’s precious resources, it would seem that uranium is one more incentive for the violation of Iran.

Russia – John D. Grace describes Russia as an "ally and opponent" of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and the same for oil consumers -- in other words, it is a "fulcrum." In spite of Grace’s generous description of Russia, it has raised a few eyebrows in Europe when it has cut off energy supplies at will and as a political tool. 6% of the total known oil reserves are in the former Soviet Union . However, as the world’s biggest supplier of natural gas and one of the largest suppliers of oil, it will greatly benefit from high oil prices due to sanctions and unrest in the Persian Gulf. This money-strapped nation was willing to supply Iran not only with enriched uranium, but with surface-to-air missiles. It has decided to halt its cooperation because it understands that conflicts in the Persian Gulf region will double the price of oil – much to its benefit; while at the same time to other Arab countries, much like the US is doing. Additionally, it also realizes that a ‘nuclear accident anywhere is a nuclear accident anywhere’. It could be that Russia has it on good authority that this irrational Administration means to bomb Bushehr . Having weighed the danger of contamination and their surplus profit from an attack on Iran, they opted to vote for the latter.

China - It would seem that with China’s growing appetite for oil, their vote would be illogical. However, China has been making remarkable discoveries of her own. Not only has she found oil deposits in Bohai Bay near Dalian (source – China Newnet), but after two years of exploration, it was publicly reported on March 24th that off the coast of Taiwan huge deposits of natural gas, known as the ‘ice that burns’ and labeled as the energy of the energy source of the future had been discovered. If Taiwan had been an ‘old war relic’ in the past, it makes her a prize worth fighting for. Would this make China sway her vote? Additionally, according to the BBC, China and Venezuela are working on making oil deals that will be mutually beneficial.

And finally, Great Britain. She was the instigator in the 1953 coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadeq. In a role reversal, it would seem that today, GB is the one who is helping incite war. No doubt with her poor economy, as with the Iraq war, she would be happy with the crumbs off the US table.

What is important to remember is the following:

- It was the United Nations that established the State of Israel in 1948.
- It was the United Nations ‘Security’ Council that stood by idly as Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran for 3 years in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
- It was the United Nations ‘Security’ Council that watched Israel destroy Iraq’s peaceful nuclear technology, passed a resolution, but remained idle as Isarel continued with its path of destruction.
- It was the United Nations ‘Security’ Council that stood by while 500,000 children in Iraq were subjected to malnutrition and death.
- It was the United Nations ‘Security’ Council that stood by and watched America illegally invade Iraq without passing a resolution.
- It was the United Nations ‘Security’ Council that watched the Israelis destroy Lebanon for 33 days with American ammunition. One man at the UN ‘Security’ Council, John Bolton, ruled over the lives and deaths of the Lebanese.
- It was the United Nations ‘Security’ Council that watched Israel raze Palestinian homes over and over again.
- It is the United Nations ‘Security’ Council that is witnessing the starvation of Palestinians people, women and children alike.

And it is the United Nations ‘Security’ Council that is ordering the savage and cruel gang rape of Iran. They have passed resolution to take her defenses away. Under the pretext of her nuclear program, her inalienable right to enrich uranium for energy –Article IV of the NPT, they have passed a resolution that Iran must not have conventional weapons to defend herself when they come to attack her – to ravage her, to take all that is hers and her children’s.

Regardless of race, color, or religion, we are all equal under the law. To repeat a cliché, we are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain – this is humanity’s bond – a bind that if broken with indifference, will cause the demise of civilization as we know it. We must not remain complacent in the face of the insecurity that is about to take place – the UNSC’s violation of Iran. This is not a call for justice for Iran, nor for the children of Iran, but a call to disallow oppression. We must defend justice with our lives, lest one day we be in need of justice to defend our lives.

UNSC: Sanctioning the next war of aggression


By Daniel M Pourkesali
, Virginia

United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has once again voted to impose yet another sanction on

Iran for its failure to suspend a legal activity allowed by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty [1], to which Iran remains a signatory state, and that the IAEA itself has found no indication of any nuclear material being diverted to military purposes.

As in case of the UNSC resolution 1737 [2] approved in December 2006, the United States has played a key roll in draft of the language used and the push for its passage, in a continued effort to lay the ground for a planned military action against Iran.

In an op-ed [3] written days following the ratification of resolution 1737, this writer urged readers and all those outraged by the Iraqi deception to stand up and repeatedly make it known, over the deafening megaphones of the war-mongers that:

1) Iran is not in breach of any international conventions or agreements. Processing of uranium is entirely within the guidelines of the NPT, and according to the IAEA, all fissile material have been accounted for and confirmed as not diverted to prohibited activities.

Above remains true today as it has been since the inception of Iranian nuclear program in 1957 with the help of the United States. In that year a civil nuclear cooperation program was established under the U.S. 'Atoms for Peace' program [4]. In 1959, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) was established and run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The TNRC was equipped with a U.S.-supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor that became operational in 1967 fuelled with highly enriched uranium. Iran signed the NPT in 1968 and ratified it in 1970. With the establishment of Iran's atomic agency and the NPT in place, the Shah approved plans to construct, again with U.S. help, up to 23 nuclear power stations by the year 2000.

2) The UN Security Council is not the world and hence does not reflect the will of the 'international community' – it represents the views and positions of 15 nations five of which are undemocratically assigned as permanent members including the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia.

