US steps closer to war with Iran by Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Dandelion Salad

by Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Global Research, August 22, 2007

Asia Times Online

The Bush administration has leaped toward war with Iran by, in essence, declaring war with the main branch of Iran’s military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which it plans to brand as a terrorist organization.

A logical evolution of US President George W Bush’s ill-defined, boundless “war on terror”, the White House’s move is dangerous to the core, opening the way for open confrontation with Iran. This may begin in Iraq, where the IRGC is reportedly most active and, ironically, where the US and Iran have their largest common denominators.

A New York Times editorial has dismissed this move as “amateurish” and a mere “theatric” on the part of the lame-duck president, while at the same time admitting that it represents a concession to “conflict-obsessed administration hawks who are lobbying for military strikes”. The political analysts who argue that the main impact of this initiative is “political” are plain wrong. It is a giant step toward war with Iran, irrespective of how well, or poorly, it is thought of, particularly in terms of its immediate and long-term implications, let alone the timing of it.

Coinciding with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s highly publicized trip to Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, the news received front-page coverage in the New York Times, next to a photograph of Ahmadinejad and his Afghan host, President Hamid Karzai, as if intended to spoil Ahmadinejad’s moment by denigrating the Iranian regime. Just two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice implicitly put Iran on a par with the Soviet Union by invoking comparisons to the Cold War, and in essence compared it to al-Qaeda.

Thus if an unintended side-effect of the Cold War terminology was to enhance Iran’s global image, the “terrorist” label for the IRGC aims to deliver a psychological blow to Iran by de-legitimizing the country.

Also, it serves the United States’ purpose at the United Nations Security Council, where a British-prepared draft of a new round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program has been floating around for a while and will likely be acted on this autumn. The draft calls for tightening the screws on Iran by broadening the list of blacklisted Iranian companies and even may lead to the interdiction of Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf. This is indeed a dangerous move that could easily trigger open confrontation.

With the window of opportunity for Bush to use the “military option” closing because of the US presidential elections next year, the administration’s hawks – “it is now or never” – have received a huge boost by the move to label the IRGC as terrorists. It paves the way for potential US strikes at the IRGC’s installations inside Iran, perhaps as a prelude to broader attacks on the country’s nuclear facilities. At least that is how it is being interpreted in Iran, whose national-security concerns have skyrocketed as a result of the labeling.

“The US double-speak with Iran, talking security cooperation on the one hand and on the other ratcheting up the war rhetoric, does not make sense and gives the impression that the supporters of dialogue have lost in Washington,” a prominent Tehran University political scientist who wished to remain anonymous told the author.

The US has “unfettered” itself for a strike on Iran by targeting the IRGC, and that translates into heightened security concerns. “The United States never branded the KGB [Russian secret service] or the Soviet army as terrorist, and that shows the limits of the Cold War comparison,” the Tehran political scientist said. His only optimism: there are “two US governments” speaking with divergent voices, ie, “deterrence diplomacy and preemptive action”, and “that usually, historically speaking, spells policy paralysis”.

However, no one in Iran can possibly place too much faith on that kind of optimism. Rather, the net effect of this labeling, following the recent “shoot to kill” order of Bush with regard to Iranian operatives in Iraq accused of aiding the anti-occupation insurgents, is to elevate fears of a US “preemptory” strike on Iran. Particularly concerned are many top government officials, lawmakers and present or former civil and military functionaries who are or were at some point affiliated with the IRGC.

There is also a legal implication. Under international law, the United States’ move could be challenged as illegal, and untenable, by isolating a branch of the Iranian government for selective targeting. This is contrary to the 1981 Algiers Accord’s pledge of non-interference in Iran’s internal affairs by the US government. [1]

Should the terror label on the IRGC be in place soon, US customs and homeland-security officials could, theoretically, arrest members of Ahmadinejad’s delegation due to travel to the UN headquarters in New York next month because of suspected ties to the IRGC. Even Ahmadinejad, with his past as a commander of the Basij Corps, a paramilitary arm of the IRGC, risks arrest.

The US has opened a Pandora’s box with a hasty decision that may have unintended consequences far beyond its planned coercive diplomacy toward Iran. The first casualty could be the US-Iran dialogue on Iraq’s security, although this would simultaneously appease Israeli hawks who dread dialogue and any hints of Cold War-style detente between Tehran and Washington.

