Friday, August 01, 2008

Solar Science Ready

"Major Discovery" From MIT Primed to Unleash Solar Revolution
Thursday 31 July 2008

Anne Trafton, MIT News

MIT's Professor Daniel G. Nocera has discovered a way to do large-scale solar power generation. (Photo: Donna Coveney)
Scientists mimic essence of plants' energy storage system.

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.

Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today's announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity - whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source - runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

"Giant Leap" for Clean Energy

Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world's energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.

James Barber, a leader in the study of photosynthesis who was not involved in this research, called the discovery by Nocera and Kanan a "giant leap" toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale.

"This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind," said Barber, the Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London. "The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem."

"Just the Beginning"

Currently available electrolyzers, which split water with electricity and are often used industrially, are not suited for artificial photosynthesis because they are very expensive and require a highly basic (non-benign) environment that has little to do with the conditions under which photosynthesis operates.

More engineering work needs to be done to integrate the new scientific discovery into existing photovoltaic systems, but Nocera said he is confident that such systems will become a reality.

"This is just the beginning," said Nocera, principal investigator for the Solar Revolution Project funded by the Chesonis Family Foundation and co-Director of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center. "The scientific community is really going to run with this."

Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

The project is part of the MIT Energy Initiative, a program designed to help transform the global energy system to meet the needs of the future and to help build a bridge to that future by improving today's energy systems. MITEI Director Ernest Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, noted that "this discovery in the Nocera lab demonstrates that moving up the transformation of our energy supply system to one based on renewables will depend heavily on frontier basic science."

The success of the Nocera lab shows the impact of a mixture of funding sources - governments, philanthropy, and industry. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Chesonis Family Foundation, which gave MIT $10 million this spring to launch the Solar Revolution Project, with a goal to make the large scale deployment of solar energy within 10 years.

The ‘Empire of Chaos’ or living in the age of impunity

by William Bowles

Review: International Justice and Impunity - The Case of the United States, edited by Nils Andersson, Daniel Iagolnitzer and Diana G. Collier. Clarity Press, 2008.

Impunity: N. Nonliability, exemption, let-out, immunity, special treatment. Impunity: Vb. Exempt, set apart, absolve, grant immunity, are just some of the descriptions my Roget’s Thesaurus lists for the word impunity.

Other descriptions listed by the Thesaurus are perhaps even more apt:

Owe no responsibility, be free from, have no liability, spare oneself the necessity, exempt oneself, excuse oneself, the list goes on…

“The American ambassador to the United Nations in the middle of the 1970s, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has thus congratulated himself in his memoirs, for having rendered “totally ineffective, on the instructions of the State Department, all measures taken by the United Nations [with regard to the 40-plus UN resolutions on Palestine]”. — ‘Rudolph El-Kareh, The American Politic in the Middle East, Force, Impunity, Lawlessness.’ (p.64)
Another way of describing impunity is that ‘might is right’ but a ‘right’ reinforced and delivered by the corporate media’s complicity in the process of granting immunity (invisibility) to those who practice mass murder and genocide on a scale that almost defies description.

The book is divided into three sections: Part I: From Hiroshima to Guantanamo; Part II: Humanitarian Law: Legal and Moral Values to Defend and Part III: In Pursuit of an End to Impunity.

The collection of essays gathered together in ‘International Justice and Impunity’ encompasses the views of many people and organizations united by one thing, namely the examination and condemnation of the ‘right’ enjoyed by the United States and its principal allies the UK, the EU and Japan, to be extremely selective about international law and human rights, applying such laws as and when it suits them to and simply ignoring the self-same international laws when it doesn’t.

Of course such behaviour by the imperialist states is nothing new but given the power of a hegemonic global media to blank out the crimes of the US and its allies, impunity takes on an ominous significance given the awesome power the US employs as it seeks to extend its control of the world and its resources.

Again (and again), I have to return to the simple fact that without the corporate (and state) media’s collusion in this massive sleight-of-hand such deceptions would be well nigh impossible to carry out. And, if I have a criticism of the book it is the omission of a section that directly addresses the role of the mass media in delivering the imperialist message, without which it would be difficult to persuade us to go along with the slaughter and the barbarity practiced by those who impudently like to call themselves civilized.

The process is plain to see for anyone who cares to look; it’s the media equivalent of saturation bombing. The names Zimbabwe, Darfur, Tibet, Islamist, Hamas, Hizbollah, Chavez, Cuba, immediately come to mind but over the years the list is an extremely long one.

The recipe is extremely simple: take one event where there are obvious human rights violations eg in Sudan and go hell for leather in swamping the ‘news’ outlets with cries of rage and indignation about the Sudanese government’s treatment of its population and keep on doing it until the word DARFUR is burned into everyone’s brain. Follow this up with demands for intervention, and, in the supreme irony, demand that a special (and illegal) criminal tribunal be convened, using the cover of the ‘United’ Nations to bring the miscreants to justice before the eyes of the world.

Ironic because the US fought tooth and nail to stop the formation of the International Criminal Court and failing to do that, watered it down at every step along the way and then, to add insult to injury, refused to recognize its jurisdiction, when over 100 countries signed up to it (Bush even removed the US signature from it when it realized that even with its awesome power, it couldn’t prevent its formation).