The 118 United Nations member states of the Nonaligned Movement [5] have repeatedly confirmed and recognized Iran's right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Yet a handful of powerful nations led by the U.S., continue to portray their own narrow and self-serving objectives as the will of the entire international community.

3) Any military action against Iran regardless of the Security Council approval would be ethically and morally void of any legitimacy.

The UNSC is the organ of the United Nations charged with maintaining peace and security among nations. Under Chapter Six of the UN Charter [6], "Pacific Settlement of Disputes", the Security Council "may investigate any dispute or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security."

The key phrase is endangering of 'international peace and security'. A simple question to ask here is this -- How can a legal activity allowed by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty constitute a danger to world "peace and security" and prompt an international body charged with maintaining the same to impose such unwarranted sanctions that as witnessed in case of Iraq can be used as plain justification to invade and occupy a sovereign nation?

But the far grimmer question to ask is – Are we as world citizens going to idly stand by and allow yet another illegal act of treachery be carried out under the pretext of protecting 'international peace and security'?


[2] \





Four Years of US-Led Occupation of Iraq: Playing the Shi'i-Sunni Divide

March 24, 2007

By K Gajendra Singh

"We could expect an epic battle between Shi'ite extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country [Iraq] - and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict." President George Bush in his State of union address

" Mr Bush looks increasingly like a general who has run out of ideas, troops and hope ." Commented 'The Guardian '

"From inside Pakistan's border to the Mediterranean, almost every land (Muslim ) is in crisis. Suddenly, all the Western talk of a Sunni-Shi'i war looks troublingly real "(one of the many options now on the table. )

US led western talk of a Shi'i-Sunni war looks troublingly real , although the option is now on slow backburner. The policy of divide and rule is as old as the Roman empire – a constant guide to the Christian West and implemented ruthlessly during its colonial onslaught on the rest of the world. Evolution of Western nationalism based on a narrow definition of shared religion , ethnicity , language , culture or history after centuries of religious and ethnic wars was then employed to divide multi religious and pluralistic empires and kingdoms in the East and South during its crusade of colonial wars and expansion, masked as 'civilizing mission ' or 'white man's burden' 'or 'saving the soul' by converting natives to Christianity .Europe and Orthodox Russia became self proclaimed 'Guardians of Christians' or nationalities like Serbs ,Bulgarians, Greeks , Armenians and others to divide and break up the far flung Ottoman empire which had reached right up to the gates of Vienna. Religious 'millets' had full freedom of faith and Christians and Jews dominated trade and industry in the Ottoman empire.

By now it is crystal clear that the George Bush administration and Tony Blair government invaded Iraq on false claims and sheer lies, which now stand totally exposed .The main objective was to capture and exploit Iraqi oil resources , second only to Saudi Arabia and control the energy resources not only in the Middle East but even of the Caspian basin .Middle East history challenged Neo- Cons and other policy planners perhaps believed that a grateful 60% Shi'i majority of Iraq ruled by 25% Sunni elite would be so grateful for 'liberating' them that US corporate interests will have a run of the place .

So from the very beginning as Scott Ritter , a former UN Chief Weapons Inspector for Iraq, revealed after occupying Baghdad and Iraq (Kurdistan in any case has been a US protectorate since the end of 1991 Gulf War), US and allied special forces provided information on dethroned ruling Sunni elite for taking revenge to the Iraqi exiles ,like Ahmet Chelebi, a convicted embezzler , Iyad Allawi , both intelligence assets of CIA , MIV and others , Shi'i outfits like SCIRI and Badr corps nurtured , nursed and financed by Iran ,opportunists ,carpetbaggers and others who rode into Baghdad on US tanks ,helicopters and F-16s. Scott Ritter also revealed that the Ba'athist regime under President Saddam Hussein was quite realistic about West's objectives and had planned Iraqi resistance much before the invasion.

Later ,Washington , London and Tel Aviv also looked at the option of dividing Iraq into Iraqi Kurdistan , with almost half of Iraqi oil wealth ,which being weak would remain subservient to the West. Its oil can be easily sent to the Mediterranean via the Kirkuk Ceyhan pipe line. Perhaps even a defence alliance could be signed with the Kurds. Washington had in fact planned to have an air base in north Iraq on the pretext of saving Kurds from Saddam's forces in 1991, so an anxious Ankara offered its Incirlik airbase for US-UK jets to patrol over Iraq and bomb it at will.

Of course the grateful Shi'is of South Iraq masters of the remaining oil wealth would fall in line .The disenfranchised Sunni rump without any oil as yet, could stew in its own anger . It was most surprising that, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others were surprised by the Iraqi resistance , which they first tried to wish away as composed of dead enders ,disgruntled remnants of the old regime and in its last throes in Dick Cheney's famous words. Only if they had read long Iraqi resistance to the British colonial rule in 1920s and 30s who finally got rid of the British and killed the Hashemite ruler foisted on Iraq.

The whole process shows total bankruptcy of those who muscled themselves into White House in 2000 fraudily won elections.They would not even make good corporate takeover artists unless it was by force .They could learn a lesson or two in takeovers from the new boys on the block say India's Laxmi Mittal. How he overcame European prejudices and courted the share holders to emerge as the biggest steel producer in the world .Or the House of Tatas , who took over steel conglomerate Corus.