It would also become more difficult for Syria to collaborate with Iran with respect to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, who owe much to the IRGC since their inception in the early 1980s. The consensus in Iran is that chaos in Iraq is in Israel’s interests, but not that of the US, and that the United States’ Middle East policy is being held hostage by pro-Israel lobbyists who have painted an enemy image of the dreaded IRGC that is neither accurate nor in tune with the history of US-IRGC interaction.

The US and the IRGC The current noise masks a hidden history of cooperation between the US military and the IRGC – in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and, more and more likely, Iraq.

In Bosnia, the US military and intelligence interacted with the IRGC, which had trained Bosnian Muslims, and fought alongside it against their Serbian enemies. They also funneled arms to the IRGC, mainly through Croatia, with the tacit consent of the US government.

In Afghanistan, US military commanders have had similar interaction with commanders of the IRGC, including the elite Quds division of the IRGC, which supported anti-Taliban forces and helped those forces take over Kabul in 2001 with relative ease.

In Iraq, the IRGC has supported various Shi’ite militias as well as the Iraqi military and intelligence and, unofficially, it can credit for the relative stability of the eight Shi’ite provinces, including those in the south. The new US diplomatic engagement of Iran over Iraq is having direct and immediate effects on Iran’s behavior inside Iraq, promising further results by the joint expert committees set up as a result of the latest round in the dialogue.

Yet true to the United States’ traditional Janus-faced approach toward Iran, just as Iranian and US military and intelligence officials are about to embark on systematic discussions over Iraq and regional security, they will in effect be prevented from doing so by the labeling of the IRGC as terrorist.

Coming ‘war of attrition’? The idea of an all-out military confrontation between the US and Iran, triggered by a US attack on the IRGC, has its watered-down version in a “war of attrition” whereby instead of inter-state warfare, we would witness medium-to-low-intensity clashes.

The question, then, is whether or not the US superpower, addicted to its military doctrine of “superior and overwhelming response”, will tolerate occasional bruises at the hands of the Iranians. The answer is highly unlikely given the myriad prestige issues involved and, in turn, this raises the advisability of the labeling initiative with such huge implications nested in it.

No matter, the stage is now set for direct physical clashes between Iran and the US, which has blamed the death of hundreds of its soldiers on Iranian-made roadside bombs. One plausible scenario is the United States’ “hot pursuit” of the IRGC inside Iranian territory, initially through “hit and run” commando operations, soliciting an Iranian response, direct or indirect, potentially spiraling out of control.

The hallucination of a protracted “small warfare with Iran” that would somehow insulate both sides from an unwanted big “clash of titans” is just that, a fantasy born and bred in the minds of war-obsessed hawks in Washington and Israel.

Note 1. The Algiers Accords of January 19, 1981, were brokered by the Algerian government between the US and Iran to resolve the situation that arose from the capture of American citizens in the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Through this accord the US citizens were set free. Among its provisions it was stated that the US would not intervene in Iranian internal affairs. – Wikipedia

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of “Negotiating Iran’s Nuclear Populism”, Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote “Keeping Iran’s nuclear potential latent”, Harvard International Review, and is author of Iran’s Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction.

Global Research Articles by Kaveh L Afrasiabi


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Back-Talk #3 (video; impeach; Paul Craig Roberts; spying; war crimes)

Dandelion Salad

August 22, 2007
From:  UnclassifiedProducer

More talking-back to the powers that be. This time on domestic spying, FISA, impeachment–and those pesky ex-Reagan officials accusing the Bush administration of war-crimes. Be a good citizen! Pass it on!

Crisis in the Green Zone By Jonathan Steele

Dandelion Salad
By Jonathan Steele
ICH
08/22/07 “
The Guardian

Nuri al-Maliki’s outburst against US criticism is bad news for George Bush, whose political project for Iraq now looks more fragile than ever.

The bad news from Iraq continues to grow for George Bush. First, a Blackhawk goes down, taking the lives of 14 hapless soldiers and crewmen. It is not the worst chopper disaster since the invasion, but it bumps the death toll of US personnel closer to the 4,000 mark.

Next comes the Iraqi prime minister, angrily announcing that “no one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people.” In two sentences Bush’s “benchmarks” have been tossed out of the window. These were the signs of political progress in Iraq that the White House wants to put in its report to Congress next month.