Worse still, the US was instrumental in the creation of ad hoc ‘criminal tribunals’ by arm-twisting the United Nations whose Charter has no powers to convene such creatures.

The degree to which the US perverts every international law (including those that it has reluctantly signed) is perhaps best exemplified by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for contrary to the mass media misconception, the NPT is not just about stopping the spread of nuclear weapons (beyond the original six signatories) but is specifically aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating existing nuclear weapons entirely.

So all the while that the US and its allies engineer an hysterical campaign against Iran and its alleged development of nuclear weapons, the US is actively developing new nuclear weapons not as deterrents but to use in combat. The 2002 Nuclear Posture Review[1] spells it out in horrendous detail as Tadatoshi Akiba relates in his contribution to the book ‘Toward the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons’.

“…instead of simply utilizing nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence, they [the US] will start manufacturing bombs and other devices of mass destruction for the purpose of actually using them … and the most important point I believe, is that they clearly stated their intention to use those weapons in combat.” (p.26)
At first reading the selection of essays chosen for this book seemed to have no immediate connection one to the other but on closer inspection they reveal that Impunity is the thread across the decades which, as Samir Amin’s contribution ‘The Geostrategy of Contemporary Imperialism’ shows is an intrinsic component of the US ruling class’s project to “extend their military control over the whole planet”, a project that Amin describes as
“…overwheening, even crazy, and criminal by what it implies, [and one that] did not come out of President Bush Junior’s head, to be implemented by an extreme right junta, seizing power through dubious elections.
“It is the project which the ruling class of the United States has unceasingly nurtured since 1945, even though its implementation evidently passed through ups and downs, encountered a few vicissitudes, and was here and there checked, and could be not be pursued with the consistency and violence that this implied in certain conjunctural moments like that following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.” (p.34)

It is, as Amin states, the Monroe Doctrine extended to to the entire planet and one that he describes in his conclusion as “The Empire of Chaos and Permanent War”. (p.54)
As an aside, the reality described by Amin and other contributors bears absolutely no resemblence to what we are all fed by the corporate media, indeed it’s as if we live on two different planets, so integrated is the media into the ‘Empire of Chaos’s’ view of the world and how it works and currently best exemplified by the incessant hammering of the ‘War on Terror’ motif that insinuates itself into our daily lives. But again, the ‘War on Terror’ is merely the War on Communism by another name, which in turn was the war on any country that dared defy the imperialist ‘right to rule’ which in turn is, as Michael Parenti’s excellent summation of imperialism’s ‘divine right’ to own the planet, ‘Rulers of the Planet - The Real Reasons for the US Invasion of the Planet’ puts it,

“The objective of US global policy is not just power for its own sake but the
power to control the world’s natural resources and markets,
power to privatize and deregulate the economies of every nation in the world,
power to prevent alternative self-defining, self-developing economic models from arising,
and power to hoist upon the backs of peoples everywhere—including Europe and North America—the blessings of an untrammeled global “free market” (pps. 123-1)
The integration of the media into the imperialist project is total and virtually seamless, made possible by a veritable army of a complicit intelligentsia created by an education system designed literally to “mold” a view of the world that complies with the imperialist project.[2]

Two essays reveal the two realities most tellingly, the first is Rudolph El-Kareh’s, ‘The American Politic in the Middle East, Force, Impunity, Lawlessness,’ and Monique Chemiller-Gendreau’s contribution, ‘Impunity and Massive Breaches of Humanitarian Law in Vietnam’, the war that slaughtered perhaps three million Vietnamese and whose consequences haunt the Vietnamese people to this day through the US use of Agent Orange which was dropped on around 8.5% of Vietnamese territory or 2.5 million hectares.

“It is notably in the Middle East, and surrounding the question of Palestine, that the United States has systematically instituted impunity in the face of violations of international law…. The violation of international law and the work of sapping the United Nations were not only infractions of its Charter, of which the United States was one of the principal authors, but also contravened Article 6 of the American Constitution considering this as an integral part of the “supreme law” of the country.” (p.64)
Hey, but this is what impunity is all about, ‘don’t do as I do, do as I say!’ As Bill Blum’s contribution ‘Freeing the World to Death - How the United States Gets Away with It’ says,
“When I speak before American university students I say this to them: If I were to write a book called The American Empire for Dummies, page one would say: Don’t ever look for the moral factor. US foreign policy has no moral factor built into its DNA. Clear your mind of that baggage which only gets in the way of seeing beyond the clichés and the platitudes they feed us.” (p.102)
If it weren’t all so tragic, it would be laughable. The gulf between the words and the actions of the United States is demonstrated by the contribution of Daniel Iagolnitzer, ‘International Law Relative to War and the United States’, an overview of the progress made over the past century and a half in the development of international law as it applies to war and how the US has demolished every last one of them!
Ironically, one of the first laws governing the conduct of the state when engaged in war was president Lincoln’s Lieber Code, introduced in 1863 which included the prohibition of the use of torture,

