Al Qaeda: The CI-A Team by Ignorance Isn’t Bliss + Barry Zweiker: Gulf War 1 lies: conspiracy to gain support for the Gulf War 1 (videos)

Dandelion Salad

Al Qaeda: The CI-A Team

by Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

NOTE: This short spoof film is my creation for the “quagmire” pre-911 video project. It’s how I intend to introduce Osama and company during the early-80’s era, in the massive timeline/TV project.

Here is the story behind that draft piece:

Prelude: The Cold War:

Our story begins during the Cold War. The nature of the Cold War is remains fuzzy to most people, despite it lasting some 45 years, and the primary reason is because it was a covert war.

It is generally characterized as a battle between the 2 “superpowers”, or empires. It was best characterized as the United States (USSA) and the USSR competing in conducting covert operations in foreign nations on a global scale. It was obviously a struggle between 2 competing cross-spectrum economic systems and political ideologies. Extreme capitalism on the “right” (ultraconservatism), and extreme socialism (communism) on the “left’.

The means and methods the 2 sides used for control in their goals of imperial conquest were virtually identical:

1) Destabilization: This caused nation-states and various regimes to “need” the support of whichever side “they” identified with.

2) Revolutionary Uprisings: A primary vehicle for destabilization and covert regime change, or for ‘controlling’ “secular’ regimes. Revolutionary factions were trained in all forms of terrorism to reach their political goals.

3) Instigating Regional Conflicts: This caused the target nation states (wherever there were “interests”) to need to buy weapons from the military-industrial-complex driven empire-states (USSA & USSR). Often times the empires would even support both sides of a conflict if they had the opportunity.

Both sides were equally guilty of these crimes or at least the intentions of such. The victory all came down to efficiency. Obviously, the U.S. won, and so did the economic system as evidenced by today’s “globalization” (most global states were “nationalist” systems before the end of the Cold War).

U.S. Style Covert Control:

Choice examples of U.S. style Cold War “foreign policy”, for this essay, are as follows:

1: Create or support conservative violent uprisings to overthrow leftist regimes that maintained or sought to establish “nationalized” natural resources.
A choice example of this would be Nicaragua Contras who were radicalized Christian revolutionaries. This is what the “Iran-Contra” conspiracy was about.…

2: Installation of right-wing military dictatorships.
The best example of this would be Operation CONDOR, which the U.S. supported all throughout the 1970’s. This conquest involved overthrowing the democratically elected governments of most of the nations in all of South America. It involved assassinations (terrorism), and the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of political dissidents (people protesting the hijacking of their country).…

Then for the other ‘heathen’ side of the globe (Middle Eastern Asia), different and somewhat opposite tactics were employed:

A: The installation of ‘secular’ regimes.
With this strategy the U.S. would put the secular regimes into power, if necessary, and then destabilize the region with radical Islamists. This would create a need for U.S. weapons and even presence in the form of military bases for “security”. Choice examples would be Saddam Hussein (who the CIA put into power), Egypt and so on. These are 1970’s examples. This sort of behavior actually goes back to 1953 with operation AJAX in Iran.…

B: Supporting monarchist or similar repressive regimes.
A good example here would be Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; again, 1970’s examples. Ideally, in all of the covert conquests, existing regimes would be persuaded or coerced into playing the ideal roles for their regional scenarios.

There are other forms and examples, but these are the most prominent.

X: Destabilization:
Ultraconservative’s (radical Islamists for example) were/are still guided and supported overall by the U.S. to play out their roles in destabilizing their regions (thus requiring the regimes to need U.S. backing).

While the Islamists are ideal tools for destabilizing a region, they’re not what the U.S. considers ideal regimes to hold power. While the US may seek to destablize ‘regions’ to gain influence and control, conversely it seeks regimes that will stabilize US led “globalization” efforts to gain resources and cheap slave labor. Regimes that destabilize globalization, whether secular or radical Islamic, are typically what you’d find on “terrorist state sponsors” lists as evidenced by Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran and so on. Islamist regimes, in resource rich lands generally tend to destabilize globalization so they’re generally not given enough support to achieve their goals, while the secular regimes are.

Islamist revival movements gained followers across the Muslim world, but failed to secure political power except in Iran and Sudan.
-9/11 Commission Report; p.53

A good analogy for this destabilization concept is when leaders use fear mongering to scare their populations into supporting imperialistic militarism or domestic police state programs. You scare their grasp on security and self-“control” and they’ll accept the “solution”. This tactic can and often is applied to not only individuals but also entire regions. It’s a particular favorite of imperialist powers as far back as well recorded history goes. Of course, the USSR used similar but somewhat politically-opposite tactics, and so on.

Now there’s destablization in general, and then there’s more direct thuggish destabilization. Ideally, you install regimes in regions that are sure to produce opposition to ensure the new regimes codependency on US weapons and “aid’. This is a sort of ‘endemic’ self-sustaining destabilization. But then there often comes a need for directly focused destabilization to attain specific political goals, and this is where ‘focus groups’ such as Al Qaeda come in.

Afghanistan 1979-89: The Cold War Final Showdown:

The general version we get is that we helped the poor Afghani’s defend their territory from the “Evil Empire” the USSR, or, the other “superpower”. Then, after they (the Mujahadeen) “won” the imperialist driven conflict, some of them branched off into “Al Qaeda” and decided to go after US, the remaining “superpower’.

1977-1981: The Nationalities Working Group Advocates Using Militant Islam Against Soviet Union
1978: CIA Begins Covert Action in Afghanistan
July 3, 1979: President Carter Approves Covert Aid to Anti-Soviet Forces in Afghanistan
December 8, 1979: Soviet Forces, Lured in by the CIA, Invade Afghanistan
Early 1980: Osama bin Laden, with Saudi Backing, Supports Afghan Rebels
1982: Pakistani ISI Begins Recruiting Arab Fundamentalists to Fight in Afghanistan. Afghan opium production rises from 250 tons in 1982 to 2,000 tons in 1991, coinciding with CIA support and funding of the mujaheddin.
1984: Bin Laden Develops Ties with Pakistani ISI and Afghan Warlord

And now our story begins to take shape.

For perspective, however, one must consider the nature and relationship of the Bush’s and Saudi’s, which is rather common knowledge these days, but stretches back into the 70’s when GHWB was the CIA Director and established his Saudi / Bin laden relationship. Many of the ‘tactic’ examples above actually occurred during his tenures with the CIA in the 70’s and his vice-presidency during the 80’s, and much more.

This assistance was funneled through Pakistan: the Pakistani military intelligence
service (Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISID), helped train the rebels and distribute the arms.…

Post-Cold War: Finding an “Enemy”; Gaining a Tool:

At least since the Cold War there has been a need for excuses to maintain our imperial posture while distracting Americans from noticing that we’re an imperialist state. This is easy to do with “justifiable” and covert wars, but when the wars aren’t justifiable or covert people begin to wake up to the reality. ‘Coincidentally’, a new “Islamofacsist” ’empire’ (anti-US Imperialism ragtag groups scattered throughout a vast region) began to appear.

These groups were none other than the majuahadeen religious freedom fighters that “we’ trained during the Afghan War. Their number one leader was the Bush connected Saudi money handler that helped the CIA coordinate the Mujahadeen uprising, while his family and their associates were the ones in the Middle East who stand to gain from his anti-American exploits and the future “War on Terror”. Ironically, the imperialist-elitist leaders from the U.S. even stand to gain from his groups future exploits.

1980 and on: The U.S. itself as a Tool for American Imperialism:

The US is used for volunteer Mujahadeen solider & fund-raising from early in the Afghan conflict. Mujahadeen support centers are established throughout the U.S.

A Muslim organization called al Khifa had numerous branch offices, the largest of which was in the Farouq mosque in Brooklyn. In the mid-80’s, it had been set up as one of the first outposts of Azzam & Bin Laden’s MAK.[40] Other cities which included branches of al Khifa included Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Tucson.…

The upcoming group, “Al Qaeda”, is later useful for agenda setting terror attacks throughout the US. It’s usefulness is 2 pronged: On the one hand it has effective use for domestic policy setting, and the other bring use for a new ‘never-ending’ “War on Terror” scheme of global imperialistic domination.

It is later found to be connected with the OKC bombing, and of course 9/11. Of course, the OKC connectosn are completely ignored by the government as it weakens their anti-militia stance, and this is all about control.…

1989: Azzam, the primary leader of the Mujahadeen, and seeker of peaceful political movements for revolutionary change throughout the Middle East, is mysteriously assassinated. Western journalists would later assert that UBL was responsible the assassination.

Enter Iraq:

Ever since Hussein was placed into power by the CIA, he became increasingly arrogant and impossible to play like a puppet by the US establishment. Efforts to use traditional CIA tactics like overthrows and assassinations were futile thanks to his use of body doubles and family centralized power.

1989: Usama returns home.

He denounced Saddam Hussein, claiming the Iraqi leader was about to invade Kuwait. In Saudi, such behaviour did not endear him to the authorities. He was told to shut up and refused, but all the time he was quietly advising the Saudi King Fahd of the danger coming from Iraq.…

August 1990: Saddam invades Kuwait after being given the green light by the US.

UBL pleads to Saudi royals to summon majahadeen to fight Hussein. The Royals, and the policy setting U.S., decide that the job is too big for the Mujahadeen. UBL’s Mujahadeen strategy dispatched to northern Iraq to fuel a Kurdish insurgency, to destabilize Hussein in his weakest moments. U.S. levels Iraqi forces, but then decides to back off since imperial control couldn’t be fully established with the multi-national coalition, plus Hussein might finally obey.

This plan fails, UBL attempts to work with Kurds through the 90’s. Saddam grows even more defiant to the US over time. We all know the rest.

Bin Laden had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan, and sought to attract them into his Islamic army.
-9/11 Commission Report; p.61

Libya: Putting Qadhafi in Check:

“We are not in need of bin Laden, we don’t need his money and we don’t need his protection and we don’t want to use him or be used by him.…

LIFG’s next big operation, a failed attempt to assassinate Qadhafi in February 1996 that killed several of his bodyguards, was later said to have been financed by British intelligence to the tune of $160,000, according to ex-M15 officer David Shayler.…

Here classic Mafioso bullying “protection” tactics are used twofold: On the one hand Qadhafi can seek ‘protection” from Al Qaeda, or on the other hand he can “join” the United States in “combating” the former. It’s really a no-brainer for any regime that’s trying to seek respect in the “civilized” world, as to take option one would only secure his name in the history books as a ‘barbaric’ state sponsor of terrorism.