Nuri al-Maliki’s outburst follows public comments from Bush expressing frustration with the Iraqi government, and hinting that it may be replaced. Maliki knew Bush was putting him under pressure to come up with a series of measures that could match the military progress which General David Petraeus will outline when he reports on the surge. It was recently revealed that the Petraeus report will actually be drafted by the White House, using input from the general that can then be spun. But while Petraeus is a US government employee who is subject to the disciplines of command and control, Maliki isn’t. He’s independent enough to show his voters that he is not going to be dictated to by foreigners, even though he is in fact their puppet, whose position would collapse if the US left Iraq. The row symbolises the contradiction of describing a government as sovereign when its country is occupied.

Even before the latest spat between Maliki and Bush, the Iraqi prime minister was in difficulty. Half his cabinet has gone. The main Sunni members recently resigned, following a few months after the Shia ministers loyal to the anti-occupation cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr. This means that Maliki no longer has a guaranteed majority of supporters in parliament if it comes to a no-confidence vote.

Like Bush, Maliki has become a lame duck. Bush of course can stay in office for another 17 months. Maliki can also stagger on in charge of a minority government, since no other Iraqi seems able or willing to put a different coalition together. And, for all his tough talk about seeing Maliki replaced, Bush is doomed to go on supporting him. A vacuum in Baghdad would look even worse in American voters’ eyes.

In one sense, the crisis only confirms what has been clear for months. Whoever sits in the Green Zone in nominal charge of Iraq’s government has little power or authority beyond its walls. Bush’s political project for Iraq looks more fragile than ever.

 
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The Warfare State is Part of Us – How to Survive at the Pentagon on $2 Billion a Day By Norman Solomon

Dandelion Salad

By Norman Solomon
ICH
08/22/07 “
CounterpunchThe USA’s military spending is now close to $2 billion a day. This fall, the country will begin its seventh year of continuous war, with no end in sight. On the horizon is the very real threat of a massive air assault on Iran. And few in Congress seem willing or able to articulate a rejection of the warfare state.

While the Bush-Cheney administration is the most dangerous of our lifetimes — and ousting Republicans from the White House is imperative — such truths are apt to smooth the way for progressive evasions. We hear that “the people must take back the government,” but how can “the people” take back what they never really had? And when rhetoric calls for “returning to a foreign policy based on human rights and democracy,” we’re encouraged to be nostalgic for good old days that never existed.

The warfare state didn’t suddenly arrive in 2001, and it won’t disappear when the current lunatic in the Oval Office moves on.

Born 50 years before George W. Bush became president, I have always lived in a warfare state. Each man in the Oval Office has presided over an arsenal of weapons designed to destroy human life en masse. In recent decades, our self-proclaimed protectors have been able — and willing — to destroy all of humanity.

We’ve accommodated ourselves to this insanity. And I do mean “we” — including those of us who fret aloud that the impact of our peace-loving wisdom is circumscribed because our voices don’t carry much farther than the choir. We may carry around an inflated sense of our own resistance to a system that is poised to incinerate and irradiate the planet.

Maybe it’s too unpleasant to acknowledge that we’ve been living in a warfare state for so long. And maybe it’s even more unpleasant to acknowledge that the warfare state is not just “out there.” It’s also internalized; at least to the extent that we pass up countless opportunities to resist it.

Like millions of other young Americans, I grew into awakening as the Vietnam War escalated. Slogans like “make love, not war” — and, a bit later, “the personal is political” — really spoke to us. But over the decades we generally learned, or relearned, to compartmentalize: as if personal and national histories weren’t interwoven in our pasts, presents and futures.

One day in 1969, a biologist named George Wald, who had won a Nobel Prize, visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — the biggest military contractor in academia — and gave a speech. “Our government has become preoccupied with death,” he said, “with the business of killing and being killed.”

That preoccupation has fluctuated, but in essence it has persisted. While speaking of a far-off war and a nuclear arsenal certain to remain in place after the war’s end, Wald pointed out: “We are under repeated pressure to accept things that are presented to us as settled — decisions that have been made.”

Today, in similar ways, our government is preoccupied and we are pressurized. The grisly commerce of killing — whether through carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan or through the deadly shredding of social safety-nets at home — thrives on aggressive war and on the perverse realpolitik of “national security” that brandishes the Pentagon’s weaponry against the world. At least tacitly, we accept so much that threatens to destroy anything and everything.

As it happened, for reasons both “personal” and “political” — more accurately, for reasons indistinguishable between the two — my own life fell apart and began to reassemble itself during the same season of 1969 when George Wald gave his speech, which he called “A Generation in Search of a Future.”