“Military necessity does not admit of the inflicting of suffering for the sake of suffering or revenge, nor of wounding except in fight, nor of torture to extort confessions. It does not admit of the use of poison in any way or of the wanton devastation of a district… (Art. 16).”
Perhaps the most devastating exposé of not only the United States actions but also of other Western states and especially the UK, is revealed in Jan Myrdal’s contribution ‘The Necessity of Defending the Rule of Law!’. Myrdal quotes sections of the testimony of Reich Marshal, Defendant Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. The parallels between his defence of the concentration camps and ‘preventive detention’ and that of the US in creating Guantanamo (and in the UK of ‘preventive detention’ under its ‘anti-terror’ laws) are most illuminating and chilling. Referring to what Goering called “protective custody”:
Mr. Justice Jackson: … You did prohibit all court review and considered it necessary to prohibit court review of the causes for taking people into what you called protective custody?

Goering: In connection with your question that these cases could not be reviewed by the court, I want to say that a decree was issued by me and jointly to the effect that those who were turned over to concentration camps were to be informed after 24 hours of the reason for their being turned over, and that after 48 hours, or some short period of time, they should have the right to an attorney. But this by no means rescinded my order that a review was not permitted by the courts of a politically necessary measure of protective custody. These people were simply to be given an opportunity of making a protest.

Mr. Justice Jackson: Protective custody meant that you were taking people into custody who had not committed any crimes but who, you thought, might possibly commit a crime?

Goering: Yes. People were arrested and taken into protective custody who had not yet committed any crime, but who could be expected to do so if they remained free, just as protective measures are being taken in Germany today on a tremendous scale.

Sound familar? You bet it does as it describes exactly the situation today as the result, allegedly of the ‘war on terror’.
Finally, the sub-text of impunity must also be described as a crime of ‘omission’, omission that is, on the part of us, the citizens of empire.

The section by Amy Bartholomew “Strategies of the Weak”? Contesting Empire Through Litigation Under International Humanitarian Law’ addresses the issue of ‘omission’ directly (and not merely of the media), when she says,

“Such a felt sense of political responsibility for Empire’s actions by its citizens is dependent on viewing oneself not as an innocent or impotent bystander but rather as an implicated agent.
…as a relationship of perpetrators of atrocities liable for legal prosecution for having committed crimes of commission, their innocent and violated victimes, and bystanders who may be viewed, at most, as culpable of sins of omission, morally guilty, of the “excusable and forgiveable misdeed of “bystanding’”. This approach … misses the fact that there is a necessary relationship—a “grey area”—between perpetrayors and ‘bystanders’. But by constituting them as distinct categories we miss the fact that there may be “common ground to both”, an “affinity between ‘evil doing’ and ‘non-resistance to evil”’ and this needs not just be recognized but also to be the object of our political efforts to bring these these two categories under the lens of moral political concern.” (p.221)

As Bartholomew says, citizens of empire,
“do have a responsibility to act to resist empire. This is based on an analysis of the impunity of empire for it is the idea that there is a nonreciprocal right of Empire to run roughshod over everyone else in the name of spreading its own values and its own conception of security globally—one of the essential hallmarks of ‘empire’s law’— that must be contested.” (pps.222-223)
It is only by directly addressing the issue of our complicity, by our failure to act that the Empire does indeed run roughshod over all opposition. Moreover, Bartholomew suggests that,
“while capitalism is unleashed and “economic forces are free to act globally”, there are at best only germs and premonitions of a globally binding legal and juridicial system, global democracy or globally binding, enforceable and obeyed ethical code.”
This is because, “Ethically motivated and informed global action has no adequately global instruments.” (p.225) But Bartholomew does suggest an approach that I believe is extremely important, based upon our raising the issue of legally challenging the right to wage war,
“What the American Empire fears, and I think rightly, is that such strategies may contribute to our capacities to become the ‘strong’…my claim is that such politically inspired attempts litigating against American Empire under international humanitarian law may contribute to the goals of cultivating a sense of poitical responsibility, while both depending on political action for their broad effectivity and contributing to further political action.” (p.228)
But warning us that “the development of cosmopolitan law, of global law” will not, by itself lead to “perpetual peace and universal freedom”, only a coherent, progressive and anti-capitalist (socialist) agenda has even a chance of achieving the defeat of Empire of Chaos.

1. See for example, ‘Secret Plan Outlines the Unthinkable’ A secret policy review of the nation’s nuclear policy puts forth chilling new contingencies for nuclear war. by William M. Arkin

2. The national education system implemented by the Tory government in the closing days of WWII described the advantages of such a system using the term “molding” an entire generation. Molding our views to support the idea of our ‘divine right’ to rule, a strategy that up until now anyway, appears to have been very successful.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Arrested Double Life of Radovan Karadzic

Radovan Karadzic and the Killing of Flies
by Slavenka Drakulic


That afternoon Dr. Dragan Dabic took his long, gray ponytail and fixed it with a plastic hair clip at the top of his head. Then he put on a Panama hat and threw a side-glance in the mirror in the entrance hall of his rented apartment in New Belgrade. As usually, he was pleased with what he saw and even proud of himself. For years now he was not bothered by the fear that he would be recognized. With his long hair, long beard and a pair of old fashioned glasses, he looked like an aged hippy, a Bohemian figure in any case. This was a perfect image for a doctor of alternative medicine, for the New Age guru that he had become. Yet, there was a price to pay for his new look. Before he looked like a romantic poet with his longish dark hair with strikes of gray, dressed in a dark suit and a butterfly. He had flamboyance that impressed people, especially women. But that was long ago, when his name was still Dr. Radovan Karadzic.