Kemal Ataturk , who forged a modern Turkish state from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire ,had talked of Turks , Kurds and others in his new Republic but then declared Kurds non-persons perhaps to counteract British machinations and inspired Kurdish rebellions .The British led Allies had imposed the Sevres Treaty on a supine Caliph ( like imposing the Constitution in Iraq and the effort to pass the new oil law to deprive Iraqis of their national wealth ) Ataturk expelled the Greek invaders and other allied occupation forces trashing the Sevres treaty .He then adopted the western model of secular and unitary Turkish nation state.

The continued divisions in and exploitation of the Arabs and Kurdish problems in the region are the consequences of British policy of divide and rule after the First world war , now being pursued by USA. Like the British then ,now George Bush never tires of bringing liberty and democracy to the Arabs .Pentagon even called US led illegal naked 'shock and awe ' invasion of Iraq as 'Operation Iraqi Freedom '- some cheek .Whose intelligence are they insulting ?Their own as no one believed them except the info-challenged Americans .And even they have wised up.

Established to cut into the profitable East Indies trade on silk rotes controlled by Arabs and Turks ,the British East India company ( and others in Europe ) ,having explored new sea routes , first nibbled at the decrepit Moghul empire piece meal and after the Indian war of independence against the English company forces in 1957, most of the Moghul empire passed on to the British crown . In the wake of the rebellion and resistance the citizens of Delhi , specially Muslims ,were treated like those of Fallujah , Tel Afar and Haditha, as in Iraq now. It must be remembered that Marathas , Rajputs, Jats and other Hindu kings , who ruled almost independent fiefs accepted the Moghul emperor in Delhi as their sovereign, before he was exiled by the British.

British historians and colonial rulers then successfully sold the theory to Brahmin and other upper castes Hindus that all their problems could be traced to the rule of Muslims .At least like Hindu Aryans and others from central Asia earlier , Muslims from Turkestan and elsewhere made Hindustan their home. When the European traders arrived in the subcontinent, Hindustan's share in world manufacturing was 24.5 percent (in 1750) and after the British had done with India, the sub-continent's share had fallen to 1.7 percent (in 1900) and that of Britain had increased from 1.9 percent (in 1750) to 22.9 percent (in 1880) - Rise and fall of Big Powers by Professor Paul Kennedy) In these bald figures lie buried multiple famines and deaths of tens of millions of impoverished Indians , when the British exported the food even in times of scarcity. It left the people of Hindustan degraded with deficit not only in calories but proteins and physically dwarfed .After 60 years of freedom and no famines Indians have partially recovered their physical well being and are surging ahead economically and intellectually.( How they dominate the Silicon valley in USA)

After the second world war, the British realized that there was no option but to quit the subcontinent .But India being a vital strategic asset,– "a base for Britain to continue their domination of the Indian Ocean and the oil-rich Persian Gulf with its wells of power," it was partitioned ,as Mahatma Gandhi opposed to violence and war in principle and Jawaharlal Nehru with his idealism and vision of spreading friendship and understanding among colonized and exploited people of Asia , Africa , Middle east and elsewhere , would not join Western military pacts . The aim was to retain parts in the North and West of India, "for defensive and offensive action against the USSR in any future dispensation in the sub-continent".

A retired Indian diplomat has brought to light these British machinations, based on records in London in his book , 'The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition.' The author also traces the roots of the present Kashmir imbroglio and how the matter was distorted in the UN to help Western ally Pakistan.( Like UN resolutions now against Iran for its enrichment of nuclear power fuel ) But Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf and Islamabad now hover between the deep sea and the devil ie threat to be bombed back to stone age or a civil war between its troops and Pushtoons and other fierce tribes in its north west region and Afghanistan ,if they do not obey US dictates.

Following the second world war President Marshal Joseph Tito created a composite secular and socialist state of southern Slavs and others in Yugoslavia , with natural affinity to Orthodox Russian Slavs , but after his death and the collapse of the Soviet Union , the multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multilingual state was broken apart by West Europe and USA, by sheer aggression .The last word in this bloody dissolution is yet to be written , now centred in Kosovo ,where north European diplomats have ruled as in old colonial era .

When the fulcrum of imperialism shifted from London to Washington and New York after the second world war , exploitation of the East and South was continued through IMF , IBRD and now after the fall of the Berlin Wall by Globalisation and WTO , with struggle over control over energy pipelines instead of over sea trade routes earlier. Western troops would now guard the energy pipelines , like the Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan one.

Four years of US led occupation of Iraq;

'After centuries of vibrant interaction, of marrying, sharing and selling across sects and classes, Baghdad has become a capital of corrosive, violent borderlines. Streets never crossed. Conversations never broached. Doors never entered.

"Sunnis and Shiites in many professions now interact almost exclusively with colleagues of the same sect. Sunnis say they are afraid to visit hospitals because Shiites loyal to the cleric Moktada al-Sadr run the Health Ministry, while Shiite laborers who used to climb into the back of pickup trucks for work across the Tigris River in Sunni western Baghdad now take jobs only near home. Baghdad is increasingly looking like Sarajevo in the 1990s", said Damien Cave in International Herald Tribune in early March.

