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empire burlesque





Gilad Atzmon: A conversation with Robert Wyatt about Cultural Resistance
by Gilad Atzmon

From Pond to River

The legendary British music icon Robert Wyatt is a big supporter of Palestine. A few days ago he came down  to London to promote For the Ghosts Within (Wyatt/ Stephen/Atzmon, Domino Records), a new album we produced together with violinist Ros Stephen.  We had a lively chat about Palestine, music, cultural resistance and about the importance of the  coming Jazza Festival.

For Robert Wyatt, music is where “people are introduced to each other”. “People were playing each other’s music long before they were mixing politically or socially” he says. Musicians can anticipate change. “In the deep south, white kids were listening to Black radio stations and Black kids listened to Country Music, long before these kids could share space or even meet”. Music has this unique capacity to cross the divide, to bring people together, to introduce harmony and yet, for some reason, not many musicians are brave enough to jump into the deep water. Not many musicians celebrate their ability to bring change about.





Normon Solomon: Progressives and the Obama Administration
by Norman Solomon

This letter was published in The Nation [October 11, 2010 print edition]:

     The "Debating Obama" forum spotlighted some big obstacles to progressive change, but the discourse was notably hazy about presidential accountability for calamitous policies. It was a bad sign that the word "Afghanistan" did not appear anywhere in the forum's seven pages. (What would we say about a "Debating Johnson" forum in August 1966 that didn't mention Vietnam?) Whatever the limits to the president's options, he wields gargantuan power—and makes fateful choices.

     While the political terrain is cemented with structural factors, no systemic analysis should absolve government leaders of moral responsibility or basic accountability. "The system" may be to blame, but since when does that let the president—or anyone else—off the hook?

     After eighteen months, we should be discussing how progressives might try to bell this cat—a president who has clearly embraced what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism," in tandem with an array of other grim policies, including promulgation of extensive corporate agendas in the guise of "reform" and continuing encroachment on precious civil liberties like habeas corpus. The discussion is spreading inside the Democratic Party.

     In mid-August, the entire leadership of the California Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus—by most measures the largest caucus in the state party—mustered a directness in addressing the president that eluded the seven writers in the Nation forum. "We worked very hard for your election as we do for all candidates who seem able and willing to work for progressive social change, and to make a better life for our citizens and for the world," the caucus's executive board wrote in a letter to President Obama. "Your rhetoric often suggests that you share this goal, but your actions frequently prove otherwise. We do not simply disagree with you on a single small issue. Unfortunately our unhappiness and disappointment has a broad scope."

     The letter said, "You campaigned against the Bush imperial presidency, and then you expanded it.... In our opinion you have failed, in whole or in part, to deliver on many of your commitments. Instead, you have continued and supported some of the Bush policies that many hoped and believed, based on your utterances, you would quickly terminate." And the letter declared that presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs, like chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, "is not the real problem, Mr. President. We fear you are."

     Such deep concerns are widespread—and increasingly corrosive for the Democratic base. Bleak poll data on inclinations to vote this November reflect the demoralizing and demobilizing effects of Obama's triangulation. Below the radar, many party activists are agonizing and questing for strategies as we try to prevent Republican gains and push for progressive policies. If progressives seem to be making excuses for Obama's corporate policies, it casts us as defenders of an untenable status quo—and helps corporate-funded "populists" of the right wing to masquerade as the agents of change.

NORMAN SOLOMON, national co-chair

Healthcare Not Warfare





Israel’s reasoning against peace Deal comes at high cost to Jewish privilege
by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

With the resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank yesterday, Israel’s powerful settler movement hopes that it has scuttled peace talks with the Palestinians.
It would be misleading, however, to assume that the only major obstacle to the success of the negotiations is the right-wing political ideology the settler movement represents. Equally important are deeply entrenched economic interests shared across Israeli society.
These interests took root more than six decades ago with Israel’s establishment and have flourished at an ever-accelerating pace since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the 1967 war.
Even many Israeli Jews living within the recognised borders of Israel privately acknowledge that they are the beneficiaries of the seizure of another people’s lands, homes, businesses and bank accounts in 1948. Most Israelis profit directly from the continuing dispossession of millions of Palestinian refugees.
Israeli officials assume that the international community will bear the burden of restitution for the refugees. The problem for Israel’s Jewish population is that the refugees now living in exile were not the only ones dispossessed.
The fifth of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian but survived the expulsions of 1948 found themselves either transformed into internally displaced people or the victims of a later land-nationalisation programme that stripped them of their ancestral property.
Even if Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, signed away the rights of the refugees, he would have no power to do the same for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, the so-called Israeli Arabs. Peace, as many Israelis understand, would open a Pandora’s box of historic land claims from Palestinian citizens at the expense of Israel’s Jewish citizens.
But the threat to the economic privileges of Israeli Jews would not end with a reckoning over the injustices caused by the state’s creation. The occupation of the Palestinian territories after 1967 spawned many other powerful economic interests opposed to peace.
The most visible constituency are the settlers, who have benefited hugely from government subsidies and tax breaks designed to encourage Israelis to relocate to the West Bank. Peace Now estimates that such benefits alone are worth more than $550 million a year.
Far from being a fringe element, the half a million settlers constitute nearly a tenth of Israel’s Jewish population and include such prominent figures as foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.