Ironically, the common thread running through Libya, bin Laden and the U.S. is the 1979-1988 Afghan war.…

LIGF was founded in the fall of 1995 by Libyans who had fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.…

Far from being soul-mates, Qadhafi and bin Laden have long been at odds; it was Qadhafi who, in March 1998, issued the first Interpol arrest warrant for bin Laden, a fact little known in the West.

Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s decades-long confrontation with the West has never given him much purchase among militant Islamists in Libya. In fact, the LIFG has waged a violent insurgency for ten years – with a hostility toward the eccentric dictator so implacable that it refuses even to negotiate with his envoys.…

These groups came into open conflict with security services in the mid 1990s and also made a number of assassination attempts against Qadhafi, most notably in 1996 and 1998.…

Operation a success, and the sellout:

A Canadian intelligence report says al-Qaeda-backed militants in Libya want to assassinate Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, providing a possible explanation for the dictator’s recent attempts to improve relations with the West.

The United States and Britain announced last Friday that Col. Gaddafi had agreed to dismantle Libya’s weapons of mass destruction programs. UN weapons inspectors are to arrive in the country as early as next week.

Yesterday, Col. Gaddafi called on other “rogue states” to follow his dramatic example if they were to prevent “tragedy” from striking their nations.…

The Balkins: 1992-Present:

I’d say this Al Qaeda supported history speaks for itself. Al Qaeda, the Mujahadeen, weapons and heroin showed up right about the same time the US military was ready to move in. An echo of the Afghan War, but I thought “we” were done using these measures?

1991: US Convinces Bosnian President to Renege on Agreement
1992-1995: Pentagon Helps Bring Islamic Militants to Fight with Bosnians Against Serbs
1992-1995: KSM Fights and Fundraises in Bosnia
1993: Bosnian President Said to Grant Bin Laden Passport as Gesture of Appreciation
1993: Albanian Drug Smuggling Profits Fund Muslim Arms Buildup in Balkans
1993: US Begins Construction on Airfield Used for Bosnia Arms Pipeline 1994: Bin Laden Meets with Albanian Government Officials
August 30, 1995: NATO Launches Bombing Campaign Against Bosnian Serbs
1995-1998:< STRONG>Alleged Ties Between Al-Qadi Charity and Terrorist Groups Are Uncovered; No Action Taken
February 1995: Albanian Narco-Terrorism Destabilizes the Balkans
1996-1999: Albanian Mafia and KLA Take Control of Balkan Heroin Trafficking Route
February 1998: State Department Removes KLA from Terrorism List
Shortly Before February 1998 and After: KLA Receives Arms and Training from US and NATO
May 7, 1998: Al-Qaeda Leader Visits Bosnia; US Charity Is Funding Al-Qaeda There
October 1998: Islamic Conference Calls KLA Struggle ‘Jihad’
1999: US and British Special Forces Train KLA Operatives in Albania
Late March-June 1999: NATO Begins Bombing Campaign Against Serbs
June 2001: The KLA Begins an Offensive in Macedonia
Late June-Early July 2001: KLA Forces Are Rescued by US in Macedonia
July 15, 2001: The KLA Begins Ethnic Cleansing of Tetovo-Kosovo Corridor in Macedonia
September 20, 2002: Saudi Charity in Bosnia Linked to Al-Qaeda


serbia map

In the 1990s the US and UK led a military campaign to restore peace to Yugoslavia. The allies celebrated their status as the peace police of the world. A few years later, we learn that the war opened the door for the US oil industry to a vast new oil supply that had just been discovered.…

serbia map 2

[Note: There has been a decrease from 80% to 50% through this region, but it can be said that it’s now US controlled, while it wasn’t before.]

‘Honorable’ Mention: The Philippine’s:

They were a US colony for nearly 50 years. Eventually they were given ‘independence’ after WW2.

They finally booted our bases between 91-92, and “Al Qaeda” support moved in shortly thereafter.

In September 16, 1991, despite lobbying by President Aquino, the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty that would have allowed a 10-year extension of the U.S. military bases in the country. The United States turned over Clark Air Base in Pampanga to the government in November, and Subic Bay Naval Base in Zambales in December 1992, ending almost a century of U.S. military presence in the Philippines.…

Since its inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and extortion in their fight for an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago with the stated goal of creating a pan-Islamic superstate…

President Arroyo has demonstrated total support for the U.S.-led campaign, offering intelligence, logical support, and the use of Philippine air space, and opening two former American military bases, Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay. Most recently, she has agreed to receive U.S. troops’ advice and logistical support in the country’s fight against the Abu Sayyaf.

By sending American troops to aid Filipino forces in defeating the Abu Sayyaf, the Philippines has become the only country besides Afghanistan to receive direct involvement of U.S. troops in the fight against terrorism.…

Why is it that Al Qaeda shows up nearly everywhere we do, and they’re also on the same side?


FBI Knowingly Allowed Bin Laden To Personally Charter Flight After 9/11

*9/11 Commission Report: “terrorist threats, was in the tens of thousands—probably hundreds of thousands.”

*Osama’s Satellite Phone: History Channel unwittingly debunks the 911 Commission Report

*U.S. “Interests”: Hardcore Drugs

Why is the Bush Administration Afraid of Hugo Chavez? (video; Palast)

Dandelion Salad

Finding Bolivar’s Heir

s3nn5 on Dec 7, 2007

This report by Greg Palast offers a never-before-seen interview with Chavez, insight into Chavez’s relationship with the U.S. as well as Chavez’s plans for Venezuela, perspectives from opposition party members and raw footage from the slums of Caracas.

Continue reading

The Other War: Iraq Veterans Speak Out on Shocking Accounts of Attacks on Iraqi Civilians + War Vet Describes Iraq House Raid (video links; over 18 only)

Dandelion Salad

Thursday, July 12, 2007
Democracy Now!

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The Nation magazine has published a startling new expose of fifty American combat veterans of the Iraq War who give vivid on-the-record accounts of the US military occupation in Iraq and describe a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts. The investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate assertions of indiscriminate killings and other atrocities by the US military in Iraq. We speak with the article’s co-author, journalist Laila Al-Arian, and four Iraq veterans who came forward with their stories of war. [includes rush transcript – partial]

As debate continues in Congress over the Iraq war, the Pentagon says it is probing new allegations of wrongdoing during the US military assault on Fallujah three years ago. U.S. Marines are said to have killed as many as eight unarmed Iraqi prisoners when U.S. forces attacked Fallujah in November of 2004. The Marine unit under investigation is the same involved in the killing of twenty-four civilians in Haditha in 2005, where after an IED exploded killing a marine, his unit rampaged through several neighboring houses and killed twenty-four civilians. This comes as The Nation magazine publishes a startling new expose that paints a disturbing picture of the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. Over the course of several months, The Nation magazine interviewed fifty American combat veterans of the Iraq War. The soldiers gave vivid on-the-record accounts of the US military occupation in Iraq and described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.The Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate assertions of indiscriminate killings and other atrocities by the US military in Iraq.The cover story is titled “The Other War: Military Veterans Speak on the Record about Attacks on Iraqi Civilians.” In it, journalists Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian write: “The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war on Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.”

Today we spend the hour with Iraq war veterans around the country who tell their stories of war.

  • Laila Al-Arian. Co-author of the Nation article, “The Other War: Military Veterans Speak on the Record about Attacks on Iraqi Civilians.” She is a writer with the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund.
  • Sgt. John Bruhns. Served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib with the Third Brigade, First Armor Division, First Battalion, for one year beginning in April 2003.
  • Spc. Garett Reppenhagen. Cavalry scout and sniper with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, who was deployed to Baquba for a year in February 2004.
  • Staff Sgt. Timothy John Westphal. Served on the outskirts of Tikrit for a yearlong tour with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, beginning in February 2004.
  • Sgt. Dustin Flatt. Served with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, for one year beginning in February 2004.



Iraq War Vets Describe “Brutal Techniques” Used by U.S. Military Against Iraqi Civilians

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Two Iraq war veterans, Sgt. John Bruhns and Spc. Garett Reppenhagen recount their experience in Iraq, particularly describe the brutal house raids they conducted on a regular basis in Iraq. Spc. Reppenhagen says, “You could see the frustration on [the Iraqi’s] faces, the anger, the sadness, the worry, the fear. You know, it was very hard to see the faces of the Iraqi people when you took their family members away…especially when you know most of the time you have bad intelligence and you are raiding the house that usually the people inside are innocent.”

  • Sgt. John Bruhns. Served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib with the Third Brigade, First Armor Division, First Battalion, for one year beginning in April 2003.
  • Spc. Garett Reppenhagen. Cavalry scout and sniper with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, who was deployed to Baquba for a year in February 2004.

To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.

transcript available later today


If Soldiers Came From Another Country And Did This To My Family, I Would Be An Insurgent Too” – War Vet Describes Iraq House Raid

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Staff Sergeant Timothy John Westphal, who served in Iraq for one year, recalls raiding a sprawling farm on the outskirts of Tikrit in 2004 and the screams he can still hear of the man he woke up inside. Sgt. Westphal says, “He was so terrified and so afraid for his family. I thought of my family at the time and thought ‘If I was the patriarch of the family, if soldiers came from another country and did this to my family, I would be an insurgent too.'” We also speak with Sgt. Dustin Flatt who describes unarmed civilians being shot or run over by U.S. military convoys.

  • Staff Sgt. Timothy John Westphal. Served on the outskirts of Tikrit for a yearlong tour with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, beginning in February 2004.
  • Sgt. Dustin Flatt. Served with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, for one year beginning in February 2004.

To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.

transcript available later today

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Randi Rhodes: “Greg Palast, She Called You A Liar” (audio link)

Dandelion Salad

Greg Palast

published July 11th, 2007 in Articles

Hear Greg Palast and Randi Rhodes on the testimony of Karl Rove’s assistant, Sara Taylor, today before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Topics include voter caging, obstruction of justice, firing of US Prosecutors and the factory that produces blonde Rove-bots.