Real violence and fear has led to internal migrations .Displaced Sunnis push out Shias, who in turn push out the Sunnis in their areas. While three million have been internally displaced ,almost 2 million have left Iraq to live in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere, USA the creator of the biggest refugee crisis in the middle East since the creation of Israel , has accepted few. The displacement is carried out by attacking a mosque or a grenade is thrown at a house, men kidnapped and killed, a few houses burnt - the message is clear - get out. Then there are instances of rapes of women of one community by another .It is the same pattern of killings and migration as after India's partition in 1947 or break up of Yugoslavia in early 1990s. The Kangroo Court trial of President Saddam Hussein and other Baathist leaders against international law and outcry from the world and his lynching under US occupation and watch clearly are intended to inflame Shia-Sunni hatred and conflagration .

Who is responsible for this civil war and Shia and Sunni conflict. If you watch CNN or other US Channels and even BBC or glance through western media , the emphasis is on Iraqis on Iraqis. They do not deserve democracy .Just more lies and spins

Those who believe so might ponder that if some rampaging and barbaric 'extra-territorials '(ETs) were to invade America and by their superior destructive power nuke a major city , threaten others and then enforce ' equity and justice' and weighted elections and more rights to the Blacks and Hispanics to compensate for their past inhuman treatment and exploitation .What would be the reaction of these anger seething communities against Jewish and white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (Wasp) ruling oligarchy . After all, are not US allies only doing something like that for the historically oppressed Shia and Kurdish populations of Iraq. But producing terrible results .Even those Iraqis who were misguided into believing Western propaganda and US promises in 2003 now say that they were much better off under Saddam Hussein, even those who were jailed and their family members killed or even tortured.

Middle East Quagmire !

No wonder Patrick Cockburn said in Counterpunch last month , "The U.S. has a very weird policy--the Shia and Iran are the enemy, suddenly. But the government of Iraq is Shia--it's led by the Shia and the Kurds. Bush seems to be trying to create a common front of Sunni states--Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan--against the Shia and Iran."

A fascinating revelation concerns the 'disappearance' of billions of US dollars in Iraq to create "pots of black money" for covert purposes - with echoes of the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan presidency in the 1980s. And even help Fuad Siniora's beleaguered pro-western government in Beirut "to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shia (Hezbollah and Amal ) influence" by funding Sunni radical groups with ideological ties to al-Qaeda. Walid Jumblatt, the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Druze leader, was quoted telling Cheney to support the banned Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and undermine the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus.

Seymour Hersh revealed last month that US military and special operations teams have escalated activities in Iran, entering from Iraq to gather intelligence etc, confirming allegations made by Tehran. Iran has accused the US, Britain and Israel of fomenting separatist attacks in Arab-majority Khuzestan in the south-west of Iran, in Baluchi province bordering Pakistan and in Azeri and Kurdish border regions.

In Riyadh, the emergence of a "Shia crescent" from Tehran to Damascus and Hezbollah in Lebanon ( and Hamas in Palestine) raises the nightmare of a shift in the balance of power not only in the Arab world but also in the Middle East and beyond "That Iran should control Lebanon through Hezbollah is a red line that Arabia cannot accept," say Saudi officials .This was also echoed by Hashemite King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at the time of the Israeli/Hezbollah war last year .Hezbollah's victory and crescendo of popularity for Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah and Mahmud Ahmedineijad caused fears of Arab street turning against the conservative and unpopular Sunni rulers in the region .

The warm reception and contracts for economic and even defence cooperation during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Riyadh ( and Doha and Amman) last month is another card Riyadh with its cheque book diplomacy would play .Tehran needs Russian support and good will for its nuclear power plants and the Uranium fuel enrichment issue in UN and arms supply , specially missiles to defend itself .To begin with Moscow might use it to expedite payments for the nuclear power plant under construction and making itself indispensable to the US led West in the UN Secrity Council . As usual the notorious New York Times tried misinformation ie that Moscow is with Washington on the enrichment issue. Russia denied these reports .China is deeply interested in Iran's stability and development for its energy needs .

In the Shia-Sunni stand off being promoted by the West , aging King Abdullah is cautious but younger princes are pushing him to adopt "a more aggressive posture." All are agreed that Iran's influence will increase while over time the American presence and 'protection' will diminish. The King sent his hot headed nephew Prince Bandar to Tehran many times in recent months for discussions with his counterpart ,Iran's National Security Adviser Ali Larijani before Ahmadinejad visited Riyadh. "We know about your clandestine activities in Iraq; it's time to put an end to them," the Saudis tell Iran, "otherwise, we'll react" by helping Sunni groups confront the "Shia death squads". This was made public last November in the Washington Post oped , by Nawaf Obaid, who then was dismissed from his post of advisor at the Saudi Embassy in Washington. Saudis tell the Americans "Don't leave Iraq; we'll suffer the consequences." The Saud dynasty is worried .

There is little doubt that Saudis , certainly the rich ones are privately financing armed Iraqi groups. But if Iraq falls apart, anything is possible. One "worst case scenario": is Shia region in the south ( rich in oil ) tries for autonomy with Iran's help; al-Qaeda and the Sunnis join in , and the civil war becomes an all-out conflagration. And what about repressed and restive Shias in adjoining oil rich areas of Saudi Arabia itself .Then "the Saudi government would have a hard time convincing the Sunni tribes in the North - which stretch into Iraq - to not go to the armed defense of their cousins on the other side of the border," acknowledges a European diplomat in Saudi Arabia, who adds: "The greatest danger to the Saudis is to see certain Iraqi Sunni tribes at their borders rally to the cause of al-Qaeda," which has been responsible for numerous attacks in the Kingdom itself.