Tomgram: Chip Ward, A West Raised by Wolves
by Tom Engelhardt

The long vacation season of 2010 is, by now, a distant memory.  But Chip Ward, who has covered everything from the aridifying of the West to the Tea Partying of the same territory for TomDispatch, reports from his tourist haven of a home in the backlands of Utah that, for the first time in years, there were more American visitors than French and German ones this summer.  Perhaps it was a measure of a drooping economy as more Americans opt for cheaper domestic adventures.  He gets a certain pleasure, he tells me, from watching them enjoy the redrock landscape he loves, but he always wonders how much they understand about what they’re obsessively photographing.  Most of us, after all, are not ecologically literate.  We might know how to email, tweet, and text, but we don’t know a keystone species from an ecotone.

That’s a shame, because we’ll need to be ecologically knowledgeable and aware to survive the human upheaval and ecological disruption that are likely to follow on the heels of what we call “global warming.”  Just check out flooded Pakistan, if you want to get a sense of the enormity of what could be coming.  And yet it’s not enough to simply, even obsessively, catalog the damage and the crises, and plot out the nightmares ahead.  Anyone who can offer us some hints not just of why the world around us is falling apart, but of how it can be put back together, is doing us all a favor.  Amazingly, amid the flood of bad environmental news, there’s some good news, too, and Ward directs us toward one stirring case of it -- and the opposition to it.  In his case, it helps that, for the last year, he’s been listening in on the ongoing conversations of a group of biologists and environmentalists who have been dealing with the reintroduction of the wolf to the West -- and he has quite a story to tell.  Tom 

The Big Bad Wolf Makes Good 
The Yellowstone Success Story and Those Who Want to Kill It 
By Chip Ward

At long last, good news.  Fifteen years have passed since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and the results are in.  The controversial experiment has been a stellar success.  The Big Bad Wolf is back and in this modern version of the old story, all that huffing and puffing has been good for the land and the creatures that live on it.  Biggie, it turns out, got a bum rap.

The success of the Yellowstone project is the kind of good news we long for in this era of oil spills, monster storms, massive flooding, crushing heat waves, and bleaching corals.  For once, a branch of our federal government, the Department of the Interior, saw something broken and actually fixed it.  In a nutshell: conservation biologists considered a perplexing problem -- the slow but steady unraveling of the Yellowstone ecosystem -- figured out what was causing it, and then proposed a bold solution that worked even better than expected.

Sadly, the good news has been muted by subsequent political strife over wolf reintroduction outside of Yellowstone.  Along the northern front of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, as well as New Mexico and Arizona, so-called wolf wars have added fuel to a decades-old battle over the right to graze cattle or hunt on public land.  The shouting has overwhelmed both science and civil discourse.  This makes it all the harder to convey the lessons learned to an American public that is mostly ecologically illiterate and never really understood why wolves were put back into Yellowstone in the first place.  Even the legion of small donors who supported the project mostly missed the reasons it was undertaken, focusing instead on the “charismatic” qualities of wolves and the chance to see them in the wild.






Pakistanis have great deal of emotional attachment with the Iranian people: Shahid R. Siddiqi
by Kourosh Ziabari in Iran

The 2010 Pakistan flood was one of the most unpleasant and painful incidents of the year which attracted widespread international attention due to its extensiveness and destructive impacts. The floods started in July following heavy monsoon rains and overflow of the Indus River in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions of Pakistan. It is estimated that more than two thousand people lost their lives and over a million homes were destroyed since the flooding began. According to the United Nations estimates, over 21 million people have been injured or displaced as a result of the devastative flood.

Pakistani journalist and former Air Force employee Shahid R. Siddiqi joined me in an interview to discuss the aftermaths of the unprecedented flood which encompassed the whole Pakistan in a matter of days and caused serious damages to the country's agriculture, industry, energy sector, infrastructures and even politics. Mr. Siddiqi answered my questions about the government's management of the flood and the distribution of humanitarian aid sent by different countries to the flood-hit regions. He explained that how the unanticipated disaster paralyzed Pakistan in an astonishing way and surprised the unprepared government which failed to manage the crisis appropriately. In this interview, I also seized the opportunity to ask Mr. Siddiqi some questions about the prospect of Iran – Pakistan relations and Pakistan's stance on Iran's nuclear program.

Shahid R. Siddiqi has been a broadcaster with the Radio Pakistan and the Islamabad bureau chief of the "Pakistan and Gulf Economist". His articles and political commentaries appear in the Pakistani newspapers such as Dawan, The Nation and Pakistan Herald. He is also the founder of Asian American Republican Club. Siddiqi is a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy Journal, Middle East Times and Axis of Logic.