God, Guns and Oil: The Shadow History of the Saudi-American Alliance by Chris Floyd + In Princes’ Pockets by Tariq Ali

Dandelion Salad

Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 12 July 2007

Tariq Ali has written an excellent piece in the London Review of Books on the ever-corrupt relationship between the Saudi royals and the American elite, and the history of the religious extremists who, as in America, serve as the main base of the nation’s wastrel leaders. Go there and read the whole thing. With an intro like this (excerpted below), how can you resist?

In Prince’s Pockets (LRB):

The day after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, a Saudi woman resident in London, a member of a wealthy family, rang her sister in Riyadh to discuss the crisis affecting the kingdom. Her niece answered the phone.

‘Where’s your mother?’

‘She’s here, dearest aunt, and I’ll get her in a minute, but is that all you have to say to me? No congratulations for yesterday?’

The dearest aunt, out of the country for far too long, was taken aback. She should not have been. The fervour that didn’t dare show itself in public was strong even at the upper levels of Saudi society. US intelligence agencies engaged in routine surveillance were, to their immense surprise, picking up unguarded cellphone talk in which excited Saudi princelings were heard revelling in bin Laden’s latest caper. Like the CIA, they had not thought it possible for him to reach such heights.



In Princes’ Pockets

by Tariq Ali

America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier by Robert Vitalis · Stanford, 353 pp, £19.50

Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation by Madawi Al-Rasheed · Cambridge, 308 pp, £19.99

The day after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, a Saudi woman resident in London, a member of a wealthy family, rang her sister in Riyadh to discuss the crisis affecting the kingdom. Her niece answered the phone.

‘Where’s your mother?’

‘She’s here, dearest aunt, and I’ll get her in a minute, but is that all you have to say to me? No congratulations for yesterday?’

The dearest aunt, out of the country for far too long, was taken aback. She should not have been. The fervour that didn’t dare show itself in public was strong even at the upper levels of Saudi society. US intelligence agencies engaged in routine surveillance were, to their immense surprise, picking up unguarded cellphone talk in which excited Saudi princelings were heard revelling in bin Laden’s latest caper. Like the CIA, they had not thought it possible for him to reach such heights.

Washington had taken its oldest ally in the Arab world for granted. In the weeks that followed 9/11, the Saudi royal family was besieged by a storm of critical comment in the US media and its global subsidiaries. Publishers eager to make a quick dollar hurriedly produced a few bad books with even worse titles – Hatred’s Kingdom, Sleeping with the Devil – that set out to denounce the Saudis. The mini-industry had little medium-term impact, and normal business was soon resumed. On 14 February 2005 there was even a re-enactment of the meeting that had taken place sixty years before on the USS Quincy, moored in the Suez Canal, at which Roosevelt and Ibn Saud, the first king of Saudi Arabia, signed the concordat that would guarantee continued single-family rule. The interpreter was Colonel William Eddy, a senior US intelligence officer and much else besides. Considered too insecure during the ‘global war on terror’, Suez was rejected as a potential venue for the re-enactment: the grandsons of the two principals and Eddy’s nephew had to make do with the Ritz in Coconut Grove, Florida. A giant gold-plated Cadillac in the Arizona desert might have been more appropriate.

To look at the landscape today, you would think nothing had changed. Saudi princes, unaccustomed to exercising their inventive faculties, continue to distinguish themselves by the size of the commissions they procure from Western corporations. The competition here is restricted to fellow royals or nominated bagmen. It is usually friendly and always corrupt. Given that weaponry deals with the West cost billions rather than millions nobody begrudges the Saudis a token twenty million or so by way of a thank you. Meanwhile, Western PR firms get the regime’s message out. At a European airport several months ago I saw exactly the same handout regurgitated in the Guardian, El Pais, the International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, La Repubblica: the gist of it was that terrorists were handing in their weapons, renouncing their past and progressing well at re-education schools.

The US Justice Department is currently investigating allegations that the veteran Saudi fixer Prince Bandar claimed his share of the $86 billion deal with BAE Systems, a commission approved by Tony Blair and his attorney general. Few imagine that the investigation will lead anywhere, since US and other European companies do similar deals all the time. The mandarins in the Defence Ministry in Whitehall refuse to be bothered by the fuss, and the cuddly Bandar (the name means ‘monkey’ in most South Asian languages) continues to insist that he did nothing wrong, since it’s normal practice anyway and the money is all deposited in the State Treasury in Riyadh. This is true, but then the Treasury has always served as the royal trough, and the line between private wealth and state revenues was never very firmly fixed. Bandar could in any case have claimed, quite truthfully, that much of this cash has a way of finding its way back to the West through the trade in luxury items (not to mention tarts and courtesans) or through the numerous casinos that dot Mayfair and Monaco and the tips paid to waitresses (higher than the rates paid by the LRB).

The seamier side of princely life – is there another side? – formed the subject-matter of bin Laden’s powerful pre-9/11 samizdat videos, which continue to circulate in the kingdom, encouraging many young people to see their country through his eyes and share his disgust with its ruling family. The solution for them lies only in jihad. The most fearless account of Saudi society in recent years has been Abd al-Rahman Munif’s Cities of Salt quintet of novels; as with other contraband commodities circulated clandestinely in Saudi Arabia, there were reports of laughter emanating from the palaces as the princesses recognised the portraits of their spouses. Munif charts the break-up of the old desert societies that began with the arrival of Western oil prospectors, the resulting deformation of peninsular society, the birth of despotism, and of resistance to it. He depicts the world he knew: traders, herdsmen, nouveau-riche sheikhs, and chancers from elsewhere in the Arab world arriving to offer their professional services. Munif’s savage and surreal satires of the suddenly rich royal family led to his Saudi nationality being revoked and to exile, first in Baghdad and then in Damascus. When he died in 2004, his widow rejected the posthumous honours (including loadsamoney) offered by Riyadh and defied tradition by refusing to permit the Saudi ambassador in Syria to offer his condolences in person.

Critical academic works on the Saudi kleptocracy are rare, however. Many Arab Studies departments on Anglo-American campuses receive generous endowments from the Saudis and other Gulf states. Conferences on the region are often funded from the same source. The money arrives without fanfare and with no conditions explicitly attached, but the recipients are now well trained. Which is why America’s Kingdom comes as a pleasant surprise. Robert Vitalis, who teaches political science at the University of Pennsylvania, has produced a scholarly and readable book on the interaction between Saudi society and Aramco, the US oil giant that had its beginnings when the Saudi government granted its first concessions to Standard Oil of California in 1933. Combining history with political anthropology, Vitalis sheds a bright light on the origins and less savoury aspects of the Saudi-US relationship in its first phase, when oil production was accompanied by the manufacturing of myths that prettified the US presence. In 1955, Aramco funded Island of Allah, a ‘documentary’ about Saudi Arabia. It was a box-office flop. An American novelist, Wallace Stegner (who later founded the Stanford creative writing programme), was hired to write a history of Aramco to make up for the movie’s failure. Discovery! The Search for Arabian Oil was written in a month, but was shelved for 12 years by Aramco executives before it was finally published. It was not uncritical enough: Stegner’s mild observations on racism inside the company went down badly.

America’s Kingdom took ten years to research and write and Vitalis has clearly enjoyed himself. He sees Aramco as a microcosm of the colonial order at home and abroad. His aim is to destroy the foundational myths of the company – which he does in style. Aramco’s treatment of the native workforce, he argues, was not unusual, and he describes US mining companies in the late 19th century dealing with indigenous tribes in Arizona and New Mexico in similar fashion. The work camps set up in Saudi Arabia were a replica of what had been tried out in Maracaibo in Venezuela after the discovery of oil there in the 1920s.

The story he tells, of the Aramco workforce’s struggle against the ‘racial wage’, has not been told in detail before: strikes from below, angry confrontations at management level, blatant racial discrimination against Saudi workers and managers and ‘divide and rule’ tactics on the part of Aramco. There were no ‘honorary Whites’ (as the Afrikaners labelled the Japanese) here. Bosses and engineers were exclusively white Americans, many from Texas, most imbued with prejudices which were the legacy of slavery, the Civil War and the institutionalised apartheid that followed the brief flowering of formal equality during Reconstruction. Vitalis mentions the prevalence of Ku Klux Klan membership in the industry (it’s worth remembering that by 1925 the Klan had four million members, making it the largest organised political movement in US history).

In 1944, Aramco imported 1700 Italian workers from Eritrea in an attempt to put an end to the troublemaking. Being made to share camps with Arabs, Pakistanis and Sudanese rather than with white Americans angered the Italians, but their protests came to nothing; they left or were sacked and non-Europeans soon replaced them. One of the symbols of petty privilege was the Aramco company cinema: entry was permitted to the better-educated Palestinians and Pakistanis but denied to Saudis. This led to a pitched battle on 14 June 1956: the Saudi workers stormed the camp and were confronted by the police and the private guards of the local emir. (The workers demanding equal rights chanted ‘Down with Pakistanis; they are Jews and friends of Jews,’ an instance of what in the old days we used to refer to as ‘false consciousness’.) The workers were brutalised; 100 of them, including a 13-year-old, were selected for public flogging, each receiving 100 lashes.

Local tribal leaders and the royals collaborated eagerly during the early years, becoming more critical only after the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956 created a radical anti-imperialist fervour that swept the Middle East. Vitalis documents all this in great detail. The two Saudi figures he most respects are the former oil minister Abdullah Tariki and the veteran Saudi diplomat Ibn Muammar. Tariki, a shrewd, skilful, incorruptible technocrat, had defended Saudi interests against the oil giant from the very beginning. He argued for the state takeover of Saudi oil in the late 1950s, and was demonised by Aramco. He was always an irritant, and not just to them. He refused to tolerate corruption and in 1961 challenged the powerful Crown Prince Faisal in public. Together with the dissident Prince Talal, a supporter of Arab nationalism, Tariki accused Faisal of demanding and obtaining a permanent commission from the Japanese owned Arabian Oil Company (AOC). A Beirut newspaper published the story. An enraged Faisal issued a denial and demanded proof.