Some in Riyadh suggest inviting Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the top Iraqi cleric and make some concessions ( financial) to Iraq and overtures to Tehran. Inviting Ahmadinejad was one such step. But say the Saudi hardliners "What good is it to negotiate with Ahmadinejad, when the real power in Tehran is in the hands of the Guide and the pasdarans."

Iran- Saudi Summit in Riyadh

It was to bridge the Shia-Sunni confrontation that the first official visit to Riyadh of Iranian President Ahmadinejad came about after months of diplomatic efforts to ease the political standoff in Lebanon between Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, and the government of Fouad Siniora, supported by the United States, France and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni regimes.

Earlier, to counter Tehran's growing influence in the region, Riyadh hosted the warring Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fateh, in Mecca to resolve their differences and to reach an agreement on the formation of a government of national unity ,which has since been done.

Both sides want to calm the sectarian violence in Iraq .Riyadh certainly does .But did they discuss frankly US efforts to exploit the Shia-Sunni divide.

Skeptics point out the absence of any tangible resolutions or initiatives after the visit. But at least the ice was broken. "The two parties have agreed to stop any attempt aimed at spreading sectarian strife in the region," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al- Faisal, told Reuters.

"Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are aware of the enemies' conspiracies," Ahmadinejad put it more colorfully . "We decided to take measures to confront such plots, and hopefully this will strengthen Muslim countries against oppressive pressures by the Imperialist front."

Saudis did not comment on this, instead official Saudi Press Agency claimed that Iran expressed support for the Saudi proposal based on land-for-peace which would lead to Arab states recognizing Israel in return for a Palestinian state in the lands occupied by Israel since 1967.Tehran even denied that the proposal was even discussed.

The Sunni-Shi'i Divide;

It is necessary to look at the historic Shi'i-Sunni divide in depth to comprehend the problem and the inherent dangers .Not only Christians , even many Sunnis know little about Shi'is and their history.

The fissures in Islam are almost as old as the faith itself. In the Muslim community (Ummah) of over a billion faithfuls spread almost all around the world nearly 12 % are Shias. Majority of Shias are Twelvers – believers in 12 Imams (as in Iran, in a majority ), but there are others too, like the Ismailis (of Agha Khans, Mohammed Ali Jinnah), from whom emerged the "Assassins" in early 2 nd millennium, Alevis in Turkey (around 15%), ruling Alawite elite ( 12%) in Syria, Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon( over 40%), and Bahrain ( perhaps a majority), Kuwait , UAE, Saudi Arabia , Pakistan . In Iraq nearly 60% of its population are Shias, the rest are mostly Sunnis.There are some very extremist groups too , spread all over the Islamic world.

India has a large Shia population of about 25 million in a total Muslim population of 130 million, making it perhaps the 2 nd largest Shia community in the world after Iran. After the US attacks in Najaf in 2004, Muslims of Lucknow ( India ) , a big Shia centre ,had declared that Americans were not welcome there.

Tangled Sunni-Shi'i history ;

The Shias emerged out of seeds of disunity in the embryonic Muslim Ummah , sown as soon as Prophet Mohammed lay dead in Medina. While his cousin and son in law Ali and the family were preparing the body for the burial, another clan of the Quraysh tribe elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph ie Prophet's deputy, countering also the claims of Ansars of Medina, who had welcomed the Prophet (in Hijra) .Abu Bakr's supporters claimed that he was closer to Mohammed, one of the very first converts to Islam and was from Mecca's Quraysh tribe. His daughter A'isha was wedded to the Prophet.

According to Shias, Prophet Mohammed had given enough indications for Ali to be his successor and cite many hadiths in support of this claim. The Prophet had lived with his uncle Abu Talib, Ali's father and Mohammed's only child Fatimah was married to Ali .Ali also became Muslim before Abu Bakr and had decoyed for the Prophet when he escaped from Mecca .Ali was perhaps his most trusted and the closest companion, even though he was much younger than the Prophet.

Ali's election as the Caliph would have denied a chance to the older generation of power brokers, so they played politics and got their way. Ali was overlooked twice with Omar and Uthman succeeding Abu Bakr in cleverly manipulated successions to keep Ali out. As a result Ali mostly kept to himself and stayed aloof.

Following the murder of Uthman, Ali was invited by the Muslims of Medina to accept the Caliphate; reluctantly, he agreed but only after long hesitation. His brief reign was marked by problems of inheriting a corrupt state, as the Quran and the traditions of Mohammed had been neglected .Ali based his rule on the Islamic ideals of social justice and equality which clashed with the interests of the Quraysh aristocracy of Mecca grown rich through the Muslim conquests. A rebellion was instigated against him .Ali was victorious in many wars, but was trapped into an arbitration. He was assassinated by a Kharijite and Mu'awiya of the Umayyads established the dynasty at Damascus.

Ali was a devout Muslim with an outstanding reputation for justice, unlike Uthman or the Umayyad dynasty that followed him, mired in nepotism with worldly and autocratic ways. Many Muslims feel this way about the Umayyad Caliphs except for Omar II. To many it was a betrayal of the Quran, which enjoins creation of a just and equal society as the first duty of Muslims.