Kourosh Ziabari: How did the government of Pakistan manage the aftermaths of the recent devastative flood? Has it succeeded in preventing a humanitarian disaster from taking place in the flood-hit regions?

Shahid R. Siddiqi: The floods caught the Government of Pakistan totally unawares. Unfortunately, civilian governments in Pakistan have historically failed to comprehend the importance of preparedness for disaster and relief management. This is exactly what happened with the present government. This happened in spite the fact that an organization, Disaster Management Cell, was in place with very adequate experience of handling the massive earthquake that hit the Northern Areas of Pakistan in 2005. This lack of preparedness was a direct consequence of general mismanagement at the top levels of the government.

These were the most widespread and disastrous floods, the like of which had never before been witnessed in this region. The scale of destruction did not dawn upon the government until much later, until after the waters had inundated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and hit Punjab. And by the time the government began to respond, millions had been uprooted and tremendous losses had occurred. According to one estimate these floods have caused a disaster bigger than Haiti and Tsunami combined.

The losses were colossal. Twenty million people were affected. 20% of the country, mostly the farmland, went under water. Millions of cattle heads died, standing crops of rice, cereals and vegetables were destroyed, enormous quantities of stored wheat grain was lost to flood waters and the agricultural infrastructure crumbled. Breakdown in transportation caused food shortages all over the country resulting in prohibitively high prices.  

The humanitarian disaster was humongous and beyond the capacity of the civil administration to handle. The military did a commendable job of rescue and relief. It quietly moved in to fill the void due to the absence of the civil administration and worked tirelessly round the clock with heads down. Had it not been for it, the humanitarian disaster would have been much greater.

The flood waters originated in the mountainous catchment areas in the north and flowed south overflowing the banks of several smaller rivers to eventually join the River Indus, overflowing it and causing all adjoining areas to come under water. The flood has now subsided in the north – in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, and the water is now passing through the southern province of Sindh to drain into the Arabian Sea. Hopefully by the middle of October the waters would recede in the South too.  

As life in the north returns to normal and people return to their devastated towns, villages and homes, the more difficult and capital intensive phase of rehabilitation begins. The government is short of funds. Aid is coming in but is not enough. The UN is trying to raise funds for rehabilitation but the response is slow. The economic situation in the country is bad. People struggle to keep their body and soul together and raise a shelter over their heads to resume their lives.      





Gilad Atzmon: Roger Waters and the Bombs of David
by Gilad Atzmon
Gilad Atzmon (Hebrew: גלעד עצמון‎, born June 9, 1963) is a jazz musician, author and anti-Zionist activist who was born in Israel and currently lives in London.
"Anti-Semite is an empty signifier, no one actually can be an Anti-Semite and this includes me of course. In short, you are either a racist - which I am not - or have an ideological disagreement with Zionism... which I have."
He was born a secular Israeli Jew in Tel Aviv, and trained at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. His service in the Israeli military convinced him Israel had become a militarized state controlled by religious extremists. In 1994, Atzmon emigrated from Israel to London, where he studied philosophy. Atzmon is an anti-Zionist who critiques Jewish identity issues and supports the Palestinian Right of Return as well as the establishment of a single state in Israel/Palestine. He is a signatory to the "Palestinians are the Priority Petition" which states “full and unconditional support of the Palestinian people is a condition sine qua non for activists to adopt.
 Ynet reported today that The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)  on Monday criticized rock star   Roger Waters for simply conveying the truth.

During  Waters’ performances of “Goodbye Blue Sky,” in Toronto,  an animated scene projects images of planes dropping bombs in the shape of Jewish Stars of David followed by dollar signs. It should be noted that the clip also displays bombs in the shape of crosses, Muslim crescents and a fuel company's logo.

We had better face it once and for all: artists are often significantly far ahead of our corrupted ‘liberal’ politicians, who, for some reason,  keep silent instead of  confronting  the Jewish State.

The truth needs to be told: Israel is the Jewish State and, actually,  it does drop bombs from airplanes decorated with Jewish symbols, and those planes are flown by Jewish pilots.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued a statement saying that "it is outrageous that Roger Waters has chosen to use the juxtaposition of a Jewish Star of David with the symbol of dollar signs.…the use of such imagery in a concert setting seems to leave the message open to interpretation, and the meaning could easily be misunderstood as a comment about Jews and money.”

I am perplexed by Foxman’s comment. There is not actually much room for interpretation here :the facts are well established.  The U.S. is providing Israel with at least $7.0 million each day. This is a lot of money -- especially when it converted into bombs and white phosphorus. The Israeli war crimes are also established : I advise Foxman to read the Goldstone Report.