Dr. Dabic headed towards a bus stop nearby. Riding on a bus fitted the lifestyle of a modest, elderly, spiritual guide. He politely greeted one of his neighbors, a lady of his age. She smiled. Tenants from his building in Yuri Gagarin Street were not curious about the strange looking person, which suited him well. He no longer had to hide in Orthodox monasteries or remote villages high up in the mountains of Montenegro. Besides, anonymity was not his cup of tea. Even under his false name, he wanted to be among people. He craved attention.

On the other hand, this other image brought him something extremely precious -- freedom to move around. Like any ordinary citizen of Belgrade, he was free to walk the streets and visit the coffee shops, meet people, deliver lectures, visit other cities. Most important, he was free to practice something remotely similar to his former profession as a psychiatrist. He considered himself to be a healer of both body and soul.

On the bus he was sitting somewhere in the middle when a young man sat down next to him and discreetly showed him his police badge. Secret policemen of today are a different species, he probably thought, remembering his encounters with them in his former life in Yugoslavia, long before he became the president of Rebublika Srpska. In those days, he was accused of fraud and even served an 11 months sentence. Pointing at three other men positioned strategically at exit doors of the bus, the man asked him, ever so politely, to please step down with them. Karadzic, now suddenly back to his own identity, showed no sign of surprise, much less of an intent to resist them. Other passengers saw nothing unusual when a small group with a bearded man in a Panama hat left the bus at the next stop.

When he was arrested on July 21, Karadzic must have been aware that it was not by chance. It did not happen because the Serbian secret service finally had recognized him. He knew that they were following his every move; after all, it was the same secret police that had provided him with false documents and his new identity. His arrest was a matter of political decision. True, he had contemplated surrender, but he wanted to do it on his own conditions. In his opinion, it would have been better if he would do it in 2009 -- then he would have been safe from extradition to the International Criminal tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. No new trials would open after the end of this year, 2008. Besides, to be tried in Serbia was not such a frightening prospect as to face the court in The Hague. But it was not to be, he probably thought, now back in his usual fatalistic mood.

It doesn’t matter much if Karadzic was arrested as media reported it, on the bus no.83 in the afternoon hours of July 21, or if it happened a few days before, under totally different circumstances. When the news hit the media and the photo of Dr. Dabic appeared, the first reaction, besides surprise and then satisfaction that one of the most wanted war criminals is no longer at large, was incredulity. People were amazed at the mere fact that Karadzic lived a normal life, in a city, among them. After all, there was a bounty of five million dollars on his head, which alone could have brought him into trouble. Then an even bigger astonishment and admiration followed, because of what was described as his perfectly crafted disguise. Who in his right mind would ever have believed that one of the two most hunted men in Europe would dare to live a normal life as a New Age doctor, ”specializing” in meditation, healthy life, reiku, haiku, homeopathy, as well as any other kind of prana-mana thing?

How poor and amateurish Saddam Hussein looked when he, not so long ago, appeared from his rat hole, all dirty and frightened. In comparison to him, Karadzic showed some style. At least, his looks were chosen by himself and not created by fear and despair of somebody on the run. He possessed documents, legal documents. He even published a few books in the last twelve years of that other life, not a small achievement. A born leader and charismatic person -- as he liked to think of himself -- Karadzic even behind his false identity was capable of attracting people, even followers who believed his every word. Looking at his audience of a guru, he must have thought at times that if only he could gather as many people as that for his poetry readings…

As guru Dr. Dabic, he held lectures in several towns in Serbia. In the period between October 26, 2007 and May 23, 2008, he attended different public events and festivals in cities like Smederevo, Kikinda, and Novi Sad. In May this year, at the big Festival for Healthy Life at Ada Ciganlija in Belgrade, he delivered a lecture under the title ” How to nourish one’s own energies.” Hundreds of people saw him and listened to him; he even appeared on the local TV program in Kikinda. Yet nobody detected or even doubted his true identity.

Suddenly a million details, presented as facts, popped up about the secret life of Radovan Karadzic, alias Dr. Dabic: his favorite coffee place was ”Crazy House”, where he occasionally played the gusle, a one string folk instrument. He drank red wine appropriately named Bear’s blood, and ate healthy corn bread with yogurt. A sales girl in the nearby supermarket thought that he was sympathetic. He had a mistress named Mila and was often seen in her company, holding hands with her. When he was arrested, he was on his way to summer vacation on the Adriatic coast. Someone remembered that he used to bite his nails, while someone else witnessed that he had dandruff. Needless to say, there is much less written about why he was indicted by the ICTY for crimes against humanity and for genocide. In the local press, he is treated like a real celebrity. On the other hand, anyone in media, regardless of what he or she did to deserve such publicity, is a star -- even if he is held responsible for the death and the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of people.