Tariki persevered. He uncovered evidence that proved beyond any doubt that 2 per cent of AOC profits had been guaranteed in perpetuity to Faisal’s rogue brother-in-law, Kamal Adham, who later became head of Saudi intelligence and a director of BCCI. The Council of Ministers cancelled the AOC contract. Four months later, Faisal removed Tariki from his post, replacing him with an able lawyer, Ahmed Zaki Yamani (later kidnapped with other colleagues at the OPEC building in Vienna by Carlos the Jackal and his gang), who immediately rushed off to tell Aramco that Tariki was being removed from its board of directors. Tariki never found employment in the oil industry again and ended up an exile in Beirut. An Aramco spy who met him during this time in Cairo reported back to his superiors: ‘I asked him how he would envisage a change in regime. He said that it would be very simple. A small army detachment can do the job by killing the king and Faisal. The rest of the royal family will run for cover like scared rabbits. Then the revolutionaries will call Nasser for help.’

It didn’t quite happen like that. The aged Ibn Saud was retired, and Crown Prince Faisal became king. It was only after his nephew Prince Faisal ibn Musa assassinated him for personal reasons in 1975 that Tariki and a few other dissidents could return home. Faisal is largely responsible for the Saudi Arabia that exists today, with its reliance on Wahhabism for social control. Even though his brother and father before him had sought to institutionalise Wahhabi beliefs, they were more relaxed about it. Faisal believed that the only way to defeat Nasser and the godless Communists was by making religion the central pillar of the Saudi social order and using it ruthlessly against the enemy. It was Islam that was under threat and had to be defended on all fronts. This pleased his allies in Washington, who were tolerant even of his decision to impose an oil embargo against the West after the 1973 war, something that has never been attempted since. Visiting Western politicians were surprised when the king gave them copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but his deeply felt anti-semitism was treated as an eccentricity. There is nothing on or off the record to indicate that a single US or European leader enlightened him by pointing out that the Protocols were forgeries.

Even after Saudi oil was fully nationalised in 1980, Washington’s politico-military elite maintained their pledge to defend the existing Saudi regime and its state whatever the cost. Why, some people asked, could the Saudi state not defend itself? Because the Saud clan, living in a state of permanent fear, was haunted by the spectre of the radical nationalists who had seized power in Egypt in 1952 and in Iraq six years later. The Sauds kept the size of the national army and air force to the barest minimum. Given that this is still the case, what happens to the vast quantity of armaments purchased to please the West? Most of them rust peacefully in desert warehouses.

For a decade and a half it was the Pakistan Army – paid for out of the Saudi Treasury – that sent in large contingents to protect the family in case of internal upheavals. Then, after the first Gulf War, the American military arrived. It is still there. US bases in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were used to launch the war against Iraq. All pretence of independence had gone. The only thing the Saudi princes could do was to plead with the US not to make public what was hardly a state secret, though there was virtually no TV coverage of planes taking off from Saudi Arabia bound for Iraq.

Foreign armies have historically provided one sort of protection; Wahhabi theology another. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a Koranic literalist born in the 18th century, preached a primitive but effective message to the peninsular Arabs. Laughed at by his own family and booted out of his village, he found a willing listener in the founder of the Saud dynasty and a concordat was signed and sealed. The Saud clan would embrace the Wahhabi interpretation of the Book, and al-Wahhab would work exclusively with the Saud tribe and refrain from trying to convert its rivals. Astonishingly, the preacher agreed, and the first Saudi-Wahhabi emirate lasted from 1744 to 1818. It was when they began to attack other Muslims and tear down the tombs of the Companions of the Prophet that the Sultan in Constantinople instructed his Albanian-born governor in Egypt to deal with the problem. An army was dispatched from Cairo to crush the emirate: it succeeded, and for good measure burnt the capital, Deriyyah, to the ground. Today, Wahhabism is again being used to keep the citizens under control in a country with a Sunni majority, many of whom are allergic to it, and a large Shia minority in the oil-producing Eastern province.

In Contesting the Saudi State, the London-based Saudi historian Madawi Al-Rasheed argues that the defeat of 1818 taught the Wahhabis the art of survival. This entailed the adoption of more pragmatic policies, i.e. straightforward political opportunism. For literalists this could not have been easy. One of Muhammad’s sterner injunctions left little room for misinterpretation: infidels had to be kept out of the peninsula. The Sauds fought with the British against the Ottoman Empire and later accepted US suzerainty without many qualms. Each twist and turn considered necessary to hang on to power was justified by senior Wahhabi clerics. Pandering to power made the clerics ultra-dogmatic on other questions: the denial of equal rights for women, for example, or the refusal to ‘encourage idolatry’ by restricting the number of visitors to the tombs of the Prophet and his wives in Mecca. Some of the tombs have now been destroyed (one replaced with a public urinal); there have been no angry campaigns by Islamic extremists.

Religion is the ideological backbone of the regime and it penetrates every sphere:

Nothing exemplifies the enchantment of Saudi society like a local television programme called Fatwa on Air, a special performance normally hosting a religious scholar who responds to questions posed by the public. A woman wants to know whether menstruating for three weeks qualifies as menstruation, thus preventing her from performing prayers. A man asks whether it is permissible to borrow money to allow his mother to perform the pilgrimage. A third person asks whether high heels are permissible for women and . . . diamond rings . . . for men.

The repetitiveness and regularity of these shows reduce a world religion to a set of trivial rituals.

As Wahhabism was the only permissible discourse, Al-Rasheed goes on to argue, differences of interpretation and state policy were bound to erupt. One outcome was al-Qaida, but there is also fierce opposition to al-Qaida within the Wahhabi movement. In an article entitled ‘The Raging Wolf and the Buried Snake’, Khalid al-Ghannami, a cleric who has since changed his views, writes that there are two trends within the jihadi camp: ‘One prefers to kill openly while the other remains hidden until it is safe to emerge from its hole.’ As in China, the internet has become the site for heated debates, where the notion of ‘unconditional obedience’ to the ruler is under daily attack. Some are even bold enough to write that ‘our main aim must be to drive the Wahhabis out of the peninsula.’ Would Washington ever permit that?

Tariq Ali’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, about Latin America, is published by Verso.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Curiouser and Curiouser: The Comeback Kids of Al Qaeda by Chris Floyd

Dandelion Salad

Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 12 July 2007

We wrote here yesterday of the Bush Administration’s curious propensity for allowing “al Qaeda” leaders in Iraq to slip away before its various surges and crackdowns in Iraq. But of course in this, the situation in Iraq simply mirrors the Administration’s approach to al Qaeda throughout the whole “War on Terror” — a policy that could be very charitably described as “benign neglect” (although more sinister constructions on this policy are also quite plausible).

For example, counterterrorism officials are now telling Congress that al Qaeda has restored its power and capabilities to pre-9/11 levels, AP reports. The curiously elusive group has been thriving in its safe haven in Pakistan – that staunch “War on Terror” ally which, with the blessing of President Bush, has curiously signed “truces” that give al Qaeda and the Taliban carte blanche to live and train on Pakistani soil. From AP:

A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaeda has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001. A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document — titled “Al-Qaeda better positioned to strike the West” — called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

The findings suggests that the network that launched the most devastating terror attack on U.S. soil has been able to regroup despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at dismantling it…

Al-Qaeda is “considerably operationally stronger than a year ago” and has “regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001,” the counterterrorism official said, paraphrasing the report’s conclusions. “They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States….”

“They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan,” Kringen testified. “We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications. We see that activity rising.”

What is even more curious is the mention later in the story that the Bush Administration sees this assessment as good thing, a political winner:

The findings could bolster the president’s hand at a moment when support on Capitol Hill for the war is eroding and the administration is struggling to defend its decision for a military buildup in Iraq.

Apparently, the pretzel logic behind this is that the Administration will try to link the assessment with Bush’s new propaganda push labeling al Qaeda as the “main enemy” in Iraq, the “primary source” of violence in the conquered land. Oddly enough, the Bushists seem to think that admitting, as Buzzflash notes, that the entire “War on Terror” has been an abject failure – with al Qaeda stronger than ever – would somehow reflect positively on the Administration. This also seems to be the thinking behind the now-open Republican longing for a new terrorist strike on American soil, which they think will somehow vindicate the Dear Leader, and renew popular support for Bush’s Hitlerite war crime in Iraq.

Well, who knows? It just might work. Certainly, the corporate media are doing their bit for the cause, propagating at every turn Bush’s transparent lie about al Qaeda’s central role in Iraq. Every genuine intelligence and military assessment of the situation there has shown that “al Qaeda associated groups” make up a miniscule proportion of the hydra-headed Iraqi insurgency. Yet the American media have mindlessly adopted Bush’s falsehood, filling headlines and airtime with reports on the plucky surgers “taking the fight to al Qaeda.”

Yes, “taking the fight” to them by greenlighting safe havens for them, and giving them plenty of notice before a “surge” so they can slip away. It is indeed a very curious way to fight a “War on Terror.” Why, it almost seems as if the “War on Terror” is not really about fighting terror at all.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.


Saving Al Qaeda: Collective Punishment and Curious Policy in the “Surge” by Chris Floyd

Fatal Vision: The Strategy of Chaos and Ethnic Cleansing By Chris Floyd

Water World: Slipping Toward Climate Catastrophe By George Monbiot

Dandelion Salad

By George Monbiot
Posted July 12, 2007

New reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change might be absurdly optimistic about the pace of melting ice caps and rising sea levels.

Editor’s Note: George Monbiot is a British journalist and author whose expertise is on climate change and other environmental issues. Monbiot’s article reveals that government ineptitude in the face of increasingly frightening scientific data on climate change is not limited to the United States: The UK government is dangerously negligent on energy and climate issues even though it knows better.

Reading a scientific paper on the train this weekend, I found, to my amazement, that my hands were shaking. This has never happened to me before, but nor have I ever read anything like it. Published by a team led by James Hansen at NASA, it suggests that the grim reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could be absurdly optimistic.

The IPCC predicts that sea levels could rise by as much as 59 centimeters this century. Hansen’s paper argues that the slow melting of ice sheets the panel expects doesn’t fit the data. The geological record suggests that ice at the poles does not melt in a gradual and linear fashion, but flips suddenly from one state to another. When temperatures increased to 2-3 degrees Celsius above today’s level 3.5 million years ago, sea levels rose not by 59 cm but by 25 meters. The ice responded immediately to changes in temperature.

We now have a pretty good idea of why ice sheets collapse. The buttresses that prevent them from sliding into the sea break up; meltwater trickles down to their base, causing them suddenly to slip; and pools of water form on the surface, making the ice darker so that it absorbs more heat. These processes are already taking place in Greenland and West Antarctica.