"Of course Waters has every right to express his political views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through his music and stagecraft. However, the images he has chosen, when put together in the same sequence, cross a line into anti-Semitism,” said Foxman, "We wish that Waters had chosen some other way to convey his political views without playing into and dredging up the worst age-old anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and their supposed obsession with making money."

May I suggest to Foxman and his notorious ADL that the rest of humanity also has a wish : we want to see an end to the terror imposed by the Jewish state, in the name of the Jewish people, Foxman included.  We also want to see an end of Jewish institutional pressure being exercised on so many Western political groups, parties and governments.

If Foxman is really concerned about anti-Semitism, he would do far better to tackle the real root causes of anti Semitism, by confronting Israel and its lobbies about their policies, and he might think of leading world Jewry to do the same.






The War Addicts 2016 and Then Some
by Tom Engelhardt

Sometimes it’s the little things in the big stories that catch your eye.  On Monday, theWashington Post ran the first of three pieces adapted from Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars, a vivid account of the way the U.S. high command boxed the Commander-in-Chief into the smallest of Afghan corners.  As an illustration, the Post included a graphic the military offered President Obama at a key November 2009 meeting to review war policy.  It caught in a nutshell the favored “solution” to the Afghan War of those in charge of fighting it -- Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Petraeus, then-Centcom commander, General Stanley McChrystal, then-Afghan War commander, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among others.

Labeled “Alternative Mission in Afghanistan,” it’s a classic of visual wish fulfillment.  Atop it is a soaring green line that represents the growing strength of the notoriously underwhelming “Afghan Forces,” military and police, as they move toward a theoretical goal of 400,000 -- an unlikely “end state” given present desertion rates.  Underneath that green trajectory of putative success is a modest, herky-jerky blue curving line, representing the 40,000 U.S. troops Gates, Petraeus, Mullen, and company were pressuring the president to surge into Afghanistan.

The eye-catching detail, however, was the dating on the chart.  Sometime between 2013 and 2016, according to a hesitant dotted white line (that left plenty of room for error), those U.S. surge forces would be drawn down radically enough to dip somewhere below -- don’t gasp -- the 68,000 level.  In other words, three to six years from now, if all went as planned -- a radical unlikelihood, given the Afghan War so far -- the U.S. might be back close to the force levels of early 2009, before the President’s second surge was launched.  (When Obama entered office, there were only 31,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.)

And when would those troops dwindle to near zero?  2019?  2025?  The chart-makers were far too politic to include the years beyond January 1, 2016, so we have no way of knowing.  But look at that chart and ask yourself: Is there any doubt that our high command, civilian and military, were dreaming of, and most forcefully recommending to the president, a forever war -- one which the Office of Budget and Management estimated would cost almost $900 billion?

Of course, as we now know, the military “lost” this battle.  Instead of the 40,000 troops they desired, they “only” got 30,000 from a frustrated president (plus a few thousand support troops the Secretary of Defense was allowed to slip in, and some special operations forces that no one was putting much effort into counting, and don’t forget those extra troops wrung out of NATO as well as small allies who, for a price, couldn’t say no -- all of which added up to a figure suspiciously close to the 10,000 the president had officially denied his war commanders).

When, on December 1, 2009, Barack Obama addressed the cadets of West Point and, through them, the rest of us to announce the second surge of his presidency, he was at least able to slip in a date to begin a drawdown of U.S. forces.  (“But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”)  Hardly a nanosecond passed, however, before -- first “on background” and soon enough in public -- administration spokespeople rushed to reassure the rest of Washington that such a transfer would be “conditions based.” Given conditions there since 2001, not exactly a reassuring statement.

Meanwhile, days before the speech, Afghan war commander McChrystal was already hard at work stretching out the time of the drawdown date the president was still to announce.  It would, he claimed, begin “sometime before 2013.”  More recently, deified new Afghan War commander General David Petraeus has repeatedly assured everyone in sight that none of this drawdown talk will add up to a hill of beans.





David Ray Griffin v. Cass Sunstein
by Stephen Lendman

Griffin is Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Theology, Emeritus, Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA where he's still co-director of the Center for Process Studies.

He's authored and/or edited three dozen books, mainly in his field, but notably and heroically on 9/11 truth, Osama bin Laden, and his newest titled, "Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama Appointee's Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory." More on it below.

Cass Sunstein is a well-known University of Chicago and Harvard Law School Professor before being appointed Obama's Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in charge of "overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs," among other duties.

Distinguished Law Professor, activist, and international law and human rights expert Francis Boyle said this about both law schools and the University of Chicago's political science department, steeped in neo-con Straussianism:

"Do not send your children to the University of Chicago where they will grow up to become warmongers like (Paul) Wolfowitz and (John) Ashcroft. The University of Chicago is an intellectual and moral cesspool," referring to its political science department and law school. Its extremist economics department is much the same, indoctrinating students with predatory capitalist ideology.