However, the thing with Radovan Karadzic is that he, although stealing another man’s name, was not at all in disguise. What to others looks like a clever, elaborate mask, is just another side of the same personality. Before he became president, a war criminal and a doctor of alternative medicine, he was a psychiatrist and a poet. It is rarely mentioned that he specialized in treating depression. Later on, for a while, he was the psychiatrist of the Belgrade football team ”Red star,” a position that gave him a certain visibility. It was evident that Karadzic knew how to deal with people, a strike of character crucial in order to become a politician.

Besides the fact that in 1997 he was detained for eleven months, following the trial for building his weekend house with money actually belonging to the hospital where he worked, the most interesting detail reported from his past is that he was an -- ecologist.

Just before launching himself head-on into politics as a founder of the nationalist Serbian Democratic Party in 1990 -- just following the ”spirit” of those days -- he was one of the founders of the Green Party in Bosnia. Moreover, he and his wife Ljiljana, founded the first S.O.S. telephone in Bosnia, helping people with advice for all kind of psychological troubles. Becoming a staunch nationalist only shortly afterwards was just an indication that the ”spirit” of those days had changed.

The ecologist turning nationalist? The lifesaving expert who treated so many traumas, turning into a war criminal? What happened to the good-guy-nice-person that he was? And how come that for six years, between 1990 and 1996, he behaved as a completely different person? What had changed in him? The answer is not so complicated: Even if his change seems to be a dramatic one, it is just the same set of events that changed the life of so many others.

For example, the life of another war criminal colleague, Goran Jelisic. This man, who would otherwise never have hurt a fly, was sentenced by the Tribunal to 40 years for executing thirteen Muslim prisoners in May of 1992, in the Luka camp near Brcko. Jelisic worked as a farm mechanic until one day, when -- by a sudden twist of destiny, as it often happens in times of war -- his situation had changed quite by coincidence. This man of 21 with a baby-face who loved fishing and his neighbors, regardless if they were Muslims or Serbs, was given a gun. During 18 days of that May he acted as an executioner, something he never before had done and never after did. Having the ultimate power over life and death, Jelisic behaved as if he would have been another person.

So did the ambitious and vain Radovan Karadzic. His ambition and vanity, however, turned him first into a president and then into a war criminal who ordered killings. But there is no mystique in these changes, as every human being has the potential for acting in good or bad ways. What really changed were circumstances. In Karadzic’s case, circumstances were such that as the first president of Republika Srpska (although he personally, of course, would never hurt a fly), he ordered the killing of some eight thousand Muslim men in Srebrenica in 1995, because in his eyes they evidently had turned into flies. Certainly a nasty business, but, from his point of view, a necessary one. Such orders, however, were not in contradiction to the character of Karadzic the poet and psychiatrist, the man who loved to help people. Not actually, since he was convinced that both the siege of Sarajevo and the killing of civilians that he allowed (of which 1 500 were children), as well as the mass executions in Srebrenica, the concentration camps and ethnic cleansing of the self-proclaimed territory of Republika Srpska, which resulted in emigration and displacement of millions -- was done for the benefit of the Serbs, his people. They needed their ”Lebensraum.”

Dr. Dabic’s posing as a New Age guru, also, was not in opposition to that of Karadzic the ecologist, the understanding psychiatrist, the helping telephonist. In all his different roles he was in a position of power, helping and ”helping,” but always dominating the stage and holding power over people. Both as the good and the bad Radovan, as real maverick greedy for applause, he proved the best at fooling people. Therefore, his transformation into Dr. Dabic was a perfect one, because it was no change at all. Karadzic turned into Dabic easily, because Dabic was his own other self. And equally easily he changed his image just by letting his own hair and beard grow long. Of course, he continued to ”heal” people, but this time he had changed his method. No more genocide, now its time for alternative medicine! As his alleged lover Mila (more likely a groupie) expressed it: ”His mind could cure any illness … he was like a saint to me.” Indeed, when you think about it, there is a similarity between a guru and a president of a state, even if small like Republika Srpska: this way or the other, people look up to you, which in the end is all that matters for a person like Karadzic.

In spite of the general claim to the opposite, Radovan Karadzic showed no imagination when he chose to disguise himself as Dr. Dabic. He just returned to what he had been when he hadn’t attained such immense and deadly power.

His arrest and extradition to the ICTY was an easy trade off for Serbia. Neither is he a Serbian citizen, nor a Serbian hero. By arresting him, Serbia considerably strengthened her political credit. He lost his mythological status. If anything was shattered by his arrest, it was the myth that he is a hero whose arrest would shake Serbia to the core. Karadzic is more or less on his own, and it must feel bad. Especially because the same fate did not befell his comrade-in-arms Ratko Mladic, the then commander of his army. Karadzic knows all to well that the arrest of Mladic will be a very different story.