Rather than taking thousands of years to melt, as the IPCC predicts, Hansen and his team find it “implausible” that the expected warming before 2100 “would permit a West Antarctic ice sheet of present size to survive even for a century.” As well as drowning most of the world’s centers of population, a sudden disintegration could lead to much higher rises in global temperature, because less ice means less heat reflected back into space. The new paper suggests that the temperature could therefore be twice as sensitive to rising greenhouse gases than the IPCC assumes. “Civilization developed,” Hansen writes, “during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end.”

I looked up from the paper, almost expecting to see crowds stampeding through the streets. I saw people chatting outside a riverside pub. The other passengers on the train snoozed over their newspapers or played on their mobile phones. Unaware of the causes of our good fortune, blissfully detached from their likely termination, we drift into catastrophe.

Or we are led there. A good source tells me that the British government is well aware that its target for cutting carbon emissions — 60 percent by 2050 — is too little, too late, but that it will go no further for one reason: it fears losing the support of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Why this body is allowed to keep holding a gun to our heads has never been explained, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just appointed Digby Jones, the former director-general of the CBI, as a minister in the UK government department responsible for energy policy. I don’t remember voting for him. There could be no clearer signal that the public interest is being drowned by corporate power.

The government’s energy program, partly as a result, is characterised by a complete absence of vision. You can see this most clearly when you examine its plans for renewables. The EU has set a target for 20 percent of all energy in the member states to come from renewable sources by 2020. This in itself is pathetic. But the British government refuses to adopt it: instead it proposes that 20 percent of the UK’s electricity (just part of Britain’s total energy use) should come from renewable power by that date. Even this is not a target, just an “aspiration,” and it is on course to miss it. Worse still, the British government has no idea what happens after that. I recently asked whether it has commissioned any research to discover how much more electricity we could generate from renewable sources. It has not.

It’s a critical question, whose answer — if its results were applied globally — could determine whether or not the planetary “albedo flip” that Hansen predicts takes place. There has been remarkably little investigation of this issue. Until recently I guessed that the maximum contribution from renewables would be something like 50%: beyond that point the difficulties of storing electricity and balancing the grid could become overwhelming. But three papers now suggest that we could go much further.

Last year, the German government published a study of the effects of linking the electricity networks of all the countries in Europe and connecting them to North Africa and Iceland with high voltage direct current cables. This would open up a much greater variety of renewable power sources. Every country in the network would then be able to rely on stable and predictable supplies from elsewhere: hydroelectricity in Scandanavia and the Alps, geothermal energy in Iceland and vast solar thermal farms in the Sahara. By spreading the demand across a much wider network, it suggests that 80 percent of Europe’s electricity could be produced from renewable power without any greater risk of blackouts or flickers.

At about the same time, Mark Barrett at University College London published a preliminary study looking mainly at ways of altering the pattern of demand for electricity to match the variable supply from wind and waves and tidal power. At about twice the current price, he found that we might be able to produce as much as 95 percent of our electricity from renewable sources without causing interruptions in the power supply.

Now a new study by the Center for Alternative Technology takes this even further. It is remarkable in two respects: it suggests that by 2027 the United Kingdom could produce 100 percent of our electricity without the use of fossil fuels or nuclear power, and that it could do so while almost tripling its supply: British heating systems (using electricity to drive heat pumps) and transport systems could be mostly powered by it. It relies on a great expansion of electricity storage: building new hydroelectric reservoirs into which water can be pumped when electricity is abundant, constructing giant vanadium flow batteries and linking electric cars up to the grid when they are parked, using their batteries to meet fluctuations in demand. It contains some optimistic technical assumptions, but also a very pessimistic one: that the UK relies entirely on its own energy supplies. If the German proposal were to be combined with these ideas, it’s possible to see how one might reliably move towards a world without fossil fuels.

If Hansen is correct, to avert the meltdown that brings the Holocene to an end we require a response on this scale: a sort of political “albedo flip.” The British government must immediately commission studies to discover how much of our energy could be produced without fossil fuels, set that as its target then turn the economy round to meet it. But a power shift like this cannot take place without a power shift of another kind: the UK needs a government which fears planetary meltdown more than it fears the CBI.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Lessons from the Lal Masjid tragedy by Robert Jensen

Dandelion Salad

Thursday, 12 July 2007
by Robert Jensen

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — For my first three days in Pakistan, no conversation could go more than a few minutes without a reference to the crisis at the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) compound. I had landed in Islamabad on July 8, and by then it seemed clear that government forces would eventually storm the mosque and the attached women’s seminary to end the confrontation with fundamentalist clerics and their supporters.

The final assault was finally unleashed as two companions and I drove to Lahore as part of a lecture tour. During several hours of intense discussion in the car, they gave me background and details that explained the real tragedy of the conflict.

When the news of the final assault came via cell phone we all fell silent, and we all quietly cried — for those killed and for opportunities lost, out of our grief and from our fear.

In the Western news media and even much of the Pakistani press, the story was framed as crazed radical Islamist forces challenging relatively restrained government forces. Indeed, the two brothers who ran the mosque preached an interpretation of Islam that was mostly reactionary and sometimes violent. None of us in the car — two Muslims and one Christian, all progressive in theological and political thought — supported such views.

But there was more to the story. Farid Esack, one of the world’s foremost progressive Muslim theologians who was in Pakistan to teach and lecture, and Junaid Ahmad, a Pakistani-American activist and law student directing the lecture series, both pointed out that key social/economic aspects of the story were being overlooked.

In addition to calls for shariah law under a fundamentalist Islamic state, Lal Masjid imams Abdur Rashid Ghazi and Mohammed Abdul Aziz critiqued the corruption of Pakistani political, military and economic elites, highlighting the living conditions of the millions of Pakistanis living in poverty. As in most Third-World societies, the inequality gap here has widened in recent years, as those who find their place in the U.S.-dominated neoliberal economic project prosper while most ordinary people suffer, especially the poor.

“We can reject the jihadist and patriarchal aspects and still recognize that there is in this fundamentalist philosophy a call for social justice, a challenge to the power-seeking and greed of elites,” said Esack, the author of Qur’an: Liberation and Pluralism. “When I spoke with Ghazi, it was clear that was an important part of his thinking, and it’s equally clear that the appeal of this theology is magnified by the lack of meaningful calls for justice from other sectors of society.”

Esack, who teaches at Harvard Divinity School and is a former national commissioner for gender equality in South Africa, had been visiting the mosque regularly and speaking to Ghazi and others inside until government forces sealed the area a few days earlier. A native of South Africa who was active in the struggle against apartheid, Esack spent much of his childhood in Pakistan at a madarasa, where he was a classmate of Aziz. Contrary to the media image of Ghazi, the cleric had a broader agenda and wanted to learn more about how an Islamic state could be structured to ensure economic equality, Esack said.

“My vision of an inclusive polity influenced by progressive Islamic values is very different than Ghazi’s, of course, but his theology should not be reduced to a caricature, as it so often was, especially in the West,” Esack said.

Ahmad emphasized that another crucial part of the story involved economics, specifically land. Press reports focused on the provocative activities of students and supporters of Lal Masjid members threatening video store owners, raiding brothels and clashing with police, but an underlying cause of the conflict was the existence of “unauthorized” mosques. Many of these mosques and madrasas had been built without permits on unused public land in Islamabad. As the city has grown more crowded and developers eyed that real estate for commercial building, the government took the risky step of destroying some of those mosques (though the many non-religious, profit-generating projects also built without permits remain undisturbed). Clerics protested, adding to the intensity of the Lal Masjid conflict.

Esack and Ahmad agreed that another aspect of the crisis mostly ignored in the press was the fact that the events played out in Islamabad, home to the more secular/liberal and privileged elements of the society. While those liberals might ignore such movements and conflicts in the outer provinces, many found it offensive that such an embarrassing incident could happen in the capital, where the world eventually would pay attention.

“We hear about how this is bad for the image of Pakistan, with no comment about the lives of ordinary Pakistanis and the substance of what the country is about,” Ahmad said. “Instead of talking about these fundamental questions of justice, many people wanted to see the incident ended to avoid further tarnishing of the country’s image. It’s like the obsession the United States has with simply changing its image in the Muslim world rather than recognizing the injustice of its policies.”

In the construction of that image, the stories of the reality of the lives of people at Lal Masjid are typically untold. As the crisis unfolded and some of the madrasa students left the compound, the government gave them some money and told them to go home.

“The problem is, many had no homes to go to,” Ahmad said. “Whatever the reactionary theology of Lal Masjid, it provided a place for many who were dispossessed or from poor families. If the economy ignores people and the state provides nothing, where will they go?”

My trip to Pakistan had been set months in advance; my presence there during this crisis was coincidence. Throughout my stay, as I listened to the discussion about the conflict, I realized how much less I could have understood the events if I had been in the United States, even though I would have been reading the international press on the web. The complexity of such stories so rarely makes it into print, and the humanity of the people demonized drops out all too easily.

As we drove in silence, I thought of how easy it is from positions of safety and comfort to denounce fundamentalism, how often I have done just that. But who are we targeting when we make such statements? I have no trouble denouncing the bin Ladens and al-Zawahiris, or the Bushs and Robertsons, and critiquing their twisted worldview. But what of the ordinary people struggling against the elites who ignore the cries of the suffering? When those people take up a fundamentalist theology that we Western left/progressives reject, must we not highlight the inequality we also say we oppose?

Esack said some have asked him what he hoped to gain by going to Lal Masjid and talking with someone like Ghazi, but he has no doubts about the value and appropriateness of his visits there.

“When we abandon engagement and dialogue with those who hold these beliefs, we are abandoning hope. My goal is not to wall myself off from other Muslims, but to search for authentic connections, even across these gaps. Is that not how we can heal the world, and ourselves?” he said. “It is precisely when we start to think of some of us as ‘chosen’ and others as ‘frozen’ that we happily become willing to defrost them with our bombs.”

That moment in the car, as we absorbed the news that the troops had cleared the mosque and that Ghazi and dozens of others were dead, I felt angry at people like Ghazi and at the same time a deep sorrow for his death. I felt a much deeper rage at Pakistan’s military president, Pervez Musharraf, and the U.S. leaders who support him. And I felt a kind of fear for the Muslim fundamentalism that unleashes such violent forces, which always reminds me of the equally frightening Christian fundamentalist theology circulating in the United States.