Boyle's "Harvard's Gitmo Kangaroo Law School: The School for Torturers" article advised:

"Do not send your children or students to Harvard Law School where they will grow up to become racist war criminals! Harvard Law School is a Neo-Con cesspool."

"Harvard is to Law School as Torture is to Law."





'Not Red Ed' - reinventing Labour, again and again
by William Bowles

It strikes me that we here in the UK have been top dog for so damn long that we've forgotten what it feels like to be an ordinary country, yet the memory lingers on…

"And it is why I will commit to you here and now. My beliefs will run through everything I do. My beliefs, my values are my anchor and when people try to drag me, as I know they will, it is to that sense of right and wrong, that sense of who I am and what I believe, to which I will always hold." -- From Ed's keynote speech at the Labour Party conference.

What beliefs exactly are not spelt out but never mind, just like Tony Blair, fine-sounding words make up for any lack of content. So Ed is just an old-time social democrat after all? Amazing, after thirteen years of neo-Thatcherism, the beaten 'party of labour' all of a sudden rediscovers its 'roots'. Who could trust such people?

If the whole charade wasn't such a miserable and desperate attempt to regain the 'high ground', Labour's attempt to reinvent itself again, it would be nothing short of laughable.

And predictably the media is doing the 'Red Ed' putdown, as the ruling class gets nervous about the possible reactions from 'militants' in the unions who were instrumental in putting Ed in power. So Labour has to tread a narrow and very precarious line between protest and the fear of unleashing 'social unrest' and 'industrial chaos'.

The repeated use of the word “militants” throughout the piece is standard for the business-friendly press. So too is the use of scare words and phrases that are traditional warning signals of the presence of rabid unionists and other undesirables: “threats”, which are sometimes “veiled”, the prospect of “industrial chaos” and, perhaps the worst example in the interview, the fear that “TUC's plan for organised protest” could “play into the hands of those who hijack legitimate demonstrations for their own violent ends”. -- 'Media Alert: “veiled threats” of “industrial chaos"'

So what is 'Not Red Ed' up to? I hazard the following guess: It must have been pretty obvious that Labour would lose the election and having already stated that they would 'put off' cuts in public spending for a coupla years, Ed has predictably attacked the Tory/Lib-Dem govt's plans to scupper our public services.

And it ties in neatly with his trade union backers who are mostly government workers, in fact it makes 'Not Red Ed' look squeaky clean. It's a good move, though as the government has got over four years to wreck everything (if anybody bothers to vote in four and a half years), they'll reelect a Labour government. And then what?

Surely, this Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum fiasco has gotta end?





Dismantling the empire - Chalmers Johnson - Book Review by Jim Miles
by Jim Miles

Dismantling the Empire - America’s Last Best Hope. Chalmers Johnson. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, NY. 2010.

That the empire has caused much trouble and is in trouble itself has been well documented and well explained by many current authors. Chalmers Johnson, who wrote Blowback - at the time an unheralded piece of research - and two more volumes, Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis that became the Blowback trilogy, has since written a series of essays that are concise, clear, hard-hitting, and undeniably for Dismantling the Empire.

The essential theme of the book is that the U.S. must dismantle its empire or face a future of poverty and strife within a divided nation. As these essays were written over a period of five years, there is some reiteration of information - particularly on the military bases and their costs and effects on the economy (not to mention all the other costs to the ‘host’ countries). Yet that only reinforces the significance of Johnson’s thesis, as the numbers are somewhat astounding for their significance with both foreign and domestic policy. As the title indicates, to save the U.S. as a democratic republic, the empire must be dismantled. If not….

Saving “America”

There are three main points that Johnson presents his arguments on:

1) the CIA should be shut down.

2) the overseas military bases need to be dismantled.

3) economy - the pork-barrelling of politicians within the military-industrial complex also needs to be shut down.

Straight forward. Basic. Logical. Not elegant, but very simple - at least for conception. If these actions are not taken, Johnson argues, the “long-standing reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases that goes with it” will lead to “a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.”

For anyone following current events covering the environment, the economy, and the “war on terror” or the “long war”, these conclusions should be obvious. The introduction ends, commenting, “None of this [is] inevitable, although it may [be] unavoidable given the hubris and arrogance of our national leadership.”

The CIA - a private presidential army.

The CIA is covered in three of the essays, two directly related to its ineptitude. The first essay, “Blowback World,” focuses on events that led into U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, beginning with the CIA’s introduction into covert actions in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet invasion. The CIA was supposedly an intelligence gathering and assessment operation, but included “a vaguely worded passage that allowed the CIA to “perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the National Security Council may form time to time direct” - that turned the CIA into the personal, secret, unaccountable army of the president.”





Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, The Washington Gossip Machine
by Tom Engelhardt

We know the endpoint of the story: another bestseller for Bob Woodward, in this case about a president sandbagged by his own high command and administration officials at one another’s throats over an inherited war gone wrong.  But where did the story actually begin?  Well, here’s the strange thing: in a sense, Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars, which focuses heavily on an administration review of Afghan war policy in the fall of 2009, begins with... Woodward.  Of course -- thank heavens for American media amnesia -- amid all the attention his book is getting, no one seems to recall that part of the tale. 