Those opposed to Umayyads called themselves the Shia't-Ali (partisans of Ali) and developed a doctrine of piety and protest, refusing to accept the Umayyad Caliphs, and regarded Ali's descendants as the true leaders of the Muslim community. This schism became an unbridgeable chasm and remains so, when in 680, Shias of Kufa called for the rule by Ali's second son Hussein and invited him. Hussein set out for Iraq with a small band of relatives and followers (72 armed men and women and children) in the belief that the spectacle of the Prophet's family, marching to confront the Caliph, would remind the regime of its social responsibility.

But Umayyad Caliph Yazid dispatched his army, which slaughtered Hussein and most of his followers on the plain of Karbala with Imam Hussein being the last to die, holding his infant son in his arms. This event is now commemorated as Muharram. Both Karbala and Najaf, where Imam Ali is buried are very holy places specially for Shias.

For Shias, the Karbala tragedy symbolizes the chronic injustice that pervades human life. Shia Islam provides spiritual solace and shelter for the poorest and the deprived among the Muslims, as in as- Sadr city in Baghdad and elsewhere in the Muslim world. In almost all Sunni majority countries Shias are ill treated and persecuted.

Imagery and this Shia passion informed Khomeini's Iranian revolution, which many experienced as a re-enactment of Karbala - with the Shah Reza Pehlavi cast as a latter day Yazid.

There is no agreement among Muslims on the Caliphs. Shias do not recognise the first three and in many places curse them. For them Ali is the first rightful Caliph and the Imam. For Sunnis, Imam is only a prayer leader and could be any one. But for Shias, he is a spiritual leader with the divine spark and juris-consult (Vilayet-el-Faqih) .The sacred Islamic law Sharia enacted under different situations and times has many schools among Sunnis, who unlike the Shias have closed ijtihad, independent reasoning in Islamic Law to meet new situations .The Shia Iranians (Aryans) perhaps created the office of Imam (like Shankaracharya among Indo –Aryan Brahmins) as only an Arab from the Quraysh tribe could become a Caliph. Later the Turks, who came as slaves or warriors to the Arab lands, captured power by the sword and raised the minor office of the Sultan to a powerful one, by now protector of a hapless Caliph. Then Turkish Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul appropriated the title of Caliph for themselves.

After the first dynastic Umayyad Caliphate based in Damascus ended, another branch of Quraysh tribe, Abbasids took over and shifted to Iraq in 750, but after having made false promises of installing the Prophet's family as the Caliph. Muslim Ummah's unity under the Sunni Caliph was finally broken when Fatimids anointed their own Caliph first in Tunisia, then in Egypt in 10 th century. So an Umayyad prince in Cordoba too declared himself the third Caliph.

Evolution of Shiism:

There are two things to note. First, political Shi'ism indicates a belief that members of the Hashim clan in the Quraysh tribe are the people most worthy of holding political authority in the Islamic community, but has no belief in any particular religious position for the family. As for religious Shi'ism, it is about the belief that some particular members of the house of Hashim were in receipt of divine inspiration and are thus the channel of God's guidance to men whether or not they hold any defacto political authority. This view was augmented by the Iranians who believe in the tradition that the mother of fourth Imam Zaynul- Abdin was Shahrbanu, the daughter of Yazdigird, the last Sasanian King of Iran.

From the very beginning all the Shia Imams, descendants of Ali, every single one was imprisoned, exiled or executed or poisoned by the Caliphs, who could not tolerate an alternative centre to their rule. So by 8 th century, most Shias held aloof from politics and concentrated on the mystical interpretation of the scriptures. Says scholar Karen Armstrong " Long before western philosophers called for the separation of church and state, Shias had privatised faith, convinced that it was impossible to integrate the religious imperative with the grim world of politics that seemed murderously antagonistic to it. --

"The separation of religion and politics remains deeply embedded in the Shia psyche. It springs not simply from malaise, but from a divine discontent with the state of the Muslim community. Even in Iran, which became a Shia country in the early 16th century, the ulema (the religious scholars) refused public office, adopted an oppositional stance to the state, and formed an alternative establishment that - implicitly or explicitly - challenged the Shahs on behalf of the people."

The picture of early Shi'ism was created (as not much is available from records) from the point of view of Twelver Shias, ignoring the Ismailis, Mutazilites or orthodox Sunnis. Modern scholars believe that this picture was retrospectively imposed over the facts by historians of 3 rd and 4th Islamic century for doctrinal reasons.

It is only after 6th Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (died 765) that there is any firm evidence that any kind of religious leadership was being claimed for Twelver Imams. He was a well-known and influential figure in the Islamic world. Several of his students later became prominent jurists and traditionalists even among non-Shia Muslims. Jafar a s-Sadiq did not make an open claim to religious leadership, but his circle of students evidently looked to him as Imam, including some leading figures such as Abu'l-Khattab, who held beliefs of a ghuluww (extremist) nature regarding him, indicating that as-Sadiq was a focus of religious speculation and leadership in his own time.

Emergence of Islamic Schools of Thought, Like Shia and Others:

The number of ghulat groups, increased dramatically especially in Kufa during as-Sadiq's lifetime. It is therefore useful to consider the origin of the ghulat. When the Arabs arrived in the Fertile Crescent, they encountered ancient civilisations with sophisticated religious systems. Iraq was already the centre of intense religious ferment with the ancient Babylonian religious systems, Zoroastrianism, Mazdaism, Manichaeism, Judaism and various forms of Christianity contributing to a kaleidoscope of religious view points, debates and speculation. Islam by comparison was as yet simple and undeveloped. And with the Prophet already dead, there was no one to whom the Muslims could turn for an authoritative ruling on sophisticated religious speculations being posed by the ancient civilisations. There arose a ferment of discussion around some of the concepts introduced by these older religions and philosophical systems.