I bounced between a deep sense of despair and an equally deep sense of hope. Once the confrontation was set in motion, perhaps the people inside the mosque and the soldiers killed were doomed. But in the car in that moment, I could feel hope that the work of people like Esack and Ahmad was setting in motion other forces. Mostly I was grateful to be in their company to share the grief. In such moments, that connection is perhaps the most human and the most hopeful of endeavors.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007).  Jensen is also the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at and his articles can be found online here.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

The March to War: Détente in the Middle East or “Calm before the Storm?” by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Dandelion Salad

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Global Research, July 12, 2007


“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Despite the discussions of détente in the Middle East, the peril of war is still a real menace that threatens to proliferate globally. The dialogue taking place between the U.S., the E.U., Russia, Syria, and Iran seems to be merely a transient point in the timeline of the Middle East and Central Asia. The ongoing international discussions focused on the Middle East are part of an instant in time and history that will come to pass. Attached to these discussions are the fate of the Middle East, or so it may seem. With certainty, only time will tell what will unfold in the Middle East and become recorded in the annals of history.

A deeper look must be taken at the evolving domestic conditions within the “American Homeland” and at the wave of events that are unfolding in the Palestinian Territories, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, the Persian Gulf, the former Soviet Union, and Iran.


There have been reports and chatter about war between Israel and Syria and a “Summer War” that could breakout in the Levant with the initiation of Israeli strikes in the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon. The summer-months of 2007 may see international tensions rise, but witness no regional war that could potentially spread in the Middle East and beyond.


America Genuinely Engaging Iran and Syria?

“Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region [meaning the Middle East] in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria.”

-George W. Bush Jr., 43rd President of the United States (January 10, 2007 Speech on “New Iraq Policy”)


It can be argued that the U.S. and Britain, the Anglo-American alliance, have had their hands tied up in the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan. France and Germany, the Franco-German entente, have also become further involved, as active partners, in Anglo-American foreign policy objectives. The White House has now reversed its policy of trying to isolate Iran and Syria and is trying to publicly engage both. Or so it seems at first glance. Is there substance behind these international developments or are these events merely part of the diplomatic waltz before a potential hail storm starts?

Javier Solana, the Foreign Policy and Security Chief of the E.U., has called on the U.S. to open a direct “channel of communication” with Tehran for negotiations after discussions with Dr. Ali Larijani, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Security Council of Iran. It was after the late-April 2007 discussions held in Ankara between the two individuals that Javier Solana publicly called on the White House to engage Tehran. [1] White House National Security Spokesman Gordon Johndroe responded directly to Javier Solana’s call by indicating that the U.S. government was ready to hold talks with Iran. [2] The White House also made it clear that U.S. officials were willing to engage in high-level talks with Iran and Syria during the international conference on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Condoleezza Rice, the Syrian Foreign Minister, and the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, all attended the international summit discussing Iraq. [3


Iranian officials also highlighted that without the attendance of Iran at the International Compact for Iraq or Sharm el-Sheikh Summit that the U.S. government would not be able to rescue itself from the quagmire and bloodbath it has created in Iraq. [4] Syrian officials have likewise highlighted the significance of Syria in regards to Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine.


Prior and subsequent to the meetings in Egypt a whole set of notable and closed door discussions have taken place across the Middle East and beyond involving energy, security, geo-political, and defensive precautions. The winds of war are blowing and the thought of war is constantly reeking in the air. Alliances are being broken, made, and formed as the whole Middle East is shifting and waiting to see if some form of a conflict or another will brake out. Lines are being drawn and redrawn in the sand across the Middle East.


Damascus has started consultations with Ankara and Baku

Syria has been the object of American and E.U. diplomatic pressure and visits. [5] Aside from the visits of E.U. and U.S. officials to Syria, the most notable visits to Damascus have come from Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the first half of 2007.


The Turkish Prime Minister visited Damascus in April of 2007 where he discussed bilateral relations on trade, security, economics, and energy with Syria. Prior to the Turkish Prime Minister’s visit, military cooperation was also discussed between the Syrian Defence Minister and the Commander of the Turkish Air Force. [6]


The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, also met with Syrian officials, including the Syrian President in April of 2007. Baku and Damascus have been discussing economic cooperation and joint projects. [7] Energy has been part of the discussions between Damascus and Baku. The Republic of Azerbaijan also announced during the visit of Elmar Mammadyarov to Syria in April of 2007 that Baku subsequently intended to establish an embassy in the Syrian capital. [8] The Republic of Azerbaijan is establishing an embassy in Syria as a direct result of the economic cooperation and joint projects that have been discussed between Damascus and Baku.


Prior to the meeting of Condoleezza Rice and the Syrian Foreign Minister in Egypt, U.S. officials and military commanders, including General David Petraeus, stated that there were “indications that Syria may be acting to restrict the ability of foreign fighters to cross [the Syrian] border into Iraq.” [9] It should be noted that such statements by General Petraeus and U.S. officials were made after the initiation of negotiations between Damascus, Ankara, and Baku. On one level, it could have been these negotiations that opened the door for further discussions between the U.S. and Syrian governments and the easing of U.S. accusations against Syria.


The Consultations between Damascus and Baku have included Lebanon

The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan was also in Lebanon for meetings with all the representatives of the Lebanese political establishment. Baku also signed economic agreements with Lebanon, in addition to the economic agreements signed with Syria. [10] The agreements with Lebanon are supplementary to those with Syria.


The Republic of Azerbaijan’s Special Envoy to Syria and Lebanon and Foreign Minister Mammadyarov both held talks with Lebanese leaders from both the governing and opposing camps of the Lebanese political environment. The Lebanese President, the Lebanese Prime Minister, and the Lebanese Speaker of Parliament were all consulted by Baku. Directly or indirectly Amal, Hezbollah, the Hariri-led Future Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement, and other Lebanese political parties were all consulted by Baku. In most cases, no major decisions can be made and fully implemented in Lebanon without the approval of both the governing and opposing political parties in Lebanon.


What these agreements between Baku, Damascus, Ankara, and Beirut could mean is that Syria and Lebanon are conceivably allowing the establishment of an energy corridor on their borders. This energy corridor could link and operate between Israel, Turkey and the entire Eastern Mediterranean in some form of an energy grid and arc.


The Syrian Factor: Establishment of a “Levantine Energy Corridor?”

Turkey and Syria are both involved in a project that is supposed to bring Egyptian natural gas to Turkey, which could potentially involve cooperation with Israel and the establishment of an energy corridor on the coastline of the Eastern Mediterranean. [11] According to the public layout of the official plan, the gas pipeline is to bypass Israel through Jordan. There seems to be a premeditated argument between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Egypt over the gas project that has resulted in an examination of having several pipelines and routes.


Israel is heavily involved in Egyptian natural gas projects. On June 30, 2005, Egypt and Israel signed a preliminary joint agreement in Cairo that was valued at $2.5 billion (U.S.). The gas deal was signed and called for a 15-year allocation of gas to be sent to Israel from Egypt. The Israeli-Egyptian gas deal went unnoticed and was barely reported in the state-controlled Egyptian media. [12] The Israeli–Egyptian natural gas deal was initially set to ensure the delivery of Egyptian natural gas to the Israeli port of Ashkelon via undersea pipelines. [13]


It is apparent that infrastructure is being developed to connect the whole Eastern Mediterranean within a single energy arc or some form of energy corridor. Israel could easily integrate itself in this network and even seems like it could be the focal point of the energy projects in the Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean. A parallel branch of the Egyptian gas pipeline will also go through Lebanon vis-à-vis Syria and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. [14] Turkey could easily directly enter the project, should Ankara wish to enter the energy project and move away from its dependency on Iranian gas reserves or any energy dependency on Russia.


Is Syria the Linchpin of an Energy Arc in the Eastern Mediterranean involving Israel?
Many diversions are at play in the Levant and the entire Middle East. In tandem, it also seems that Israeli-Syrian negations were throbbing to be restarted during the same timeline as energy discussions with Ankara, Baku, and Cairo.
[15] Clearly, the E.U. and U.S. representatives that visited Damascus also represented Israeli interests and energy interests. [16] Israel is taking a two-pronged approach in regards to Syria; the Israeli government is talking about both war and peace in chorus.

Iran has also been playing an elusive role through backdoor negations in the ongoing developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. During the same timeline as the talks between Damascus, Ankara, and Baku, the Iranian Foreign Minister made an unannounced visit to Syria and another to Turkey. [17] Turkey is dependent on Iran for a great deal of its economic and energy needs.


Russia is also involved in the geo-strategically important projects and developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. In Syria alone the Russians are involved in three energy projects. Syria and Russia have also signed a gas deal worth 160 million euros. [18] One of these projects is the construction of the Syrian segment of the Egypt-Jordan-Syria gas pipeline. [19] The Syria Gas Company (SGC) and Stroytransgaz (a subsidiary of Russia’s Gazprom) will also jointly work on developing Syrian gas reserves discovered in the fields of the governorate of Homs. [20]


Syria is a vital piece towards creating an energy arc or corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean. Whereas the integration of Lebanon is optional in the creation of an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor, Syria is a required segment of the energy arc or corridor. Without Syria the Eastern Mediterranean cannot be linked together. It also seems that the area around Tripoli, Lebanon has been considered as the location of a future American or NATO military base to guard an Eastern Mediterranean energy arc. The integration of Jordan into the corridor also seems optional, unless Jordan is meant to be part of a route connecting Iraqi and Persian Gulf oil to Israel and the Eastern Mediterranean.


Without Syria there can be no north-south link between Turkey in the northern Eastern Mediterranean and Israel and Egypt in the southern Eastern Mediterranean. Caucasian and Caspian oil can be delivered to Israel and the southern areas in question from Turkey if the north-south link is made. Egyptian gas can also be delivered to Turkey from the southern area in question if the north-south link is made. In this scheme Israel seems to be positioned as the vanguard of this energy arc, but Syria seems to be the remaining piece necessary to making the north-south link.