Political and personal histories are usually kept separate — in how we’re taught, how we speak and even how we think. But I’ve become very skeptical of the categories. They may not be much more than illusions we’ve been conned into going through the motions of believing.

We actually live in concentric spheres, and “politics” suffuses households as well as what Martin Luther King Jr. called “The World House.” Under that heading, he wrote in 1967: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men. When we foolishly minimize the internal of our lives and maximize the external, we sign the warrant for our own day of doom. Our hope for creative living in this world house that we have inherited lies in our ability to re-establish the moral ends of our lives in personal character and social justice. Without this spiritual and moral reawakening we shall destroy ourselves in the misuse of our own instruments.”

While trying to understand the essence of what so many Americans have witnessed over the last half century, I worked on a book (titled “Made Love, Got War”) that sifts through the last 50 years of the warfare state… and, in the process, through my own life. I haven’t learned as much as I would have liked, but some patterns emerged — persistent and pervasive since the middle of the 20th century.

The warfare state doesn’t come and go. It can’t be defeated on Election Day. Like it or not, it’s at the core of the United States — and it has infiltrated our very being.

What we’ve tolerated has become part of us. What we accept, however reluctantly, seeps inward. In the long run, passivity can easily ratify even what we may condemn. And meanwhile, in the words of Thomas Merton, “It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared.”

The triumph of the warfare state degrades and suppresses us all. Even before the weapons perform as guaranteed.

Norman Solomon is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

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08.21.07 Uncensored News Reports From Across The Middle East (video; over 18 only)

Dandelion Salad

Warning

This video contains images depicting the reality and horror of war and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

Selected Episode

Aug. 21, 2007

For more episodes and other Link TV programs:
http://www.linktv.org/originalseries

“Children Suffer the Most in Gaza,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Israeli Troops Conduct Raid on Gaza,” IBA TV, Israel
“Israel Will Not Stop Pursuing Fateh Activists,” Abu Dhabi TV, UAE
“Fatah Struggles to Regain Power,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Fatah al-Islam Seeks Lebanon Truce,” Future TV, Lebanon
“Aoun was Contacted by Washington,” NBN TV, Lebanon
“Trial for Saddam’s Former Aids Resume,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“Egypt’s Court Passes Verdicts on 14 Suspects of 2005 Cairo Terror Attack,” Dubai TV, UAE

US-Iran Policy Dynamics By Noam Chomsky

Dandelion Salad

By Noam Chomsky
08/22/07 “ICH

IN CRUDE and brutal societies, the Party Line is publicly proclaimed, and it must be obeyed, or else. What you believe is your own business, of lesser concern. In societies where the state has lost the capacity to control by force, the Party Line is not proclaimed. Rather, it is presupposed, and then vigorous debate is encouraged within the limits imposed by unstated doctrinal orthodoxy.

The crude system leads to natural disbelief. The sophisticated variant gives the impression of openness and freedom, and serves to instill the Party Line as beyond question, even beyond thought, like the air we breathe. In the ever more precarious standoff between Washington and Teheran, one Party Line confronts another. Among the well-known immediate victims are the Iranian-American detainees Parnaz Azima, Haleh Esfandiari, Ali Shakeri and Kian Tajbakhsh. But the whole world is held hostage to the US-Iran conflict, where, after all, the stakes are nuclear.

Unsurprisingly, President Bush’s announcement of a “surge” in Iraq — in reaction to the call of most Americans for steps toward withdrawal, and the even stronger demands of the (irrelevant) Iraqis — was accompanied by ominous leaks about Iranian-based fighters and Iranian-made IEDS in Iraq aimed at disrupting Washington’s mission to gain victory, which is (by definition) noble.

Then followed the predictable debate: The hawks say we have to take violent measures against such outside interference in Iraq. The doves counter that we must make sure the evidence is compelling. The entire debate can proceed without absurdity only on the tacit assumption that we own the world. Therefore interference is limited to those who impede our objectives in a country that we invaded and occupy.

What are the plans of the increasingly desperate clique that narrowly holds political power in the United States? Reports of threatening, off-the-record statements by staffers for Vice-President Cheney have heightened fears of an expanded war. “You do not want to give additional argument to new crazies who say, ‘Let’s go and bomb Iran,”‘ Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the BBC last month.

“I wake up every morning and see 100 Iraqis, innocent civilians, are dying.”