When he boards the Het Oranje Hotel, as the Dutch call the Schevenninge detention center, it is almost too easy to predict his behavior. He will, of course, plead not guilty, while at the same time enjoying every moment on the stage of world media. But that will not last long. Waiting for his trial in the detention center, he will seek attention again, albeit under limited circumstances and in front of a rather small public. He will probably form a therapy group to help his fellow inmates of all nationalities. What does it matter that they were at war with each other? He personally has nothing against anyone of them. He understands that all of them were just doing their duty, obeying orders. Karadzic will surely write poems and novels, maybe a couple of books for children and, of course, a book about his life in prison. He will have ideal conditions for that, and all the time in the world.

Slavenka Drakulic is an author and journalist from Croatia, whose books have been published in over twenty languages. Her latest book published in the United States is They Would Never Hurt a Fly: War Criminals on Trial in The Hague (Penguin).

Copyright © 2008 Slavenka Drakulic -- distributed by Agence Global

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Early Acts of an Iranian War

Acts of War
by Scott Ritter

29/07/08 " TruthDig" -- - -The war between the United States and Iran is on. American taxpayer dollars are being used, with the permission of Congress, to fund activities which result in Iranians being killed and wounded, and Iranian property destroyed. This wanton violation of a nation’s sovereignty would not be tolerated if the tables were turned and Americans were being subjected to Iranian-funded covert actions which took the lives of Americans, on American soil, and destroyed American property and livelihood. Many Americans remain unaware of what is transpiring abroad in their name. Many of those who are cognizant of these activities are supportive of them, an outgrowth of misguided sentiment which holds Iran accountable for a list of grievances used by the U.S. government to justify the ongoing global war on terror. Iran, we are told, is not just a nation pursuing nuclear weapons, but is the largest state sponsor of terror in the world today.

Much of the information behind this is being promulgated by Israel, which has a vested interest in seeing Iran neutralized as a potential threat. But Israel is joined by another source, even more puzzling in terms of its broad-based acceptance in the world of American journalism: the Mujahadeen-e Khalk, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group sworn to overthrow the theocracy in Tehran. The CIA today provides material support to the actions of the MEK inside Iran. The recent spate of explosions in Iran, including a particularly devastating “accident” involving a military convoy transporting ammunition in downtown Tehran, appears to be linked to an MEK operation; its agents working inside munitions manufacturing plants deliberately are committing acts of sabotage which lead to such explosions. If CIA money and planning support are behind these actions, the agency’s backing constitutes nothing less than an act of war on the part of the United States against Iran.

The MEK traces its roots back to the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeg. Formed among students and intellectuals, the MEK emerged in the 1960s as a serious threat to the reign of Reza Shah Pahlevi. Facing brutal repression from the Shah’s secret police, the SAVAK, the MEK became expert at blending into Iranian society, forming a cellular organizational structure which made it virtually impossible to eradicate. The MEK membership also became adept at gaining access to positions of sensitivity and authority. When the Shah was overthrown in 1978, the MEK played a major role and for a while worked hand in glove with the Islamic Revolution in crafting a post-Shah Iran. In 1979 the MEK had a central role in orchestrating the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and holding 55 Americans hostage for 444 days.

However, relations between the MEK and the Islamic regime in Tehran soured, and after the MEK staged a bloody coup attempt in 1981, all ties were severed and the two sides engaged in a violent civil war. Revolutionary Guard members who were active at that time have acknowledged how difficult it was to fight the MEK. In the end, massive acts of arbitrary arrest, torture and executions were required to break the back of mainstream MEK activity in Iran, although even the Revolutionary Guard today admits the MEK remains active and is virtually impossible to completely eradicate.

It is this stubborn ability to survive and operate inside Iran, at a time when no other intelligence service can establish and maintain a meaningful agent network there, which makes the MEK such an asset to nations such as the United States and Israel. The MEK is able to provide some useful intelligence; however, its overall value as an intelligence resource is negatively impacted by the fact that it is the sole source of human intelligence in Iran. As such, the group has taken to exaggerating and fabricating reports to serve its own political agenda. In this way, there is little to differentiate the MEK from another Middle Eastern expatriate opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, which infamously supplied inaccurate intelligence to the United States and other governments and helped influence the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Today, the MEK sees itself in a similar role, providing sole-sourced intelligence to the United States and Israel in an effort to facilitate American military operations against Iran and, eventually, to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The current situation concerning the MEK would be laughable if it were not for the violent reality of that organization’s activities. Upon its arrival in Iraq in 1986, the group was placed under the control of Saddam Hussein’s Mukhabarat, or intelligence service. The MEK was a heavily militarized organization and in 1988 participated in division-size military operations against Iran. The organization represents no state and can be found on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, yet since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 the MEK has been under the protection of the U.S. military. Its fighters are even given “protected status” under the Geneva conventions. The MEK says that its members in Iraq are refugees, not terrorists. And yet one would be hard-pressed to find why the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees should confer refugee status on an active paramilitary organization that uses “refugee camps” inside Iraq as its bases.

The MEK is behind much of the intelligence being used by the International Atomic Energy Agency in building its case that Iran may be pursuing (or did in fact pursue in the past) a nuclear weapons program. The complexity of the MEK-CIA relationship was recently underscored by the agency’s acquisition of a laptop computer allegedly containing numerous secret documents pertaining to an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Much has been made about this computer and its contents. The United States has led the charge against Iran within international diplomatic circles, citing the laptop information as the primary source proving Iran’s ongoing involvement in clandestine nuclear weapons activity. Of course, the information on the computer, being derived from questionable sources (i.e., the MEK and the CIA, both sworn enemies of Iran) is controversial and its veracity is questioned by many, including me.