The Call for Negotiations between Syria and Israel

Abraham Suleiman (Solomon) an American citizen of Syrian background has spoken visibly to the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) maintaining that he at one time represented Damascus in “secret negotiations” with Israel. In Tel Aviv he has declared that Syria is ready for peace with Israel. Syria immediately distanced itself from him. Syrians have stated that Israel and the U.S. are merely trying to dissociate Syria from Iran and Russia by portraying Syria as having negotiations without the knowledge of its allies. The Syrian Information Minister, in a televised address to the Syrian people and the Arab public, said that Abraham Suleiman expresses “his personal point of view, and Syria has nothing to do with this visit [to Israel] or statements [to Israeli officials].” [21]


Syria has been calling for open discussions with Israel, with the knowledge of Tehran. Several overtures have been made by official channels from Damascus to Israel for several years, even with the involvement of the Clinton Administration and the U.N. in the past.


Syria’s call for a renewal of the peace process is genuine,” Ilan Mizrahi, the Chairman of the Israel National Security Council, has also told Israeli parliamentarians and officials. [22] In reality, Syria has been reaching out for peace talks and demanding the return of the Golan Heights (called the “Syrian Heights” by Israel in the past) since the late 1990s. La Repubblica, one of Italy’s major newspapers, in February of 2005 asked the Syrian President in an interview what he had to say about Arial Sharon’s statements that Syria was insincere about peace with Israel. The response the Syrian President gave to the Italian paper was that Arial Sharon and Israel should evaluate Syria’s sincerity through talks that would cost Israel nothing. [23]


The International Compact for Iraq: Bargaining over the fate of the Iraqi People?

It is ridiculous to believe that anyone can decide the fate of the Iraqi people other than the Iraqi people themselves. The nature of the talks unfolding between the U.S., the E.U., Russia, Iran, and Syria are tied to Iraq, but are not based merely on the unadulterated interests of the Iraqi people. Many facets are involved in these discussions, including the strategic global balance of international relations.


The Sharm el-Sheikh Summit, formally called the International Compact for Iraq, was held from May 3 to May 4, 2007 and involved the U.S., Britain, Russia, Japan, China, France, the Arab League, Iran, Syria, the E.U., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany, Canada, the U.N., and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (O.I.C.).


At the end of the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit in Egypt, Iran and the U.S. did not “visibly meet,” but low-key talks took place between the two countries. The American Ambassador to Iraq held talks with the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Abbas Araghchi. [24] The U.S State Department’s Iraq coordinator, David Satterfield, was also present at the talks that were played down and described by the American Ambassador to Iraq as only being “three minutes long.” [25] It was possibility through these contacts that talks in Baghdad were arranged between the Iranian and American embassies in Iraq.


At the Sharm el-Shiekh Summit it was publicly made known that the Syrian Foreign Minister and Dr. Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, had a half-hour meeting. The Times (U.K.) called the talks a “diplomatic shift” that was prepared for by U.S. officials who were offering “rare praise for Syria,” before the meeting in Egypt. [26] In reality the talks in Sharm el-Sheikh were mostly cosmetic. Genuine talks and negotiations were mostly undisclosed in nature and through different backdoor channels.


The opening day of the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit in Egypt, saw the Iraqi government get pledges of $30 billion (U.S.) in debt relief. [27] Amongst the countries that nullified part of the Iraqi debt was Saudi Arabia which refused to do so during the period of humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq caused by U.N. sanctions. Debt relief to Iraq should be scrutinized. The debt relief amounts to less than a substitute to the billions of dollars (U.S.) that are being appropriated from Iraq because of the privatization of Iraqi oil and other national assets by the U.S. and British governments. Whatever is left of the Iraqi debt will also prove to be profitable to the creditor nations. Iraqi national assets may also be handed over to creditor nations in place of Iraqi debts.


Bush-Putin Summit in Kennebunkport: The New Cold War by Mike Whitney

Dandelion Salad

by Mike Whitney
Global Research, July 11, 2007

Presidents Bush and Putin concluded their brief summit in Kennebunkport, Maine without resolving any of the main issues. Bush seeks Putin’s help to pressure Iran into giving up its nuclear enrichment program and Putin wants Bush to abandon his plans to deploy the US Missile Defense System in Czechoslovakia and Poland. No progress was made on either topic.

Russia and the United States are now more politically divided than any time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. In fact, following the meeting in Maine, first deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, blasted Washington in the blistering rhetoric of the Cold War era:

“They are trying to push us into knocking heads with Europe... in order to create a new dividing line, a New Berlin Wall,” bawled Ivanov. “It is obvious that continuing with the plans and carrying them out by placing rockets in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic will present an obvious threat to Russia.”

Ivanov is right. Missile Defense poses a clear danger to Russia’s national security. It integrates the United States entire nuclear capability (including space-based operations) with systems that are inside Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. Putin summed it up like this in a press conference at the G-8 meetings:

“For the first time in history, there are elements of the US nuclear capability on the European continent. It simply changes the whole configuration of international security… Of course, we have to respond to that.”

The Bush administration is trying to achieve what nuclear weapons specialist, Francis A. Boyle, calls the “longstanding US policy of nuclear first-strike against Russia. By placing weapons systems and radar on Russia’s borders the US will have a critical advantage that will disrupt the essential balance of power. This is forcing Putin to restart the arms race.

The media has tried to downplay the gravity of the situation by focusing on the personal aspects of the Putin-Bush relationship. But this is intentionally misleading. Putin did not go to Kennebunkport to win-back Bush’s affections or for sensitivity-therapy. He went to see if he could change Bush’s mind on an issue that could quickly escalate into a nuclear standoff.

Putin has made a number of offers designed to satisfy Bush’s concerns for “enhanced security”. For example, Putin proposed a “global integrated missile shield that would protect all of Europe” and would include both the United States and European countries, including neutral ones such as Austria, Finland and Sweden. All of the participating countries in the program would have equal access to the system’s control.”

“We are proposing to create a single missile defense system for all participants with equal access to the system’s control,” Ivanov said on the state-run Russian TV.

The Russian proposal would “create missile defense data exchange centers in Moscow and Brussels, headquarters of NATO and the European Union. Ivanov also did not rule out the sharing by Russia of some of its “highly sensitive” technologies with the West as part of creating the new integrated system, in order to generate trust in thwarting rouge missile threats.” (There’s been no coverage of this offer in the western media)

Putin also reiterated his earlier offer to allow the US to use existing “early warning” radar located in Azerbaijan that can observe the launching and flight of any long-range ballistic missiles from Iran. Bush politely rejected that offer, too.

These are reasonable offers made in good faith to mitigate Bush’s “so-called” concerns about security.

But Bush is not serious about defense or security. His real intention is to force Moscow to do whatever Washington wants by putting a loaded gun to their head. Putin can’t allow this to happen.

Bush’s doggedness has already triggered a strong reaction from the Kremlin. When Putin was rebuffed by Bush at the G-8 meetings a month ago, he promptly retaliated at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg less than 24 hours later. In his address to the conference, he called for “a new architecture of economic relations requiring a completely new approach (with an) alternative global financial center that will make the ruble the reserve currency for central banks.” He said that the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the IMF are “archaic, undemocratic and inflexible” and do not “ reflect the new balance of power.”

Putin’s speech is seen as a direct challenge to Washington ’s global leadership and the institutions which preserve its position as the world’s only “superpower”. He rejects US hegemony” and the prevailing doctrine of “unipolar” world order.

The Kremlin reacted just as quickly after the “Lobster Summit” at Kennebunkport. Less than 10 hours after Putin’s departure from the US, deputy Prime Minister Ivanov warned that if Bush deployed Missile Defense in Eastern Europe, Russia “would place medium-range nuclear missiles in Kallingrad”, a small finger of Russian-owned territory sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. This would put Russian-controlled nuclear weapons just a few hundred miles from the heart of Europe.

Ivanov added, “If our proposals are accepted, however, Russia would no longer need to deploy new missile systems in our European territory, including Kaliningrad.

Putin and Ivanov apparently rehearsed this “good cop, bad cop” routine before Putin even arrived in the USA. But their point is still well taken. Putin is forcing Bush to decide whether he wants to work for regional stability or “turn Europe into a powder keg”. It’s up to Bush.

Putin knows that the Bush administration is full of Cold War militarists who deliberately sabotaged the ABM Treaty so they could expand their nuclear arsenal while surrounding Russia with American bases. He also knows that these same arm-chair warriors embrace a belligerent National Security Strategy that advocates “preemptive” first-strike attacks on rivals and which may include the use of low-yield, bunker-busting nuclear weapons. Putin—who has watched the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan from the sidelines—knows that the threat of American aggression cannot be taken lightly. He must carefully consider the “stated goals” of the administration for global domination and prepare for the worst. He cannot allow the Missile Defense System to be deployed even if that means “unilaterally” taking it out.

But why would Bush choose to confront Russia now when American troops and resources are already stretched to the limit? What is Bush thinking?

The Bush administration and their counterparts in the far-right think tanks still believe that America can be a big player in the fight to control resources in the Caspian Basin and Central Asia. The war on terror was basically designed to conceal US geopolitical ambitions in Eurasia—not Iraq. The neocons managed to expand the conflict to Iraq, but ruling elites have had serious misgivings about the invasion-occupation from the very beginning. Now the failures in Iraq are weakening the military, constraining US involvement in Central Asia and Latin America, and triggering anxiety among “old order” conservatives who think that the greater project may collapse altogether if Iraq does not wind-down quickly so the US can refocus on its original goals. This may explain why the defections in the senate are beginning to snowball and why the establishment media is suddenly calling for a draw-down of troops. The situation has gotten so bad that it’s impossible for Washington to execute its broader imperial strategy.

Demonizing Putin

The personal attacks on Putin are no different than the attacks on Iran ’s Ahmadinejad or Venezuela ’s Hugo Chavez. Any leader who has the temerity to control his nation’s own resources—and use them for the common good rather than enriching privately owned corporations–is the de facto enemy of the Empire. In truth, Putin is neither a tyrant nor an opponent of the United States. The criticism directed at him is mostly hot air. He’s demonized because he has used Russia’s vast natural wealth to rebuild his country and to improve the standard of living for the Russian people. There’s nothing more to it.

Presently, Putin enjoys an 84% public approval rating—the highest rating of any world leader today. He has reduced poverty, stabilized the ruble, strengthened defense, deposed the rapacious “oligarchs” and restored Russia’s international prestige. He is fiercely nationalistic and the Russian people admire him for it.