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, as against the “new crazies,” is supposedly pursuing the diplomatic track with Teheran. But the Party Line holds, unchanged. In April, Rice spoke about what she would say if she encountered her Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki at the international conference on Iraq at Sharm el Sheikh. “What do we need to do? It’s quite obvious,” Rice said. “Stop the flow of arms to foreign fighters; stop the flow of foreign fighters across the borders.” She is referring, of course, to Iranian fighters and arms. US fighters and arms are not “foreign” in Iraq. Or anywhere. The tacit premise underlying her comment, and virtually all public discussion about Iraq (and beyond) is that we own the world.

Do we not have the right to invade and destroy a foreign country? Of course we do. That’s a given. The only question is: Will the surge work? Or some other tactic? Perhaps this catastrophe is costing us too much. And those are the limits of the debates among the presidential candidates, the Congress and the media, with rare exceptions. That’s part of the reason the debates are so inconclusive. The basic issues are not discussable.

Doubtless Teheran merits harsh condemnation, certainly for severe domestic repression and the inflammatory rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who has little to do with foreign affairs). It is, however, useful to ask how Washington would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico, overthrown the governments there, slaughtered scores of thousands of people, deployed major naval forces in the Caribbean and issued credible threats to destroy the United States if it did not immediately terminate its nuclear energy programs (and weapons). Would we watch quietly? After the United States invaded Iraq, “Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy,” said Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld.

Surely no sane person wants Iran (or anyone) to develop nuclear weapons. A reasonable solution to the crisis would permit Iran to develop nuclear energy, in accord with its rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but not nuclear weapons. Is that outcome feasible? It would be, under one condition: that the United States and Iran were functioning democratic societies, in which public opinion has a significant impact on public policy, overcoming the huge gulf that now exists on many critical issues, including this one.

That reasonable solution has overwhelming support among Iranians and Americans, who agree quite generally on nuclear issues, according to recent polls by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, at the University of Maryland. The Iranian-American consensus extends to complete elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere (82 per cent of Americans), and if that cannot be achieved, a “nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include Islamic countries and Israel (71 per cent of Americans).” To 75 per cent of Americans, it is better to build relations with Iran rather than use threats of force.

These facts suggest a possible way to prevent the current crisis from exploding, perhaps even to World War III, as predicted by British military historian Correlli Barnett. That awesome threat might be averted by pursuing a familiar proposal: democracy promotion — at home, where it is badly needed. Although we cannot carry out the project directly in Iran, we can act to improve the prospects for the courageous reformers and oppositionists who are seeking to achieve just that. They include people like Saeed Hajjarian, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and Akbar Ganji, and those who as usual remain nameless, among them labour activists.

We can improve the prospects for democracy promotion in Iran by sharply reversing state policy here so that it reflects popular opinion. That would entail withdrawing the threats that are a gift to the Iranian hardliners and are bitterly condemned for that reason by Iranians truly concerned with democracy promotion. We can act to open some space for those who are seeking to overthrow the reactionary and repressive theocracy from within, instead of undermining their efforts by threats and aggressive militarism.

Democracy promotion, while no panacea, would be a useful step towards helping the United States become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international order (to adopt the term used for adversaries), instead of being an object of fear and dislike throughout much of the world. Apart from being a value in itself, a functioning democracy at home holds promise for a simple recognition that we don’t own the world, we share it.

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author, most recently, of Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance.

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The War On Democracy by John Pilger (2007; must-see)

Dandelion Salad

Note: replaced video June 13, 2016

John Pilger

Continue reading

Financial Bankruptcy, the US Dollar, and the Real Economy by Rodrigue Tremblay


Dandelion Salad

by Rodrigue Tremblay
Dissident Voice
August 22nd, 2007

The U.S. government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices.

– David Walker, U.S. Comptroller General

Modern society, based as it is on the division of labor, can be preserved only under conditions of lasting peace.

– Ludwig von Mises, Austrian economist

People know that inflation erodes the real value of the government’s debt and, therefore, that it is in the interest of the government to create some inflation.

– Ben Shalom Bernanke, Fed Chairman

Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.