In the initial years the Arabs lived in their military camp cities and avoided intermingling with the native populations and their disturbing religious speculations but as more of the native populations embraced Islam, such discussions increased. In this spiritual and religious ferment ideas were injected into the Muslim community and intensively discussed by people interested in such matters which could be considered by the majority of Muslims heterodox concepts and called ghulat or extremists.

Among the ideas injected were such concepts as tanasukh (transmigration of souls), ghayba (occultation), raj'a (return), hulul (descent of the Spirit of God into man), imama (Imamate, divinely-inspired leadership and guidance), tashbih (anthropomorphism with respect to God), tafwid (delegation of God's powers to other than God), and bada (alteration in God's will). But the ghulat needed a priest- god figure onto which to project their ideas of hulul, ghayba , etc., a role admirably suited to the persona of' Ali.

While the ghulat adopted Ali and his family as the embodiment of their religious speculation the Shias of' Ali always looked on the ghulat with a certain amount of suspicion. However, the martyrdom of Hussein and the pathos of this event gave the family of Ali a cultic significance. It bestowed on Shias, earlier primarily a political party, a thrust into a religious orientation directing it firmly towards the ghulat, and giving the ghulat milieu a hero-martyr and a priestly family with which they could associate much of their speculations.

Can OIC counter the Western game!

Muslims now gather under the umbrella of Organisation of Islamic Conferences (OIC), Munazamat al-Mutamir al-Islami, to give its full Arabic name, which was institutionalized in 1971 by the Saudis, following the summits of Muslim heads of state and government in 1969, after the fire in the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third most revered Islamic site after Mecca and Medina.

The OIC aims to promote Islamic solidarity by coordinating social, economic, scientific and cultural activities. It is also pledged to eliminate racial segregation and discrimination. Unfortunately, it has not evolved into a responsible and creative body. A main reason for the failure is the location of OIC offices in Jeddah, with Saudi Arabia mostly funding it, and in league with conservative Wahabi elements finances madrassas (religious schools) and fundamentalist organizations not only in non-Muslim but even in Muslim countries.

Many countries like Egypt, Algeria and many in Central Asia and elsewhere are victims of fundamentalist violence incubated and unleashed from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, a monster financially supported and created in the 1980s by Kingdoms and Sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf, with full financial and other support from US led West and even China ,until September 11, when the majority of the hijackers turned out to be of Saudi origin.

The OIC has had little autonomy as the secretary generals were more or less paid employees of Saudi Arabia. Some of them were obscure and not well regarded scholars, which greatly diminished the OIC's objectivity and credibility. Any debate on matters of substance is almost impossible at OIC meetings. Member countries bring chits of paper with grouses against non- Muslims, mostly neighbors, which without any discussion, as is the practice back home, are then put together as final resolutions. Unfortunately, many in the leadership use OIC meetings to let off steam against non-Muslims, which serves like a group therapy session. It brings a sense of wellbeing to many beleaguered regimes; venal, brutal and exploitative back home. The leaders go back flourishing a resolution or two to show to their oppressed masses, hoping that the real problems will be forgotten.

Many members have been accused of conspiring against each other and fought wars with each other. Many OIC members and diplomats from secular countries like Turkey, Syria, Algeria and others feel uncomfortable in the company of delegates from obscurantist regimes. The OIC also speaks on behalf of large Muslim populations in Russia and China, and many other millions in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the US, which has 3 to 5 million Muslims but says little about the conditions of Muslims in these countries. Saudi Arabia used OIC for maintaining its influence by promoting fundamentalism in other countries and generally keeping the Muslims conservative and backward.

Very little is naturally said in OIC resolutions about Turkey , where democracy is shored up by its secular military, which has dismissed Islamist-led coalition governments, closed Islamic parties and even jailed its leadership, till Islamic oriented AKP won two-third seats in the parliament in 2002 albeit with only 36% votes . There has been discrimination and persecution of Kurds in Turkey, Over 37,000 people, including 5,000 soldiers, have been killed in a rebellion by Kurdish Labour Party (PKK). Until a few decades ago the Kurds had to be called mountain Turks, and could not use Kurdish for education or in the media. From time to time, Turkey's Shia Alevis have to be protected against persecution and pogroms by the Sunni establishment by the secular armed forces and the judiciary.

The OIC should set its house in order and look at the grievances of Kurds in Turkey , Mohajirs , Shias and others in Pakistan, Christians in Lebanon or South Sudan or the perpetually persecuted Copts of Egypt, or suppressed Shia community in Saudi Arabia , to be taken seriously.

In Cyprus, 18 percent Turkish Cypriot Muslims, recognized as an independent state only by Turkey, has occupied nearly 40 percent of its territory under Turkish guns since 1974. They cannot live with Christian Greek Cypriots, and want a separate state, while almost 50 percent Christian Lebanese who wish forr a state of their own are denied one. There are innumerable such examples all over the Islamic world. Throughout history, Christian and other minorities in Islamic states have been generally oppressed, persecuted and eliminated, beginning with the Jews of Medina in the 7th century.