Here it is: President Obama got sandbagged by the leaked release of what became known as “the McChrystal plan,” a call by his war commander in the field General Stanley McChrystal (and assumedly the man above him, then-Centcom Commander General David Petraeus) for a 40,000-troop counterinsurgency “surge.” As it happened, Bob Woodward, Washington Post reporter, not bestselling book writer, was assumedly the recipient of that judiciously leaked plan from a still-unknown figure, generally suspected of being in or close to the military.  On September 21, 2009, Woodward was the one who then framed the story, writing the first stern front-page piece about the needs of the U.S. military in Afghanistan.  Its headline laid out, from that moment on, the president’s options: “McChrystal: More Forces or ‘Mission Failure’” And its first paragraph went this way: “The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict ‘will likely result in failure,’ according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.”

The frustration of a commander-in-chief backed into a corner by his own generals, the angry backbiting Woodward reportedly reveals in his book, all of it was, at least in part, a product of that leak and how it played out.  In other words, looked at a certain way, Woodward facilitated the manufacture of the subject for his own bestseller.  A nifty trick for Washington’s leading stenographer.  

The set of leaks -- how appropriate for Woodward -- that were the drumbeat of publicity for the new book over the last week also offered a classic outline of just how limited inside-the-Beltway policy options invariably turn out to be (no matter how fierce the debate about them).  As one Washington Post piece put it: “[T]he only options that were seriously considered in the White House involved 30,000 to 40,000 more troops.”  All in all, it’s a striking example of how the system really works, of how incestuously and narrowly -- to cite the title of Andrew Bacevich’s bestselling new book -- Washington rules.  Tom

Prisoners of War 
Bob Woodward and All the President’s Men (2010 Edition) 

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Once a serious journalist, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward now makes a very fine living as chief gossip-monger of the governing class.  Early on in his career, along with Carl Bernstein, his partner at the time, Woodward confronted power.  Today, by relentlessly exalting Washington trivia, he flatters power.  His reporting does not inform. It titillates. 

A new Woodward book, Obama’s Wars, is a guaranteed blockbuster.  It’s out this week, already causing a stir, and guaranteed to be forgotten the week after dropping off the bestseller lists.  For good reason: when it comes to substance, any book written by Woodward has about as much heft as the latest potboiler penned by the likes of James Patterson or Tom Clancy. 

Back in 2002, for example, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Woodward treated us to Bush at War.  Based on interviews with unidentified officials close to President George W. Bush, the book offered a portrait of the president-as-resolute-war-leader that put him in a league with Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.  But the book’s real juice came from what it revealed about events behind the scenes.  “Bush’s war cabinet is riven with feuding,” reported the Times of London, which credited Woodward with revealing “the furious arguments and personal animosity” that divided Bush’s lieutenants. 






A defense which deserves being called "Holy"
by Kourosh Ziabari in Iran

Almost 20 years have passed since the conclusion of 20th century's longest, most erosive war which was brutally imposed on the defenseless people of Iran by a belligerent and aggressive dictator who was finally pushed to death by the same people who had once persuaded, funded, aided and supported him in attacking and invading the new-born Iran of post-revolution days.


The expansionistic ambitions of the beloved puppet of the White House who was granted the honorary citizenship of Detroit as a reward for his unconditional subservience to the United States, transpired to be a deadly pandemic which claimed the lives of more than 400,000 innocent Iranians who witnessed the most breathtaking years the country had experienced contemporarily.


With the intention of revitalizing the forgotten pan-Arabist sentiments of the 1950s, confronting an emerging Shiite power in the Persian Gulf region and taking over some of the strategic parts of Iran including the Arab-speaking province of Khuzestan and the triple islands of Abu Musa, Lesser Tunb and Greater Tunb which were handed over to Iran 9 years earlier in a trilateral agreement between Iran, the protectorate of Ras Al-Khaimah and the representatives of British forces in the Persian Gulf, Saddam Hussein unilaterally nullified the 1975 Algiers Agreement in 1980 and attacked Iran.


At that time, he was enormously supported by the United States and its European allies who had seen the post-revolutionary Iran an ideological threat to their liberal democratic values and feared of the growing embrace of Islam by the international community that was inspired and attracted by the charisma of Iran's revolutionary leader, Imam Khomeini.


Following the victory of 1979 Islamic Revolution which put an end to the era of U.S.-backed monarchy in Iran, White House frantically realized that it had lost its stooge in the Middle East, so it should have replaced Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi with an ambitious leader whose greed for power could serve the interests of Washington in the region. Consequently, the United States backed Saddam Hussein in bringing down President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, as it had done the same in coup against Abd al-Karim Qasim by entrusting Hussein the mission to assassinate the Iraqi Prime Minister. The assassination plan was designed with the cooperation of the CIA and Egyptian intelligence. Although the 22-year-old Saddam failed to kill the Prime Minister on October 7, 1959, he was killed in a February 1963 Baath Party coup.


In the case of confrontation with Iran, Washington did not spare any effort to support the Iraqi dictator who was armed by the United States to the teeth. In order to strengthen Saddam Hussein in war with Iran which started in 1980, the U.S. State Department first removed the name of Iraq from its list of state sponsors of international terrorism in February 1982.


From this point onward, United States took several steps to normalize its already strained relations with Iraq. One of these steps was pressuring the Export-Import Bank of the United States to provide Iraq with financing, enhancing its credit standing and enabling Baqdad to obtain loans from other international financial institutions.





Afghan Girl Killed by Reckless U.S. Mortar Fire
by Matthew Nasuti
A gunman fired a few cents worth of AK-47 rounds at the U.S. Marines and in response the Marines probably fired $10,000.00 in mortar rounds that all missed their target, yet killed an innocent. This incident could sum up the entire Afghan war and helps explain why American efforts have largely failed.
On July 28, 2010, reckless mortar fire by U.S. Marines ended the life of a 14 year old Afghan girl named Gul Makay. Her name مکئ ګل is that of the heroine in the famous Pashtun folk tale of Musa Khan. The Marine unit, according to Time Magazine’s Adam Ferguson, was the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. The location was the “liberated” Afghan district town of Marjah in Helmond Province. The Marines had been fired upon by a lone gunman 250 meters away in what appears to be a semi-residential area. In response, the Marines radioed for indirect fire support. A nearby outpost thereafter fired an unknown number of mortar rounds into the area. The suppression fire apparently chased away the gunman but killed Gul Makay.

Similarly, on March 24, 2010, the Taliban attacked an American outpost in Ali Sher District, Khost Province. In response, the Americans fired mortars, one of which hit a home in Chargoti village, killing a teenage couple and injuring a man, his wife and two of his children. [reported by the Afghan women’s network - RAWA]. The Wiki-leaks documents reveal other incidents of civilians being killed by errant U.S. mortars, the total number of such deaths being unknown. In each incident, there is no press release by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). There is never any apparent official investigation and no apparent discipline or courts-martial of the military members involved. The pattern just continues to replicate in another part of Afghanistan.

The culprit is the “mortar.” The mortar is by definition an indiscriminate weapon. It began its life as simply a tube from which a shell or rocket is launched... some mortars in use in Afghanistan today are just as crude and inaccurate as those used 60 years ago during the Second World War.

It is difficult to determine exactly how inaccurate these weapons are. There is some data that the American M252 81mm mortar may have a CEP of 130 or more meters. (CEP stands for Circular Error Probable). What this number means is that out of ten mortar rounds fired, at least five will likely land within 130 meters of the target and five statistically will land outside this circle. In residential areas this level of inaccuracy for high explosive rounds equates with indiscriminate fire, which would be a violation of the rules of war. Military weapons are considered indiscriminate if they are either significantly inaccurate (and therefore are just as likely to kill civilians as the enemy) or have the potential to produce unnecessary civilian casualties. (see the Hague Convention).





Committee of Independent Experts on Gaza War

by Stephen Lendman

On September 21, the UN Human Rights Council's independent fact finding Committee issued its report titled, "No Safe Place," assessing "investigat(ions) and report(s) on violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law during" Operation Cast Lead. Its members included:

-- Professor John Dugard, Chairman, former UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine;

-- Norwegian Judge Finn Lynghjem;

-- Chilean attorney Gonzalo Boye;

-- Professor Corte-Real, a forensic body damage evaluator; and

-- solicitor Ms. Raelene Sharp.

On February 21, it held an initial meeting with the Arab League's Secretary-General in Cairo, then entered Gaza the next day through the Rafah crossing. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights organized its six day visit with a wide range of persons, including Cast Lead victims, witnesses, doctors, lawyers, journalists, business people, and members of NGOs, UN agencies and Hamas. 

Sites visited included hospitals, schools, universities, mosques, businesses, police stations, government buildings, UN facilities, private homes, and agricultural lands - all devastated by destruction or damage.

Three times the Committee requested Israeli cooperation, getting no response. "The Committee regrets the decision of the Government of Israel to withhold cooperation." It also stonewalled the Goldstone Commission, as it always does to prevent independent investigations from exposing its crimes.

"Operating under internationally recognized standards, the report documents the injuries suffered and their alleged causes." The Committee obtained firsthand evidence of great loss of life and injuries in Gaza, as well as the vast amount of destruction, mostly affecting civilians, their homes, neighborhoods, and other non-military facilities - a clear violation of international law, documented clearly in earlier articles.