Now, I have a simple solution to the issue of the laptop computer: Give it the UNSCOM treatment. Assemble a team of CIA, FBI and Defense Department forensic computer analysts and probe the computer, byte by byte. Construct a chronological record of how and when the data on the computer were assembled. Check the “logic” of the data, making sure everything fits together in a manner consistent with the computer’s stated function and use. Tell us when the computer was turned on and logged into and how it was used. Then, with this complex usage template constructed, overlay the various themes which have been derived from the computer’s contents, pertaining to projects, studies and other activities of interest. One should be able to rapidly ascertain whether or not the computer is truly a key piece of intelligence pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programs.

The fact that this computer is acknowledged as coming from the MEK and the fact that a proper forensic investigation would probably demonstrate the fabricated nature of the data contained are why the U.S. government will never agree to such an investigation being done. A prosecutor, when making a case of criminal action, must lay out evidence in a simple, direct manner, allowing not only the judge and jury to see it but also the accused. If the evidence is as strong as the prosecutor maintains, it is usually bad news for the defendant. However, if the defendant is able to demonstrate inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the data being presented, then the prosecution is the one in trouble. And if the defense is able to demonstrate that the entire case is built upon fabricated evidence, the case is generally thrown out. This, in short, is what should be done with the IAEA’s ongoing probe into allegations that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons. The evidence used by the IAEA is unable to withstand even the most rudimentary cross-examination. It is speculative at best, and most probably fabricated. Iran has done the right thing in refusing to legitimize this illegitimate source of information.

A key question that must be asked is why, then, does the IAEA continue to permit Olli Heinonen, the agency’s Finnish deputy director for safeguards and the IAEA official responsible for the ongoing technical inspections in Iran, to wage his one-man campaign on behalf of the United States, Britain and (indirectly) Israel regarding allegations derived from sources of such questionable veracity (the MEK-supplied laptop computer)? Moreover, why is such an official given free rein to discuss such sensitive data with the press, or with politically motivated outside agencies, in a manner which results in questionable allegations appearing in the public arena as unquestioned fact? Under normal circumstances, leaks of the sort which have occurred regarding the ongoing investigation into Iran’s alleged past studies on nuclear weapons would be subjected to a thorough investigation to determine the source and to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to end them. And yet, in Vienna, Heinonen’s repeated transgressions are treated as a giant “non-event,” the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone pretends isn’t really there.

Heinonen has become the pro-war yin to the anti-confrontation yang of his boss, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Every time ElBaradei releases the results of the IAEA probe of Iran, pointing out that the IAEA can find no evidence of any past or present nuclear weapons program, and that there is a full understanding of Iran’s controversial centrifuge-based enrichment program, Heinonen throws a monkey wrench into the works. Well-publicized briefings are given to IAEA-based diplomats. Mysteriously, leaks from undisclosed sources occur. Heinonen’s Finnish nationality serves as a flimsy cover for neutrality which long ago disappeared. He is no longer serving in the role as unbiased inspector, but rather a front for the active pursuit of an American- and Israeli-inspired disinformation campaign designed to keep alive the flimsy allegations of a nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program in order to justify the continued warlike stance taken by the U.S. and Israel against Iran.

The fact that the IAEA is being used as a front to pursue this blatantly anti-Iranian propaganda is a disservice to an organization with a mission of vital world importance. The interjection of not only the unverified (and unverifiable) MEK laptop computer data, side by side with a newly placed emphasis on a document relating to the forming of uranium metal into hemispheres of the kind useful in a nuclear weapon, is an amateurish manipulation of data to achieve a preordained outcome. Calling the Iranian possession of the aforementioned document “alarming,” Heinonen (and the media) skipped past the history of the document, which of course has been well explained by Iran previously as something the Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan inserted on his own volition to a delivery of documentation pertaining to centrifuges. Far from being a “top-secret” document protected by Iran’s security services, it was discarded in a file of old material that Iran provided to the IAEA inspectors. When the IAEA found the document, Iran allowed it to be fully examined by the inspectors, and answered every question posed by the IAEA about how the document came to be in Iran. For Heinonen to call the document “alarming,” at this late stage in the game, is not only irresponsible but factually inaccurate, given the definition of the word. The Iranian document in question is neither a cause for alarm, seeing as it is not a source for any “sudden fear brought on by the sense of danger,” nor does it provide any “warning of existing or approaching danger,” unless one is speaking of the danger of military action on the part of the United States derived from Heinonen’s unfortunate actions and choice of words.