– Ben Shalom Bernanke, Nov. 8, 2002 (Fed Chairman, talking to economist Milton Friedman)

Ordinary investors and people in general will have to get accustomed to hearing a lot about financial terms they never heard before, such as the subprime mortgage market, aggressive underwriting, asset securitization, repackaged loans, subprime loans, “no-doc” loans, adjustable rate mortgage interest rate adjustment (ARM) loans, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), asset backed securities, mortgage-backed securities, closed-end second-lien loans, subprime second-lien loans, alternative-A (Alt-A) mortgage loans, piggyback loans, asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP),…etc. As a general definition, “subprime” or “high-risk” loans are those made to people with poor credit and at lax conditions. Second-lien loans are loans that are placed in second place for any potential recovery after the primary lender on a property. Residential mortgage-backed security (RMBS) are created when mortgage lenders sell their loans (and the risks associated with such loans) to banks, which package them together and slice them into different classes before selling them to (gullible) investors. This process, called “asset securitization” is the method whereby interests in mortgage loans and other receivables are packaged, underwritten, and sold in the form of “asset-backed securities”. This is financial alchemy, through which subprime mortgage loans are transformed into AAA-rated paper for unsuspecting investors.

Some of these artificial or derivative securities are low-grade quality, and when their prices fall because borrowers cannot meet their interest or capital payments, such financial instruments become quickly “illiquid” or unsalable, since nobody wants to touch them. They become fictitious capital. Those who hold them, investors, banks or other types of lenders, are stuck with them: they cannot sell them and they cannot borrow while placing such shaky assets as collateral. These are the imprudent lenders and investors that central banks now are trying to bail out.

During the French Revolution (1789-1799), the Jacobins (the Neocons of the day) had the brilliant idea of issuing securities, called “assignats,” based on the properties (buildings and lands) the government had taken away from the Church and its religious orders. The new securities were quickly “monetized” into fiat money and transformed into readily available cash. This caused a massive hyperinflation and a subsequent deflation.

Mind you, this was not the first time that 18th-century France lived an experience of inflationary finance, since a similar incident took place three quarters of a century before, between 1716 and 1720, when Scottish banker and businessman John Law (1671-1729) led France into a fiat money fiasco and engineered a land-backed securities scheme known as the Mississippi Bubble. John Law’s earlier experiment and the French Revolution assignats debacle should be clear reminders of the danger and folly of “monetizing” illiquid assets-based securities.

Continued…

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U.S. Martial Law Timeline by Sarah Meyer


Dandelion Salad

by Sarah Meyer, Index Research

August 21, 2007
Index Research

It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee ‘Blackwater-style’ martial law in all of America.

“Since the totalitarian ruler conducts his policies on the assumption of an eventual world government, he treats the victims of his aggression as though they were rebels, guilty of high treason, and consequently prefers to rule occupied territories with police, and not with military forces.” 1

Pre-emptive measures have now been proposed for Hurricane Dean – which has not even happened yet. The above photo is representative of what seems to be happening to the democratic process in America.

Contempt for life

Contempt (OED). “The mental attitude in which a thing is considered of little account, or as vile and worthless. Law: Disobedience or open disrespect to the authority or the lawful commands of the sovereign, the privileges of the `Houses of Parliament or other legislative body; and esp. action of any kind that interferes with the proper administration of justice by the various courts of law; in this connection called Contempt of Court. 1621”

U.S. Contempt for life (“Stuff happens”) is rampant in Iraq, and also in Afghanistan.

Dave Lindorff (Counterpunch) writes:“And let’s be honest: this is no matter of “collateral damage.” It is a deliberate policy of terror.”

Continued…

h/t: Speaking Truth to Power

What Unites Iraqis: Blocking Western Petroleum Companies From Seizing Control of Their Oil by Joshua Holland

Dandelion Salad

by Joshua Holland
Global Research, August 22, 2007
Alternet.org – 2007-08-09

If passed, the Bush administration’s long-sought “hydrocarbons framework” law would give Big Oil access to Iraq’s vast energy reserves on the most advantageous terms and with virtually no regulation. Meanwhile, a parallel law carving up the country’s oil revenues threatens to set off a fresh wave of conflict in the shell- shocked country.

Subhi al-Badri, head of the Iraqi Federation of Union Councils, said last month that the “law is a bomb that may kill everyone.” Iraq’s oil “does not belong to any certain side,” he said, “it belongs to all future generations.” But Washington continues to push that bomb onto the Iraqi people, calling it a vital benchmark on the road to a fully sovereign Iraq. Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio accused his own party of “promoting” President Bush’s effort to privatize Iraq’s oil “under the guise of a reconciliation program.”