More importantly, Putin has successfully out-maneuvered Washington in every major energy deal since Bush took office in 2000. Even the invasion of Afghanistan– which was supposed to clear pipeline corridors for transporting resources from the Caspian Sea to Pakistan–has turned out to be a complete fiasco. The resurgent Taliban have ensured that the safe shipment of resources will be impossible for the foreseeable future. Also, setbacks in Afghanistan have exacerbated divisions in NATO which are causing the European allies to reconsider their involvement in the US-led mission. This is a dodgy predicament for Bush and Co. If NATO falls apart, the Transatlantic Alliance will probably unravel leaving America friendless in a world that is increasingly hostile to foreign adventurism.

While Bush is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Putin has continued to consolidate his power in Central Asia while making impressive inroads into Europe. In fact, Russia seems to have already won “The Great Game” of controlling Eurasia’s massive natural resources without even clashing with the US.

In this year alone, Russia has increased its “strategic dominance over Europe’s energy supplies while US-led efforts to promote energy diversity for Europe are faltering and the EU’s policies are in disarray.” (“Escaping Putin’s Energy Squeeze” Adrian Karatnycky)

In June, Russian energy giant Gazprom firmed up a deal with Italy to build a gas pipeline to southern Europe via the Black Sea sabotaging Washington ’s plan for a similar project called Nabucco.

At the same time, Putin has worked out deals with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to ship natural gas to Germany via a proposed pipeline under the Baltic Sea. And, just this week, the Russian oil giant Gazprom put the finishing touches on agreement with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to work-jointly on a gas pipeline project that will transport natural gas along the Caspian coast.

These deals represent huge commitments of resources which will put Washington at a disadvantage for decades to come. The US military has proved to be a much less effective tool in procuring dwindling resources than the “free market”.

The Bush administration has tried to exert greater control over Central Asian resources by building pipelines from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. But the plan has failed miserably. Putin’s has out-flanked Washington at every turn. The ex-KGB alum has proved to be the superior capitalist leaving Bush with nothing to show for his efforts except a badly battered military.

Putin is also on friendly terms with Turkey and is pushing for “long term energy contracts for the Black Sea states”. The Turkish leadership shares Putin’s belief that the US should be kept from meddling in the region. This may explain why Dick Cheney is so mad at Putin and has even accused him of “blackmail”. But this is just “sour grapes”. In truth, Putin is just doing what the United States used to do—using free market competition to his best advantage.

What’s wrong with that?

An American energy specialist summarized America ’s defeat in the Eurasian Resource Wars saying:

“Western energy policies in Eurasia collapsed in May 2007. During this month, Russia seems to have conclusively defeated all Western-backed projects to bring oil and gas from Central Asia directly to Europe... Cumulatively, the May agreements signify a strategic defeat of the decade-old US policy to open direct access to Central Asia‘s oil and gas reserves. By the same token they have nipped in the bud the European Union’s belated attempts since 2006 to institute such a policy.”

Putin’s greatest energy-coup may be the mega-deal he put together with the Austria earlier this year. According to M K Bhadrakumar (“A Pipeline into the Heart of Europe, Asia Times)

“Last September, Austria entered a long-term contract with Russia whereby Gazprom will meet 80% of Austria‘s gas requirements of 9 billion cubic meters annually during the next 20-year period.” The project will involve “a massive gas-storage facility near Salzburg…. “which has an overall capacity of 2.4bcm. The facility is being built at a cost of 260 million euros (nearly US $350 million) by Gazprom and, upon completion in 2011, will be the second-largest underground gas-storage facility in Central Europe … (Putin has expanded) “ Austria‘s role as a crucial gas-supply hub for transiting Russian gas to France, Italy and Germany in Western Europe; to Hungary in Central Europe; and to Slovenia and Croatia in the Balkans.”

Gazprom’s agreement with Austria is the death knell for the Washington-backed Nabucco gas pipeline project. It will be very difficult now for the major western energy giants to catch up with Russia and compete head-on in the European market. Putin caught them flat-footed once again. He has consolidated Eurasian oil and natural gas and established a central depot for distributing resources to consumers throughout Europe.

Game. Set. Match.

Russia is now the cat-bird’s seat peering over all of Europe and the Balkans as part of its energy fiefdom. Meanwhile Bush and his legions continue to toil away aimlessly in Mesopotamia.

Missile Defense is an expression of Washington ’s frustration with its own failures. The Global Resource War (aka The War on Terror) has been so badly bungled that Bush will have to initiate “asymmetrical” strategies to counter Russia’s economic triumphs. We can expect that US-backed NGOs will continue funding troublemaking “pro democracy” groups inside Russia hoping to trigger a “color-coded” revolution in Moscow. At the same time, there will probably be a sudden outbreak of violence in Chechnya, after rebel-separatists have been “mysteriously” rearmed by foreign intelligence agencies. (Guess who?) The Bush administration will also try to strengthen their military position on Russia’s perimeter by pushing NATO into Ukraine and Georgia.

But, will any of these plans succeed?

Bush and his fellows will do whatever it takes to stop Russia from becoming the new century’s Energy Superpower. The “charm offensive” at Kennebunkport is just one part of America ’s guerilla war on Putin. Missile Defense is another.

Welcome to the new Cold War.

Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Mike Whitney

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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Logic Bomb by Ted Rall (Pakistan)

Dandelion Salad

by Ted Rall


The first indication that Pakistan is a mass of internal contradictions occurs at the airport. In the arrivals area there are two passport lines–one for men, the other for “unaccompanied women and children.” Appalling at first glance, but women love this manifestation of gender segregation. “The women’s line moves a lot faster,” an American woman who lives in Pakistan told me.

Moving fast was a good idea. Islamist leaders of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) and its affiliated Jamia Hafsa madrassah were locked in a Branch Davidian-type standoff with Pakistani security forces. After months of Taliban-style vigilantism, including the kidnapping of 10 Chinese nationals they accused of working in a bordello masquerading as a massage parlor and seizing control of a children’s library, government troops had surrounded the complex.

The Red Mosque crisis symbolizes the devil’s bargain Pakistan’s ruling elites have struck with Islamic radicals since independence from Britain, a tacit understanding that has turned this nuclear-armed state into a terrifying cauldron of instability. Cracking down on the fundies could lead to civil war. Doing nothing, the government’s usual approach, almost certainly will.

Pakistan is a military dictatorship with a wild, freewheeling press, ruled by an antidemocratic despot who respects many democratic institutions. A graduate of a Catholic high school and a Presbyterian college, General Pervez Musharraf came to power by allying himself with radical Islamist political parties who convinced him to invite Afghanistan’s Taliban militia into Pakistan to fight India. Most Pakistanis are secular and favor modernization, yet watch their nation’s Talibanization in passive silence.

If your head is spinning, congrats–you’re Pakistani for 1000 words.Musharraf is playing a dangerous game, balancing the hopes and fears of educated liberals to the left against radical Muslim clerics on the right. Most leaders who deploy a strategy of reverse triangulation end up with no support at all. Because Musharraf has transformed the Pakistani political system into the personification of his policies, Pakistan itself could follow suit.

The biggest clash in Pakistani society, however, is common to the Third World: a widening gap between the lives of a few well-off individuals and millions of everyone elses. Frustrated at the toll that the dismal condition of Pakistani highways took on its bus lines, South Korea’s Daewoo conglomerate decided to spend $375 million to build its own. The privatized six-lane toll road of immaculate asphalt allows elite motorists to zip through the impoverished wasteland separating Islamabad and the Punjabi capital of Lahore in a mere four hours. If you’re Jamal Schmo, it costs 12 hours and the occasional broken axle.

After weeks of high-altitude trekking through Tajikistan–bad food, bed bugs, bathing in icy rivers fed by fresh snowmelt–I decided to treat myself to the four-star Pearl Continental Hotel, guarded by towering Sikh soldiers brandishing automatic weapons. They searched beneath my taxi with a mirror attached to a long pole, patted me down and ran my luggage through a metal detector. It was worth it, for it wasn’t Pakistan inside.

Pakistani women rarely venture outdoors. When they do, they cover themselves–with headscarves in the cities and burqas in the countryside. Inside the Pearl Continental, however, it’s a different world. Pakistani and foreign women flaunted skirts and sleeveless skirts next to tables occupied by glaring male traditionalists wearing long beards. Bikinis were de rigeur poolside. Hotel workers gawked.

Three decades after partition from India, 97 percent Muslim Pakistan banned alcoholic beverages in 1977. Drinkers face 20 lashes and three years in prison. If you’re a wealthy Muslim with a taste for booze, however, prohibition is fictional. Rich Pakistanis purchase “infidel licenses”–liquor purchase permits–from religious minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Zoroastrians. Even in the four-star hotel bubble, discretion is a must: My can of Murree Beer, brewed in Rawalpindi, came via room service and arrived double-bagged in plastic.

“Officially, Muslims may only imbibe alcohol on pain of punishment, but unofficially, it’s easy for Muslims to acquire it,” says Minoo Bhandara, CEO of the Murree Brewery. “Ninety-nine per cent of our customers are Muslim.” A few years ago, Pakistani parliament quickly withdrew a call to enforce prohibition after Bhandara threatened to cut off deliveries to the parliamentarians who sponsored the legislation.

“Laws,” a Pakistani friend notes, “don’t apply to the ruling class.” Indeed, Taliban ally Musharraf is known to kick back with a scotch now and then.

The Lahore Museum, notable for its Fasting Buddha statue and sauna-hot browsing conditions, displayed a map of cultural anthropological sites. Pakistan’s neighbors–Afghanistan, Iran, Nepal, even tiny Bhutan–were clearly labeled. There to the east, however, was a large, familiarly shaped nation that the museum director had evidently chosen not to identify. It was a perfectly obvious fiction. It was perfectly Pakistani.

The next morning, I drove to the famed Wagah border crossing with the country whose name may not be mentioned. It was 120 degrees and humid and the monsoon was at least a week away, the most miserable time of the year in South Asia. Grim-faced Pakistani customs clerks, passport control officers and policemen shunted me the few hundred yards to a yellow line painted on the road. I stepped across and handed my passport to a middle-aged Indian military officer. Sweat poured down my face, spotting my visa. “It’s too cold,” he said, smiling.

It was the first joke I’d heard since I’d entered Pakistan.

(Ted Rall is the author of the new book “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next big foreign policy challenge.)

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