Olli Heinonen might as well become a salaried member of the Bush administration, since he is operating in lock step with the U.S. government’s objective of painting Iran as a threat worthy of military action. Shortly after Heinonen’s alarmist briefing in March 2008, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, emerged to announce, “As today’s briefing showed us, there are strong reasons to suspect that Iran was working covertly and deceitfully, at least until recently, to build a bomb.” Heinonen’s briefing provided nothing of the sort, being derived from an irrelevant document and a laptop computer of questionable provenance. But that did not matter to Schulte, who noted that “Iran has refused to explain or even acknowledge past work on weaponization.” Schulte did not bother to note that it would be difficult for Iran to explain or acknowledge that which it has not done. “This is particularly troubling,” Schulte went on, “when combined with Iran’s determined effort to master the technology to enrich uranium.” Why is this so troubling? Because, as Schulte noted, “Uranium enrichment is not necessary for Iran’s civil program but it is necessary to produce the fissile material that could be weaponized into a bomb.”

This, of course, is the crux of the issue: Iran’s ongoing enrichment program. Not because it is illegal; Iran is permitted to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Not again because Iran’s centrifuge program is operating in an undeclared, unmonitored fashion; the IAEA had stated it has a full understanding of the scope and work of the Iranian centrifuge enrichment program and that all associated nuclear material is accounted for and safeguarded. The problem has never been, and will never be, Iran’s enrichment program. The problem is American policy objectives of regime change in Iran, pushed by a combination of American desires for global hegemony and an activist Israeli agenda which seeks regional security, in perpetuity, through military and economic supremacy. The specter of nuclear enrichment is simply a vehicle for facilitating the larger policy objectives. Olli Heinonen, and those who support and sustain his work, must be aware of the larger geopolitical context of his actions, which makes them all the more puzzling and contemptible.

A major culprit in this entire sordid affair is the mainstream media. Displaying an almost uncanny inability to connect the dots, the editors who run America’s largest newspapers, and the producers who put together America’s biggest television news programs, have collectively facilitated the most simplistic, inane and factually unfounded story lines coming out of the Bush White House. The most recent fairy tale was one of “diplomacy,” on the part of one William Burns, the No. 3 diplomat in the State Department.

I have studied the minutes of meetings involving John McCloy, an American official who served numerous administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, in the decades following the end of the Second World War. His diplomacy with the Soviets, conducted with senior Soviet negotiator Valerein Zorin and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev himself, was real, genuine, direct and designed to resolve differences. The transcripts of the diplomacy conducted between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho to bring an end to the Vietnam conflict is likewise a study in the give and take required to achieve the status of real diplomacy.

Sending a relatively obscure official like Burns to “observe” a meeting between the European Union and Iran, with instructions not to interact, not to initiate, not to discuss, cannot under any circumstances be construed as diplomacy. Any student of diplomatic history could tell you this. And yet the esteemed editors and news producers used the term diplomacy, without challenge or clarification, to describe Burns’ mission to Geneva on July 19. The decision to send him there was hailed as a “significant concession” on the part of the Bush administration, a step away from war and an indication of a new desire within the White House to resolve the Iranian impasse through diplomacy. How this was going to happen with a diplomat hobbled and muzzled to the degree Burns was apparently skipped the attention of these writers and their bosses. Diplomacy, America was told, was the new policy option of choice for the Bush administration.

Of course, the Geneva talks produced nothing. The United States had made sure Europe, through its foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, had no maneuvering room when it came to the core issue of uranium enrichment: Iran must suspend all enrichment before any movement could be made on any other issue. Furthermore, the American-backed program of investigation concerning the MEK-supplied laptop computer further poisoned the diplomatic waters. Iran, predictably, refused to suspend its enrichment program, and rejected the Heinonen-led investigation into nuclear weaponization, refusing to cooperate further with the IAEA on that matter, noting that it fell outside the scope of the IAEA’s mandate in Iran.

Condoleezza Rice was quick to respond. After a debriefing from Burns, who flew to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where Rice was holding closed-door meetings with the foreign ministers of six Arab nations on the issue of Iran, Rice told the media that Iran “was not serious” about resolving the standoff. Having played the diplomacy card, Rice moved on with the real agenda: If Iran did not fully cooperate with the international community (i.e., suspend its enrichment program), then it would face a new round of economic sanctions and undisclosed punitive measures, both unilaterally on the part of the United States and Europe, as well as in the form of even broader sanctions from the United Nations Security Council (although it is doubtful that Russia and China would go along with such a plan).

The issue of unilateral U.S. sanctions is most worrisome. Both the House of Representatives, through HR 362, and the Senate, through SR 580, are preparing legislation which would call for an air, ground and sea blockade of Iran. Back in October 1962, President Kennedy, when considering the imposition of a naval blockade against Cuba in response to the presence of Soviet missiles in that nation, opined that “a blockade is a major military operation, too. It’s an act of war.” Which, of course, it is. The false diplomacy waged by the White House in Geneva simply pre-empted any congressional call for a diplomatic outreach. Now the president can move on with the mission of facilitating a larger war with Iran by legitimizing yet another act of aggression. One day, in the not-so-distant future, Americans will awake to the reality that American military forces are engaged in a shooting war with Iran. Many will scratch their heads and wonder, “How did that happen?” The answer is simple: We all let it happen. We are at war with Iran right now. We just don’t have the moral courage to admit it.

Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector and marine intelligence officer who has written extensively about Iran.

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