As is the norm, nobody bothered to ask Iraqis what they thought of the controversy until recently, when a coalition of NGOs and other civil society groups commissioned a poll (PDF) to gauge Iraqis’ reaction to the proposed legislation. It found that Iraqis from all ethnic and sectarian groups and across the political spectrum oppose the principles enshrined in the laws. Considering the multiethnic bloodbath we’ve witnessed over the past four years, it’s an impressive display of Iraqi solidarity.

The package of oil laws represent one of the clearest examples of a dynamic that’s fueled much of the country’s political instability but is rarely discussed in the commercial media. While the war’s advocates continue to sell the occupation of Iraq as part of a grand scheme to democratize the region, anything resembling true Iraqi democracy is in fact a tremendous threat to U.S. interests. The law, after all, was not designed with Iraqis’ prosperity in mind; plans for throwing the country’s oil sector open to (almost) unregulated foreign investment were hashed out by a State Department working group that included major players from the oil industry long before the planning for the invasion itself. These plans were discussed in the White House (under the guidance of Dick Cheney) before that — even before the attacks of 9/11.

The framework law — from what we know from a series of leaked drafts — will hand over effective control of as much as 80 percent of the country’s oil wealth to foreign firms with minimal state participation. According to an analysis by the oil watchdog group Platform, Iraq stands to lose tens of billions of dollars in potential revenues under the contract terms being considered.

The administration claims that offering such lucrative terms is necessary given the dire need for investment in Iraq’s war-torn oil infrastructure, but those investments could just as easily be made out of Iraq’s existing operating budget or financed through loans — despite the chaos on the ground, Iraq’s massive energy reserves would be more than enough collateral for even the strictest lenders.

So while most oil-producing states are moving toward more state control of their energy sectors — according to the Washington Post, “about 77 percent of the world’s 1.1 trillion barrels in proven oil reserves is controlled by governments that significantly restrict access to international companies” — Iraqi lawmakers are under enormous pressure to go in the opposite direction. (See here for a detailed critique of the framework law.)

It should come as no surprise that Iraqis overwhelmingly reject this arrangement. According to the poll of 2,200 Iraqis released this week, almost two-thirds of Iraqis said they would prefer “Iraq’s oil to be developed and produced by Iraqi state-owned companies” over foreign companies. Less than a third favored foreign control — less than the number who expressed a “strong preference” for the sector to remain under state control.

The findings cut across the divisions that have haunted the post-war occupation: 52 percent of Kurds, 62 percent of Sunni Arabs and 66 percent of Shia Arabs favored state control. Significant majorities in every metropolitan area and every region of the divided country agreed.

Opposition to the privatization scheme that U.S. lawmakers have pushed for with such zeal is reflected, too, in the Iraqi parliament, where a growing number of lawmakers have come out in opposition to the oil laws.

So, too have many experts in the field, including some of the technocrats who originally drafted the laws. Tariq Shafiq, one of the co-authors of the original version of the legislation, told UPI’s Ben Lando that “the version penned by oil experts has been compromised by politics,” and that he “no longer wants it approved.” Farouk al- Qassem, another expert who worked on the original draft, came out against it earlier. “I think really the majority of the oil technocrats are against it,” Shafiq told Lando.

There’s evidence to support that statement; last month, more than 100 Iraqi oil experts, economists and legal scholars criticized the proposed legislation and urged the Iraqi parliament to put it on hold.

The most vocal opposition to the oil framework has come from Iraq’s influential oil workers’ unions. Hassan Jumaa Awaad, president of the Iraqi Oil Workers union, called the proposed hydrocarbon laws “more political than economic” and “unbalanced and incoherent,” and said they threatened “to set governorate against governorate and region against region.” Iraq’s oil unions have threatened to “mutiny” if the law is passed as drafted.

In favor of the laws are the multinational energy companies who stand to gain tens of billions more profits in Iraq than they could expect from any other major oil producer’s reserves. They’re supported by Iraqi separatists — especially Shias in the South and Northern Kurds — who want control over the country’s oil to rest in the hands of the regional authorities they dominate. They include Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, and its president, Jalal Talabani.

Faced with such broad and intense opposition to a set of laws that were effectively crafted in Washington, London and Houston, the Iraqi government and the U.S. authorities in Baghdad have kept Iraqis in the dark over the details of the proposed legislation, brought all manner of pressure on lawmakers and, when that failed, used heavy- handed coercion to move the legislation forward.