But then how can any one in OIC anything against USA, which in return for exploitation of Arab oil wealth for decades protects the Saudi dynasty , which itself has a nexus with Wahabbi form of austere and early form of Islam.

OIC has failed to live up to its potential. It is not even all inclusive; it has given Observer status to Russia with 15 millions of Muslims but not to 130 Million Muslims of India, on whose behalf it has the temerity to speak .In spite of Gujarat and Babri Masjid riots ,as a minority ,Muslims exercise real democratic power in Indian democracy , leading to the shrinking role of the rightist Hindutva party. Sectarian or other minorities do not enjoy empowerment in most Muslim countries .In many ways OIC has became a tool for Pakistani propaganda against India , creating a schism between Muslims and Hindus ,a combined population of over two billion , still exploited by the West. Some of the OIC members should look themselves in the mirror before criticising the treatment of Muslims in the West and elsewhere.


The latest poll on Iraq , rightly finds Iraqis pessimistic at what is being done to them under US led barbaric occupation .It might indicate that they feel that the country is not in a civil war and would remain united after having been a nation for 8 decades .In early 1990s most Yugoslav diplomats said that the country will remain united , mentioning inter ethnic and religious marriages .Many Hindus and Muslims in Hindustan who had lived as neighbours since centuries insisted on staying put after the announcement of the partition , but had to flee when the communal carnage
started. US-led West having failed in its objective of colonizing the proud Iraqi people has done all it could to ignite the historic Shia Sunni schism represented by the political centres of Riyadh and Tehran.

Only the hubris laden arrogance of military power US which spends as much as the rest of the world put together on defence , now mostly financed by trade deficit , made the crazy Neo-cons and former scheming and manipulative CEOs like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld believe in being received with flowers in Baghdad. What does Washington mean when it demands that Tehran and Damascus must help stabilize Iraq ie get US out of Iraqi quagmire , so that US can then bring about regime changes there!

I wrote in my article " Occupation case studies: Algeria and Turkey' of 7 January , 2004, that "while formulating foreign policy options, political leaders also look to history for guidance. Unfortunately, the United State's history is only two centuries old, and to meet the challenge of terrorism, Frankenstein monsters partly of its own creation, the mujahideen, jihadis, the Taliban and al-Qaeda , the US can only recall a long genocidal war against its native Americans.

"Those who resisted were called "terrorists" for defending their native land and way of life against foreign invaders. There are Hollywood films galore that depict the "American Indians" as savages to be hunted down by the US cavalry. The same cavalry units now force Iraqis daily to lie face down in the land of their ancestors and describe those fighting to free their country from the occupying forces as "terrorists". The Iraqis, other Arabs and Iranians are the new "American Indians", and those who collaborate with the Bush administration are like the good Indians who helped the Americans fight and defeat bad Indians
In my article of 15 July, 2003 "Iraq's history already written " I said " US chief administrator L Paul Bremer unveiled Iraq's 25-member governing council in Baghdad on Sunday. It now looks like the beginnings of the rule by the British Governor Sir Percy Cox in the 1920s, after the British had carved out three
provinces of the Ottoman empire after its collapse in World War I. After a long national resistance, King Faisal II - of a British-appointed dynasty - and his prime minister, Nuri Al-Said, were overthrown and killed in a 1958 military takeover "

When George Bush along with old chieftains from his father's era and the Neo-cons were beginning to beat the war drums, my article of 27 August, 2002 "
The Bush family's phony wars ' was introduced by Asia Times Editor " An entire region from Jordan to Iran is on the brink of catastrophe as it awaits one man's
decision on how he will pursue his family' vendetta .India's former Ambassador to Jordan looks inside the Pandora's box which George Bush holds in his hands '

Another article of 14 February , 2003 ,' Iraq ;the Middle East kaleidoscope', had warned that Iraq must be handled carefully, -- When a post-Saddam Iraq is discussed in the US, generally not enough thought is given to the ethnic, religious and other differences of the constituents and their tortuous history that make the country the delicate kaleidoscope that it is."

Ambassador Peter Galbraith revealed that in January 2003, two months before the invasion of Iraq, Bush had not yet heard of the Sunni-Shia divide within Islam.

"Today the world faces a single man armed with weapons of mass destruction, manifesting an aggressive, bullying attitude, who may well plunge the world into chaos and bloodshed if he miscalculates. This person, belligerent, arrogant, and sure of himself, truly is the most dangerous person on Earth. The problem is that his name is George W. Bush, and he is our president: " said Yale Law Prof Jack M. Balkin, on September 22, 2002.

There were many learned men and objective experts and analysts in USA, with understanding of history including of the Middle East and ramifications of a real war, in many of its universities , even in the State Department , but they were never consulted by the White House or asked for comments by corporate news networks like CNN and others .The rot in US polity has gone too deep down and become too pervasive .Only a massive restructuring of its polity can save it from a deadly fall as the decline is irreversible. The malaise covers the whole gamut of US way of life, irreverence for its Constitution, electoral law ,its Judiciary, total and absolute domination of money power of military –industry , energy and other corporate interests , which are responsible for this sorry state of affairs. There are many excellent books exposing this malaise which has brought USA to this sorry state in at home and in Iraq . Say .' Iraq, inc-a profitable occupation' written by Pratap Chatterjee in 2004 or "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," by Rajiv Chandrasekaran of Washington Post recently.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail: