Saturday, February 10, 2007

George Galloway's Impersonation of Joe Welch

Worth watching once, worth watching again. Nearly two years ago now, the Bush administration attempted to smear British Member of Parliament George Galloway, saying he personally profited the egregious Iraq sanctions regime, as administered by the United Nations. Galloway went to the Senate committee witch hunting any critics of American and British aggression against Iraq and became one of the first voices to call the Bush/Blair fairy tale that led to the disastrous invasion and occupation that followed, a la Joe Welch's testimony to the McCarthy's House Un-American Committee hearings of the 1950's.

Here is the stirring (and often hilarious) testimony Galloway offered the quislings of the 109th congress. - ape

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"I'm here today, but last week you already found me guilty.
You traduced my name around the world
without ever having asked me a single question."
- {GG}

Galloway Goes to Town on Senate Committee
C. L. Cook
May 17th, 2005

Well used to intimidating critics and perceived enemies alike in the United States, it must have come as a bit of a shock for Bush loyalist and lead inquisitor, Senator Norm Coleman to face a subject uncowed by his ominously titled, "Oil For Influence: How Saddam Used Oil to Reward Politicians and Terrorist Entities Under the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme" hearings. Last week, after condemning George Galloway extrajurally of personally profiting from the U.N. sanctions through deals cut with Saddam Hussein, the O. F. I. H. S. U. O. T. R. P. A. T. E. U. T. U. N. O. F. F. P. "invited" Galloway to appear in his own defense.

The British MP has long been an outspoken critic of both Bush's wars against Iraq, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. He's also been a bane to Bush "poodle," Tony Blair, condemning his "sexed-up" intelligence assessments, and challenging Blair's legitimacy to remain Prime Minister in wake of damning revelations Blair lied the nation into war. Less than a fortnight ago, Galloway added injury to insult, successfully unseating one of Blair's favourite New Labour proteges, Oona King to win the Bethnal Green and Bow riding for his upstart, anti-war Respect party.

It's not difficult to imagine George putting in a word to Coleman to do to Galloway in America what Blair hasn't the credibility to pull off at home. But, as in Iraq, the Bush camp has "misunderestimated" their target. For, Mr. Galloway didn't go to Washington to appear before the acronyminoneously challenged Senate committee to implore understanding, or forgiveness; George Galloway came to fight. He opened the Bush baggage, all too familiar to Europeans, and used the Senate witch-hunt hearings as a prime platform to excoriate George Bush and the neo-con driven agenda of his administration.

"I met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him," Galloway testified; adding, "the difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns, and to give him maps the better to target those guns."

The "committee," consisting of only two Senators, chair Coleman and Democrat Carl Levin seemed unready for Galloway. The Guardian's Oliver Burkeman, reported Galloway's undaunted "bruising" style, "drew audible gasps and laughs of disbelief from the audience."

But, Galloway's best line of the proceeding was his opening answer to charges, an allusion to the infamous House Un-American Committee hearings of the 1950's. "I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf." This evocation of Joseph McCarthy and his tyrannical excesses may prove the first of further set-backs to come for the bombastic Coleman, his ridiculous kangaroo committee, and the growing atmosphere of apprehension prevalent in Washington, D.C. today.

you can view Galloway's testimony In RealPlayer HERE

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from CFUV Radio at the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out his blog at:

Harold Pinter's Nobel Acceptance Video

Watch here.

Gorilla Radio - Ad Libs and Ned Djalili - January 22, 2007

Listen in here

Iran Propagandist of the Week Award: Ladling Shit Soup for the Sheep at the NYT

Catapulting the Propaganda
at the New York Times

Chris Floyd

Empire Burlesque
11 February 2007

It is interesting -- in a "watching the Hindenburg explode" sort of way -- to see the machinations behind the latest war-prop piece from Michael "Call Me Judy" Gordon in the New York Times. In "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says," Gordon breathlessly retails the "broad agreement among American intelligence agencies" that "the most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran."

Indeed, that last phrase is the entirety of his first paragraph: a bold and absolutely unqualified assertion, without even the fig leaf that usually adorns the pipelining of White House propaganda by the corporate press, the homely tag, "officials say." (Although the headline writer, perhaps a bit abashed by the way Gordon -- and the editors who approved the story -- have so quickly and cravenly reverted to their pre-war stance of servility, does append the tag. For a perfect takedown of Gordon's "reporting," see the savage wit of Jonathan Schwarz here.)

But what's most notable about the unsourced story is the way it -- and the White House -- are now trying to conflate the Iranians with the Iraqi insurgency, in much the same fashion as they merged Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in the public mind. Here, the trick is to focus on Iran's alleged supply of IEDs to Iraq's Shiite militias, talking of their deadly effectiveness against American soldiers -- while scarcely noting the fact that the overwhelming number of attacks against the "Coalition of Aggression" come from the Sunni insurgents. What then are the headlines, the soundbites for the public? Iran... IEDs... deadly... insurgency... kill Americans." The intended effect, of course, is to convey the impression that Iran is driving the Iraqi insurgency that is now killing Americans in record numbers.

But the story is also significant for what it doesn't spell out, but clearly implies. Assuming for a moment the highly unlikely possibility that the Bushist security organs are actually telling the truth or even something like it in this instance -- given their repeatedly demonstrated propensity to lie and lie and lie again when the Bossman wants a war -- we are left with an extraordinary claim by the Bush Administration: that their own allies have turned against them and are now killing American soldiers with sophisticated weapons.

For who are the "Shiite militias"? They are the armed wings of the political factions that now run the Bush-backed Iraqi government, elected in an electoral process designed by the Bush Administration that guaranteed the rise of these extremist sectarian armed cliques to power. The Shiite militias ARE the Iraqi government -- or at least, they are part of that government's many contentious factions. If they have power, if they operate with impunity -- with or without weapons supplied by the long-time allies in Iran, with which most of the Iraqi Shiite factions have a relationship going back decades -- then it is because these factions have been and are now being empowered, armed, funded, trained and supported by the Bush Administration.

This is what the Bushists are tacitly admitting when they claim that the Shiite militias are fragging their ostensible American allies with Iranian weapons. They are saying that even the factions "liberated" and empowered by the American invasion are now attacking and killing U.S. soldiers, with even more virulence than the Sunni insurgents. They are saying that Bush is now "surging" more soldiers into a situation where every single armed faction in the Iraqi conflict is targeting and killing Americans, including those factions armed and funded by the Americans themselves.

This is a remarkable confession. And it represents yet another of the many overwhelming reasons to bring Bush's bloody Babylonian escapade to a halt without further delay. The most compelling reason, of course, is the fact that the invasion was a war crime from the word go and every second that it continues is a furtherance and compounding of that original sin. But even by the viscera-smeared lights of the war's own proponents, to have reached the place where the very people you have empowered are killing your troops is surely the end of the road.

But of course, this is imputing a logic to the Bushists' pipelining that it does not possess. If you pressed them, they would not admit that Gordon's story is a confession that the factions that make up the Iraqi government are now killing Americans. They are simply throwing out these charges in an increasingly frenzied attempt to "justify" their planned attack on Iran. They don't care whether there is any substance or logical consistency to the charges or not -- although they obviously realize that they will have to frame their bogus war case with slightly more plausibility this time around. (Hence Gordon's anxious, earnest assurance that some of the unsourced and unquestioned vague assertions offered in his story have come from some "American officials" from "[some] agencies [that] have previously been skeptical about the significance of Iran's role in Iraq.") They know that a "potential threat" or even "imminent threat" is no longer quite good enough to gull the rubes into another war, so they are going for the straight stuff: "Them camel jockeys is killing our boys right here and now."

No doubt Iran has all manner of skullduggery on the boil in Iran -- as do Israel and Turkey and Russia and Saudi Arabia and Syria and god only knows who else. That's the way these shadowland games are played among the moral cretins who shimmy up the greasy pole of power in almost every country. "Dirty war" has long been the name of the game -- and no one surpasses the sterling record of America and Britain in this regard. I've got a piece coming out in Truthout soon on the very dirty war that the oh-so-Christian Coalition of Bush and Blair are fighting in Iraq right now. Until then, let's just say that people who come from half a world away to invade a country without provocation and kill more than 650,000 of its people, steal its money, shatter its society and leave it open prey to murder, mayhem and extremism might want to think twice before casting stones at others for "meddling" in Iraq's affairs.


Of Illusory Democracies, Rogue States, and Accelerating Humanity’s Demise

A Pox upon Mr. Armstrong’s Wonderful World:
Of Illusory Democracies, Rogue States, and Accelerating Humanity’s Demise

by Jason Miller

10 February 2007

I see trees of green, red roses too I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world... - Louis Armstrong

In an increasingly frightening and unstable world, there is one nation we know will stand firm and resolute in its commitment to freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Without the relentless, selfless efforts of the United States, humankind would plunge into a seething cauldron of tyranny, slavery, chaos and endless war. Besides Israel, severely weakened as it is by the constant strain of fending off the barbarian hordes seeking to “wipe it off the map” and Great Britain, incessantly pressured by its Leftist, pacifist neighbors to appease and negotiate, the home of the brave wages its courageous struggle virtually alone.

But fear not. The time draws nigh when an aspiring superpower will stand firmly alongside the United States in its defense of humankind. India, the world’s largest democracy and a haven for the free market economics of Capitalism, is forging a deep alliance with the United States.

What a wonderful world it will indeed be when two nations, each of which was forged in the crucible of revolution against the imperial tyranny of Great Britain, can ally themselves to fend off the twin evils of terrorism and Islamofascism as they unite to spread democracy and corporate benevolence.

As Robert Blackwill, ambassador to India from 2001 to 2003, deputy assistant to the president, deputy national security advisor for strategic planning, and presidential envoy to Iraq from 2003 to 2004, noted in The National Interest(1):

“Not only do our vital national interests coincide, but we share common values as well. The policies of United States and India are built on the same solid moral foundation. India is a democracy of more than one billion people—and there are not many of those in that part of the world. Indian democracy has sustained a heterogeneous, multilingual and secular society. In the words of Sunil Khilnani, the author of The Idea of India (1999), India is a "bridgehead of effervescent liberty on the Asian continent." George W. Bush fastened onto the genius of Indian democracy very early on, long before he was president. This has now become an even more central element of American foreign policy, given the march of freedom across the Greater Middle East and the president’s emphasis on the growth of pluralism, democracy and democratic institutions in that region.”

After considering the above, if resplendent roses and deciduous trees of all manner are not overwhelming your imagination with a stunning display of vernal regenerative beauty, better check your pulse.

Yet closer examination indicates that a number of the exaltations heaped upon the United States’ new confederate in the Far East are both unwarranted and highly disingenuous.

Admittedly, one can find a degree of ambivalence concerning the deepening relationship between the United States and India in our daily doses of agitprop. Yet by and large, the corporate media applauds what it portrays as an expanding partnership between the world’s most powerful democracy and its most populous democracy.

Their propagandistic deception begins with the simple use of the word democracy. Neither country qualifies as a constitutional republic, let alone a true democracy. Rife with election fraud, Corporatism, gross wealth disparities, militarism, belligerent expansionism, toxic nationalism, and a laundry list of traits characterizing a fascist state, the United States could easily qualify as one of democracy’s greatest foes. India does not lag far behind.

Hype and spin aside, determined investigation and fastidious scholarship by people like Bangladeshi barrister M.B.I. Munshi, researcher Isha Khan, and many others reveal the ugly realities behind India’s corporate media fa├žade. India and the United States do share a number of commonalities, but few of them relate to “democracy”, “liberty”, or “solid moral foundations”.

While it is true that both nations were founded by noble people who wrested themselves free of the yoke of Great Britain’s imperial oppression, like degenerate trust fund children, the heirs of liberty have defecated on their family’s reputation and squandered their fortune.

India’s Monroe Doctrine

Providing painstaking documentation in his 2006 book, The India Doctrine, M.B.I. Munshi clearly exposes India’s unwritten and unacknowledged ambitions to realize Akhand Bharat (a unified India). India’s desire to attain superpower status is no secret, but its power elite and decision-makers are loathe to admit their tenacious pursuit of imperial supremacy of the subcontinent.

As Munshi’s exhaustive research demonstrates, India’s policies, attitudes, and actions toward its neighbors are quite analogous to the machinations of the United States throughout Central and South America. Replete with its own version of the Monroe Doctrine (Akhand Bharat) and an intelligence agency called RAW (their version of the CIA), India has a long-term commitment to wielding undue power and influence throughout the subcontinent.

Of the Wealthy, By the Wealthy, and for the Wealthy

In his recent book, In Spite of the Gods: the Strange Rise of Modern India, Edward Luce notes:

This is a country where 300 million people live in absolute poverty, most of them in its 680,000 villages, but where cellphone users have jumped from 3 million in 2000 to 100 million in 2005, and the number of television channels from 1 in 1991 to more than 150 last year….India’s economy has grown by 6 percent annually since 1991, a rate exceeded only by China’s, yet there are a mere 35 million taxpayers in a country with a population of 1.1 billion. Only 10 percent of India’s workers have jobs in the formal economy.

Luce’s brief assessment above merely provides a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg. India has embraced the “Washington Consensus” with such fervor that the tenets of American Capitalism are virtually a religion amongst the power elite in Delhi

In his Yahoo Finance fluff piece, Why What’s Good for India is Good for Us(2), which is laden with hosannas for India’s emergence as a powerful democracy with free markets, economist Charles Wheelan points out that a third of the world’s impoverished reside in India and concludes that the American Way is their ticket to prosperity.

Never mind the fact that free trade, deregulation, privatization, the emasculation of organized labor, militarization, an insatiable demand for growth, and corporatization are destroying the environment, condemning at least half of the world’s population to abject poverty, maintaining a state of perpetual war, and have caused the United States to devolve into a failed state. India represents another billion workers and consumers to power the engine of capitalism. Consequences be damned! There are profits to be realized!

Israel’s Second-Best Friend?

Heavily tainting its credentials as a nation modeling and promoting democracy is India’s close relationship with Israel, a state with a foreign policy that is perhaps more belligerent, hubristic, and criminal than that of the United States, if such an “accomplishment” were possible. In 2005 India bought nearly $2 billion worth of weaponry from Israel, which qualified them as the Israeli “defense” industry’s number one customer. India officially recognized Israel as a state in 1992 and has since become Israel’s second-largest trading partner(3). While the Indian government enriches Israel (a nation engaged in the ruthless oppression and collective punishment of the Palestinians), further destabilizes the subcontinent with its heavy militarization, and prioritizes spending on weaponry over humanitarian needs, a third of their population wallows in profound economic misery.

It’s Just Another “Goddamned Piece of Paper”

Perhaps one of the most telling hypocrisies entangled in the intricate web woven by the ruling elite of Washington and Delhi is the Bush-Singh nuclear agreement. Barring unlikely resistance from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the United States will begin supplying India with uranium sometime this year. While the United States will almost certainly go to war with Iran to squash its attempt to develop nuclear capabilities, it is preparing to provide India with nuclear materials. Rogue states that it is, the US is unilaterally altering the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by denying Iran, a party to the treaty, its right to develop nuclear power, and enabling India, which has not signed the NPT, to further its nuclear program. Coupling this with Ehud Olmert’s recent admission that Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal denudes the deeply duplicitous agenda of the United States (and its allies) and further destabilizes our world in a profound way.

Did Blackwill write of “solid moral foundations”?

Please do hold the music, Mr. Armstrong. Those illusory springtime blossoms accompanying the US-Indo alliance wither rapidly in the face of relentless wintry blasts of truth concerning the widespread, persistent human rights violations and social injustices in India:

Ostensibly armed with “rights and liberties”, most people in India grapple with an archaic and ineffective justice system. The poor and middle class are subject to a woefully inadequate judiciary and law enforcement apparatus which is heavily biased toward the wealthy and powerful(4). (Sound familiar, America?)

The Indian government is a slow, inefficient and deeply corrupt bureaucracy. (Feel the resonance on this one too?)

While the rigid caste system has relaxed to some degree, the Dalits (aka “Untouchables”) still face tremendous discrimination at the hands of the Brahmins (the Hindu elites). Even after the valiant efforts of the late Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a Dalit who rose to great prominence and became the principal architect of the Indian Constitution, true social justice for the Dalits is still but a tantalizing mirage(5).

Despite laws banning the traditional mandatory dowry, India’s National Crime Record Bureau has determined that there is still one dowry death every 77 minutes! The rampant consumerism and materialism engendered by India’s love affair with the US socioeconomic system has heightened demands made by grooms and their families. Often, when a bride’s family is unable to “deliver the goods”, the groom brutalizes or kills his wife. Like many of the laws India has passed to uphold human rights, the legislation banning the practice of dowry demands is rarely enforced(6).

Another tragic result of dowry demands is the wide-spread practice of infanticide. Many Indians consider having a daughter to be a huge liability. Since 1987, ten million female infants have died at the hands of parents unwilling to face the hardships imposed by the deeply ingrained dowry system. One common technique parents employ to murder these precious innocents is to pour sand in their mouths just after they are born(7).

Representing another egregious violation of human rights (and yet another feeble effort by the government to protect the victims) is the existence of an estimated 12 million child laborers in India. That figure comes from the power brokers in Delhi. Various NGO’s and charitable organizations assert that the number of Indian children enduring the deprivation of their childhood, hard work for ridiculously paltry wages, and physical beatings is much higher(8).

The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend

One of the oft-heard reasons that the United States and India constitute a match made in heaven is that India is an ideal ally in the “War on Terror”. Remember that the United States and its collaborators are actually waging a war on Islam. They are the enemy because a large number of Islamic people have the sheer audacity to dwell in a region possessing a significant percentage of the world’s remaining oil reserves and in and around the land the Zionists, with British and American complicity, elected to steal.

Mother India is certainly doing her part to quell the “Muslim rabble”. Aside from her close alignment with Israel and the United States, her ongoing war with Pakistan over Kashmir, and her pursuit of domination of her Muslim neighbors on the subcontinent (i.e. Bangladesh), she is home to a pathological strain of Hindu nationalism known as Hindutva. A spokesman for RSS, perhaps the most radical Hindutva organization, stated:

“The entire world acknowledges that Israel has effectively and ruthlessly countered terror in the Middle East. Since India and Israel are both fighting a proxy war against terrorism, therefore, we should learn a lesson or two from them. We need to have close cooperation with them in this field."

In February of 2002, Hindu nationalists slaughtered between 2,000 and 5,000 Muslims and left another 150,000 homeless in the Indian state of Gujarat. In her book, The Gujarat Genocide, Garda Ghista observes:

“Even after the initial 72 hours, the violence continued with the active support and collaboration of local police,”

And noted author and human rights activist Arundhati Roy wrote this of the Gujarat massacre:

“We’re sipping from a poisoned chalice—a flawed democracy laced with religious fascism … Gujarat has been the petri dish in which Hindu fascism has been fomenting an elaborate political experiment.” (9)

Recently, the Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee conducted a study on India’s minority populations. The results are now in the hands of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Consider some of the report’s findings relative to the Muslims of India [who encompass 140 million people or about 15% of the Indian population] (10):

* In rural areas: 94.9% of Muslims living below poverty line fail to receive free food grain.
* Only 3.2% of Muslims get subsidized loans.
* Only 2.1% of Muslim farmers have tractors, while just 1% own hand pumps.
* 54.6% of Muslims in villages and 60% in urban areas have never been to schools. In rural areas, only 0.8% of Muslims are graduates, while in urban areas despite 40% of the Muslims receiving modern education only 3.1% are graduates. Only 1.2% of Muslims are post-graduates in urban areas.
* While West Bengal has 25% Muslim population, only 4.2% are employed in state services. In Assam, with a 40% Muslim population, only 11.2% are in government employment. Kerala has 20% Muslims, but only 10.4% of government employees are Muslim.
* In Karnataka, where the Muslim populationis 12.2%, 8.5% are employed in government services. While in Gujarat, of the 9.1% Muslim population, 5.4% are in state jobs; in Tamil Nadu, against a 5.6% Muslim population, 3.2% are employed in government.
* Though West Bengal is known as a political bastion of the left bloc, the ones who have always spoken strongly against parties entertaining communal bias, the state has zero% Muslims in state PSUs. While Kerala has 9.5% in state PSUs, Maharashtra has only 1.9%.
* Though the Sachar committee was not able to secure data regarding the presence of Muslims in the armed forces, it is fairly well-known that their percentage here is not more than three.
* Muslims form only 10.6% of the population in Maharashtra, but 32.4% of the prison inmates here are Muslims. In New Delhi, 27.9 % of inmates are Muslims, though they form only 11.7% of the population here. While in Gujarat, Muslims form 25.1% of the ones imprisoned, they form 9.1% of the population. In Karnataka, Muslims form 12.23% of populace and 17.5% of those imprisoned.

It would appear that India deals with its “Muslim problem” in much the same way that the United States deals with its “Black problem”.

Careful scrutiny of the consummation of the US-Indo relationship and India’s meteoric rise toward superpowerdom via American Capitalism raises serious doubts about our collective sanity as we perpetuate an exploitative system conceived in the minds of men whose thinking was heavily shaped by their imperialistic and colonial socioeconomic paradigm. Concluding mass psychosis becomes even more probable when one considers that corporate personhood, monopolies, plutocratic tyranny, and unbridled avarice have so perverted what might have evolved as an ethical and sustainable socioeconomic system.

Why are so many people so deeply committed to an economic scheme which truly rewards so few? Driven by greed, ruthless competition, and oppression, this virulent system is truly beneficial for the mere handful of the world’s 6.5 billion human beings who parasitically monopolize most of the available wealth. Paradoxically, in a world still abundant with resources, a large percentage of the population wages a constant (and for many futile) struggle to attain the necessities of life.

Our ugly manifestation of Capitalism has relegated most of the human race to some form of slavery, serfdom or indentured servitude. It is an irresistible force devouring Mother Earth’s resources faster than she can renew them, befouling the environment with toxins and pollutants, and causing the extinction of animal and plant species at an alarming rate.

So the next time a think tank propagandist or corporate media pundit crows about India’s conversion to the “American Way”, remember that their sophistry amounts to a twisted celebration of the demise of humanity and the Earth.

From birth, it is burned into our cerebrums that the “freeing individualism” of Capitalism and the “stifling collectivism” of Communism are the only socioeconomic models from which we can choose. This is a despicable lie. We are not intellectually constrained to adhere to an ill-conceived economic philosophy hundreds of years old. Nor are we bound to its antithesis, which Marx formulated as a radical reaction to the harsh brutality of Capitalism. Somewhere between these two extremes lies a synthesis that could incorporate the best of both.

As human beings, we have been blessed with highly developed frontal lobes. If we are to survive as a species, we must use this gift to find a viable middle ground between Capitalism and Communism…hence enabling some semblance of Mr. Armstrong’s “wonderful world”.

Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He writes prolifically, his essays have appeared widely on the Internet, and he volunteers athomeless shelters. He welcomes constructive correspondence at or via his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at

Sources and Further Reading:











Bush Ignores "Base" at Nation's Peril

Bush and his advisors have compromised the fight against Al-Qaeda in favor of their dangerous ongoing campaign of escalation against Iran.

Unravel Al-Qaeda or Fight Iran?

Helena Cobban

The Nation
February 9, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Helena Cobban - The Nation
[Republished at GRBlog with Agence Global permission]

So just how firmly does the Bush administration want to pursue the campaign to unravel Al-Qaeda? In the 10 February Washington Post, Dafna Linzer has a story, attributed largely to unnamed but concerned administration insiders, in which she gives disturbing new information about the extent to which they have subordinated this campaign to their current push to escalate tensions with Iran. The back-story is that, as Linzer writes,

Since... the winter of 2001, Tehran had turned over hundreds of people to U.S. allies and provided U.S. intelligence with the names, photographs and fingerprints of those it held in custody, according to senior U.S. intelligence and administration officials. In early 2003, it offered to hand over the remaining high-value targets directly to the United States if Washington would turn over a group of exiled Iranian militants hiding in Iraq.

Some of Bush's top advisers pushed for the trade, arguing that taking custody of bin Laden's son and the others would produce new leads on al-Qaeda. They were also willing to trade away the exiles -- members of a group on the State Department's terrorist list -- who had aligned with Saddam Hussein in an effort to overthrow the Iranian government.

Officials have said Bush ultimately rejected the exchange on the advice of Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who argued that any engagement would legitimize Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism. Bush's National Security Council agreed to accept information from Iran on al-Qaeda but offer nothing in return, officials said.

Now, Linzer has learned that, in addition to Osama Bin Laden's son Saad, those in Iranian custody include al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith of Kuwait and Saif al-Adel of Egypt, both of whom are reportedly members of the "al-Qaeda operational management committee."

It is not clear to me how much the Bush administration really cares about the interests of that militant Iranian opposition group, the Mojahideen e-Khalq (MEK), around 3,000 or so of whose members had been in armed training camps in Iraq back in Saddam's day, and have been kept in a detention camp in Iraq under American control. It is important to remember that, as Linzer noted there, the MEK is still on the State Department terrorism list, in connection with some very lethal acts its members carried out inside Iran in the 1980s.

So you'd think the US government might want to actually put on trial at least the leaders of the MEK people they have under their control in Iraq, wouldn't you?

Well, as a matter of fact... No. Instead they have kept them there -- under conditions that may or may not at this point include their complete disarming -- as a way of keeping up the pressure on Tehran.

You can see there, of course, the extent to which the Bush administration has been willing to manipulate the quite legitimate concern people around the world have about terrorism for their own ideological ends.

What also seems clear from the Linzer article is the degree to which the top levels of the Bush administration are ready to compromise the anti-al-Qaeda campaign in the interests of maintaining their current campaign to isolate, encircle, and threaten Iran.

This is completely cock-eyed. Yes, Americans and others have a number of remaining concerns about Iran's behavior -- and Iranians, about America's. But numerous diplomatic channels remain, through which all these concerns can be put on the table, fairly addressed, and resolved. If the Bush administration continues with its campaign to isolate and threaten Iran, it runs the risk of unleashing not only a war between these two nations, but also a tsunami of instability that will "surge" throughout the region and the world...

But even before we have reached that point, the Bush administration's campaign of anti-Iran escalation has already forced many unwelcome costs onto the world community. One of these is that the anti-al-Qaeda campaign -- to which the Iranians have already made many significant contributions -- is being compromised. We should all be very, very concerned.

Helena Cobban has written about (and often from) the Middle East since 1975. She writes a column on global affairs for the Christian Science Monitor, essays for Boston Review, and has published six books on international issues.

Copyright © 2007 Helena Cobban - The Nation

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Canadian Torture Regime: Welcome to Gitmo North

Detainees are Canada's Shame


February 9, 2007

Last week, six distinguished former Canadian ministers of foreign affairs wrote a joint statement denouncing the United States for its policies of detention without charge and without conviction that have seen more than 800 men detained at Guantanamo Bay. They chided the current Conservative government for not criticizing the U.S. for these policies.

What was breathtaking about this statement is that nowhere does it mention that Canada also employs policies of indefinite detention, detention without charge and detention without conviction, and administers its own system for secret trials where those detained have no knowledge of the evidence against them. In the U.S. it's known as the Patriot Act; here it's known as the security certificate process.

Three security certificate detainees in a special holding facility in Kingston have been on a hunger strike for more than two months, protesting their detention and the conditions of that detention. Mohammad Majhoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei have been detained on security certificates for more than five and six years respectively.

They have never been charged. They have never been convicted. They have never seen any of the evidence against them, rendering them and their lawyers unable to mount a proper defence. These are not the justice values that ordinary Canadians embrace.

The three men are now detained in a special facility, a $3-million federal institution called the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC). This maximum-security prison within a maximum-security prison is attached to Millhaven Institution.

KIHC is two small, school portable-like buildings. One is the residential unit and the other the administration unit. Cells are small. There is no real exercise yard, just a paved area the length of two wheelchair ramps between the buildings. The detainees have no programs, have complained of harassment by guards and face restrictions on their religious practices. They are subject to petty procedures, such as standing counts three times a day in a facility that has only three prisoners. In the five and six years of their detention, they have never been allowed a private visit with their families or "touch" visits with their spouses, something regular prisoners at Millhaven can access regularly.

To protest these conditions, the three men have embarked on a hunger strike that some critics have tried to paint as a choice they were free to make. But ordinary Canadians realize this is the only option left for the men, who have exhausted every available method to expose inhumane conditions the Canadian government is currently subjecting them to on a daily basis.

The situation is now critical. Hunger strikes of more than 50 days expose the hunger striker to life-threatening health issues. Heart failure, renal failure, severe hypertension or hypotension and heart arrhythmia all are possible.

There is no advocate or ombudsperson for these men in the current system. The Correctional Investigator of Canada, who provides that function in the federal prison system, has asked for jurisdiction over the detainees at KIHC. So far, the Conservative government has refused, and ordinary Canadians are outraged at their reluctance to act.

Conservative Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day has visited KIHC, but refused to speak to the detainees. If the minister is unwilling to talk to them, or constrained from opening that conversation, he must ensure that someone is empowered to do so. The correctional investigator is the appropriate, impartial official. Eliminating the moral and legal vacuum the Kingston three currently exist in must be done today.

Given the dangerous stage of the hunger strike, Day must also ensure daily health monitoring in the living quarters of KIHC, and a full examination by an independent medical doctor should be arranged urgently. There is no time to waste and ordinary Canadians will not stand for anything less.

Day has often said that the security certificate detainees are free to leave Canada whenever they wish. He knows that is not possible and is tantamount to suicide. These men are from Syria and Egypt, countries where, because of what the Canadian government has accused them of, they would almost certainly be subjected to torture or death.

They cannot be deported to face that risk; the memory of the injustice done to Maher Arar should be as fresh in Day's mind as it is in ordinary Canadians'.

The minister must make a decisionnow. Allowing Mohammad Majhoub, Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei to die in custody in Canada will not prove that justice and fairness have been done.

Canadians count on their government to uphold our country's proud record of human rights and respect for justice. It would be remiss for the Conservative government to ignore those principles domestically while preaching them abroad.

It weighs heavily on my conscience. How about yours?

Bill Siksay
is the New Democratic Party MP for the British Columbia constituency of Burnaby-Douglas.

Dropping the Other Shoe on the Iran Gambit

The existence of Iran's 2003 negotiating proposal to the United States makes it difficult for the Bush administration to paint Iran as recalcitrant and calls into question its own threatening behavior. Therefore, they must deny the proposal was ever offered.

First Rejected, Now Denied

Gareth Porter

February 9, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Gareth Porter - The American Prospect
[Republished at GRBlog with Agence Global permission]

In a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied knowledge of Iran's secret 2003 negotiating proposal to the United States. Her denial is part of a broader administration strategy aimed at buttressing the Bush administration's coercive policy toward Iran from congressional pressures for diplomatic engagement with the country.

Rice's State Department had adopted press guidance last month to sow confusion in the media about the Iranian proposal by denying that the document in question actually represented Iran's views. Rice's response on 07 February, to a question from Congressman. Robert Wexler in a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee was a slight variant on that theme. She claimed she had neither seen any secret negotiating proposal from Iran in 2003, nor been informed of it by other officials; she then questioned Iran's endorsement of any such proposal.

The Iranian proposal, which was conveyed to the Bush administration secretly by the Swiss Ambassador in Tehran in early May 2003, provided a framework for wide-ranging negotiations with the United States, including an indication of Iran's willingness to make peace with Israel, end material support for armed actions by Hizbullah and Hamas, and allow intrusive inspections of its nuclear program as part of a broad agreement to normalize relations with the United States. The proposal sought an end to U.S. hostility toward Iran and recognition of its legitimate political and security interests in the region.

The State Department's effort to present the Iranian proposal as unrepresentative of Iranian official views emerged at the daily State Department briefing on 18 January, following a BBC appearance by Colin Powell's former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson in which he had referred to the department's snubbing of the offer back in 2003. Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey, speaking on the basis of previously prepared guidance, said, "I'm just really not sure what Larry's talking about … [as] far as I know, there's never been an offer from the Iranian government on those kinds of concerns."

When pressed on whether he had checked to see if the State Department had received a negotiating proposal from Iran in 2003, Casey said, "To the best of my knowledge, there has been no direct communication from the Iranian government to us that occurred in 2003." That statement was deliberately disingenuous, since the document came via the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Tehran.

When a reporter called attention to the obvious dodge of answering only in terms of "direct" communication, however, Casey went further. "If what you're asking me is, did the Iranian government provide a document to the Swiss or anyone else and say, 'Here, please give this document to the United States,' my understanding is that did not happen."

Without saying so directly, Casey was apparently hoping to leave the implication that the letter may have been drafted by the Swiss Ambassador to Iran, Tim Guldimann, on his own, and therefore did not represent a genuine Iranian offer.

That position could hardly represent a misunderstanding on the part of the State Department. The Iranian provenance of the document had been confirmed in detailed accounts of the initiative provided by both Wilkerson and former NSC official Flynt Leverett. Both have stated that the document was approved by the highest levels of the Iranian government. In December, the administration had prevented Leverett from referring to the Iranian proposal in a New York Times op-ed piece, despite the fact that he had already done so in a previous Times op-ed.

Earlier this week, a State Department official who insisted on speaking off the record made it clear that the administration is not trying to deny the existence of the document but is instead questioning that it actually represented Iran's views rather than those of the intermediary, Swiss Ambassador Tim Guildimann. "We are not really prepared to discuss something that happened in 2003," the official told me, but added, "I think it's pretty clear. The offer didn't come from us, and it didn't come from the Iranians. I leave it to you to figure out who it did come from."

Trita Parsi, the Iranian-American scholar who made the text of the summary letter available to this writer for an article published in the June 2006 issue of The American Prospect, reiterated in a new interview that the document did indeed represent the views of the highest levels of the Iranian government. "They may have had someone in the middle who helped them put the framework for negotiations on paper, but the important point is that the Iranians approved the framework, and the Swiss gave the document to the U.S. at Iran's request," Parsi said.

In her appearance before the House committee, Rice sniffed at "this so-called proposal from Iran" without trying to deny its existence. In dismissing its importance, she used a technique that has become one of her trademarks in dealing with the question of negotiating with Iran. She suggested that the Iranians could not have been serious about any concession involving possible peace with Israel because they weren't offering such a concession through other channels.

"We had people who said, 'The Iranians want to talk to you.'" said Rice. "But I think I would have noticed if the Iranians had said, 'We're ready to recognize Israel.' I just don't remember seeing any such thing." She thus tried to cast doubt on Iran's seriousness about negotiations, by redefining the issue as one of whether Iran had offered a unilateral concession outside of the framework for a broad, multi-issue agreement.

Rice had previously made the same kind of argument in response to suggestions that the United States should engage with Iran diplomatically regarding the chaos in Iraq. She had dismissed the need for such diplomacy by saying that nothing was preventing the Iranians from contributing to the stability of Iraq in the absence of discussions with the United States.

Such arguments are based on the assumption that the United States need not and should not make any concessions to Iran in return for it fulfilling U.S. demands. That premise has been the hallmark of the Bush administration's approach to Iran from the beginning. The strategy of Rice's State Department to sow confusion regarding Iran's 2003 overture represents the latest twist of a policy based on diplomatic coercion rather than negotiations. Public awareness of the Iranian negotiating document presents a potential obstacle to the pursuit of the Bush administration's coercive diplomacy. Rice has certainly not heard the last about it.

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

Copyright © 2007 Gareth Porter - The American Prospect

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The Good News and Not of Weather to Come

The good news on the latest global warming report:
Political leaders can no longer ignore it.

The bad news: It's probably too late.

Killer Weather Ahead

Mark Hertsgaard

The Nation
February 9, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Mark Hertsgaard - The Nation
[Republished at GRBlog with Agence Global permission]

There is implicit good news in the mostly bad news in the latest big global warming report: From now on, politicians will find it harder to do little or nothing to fight this problem. The release of the report on February 2 by the world's leading scientific body on global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ranks as a landmark development. Using unusually blunt language for a scientific document, the report describes global warming as "unequivocal" and says it is "very likely" caused by humans. The results, according to the report, will likely include more frequent heat waves and stronger droughts and storms, while sea levels will continue to rise for more than a thousand years. The silver lining is that such plain-spoken warnings should make it difficult for anyone to argue that greenhouse gas emissions should not be reduced. Capitol Hill already had been aflutter with prospective global warming bills; the report makes it more likely that one will land on George W. Bush's desk by year's end. Bush will face a choice: Sign the bill despite the presumed opposition of the oil and coal interests he has championed, or veto it and leave fellow Republicans open to attack on what's shaping up as a top-tier issue in the 2008 elections.

As for the bad news in the report, it confirms that the battle to prevent global warming has been lost. Now the race to survive it has begun. Because we waited so long to act, the best humanity can do now is slow global warming down to where we can hope to endure it with relatively manageable damages. How bad things eventually get will depend on how much greenhouse emissions are cut, and how quickly. But the momentum of the climate system -- the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for decades, and oceans store heat for centuries -- guarantees that global warming will get worse before it gets better (unless someone invents a miracle technology to strip existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).

Even if humanity stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, the IPCC notes, global temperatures would still rise 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. An immediate stop is impossible; it would mean shutting off every electric power plant, automobile, furnace and other device anywhere in the world that runs on oil, coal or natural gas, as well as halting tropical rainforest destruction. Thus the IPCC calculates a range of possible future temperature increases that vary by how quickly emissions are or are not reduced. At the very least, says the report, temperatures will rise 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, assuming a rapid shift away from fossil fuels. More likely is an increase of 3.2 to 7.2 degrees.

These numbers imply that there is very little time for humanity to avoid passing a climate threshold known as the two-degree target. Endorsed by the European Union and many top scientists as the maximum amount of warming above pre-industrial-era levels that humanity can tolerate before damages become unmanageable, the target can be confusing to Americans because it refers to two degrees Celsius. The equivalent in Fahrenheit is 3.6 degrees. At first glance, that sounds roomy enough. After all, the IPCC estimates that "likely" future temperature rise will range between 3.2 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit; thus if we decarbonize our economies fast enough to hit the low end of that range, the threshold could be avoided. The problem is, humanity's past greenhouse emissions have already caused the temperature to rise 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century. That means we will pass the threshold if we raise the temperature by only 2.5 degrees -- barely more than the lowest amount the IPCC considers feasible. And even in that case, we will still face considerable sea-level rise and more killer heat waves, droughts and hurricanes.

There are no good answers to global warming, only degrees of bad. But speedy action might let us avoid the most catastrophic scenarios. Scientists say we must cut emissions 80 percent by 2050, which is what the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, sponsored by Bernie Sanders, Barbara Boxer and others, mandates. Habitual foot-draggers ExxonMobil and the Bush Administration look almost comical as they reposition themselves for the battle to come. Bush uttered the words "global climate change" in a State of the Union address for the first time last month; ExxonMobil announced it would stop funding some climate-change deniers. But neither the White House nor the oil giant accepts mandatory limits on greenhouse emissions. They simply recognize that Congress is going to pass a bill this year, and they know that in Washington if you don't have a seat at the table, you're on the menu. Defenders of the status quo will want a bill that sounds good but does little except defuse pressure for real change. And that would be the worst outcome of all.

Mark Hertsgaard is The Nation's environment correspondent and author of Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future and The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World.

Copyright © 2007 Mark Hertsgaard - The Nation

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Thelma and Louise Imperialism

Over the Cliff with George and Dick?
By Tom Engelhardt

Let me make an argument about Bush administration Iran policy -- about the possibility that a regime-change-style, shock-and-awe air assault might someday be launched on Iranian nuclear facilities and associated targets -- based on no insider knowledge, just the logic of George-and-Dick's Thelma-and-Louise-style imperialism.

Of course, we all know at least half the story by now. Is there anybody in official Washington -- other than our President, Vice President, the Vice President's secretive imperial staff, assorted backs-against-the-wall neocon supporters lodged in the federal bureaucracy, and associated right-wing think tanks -- who isn't sweating blood, popping pills, and wondering what in the world to do about our delusional leaders?

You only have to pick up the morning paper to find the most mainstream of official types in an over-the-top mode that, bare months ago, would have been confined to the distant peripheries of political argument. There's Senator Joe Biden, the very definition of a mainstream man, grilling Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about whether she believes the administration already has the authority to attack Iran and swearing, if she does, that it "will generate a constitutional confrontation in the Senate, I predict to you." (You can add the exclamation point to that comment or to similar ones from the likes of Senators James Webb and Chuck Hagel among others.) Or how about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on presidential pronouncements in January?

"Much has been made about President Bush's recent saber rattling toward Iran. This morning, I'd like to be clear: The President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking Congressional authorization -- the current use of force resolution for Iraq does not give him such authorization."

Former officials are now crawling out of the Washington woodwork to denounce Bush/Cheney policy in Iraq and Iran with the fervor (however masked by official Washington language) of an exorcism. There, for instance, is former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in front of Congress, more or less predicting the end of the Roman… sorry, the American empire:

"The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability… If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large… A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated…"

There are three retired high military officials, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard (former assistant to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara), U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar (former Centcom commander), and Navy Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan issuing a public letter insisting that attacking Iran "would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions." There's Paul Pillar, former CIA analyst for the Middle East, in the Washington Post warning: "Avoiding the next military folly in the Middle East requires that the agenda for analysis and debate not be so severely and tendentiously truncated as before Iraq."

Even Secretary of State Rice, new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and hardline National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley seem to be exhibiting a certain degree of anxiety, sending back the intelligence dossier gathered by our embassy in Baghdad on Iranian interference in America's Iraq. (You know, "foreign" interference on our home turf.) Assumedly, this was because the latest doctored intelligence, claiming the Iranians are supplying advanced IED technology that is causing American deaths looks as hollow as the administration's cherry-picked and doctored intelligence on Iraqi WMDs before the 2003 invasion.

On the face of it, as Juan Cole long ago pointed out at his Informed Comment website, there's something suitably George-and-Dick wacky about claims like this, implying that the Iranians are arming the Sunni insurgency. How times have changed, however. Unlike in 2002-2003, officials and former officials are finally making such points in very public ways. Take, for instance, Bruce Riedel, a former top Middle East expert on the National Security Council, who recently bluntly told USA Today, "There is no evidence that the Sunnis are being assisted by Iran."

The Rice/Gates/Hadley send-back may, of course, turn out to be little more than the Iranian equivalent of Secretary of State Colin Powell sending back similarly wacky administration claims about Iraqi WMD before preparing his infamous UN presentation that led to the invasion of 2003. But if so, there's certain to be a lot more mainstream skepticism, criticism, and noise this time around.

After all, to anyone not delusional -- which leaves out you-know-who and his Vice President -- a massive air assault on Iran, surely involving bunker-busting missiles with staggering explosive power, would seem to be an act of madness. It would be immensely destructive to Iran (and yet almost surely a rallying point for its fundamentalist regime); bloody in its repercussions for the U.S. (especially our troops in Iraq); imperiling to U.S, allies in the region; and, for the global economy, a potential energy catastrophe. A series of explosive events -- some thoroughly unexpected and so never war-gamed by U.S. military strategists -- could unravel the oil heartlands of the planet, making the administration's last several years in Iraq little more than an hors d'oeuvre before a banquet of catastrophe. The decision to attack Iran would be the equivalent of setting off an advanced IED directly under the main highway of what's left of global order.

You don't have to rely on me for this. In his confirmation hearings, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates -- claiming that any attack on Iran would be a "very last resort" (when Bush administration officials have regularly called it a "last resort" or insisted "all options are on the table") -- offered his own bloodcurdling scenario for the aftermath of such an assault:

"It's always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the -- well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real… Their ability to get Hezbollah to further destabilize Lebanon I think is very real. So I think that while their ability to retaliate against us in a conventional military way is quite limited, they have the capacity to do all of the things, and perhaps more, that I just described."

And that's just a smattering of the hair-raising news from a hair-tearing town in crisis.

Fatwa Time

The possibility of an attack on Iran has been a long time on the horizon. You'd have to start back at that moment before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when, as Newsweek reminded us, one quip of the bolder neocons was: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran." You'd have to go back to January 2005, when reporter Seymour Hersh, in a New Yorker piece, "The Coming Wars," wrote, "In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran," and added that, in close cooperation with the Israelis, "the Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer."

You'd have to go back to March 2005, when ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern pointed out at that "Bush administration policy toward the Middle East is being run by men… who were routinely referred to in high circles in Washington during the 1980s as ‘the crazies'" and who, he warned, might well head for Iran next.

You'd have to go back to August 2005 when, in the American Conservative magazine, former CIA official Philip Giraldi warned: "In Washington it is hardly a secret that the same people in and around the administration who brought you Iraq are preparing to do the same for Iran" -- possibly involving an "unprovoked nuclear attack" on that country. A contingency plan was, he claimed, being drawn up in the Pentagon, "acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office."

You'd have to check out a second Hersh New Yorker piece from April 2006, "The Iran Plans," in which he reported: "Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups." He added that, increasingly, insiders believed the President's goal was not simply aborting the Iranian nuclear program, but Iraq-style "regime change," and that, against Pentagon opposition, "the nuclear option" -- the possibility of using a "bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon" -- had made it into initial planning for a full-scale air assault on Iran. You'd have to check out the work of former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter (who was laughed out of the room in 2002-2003 for claiming that Saddam Hussein probably had no stocks of WMD, or even WMD programs, left), and who recently published a book whose title says it all: Target Iran.

These men -- some classic conservatives – and others like them are now, if anything, even more passionately convinced that the Bush administration is headed for the Iranian cliff before its time in office ends, possibly as early as this spring.

But it took more than their work for so much of official Washington to panic. It took the administration's decision to send the USS John C. Stennis, a second aircraft carrier task force into the Persian Gulf (with hints that a third could follow); it took the announcement of what Juan Cole has termed George Bush's "fatwa," allowing the U.S. military to take out Iranian agents anywhere in Iraq ("Announcing open hunting season on all Iranian visitors to Iraq," Cole wrote, "is like playing Frisbee with nitroglycerin. Bush has gone looking for trouble and is likely to find it…"); it took the detention by U.S. forces of various Iranian officials in Iraq and the invasion of an Iranian office in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan; it took the President's announcement of a decision to emplace Patriot anti-missile systems in the smaller Gulf states; it took a sudden, massive, and eerily familiar ratcheting up of administration rhetoric about Iran and Iranian influence in Iraq (as NBC's Tim Russert put it after a meeting with the President, "There's a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue -- in the country and the world -- in a very acute way"); it took rumors that the Air Force was gearing up for an anti-Iranian surge along the Iranian-Iraqi border; it took the refusal of officials like John Negroponte to say whether or not they believed the administration already had the right to whack Iran without returning to Congress for permission; it took reports about the readying of new bases in Bulgaria and Rumania for a future Iranian air campaign; it took rumors that the Pentagon's latest strike plan against Iran includes "more than 2,300 ‘high value' targets."

And it took, of course, the administration's ongoing catastrophe in Iraq, which drives everything before it, as well as Bush's pugnacious (if hopeless) "surge plan" reaction to rejection in the November midterm elections; it took the President's insistence on victory in a situation where loss was so obviously on the agenda that you didn't need scads of dollars and the sixteen agencies of the U.S. intelligence Community to make the point in a National Intelligence Estimate; it took Vice President Cheney's delusional insistence, in a duke-it-out interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, that the administration's Iraq policy would be "an enormous success story."

And, of course, it took all those eerie parallels with the administration's behavior in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, not to speak of the realization that this administration, devoted as it is to an unfettered commander-in-chief-style of Presidential power, believed it already had authorization aplenty to attack Iran. It took what increasingly looks like the beginnings of a systemic nervous breakdown in Washington, a feeling that a thoroughly avoidable disaster loomed, along with (as Robert Parry wrote recently) "a sense of futility among many in Washington who doubt they can do anything to stop Bush." It took all of the above and more to bring home the possibility that our leaders might one day actually take the house down with them, that they might indeed gun the car and head directly for the cliff with something between sneers and smiles on their faces.

Over the Cliff?

So feel free to imitate official Washington. Be scared, very scared. An attack on Iran, if it were to happen, promises a special mixture of two fundamentalisms deeply engrained in our top political and military officials that may, in the end, combine into a single lethal brew -- and that will, in the bargain, give American policy in the Middle East the full-blown look of a war on Islam. Though our President is a Christian fundamentalist, neither of these Washington fundamentalisms are, in the normal sense, religious or particularly Christian.

The first -- the bedrock faith of the Bush administration and its neocon supporters since September 12, 2001 -- is the religion of force. Our self-styled "wartime" Commander-in-Chief, and the Vice President head an administration that has long been in love not just with the American armed forces, but with the dazzling military possibilities that seemed open to them as leaders of the last standing superpower. Its high-tech destructive capabilities, they believed, gave them the power to go it alone in the world, shocking and awing a post-Cold War assemblage of lesser states into eternal submission. Force -- the threat of it, the application of it -- was the summa cum laude of their go-it-alone university of power (vividly demonstrated, at a theoretical level, in the single most important strategic document of these last years, their 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America).

At the height of their self-dazzled sense of power back in 2001-2003, they saw force as their own special Tao, their Way in the world; at their depths -– now -- reaching back into their problem-solving quiver, they naturally find only the same arrow that's always been there; a belief system, a religion for all occasions.

In the case of a possible future assault on Iran, the larger fundamentalism of the Church of Force will surely combine with the only significant force the Pentagon has on hand -- air power. The belief in air power's ability to fell regimes and change the political essentials, to bring whole peoples to their knees, is long-lasting and deep-seated. Since well before World War II, we've been living with a belief system in which bombing others, including civilian populations, is a "strategic" thing to do; in which air power can, in relatively swift measure, break the "will" not just of the enemy, but of that enemy's society; and in which air power is the royal path to victory.

That this has not proven so; that, most recently, it did not prove so in Afghanistan, in shock-and-awe Iraq, or in Israel's air assault last summer on Lebanon matters little. Faith in the efficacy of air power (as opposed to its barbarism) is fundamentalist in nature and so not disprovable by the facts on the rubble-strewn, cratered ground.

As a result, the strength of the belief that "it" -- force, air power -- will do the trick the next time, if only you have the nerve not to listen to the Nervous Nellies, if only you double down on your bet, if only you commit to it, should not be underestimated.

Do you remember that period before the invasion of Iraq when the neocons and their various admirers and clustering pundits were proclaiming us quite literally the New Rome and speaking of a Pax Americana globally (and a Pax Republicana domestically) that would last forever and a day? They were, in fact, intent on describing a jungle world of failed states at the peripheries of our globe, the sort of planet that needed an imperial power like… well, like us… for order. That, of course, was before the Bush administration managed to bring a jungle world of chaos to Iraq and so to the heart of the global energy system -- and they all fell imperially silent.

I've been wondering in their stead, what sort of empire are we? Empires are usually settled and ruled areas (except at their frontiers), not jungle worlds. So if, say, Sudan or the Congo or Afghanistan or Somalia is a failed state, are we then, under George and Dick, simply a failed empire? Do we now rule (as opposed to threaten) anything? Are we an empire at all -- even at home where a vast, ungainly government is being privatized into a new kind of (ever more expensive) chaos and the federal budget is being driven over a military-industrial cliff -- or are we Kong (before he underwent his most recent cinematic transformation into a loving softie)? Or are we a Three Stooges version of the imperial, or is it just that Dick and George, all four hands on the spinning wheel of state, are heading for that cliff intent on liberating us all?

In that over-the-top interview with CNN's Blitzer, Vice President Cheney, in essence, accused him of, as the Washington Post put it, "embracing defeat."

What an apt phrase for Dick himself -- and for his presidential pal! Having long embraced a fantasy of victory, they now show every sign of wrapping their arms around their own Iraq defeat as if it were victory, and -- with the enthusiasm of Thelma and Louise, trapped by all those cop cars -- taking the only path that seems open to them. As the alternatives grow ever starker -- surrender to all those "Democrat" electees, to the reporters and the critics, the cavilers and the antiwar demonstrators, the ragtag insurgents, the alien Mullahs, and even the panicked Republicans in their own ranks -- what's left but that liberating, exhilarating trip over the cliff?

Unlike the movies, where any review can tell you the ending before you even enter the local multiplex, life -- even political life, even geopolitical life -- is a remarkably unsettled, as well as unsettling thing.

Nothing assures us that some predetermined fate will actually drive us all over that cliff. But if, before November 2008, we do head in that direction, a small suggestion: Don't bother to buckle your seatbelt. It's not going to be that sort of a trip to the bottom.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews.

[Note: Special thanks go to Juan Cole's Informed Comment website, Paul Woodward's the War in Context website, and, all invaluable, all offering more than the usual support in their gathering, sorting, and interpreting of Iraq and Iran news while I've been on the road this month.]

Copyright 2007 Tom Engelhardt

Bush's Impeachable Crimes Against Nature

Is the Bush Administration's deliberate inaction and delusional denial of global warming an impeachable offense? The Green Party says yes.

Crimes Against Nature

John Nichols

The Nation
February 6, 2007

Copyright © 2007 John Nichols - The Nation
[Republished at GRBlog with Agence Global permission]

All those who choose Bush administration propaganda over perspective will be shocked to learn that the debate about global warming has been over for a long time. Climate change is real. And the cynical ploy of conservative politicians and commentators suggesting otherwise has slowed the American response to a crisis scientists say has grown so severe that -- no matter what is now done to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases -- gases that have already been produced or are in production will continue to contribute to global warming and the rise of oceans for more than 1,000 years.

The message from the world's top scientists is sobering. "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level,'' argues a new report from the climate scientists working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change formed by the United Nations' Environment Program and World Meteorological Organization.

The Bush administration has consciously and intentionally failed for six years to address the crisis. Worse yet, the president and his aides have actively attempted to foster the fantasy that global warming: a. does not exist, b. is a natural phenomenon, c. is a good thing or d. all of the above.

The combination of deliberate inaction and delusional denial has earned this president a place in history alongside all the past Neros who have fiddled while their Romes burned. But the evidence that the Bush administration tampered with scientific research on global warming in order to advance its agenda calls for more immediate sanction.

The president and those around him have, as evidenced by their actions over the past six years, proven that they cannot be trusted with power. Yet, without an intervention, they will retain power for another two years.

That is not a prospect to be considered casually.

"The Bush Administration is doing to the whole world what it did to New Orleans as Katrina began to descend on the city," says Green Party co-chair Rebecca Rotzler, who has been in the forefront of demanding an official response to the administration's assault on science. "By altering scientific research on global warming to fit his political agenda and refusing to take necessary steps to protect the public, President Bush has aggravated an impending environmental, public health, and security crisis.

What to do? The Green Party, for reasons both of its environmental commitment and the seriousness with which it approaches issues of political accountability, has proposed a proper response. Responding to complaints from more than 120 scientists from seven federal agencies that they have been pressured to remove references to global warming from research reports, press releases, and communications with Congress, the Greens have accused the Bush administration of conspiring to deceive Congress and the America people about fundamental issues facing the nation. And there is a proper sanction for so serious an offense.

"Congress must recognize the Bush Administration's tampering with studies on global warming and other scientific research as an impeachable offense," says Jody Grage, who serves as treasurer of the Green Party. "Ever since Vice President Cheney initiated private meetings with oil company representatives to determine energy policy, the administration has placed the demands for corporate profits over urgent human and environmental needs."

Just as there are still those who debate whether climate change is actually taking place, there are still those who debate whether this president has committed acts that merit impeachment and removal from office.

But the Greens are right on this one.

The founders intended impeachment not as a legal process but as a tool for the protection of the nation and its citizens from irrational, irresponsible and immoral executives. The point of creating a procedure that allowed the Congress to interrupt a presidential term was not to punish minor acts of wrongdoing, it was to preserve the republic -- both structurally and physically -- from a president whose actions, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, might be "productive of cruel distress to our country."

The European kings and queens against whom American revolutionaries took up arms had attacked science and free thought in order not merely to advance their pet theories but to improve their fortunes. A president who did the same, Jefferson argued, was no different from a monarch -- except that his tenure was constitutionally limited. That did not mean, however, that Americans should accept a king for four years.

"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on true free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among general bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others," explained the author of the Declaration of Independence who would make himself the steadiest advocate for democratic principles in the early days of the republic.

Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason and their circle fought to assure that the Constitution would include a broad power of impeachment. It was, these men of the enlightenment knew, the essential corrective against an elective despotism that might see an imperial president reject even the logic of science in pursuit of whims, fantasies and self-interest.

The founders knew that the impetus for impeachment might not be an act, but rather an inaction. And if that inaction was the result of a choice by the president and his aides to serve their oil-industry partners and contributors rather than their country and their planet, then surely it is a high crime against the republic -- an impeachable crime in the sense intended by the authors of the Constitution -- that has been committed.

The Greens have wisely recognized this fact, and made an appropriate argument for booting a pathetic president from the Oval Office.

We may, as well, answer the most poignant of the questions left us by Thomas Jefferson. "Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic," observed the third president, who then turned his attention to those who would inherit that republic and asked: "But will they keep it?"

John Nichols is the Nation's Washington correspondent.

Copyright © 2007 John Nichols - The Nation

Released: 07 February 2007
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