Miner Problems, Major Paralysis
by James McEnteer

Today is sunny and warm where I happen to be, with a light breeze, perfect for riding bikes with the dogs, enjoying a cool swim and eating lunch outside under the trees. But for thirty-three Chilean miners trapped more than two thousand feet below the earth's surface since August 5, it's been fifty-odd days since they've seen sunlight or taken a breath of fresh air. Alive and uninjured, they can now communicate with their families and get food. But they are trapped.

Rescuers say it may be Christmas – three more months – before they can drill a hole wide enough to pull the men one by one up to the surface. Three simultaneous drilling operations are under way, attempting to rescue the miners sooner. Some of them appear emotional on camera, irritable and rebellious. When their request for wine was refused, the miners complained. Some are reportedly riding mining machinery “recklessly” in the tunnels. It's hard to blame them.

Not long after falling rock trapped the miners in Chile, motorists heading into Beijing on a major highway from Inner Mongolia became snarled in a monster traffic jam that lasted ten days and stretched sixty miles. Truckers hauling coal from Mongolia crowd the G110 Highway because it has no coal checkpoints. So they don't need to bribe inspectors to ignore their illegal loads. A few accidents and breakdowns helped create the longest traffic jam ever (so far). The trapped truckers had to pay roadside entrepreneurs nasty marked-up prices for their survival staples of noodles, cigarettes and amphetamines, a capitalist coup. Anyone who has ever spent a motionless hour in commuter traffic can only sympathize with the horror of a ten-day stall.

Before you shake your head and say, too bad for them, at least it's not us... Wait. We may not be hung up in a Chilean copper mine or a Chinese traffic jam, but we're stuck just the same in our own intractable dilemmas, like Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama claims the fifty thousand U.S. soldiers still on the ground in Iraq are “non-combat” troops. But that only proves we're still stuck with public officials who will say anything, true or not, despite the rhetoric of “hope” and “change.” Mission accomplished again? Same mission, equally accomplished.

Every occupation of Afghanistan has failed, but the U.S. feels exempt from history. Exceptional. We've been there nine years already with no end in sight, Since we lack any defined goals, we have no idea what “victory” in Afghanistan might look like. So year after year we kill more Afghani civilians and sacrifice more American soldiers for... what, exactly?

We are stuck with a militaristic foreign policy. We pursue global military dominance as our tattered social safety nets fail to relieve the desperate conditions millions of our citizens must now endure. We are stuck with an unworkable capitalist model. But the tiny percentage of the ultra-wealthy who control our media and our government like it this way. They're doing better despite the widespread suffering. To consider another economic system is Unimaginable! UnAmerican! Our dysfunctional “freedom from government” is tops in the world. No?

Nobody – rich or poor – wants to pay taxes so public services are deteriorating and disappearing. Our roads are bad. Our schools are worse. Our libraries and police departments are underfunded. Occasional acts of billionaire noblesse oblige – Zuckerberg donates to Newark! Gates pledges billions against AIDS! – make headlines and substitute for sustainable public policy planning. California spends more for prisons than for education. That's criminal.





Why does the pernicious BS about 'peak oil' persist on the left?
by William Bowles

Peak Oil? Why not Peak Water, after all, water is much more crucial to life than oil ever will be and it's being consumed in vast quantities by the same economic system that chows oil?

In fact, water is a far more potent and relevant symbol of the way capitalism chows the planet than is oil. Although it too is a finite resource, it also a renewable resource through the process of recycling, something that is done by nature in another of its amazing cycles that keep (kept?) the biosphere stable; what we call homeostasis where life, chemistry, physics and geology all meet. Water is thus far more symbolic of the irrationality of capitalist production than is oil, where even a renewable resource is consumed by capitalism.

This is why I just cannot get my head around the fact some on the left (who I think should know better) are buying into the 'peak oil' BS. 'Running out of oil' is essentially a problem for capitalism, but not for you and me. In fact, 'running out of oil' maybe a blessing in disguise. Just think, we could once again be living in a world without plastic bags![1]

Clearly, oil and gas are non-renewable resources[2] but then so is every other element, mixture and compound present on Earth.[3] What makes oil so important is its centrality to capitalist production and especially its ability to wage war, that's why there's all the fuss about it[4]. But why has the left bought into this 'peak oil' BS?

I suspect that part of the problem lies with the ideological position on the left that on the one hand rightly opposes consumerism, a way of life that ultimately consumes everything, with the much more difficult problem of posing an alternative. Oil has become symbolic of the capitalist way of life, yet it's ridiculous to advocate that we stop using oil, at least in the short term. The real question is how it should be consumed and critically who decides?

It also has to be accepted that we who live in the West have adsorbed the ideology of Empire and this includes those of us on the left, who assume that the nature and quantity of their consumption is non-negotiable, unless of course capitalism does it for them.

Sure, we could 'run out of oil', but so what? We're also 'running out' of helium. But let me rephrase this: we're running out of economically viable sources of oil. And by economically viable, they mean profitable to extract, not that there's a shortage.
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