According to the poll released this week, more than three out of four Iraqis — including nine of 10 Sunni Arabs — say “the level of information provided by the Iraqi government on this law” was not adequate for them to “feel informed” about the issue. Only 4 percent of Iraqis feel they’ve been given “totally adequate” information about the oil law.

But enough people did learn of the law and specifically its call for the use of “Production Service Agreements” (PSAs) — the onerous contract form favored by the United States and Big Oil — to elicit outrage among the Iraqi people. The Iraqi regime responded by renaming the long-term contracts “Exploration and Risk Contracts” (ERCs). According to Hands Off Iraqi Oil, a coalition of civil society groups, ERCs are “the equivalent of PSAs under a different name.”

It’s not just Iraqi citizens who have been kept in the dark; Raed Jarrar, an Iraq analyst with the American Friends Service Committee (and my frequent writing partner), has called Iraqi lawmakers to get a reaction to the draft legislation, only to be asked if he would send them a copy to review. According to Greg Muttit, an analyst with Platform, by the time Iraq’s parliamentarians saw their first draft of the oil law, it had already been reviewed and commented on by U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, who “arranged” for nine major oil companies, including Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips, to “comment on the draft.”

The regime in Baghdad, under pressure from Washington, has responded to opposition to the law in a profoundly undemocratic fashion. In May, Hassan Al-Shammari, the head of Al-Fadhila bloc in the Iraqi parliament, told AlterNet: “We’re afraid the U.S. will make us pass this new oil law through intimidation and threatening. We don’t want it to pass, and we know it’ll make things worse, but we’re afraid to rise up and block it, because we don’t want to be bombed and arrested the next day.” Armed Iraqi troops have faced down peaceful strikes called by the unions and arrested labor leaders who oppose the legislation. Last week, the Iraqi oil ministry directed “its agencies and departments not to deal with the country’s oil unions” at all.

At this point, progress on the oil laws is stalled in Baghdad. The Kurds this week passed their own legislation, setting up what has the potential to become a whole new front in Iraq’s multifaceted civil conflict. Senior Kurdish officials — most of whom are separatists — have vowed to block any legislation that doesn’t include extensive regional autonomy over oil contracting, an issue opposed by most Iraqis and a serious problem for Iraqi nationalists.

Ultimately, the turmoil around Iraq’s oil is a result of commercial interests being placed before the interests of the Iraqi people by an administration that routinely privileges its “free-market” ideology over common sense. Historians will no doubt note the great irony of Iraq’s proposed oil law: What is considered a prerequisite for stability in Washington in fact threatens to tear the country further apart.

Global Research Articles by Joshua Holland


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America and Venezuela: Constitutional Worlds Apart by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 22, 2007

Although imperfect, no country anywhere is closer to a model democracy than Venezuela under President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. In contrast, none is a more shameless failure than America, but it was true long before the age of George W. Bush. The difference under his regime is that the mask is off revealing a repressive state masquerading as a democratic republic. This article compares the constitutional laws of each country and how they’re implemented. The result shows world’s apart differences between these two nominally democratic states – one that’s real, impressive and improving and the other that’s mostly pretense and under George Bush lawless, corrupted, in tatters, and morally depraved.

US Constitutional Law from the Beginning

Before they’re old enough to understand its meaning, young US children are taught to “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands,” and, by inference, its bedrock supreme constitutional law of the land. At that early age, they likely haven’t yet heard of it, but soon will with plenty of misinformation about a document far less glorious than it’s made out to be.

This article draws on Ferdinand Lundberg’s powerfully important 1980 book, “Cracks in the Constitution,” that’s every bit as relevant today as then. In it, he deconstructs the nation’s foundational legal document, separating myth from reality about what he called “the great totempole of American society.” He analyzed it, piece by piece, revealing its intentionally crafted flaws. It’s not at all the “Rock of Ages” it’s cracked up to be, but students at all levels don’t learn that in classrooms from teachers going along with the deception or who simply don’t know the truth about their subject matter.

The Constitution falls far short of a “masterpiece of political architecture,” but it’s even worse than that. It was the product of very ordinary scheming politicians (not the Mt. Rushmore types they’re portrayed as in history books) and their friends crafting the law of the land to serve themselves while leaving out the greater public that was nowhere in sight in 1787 Philadelphia. Unlike the Venezuelan Constitution, discussed below, “The People” were never consulted or even considered, and nothing in the end was put to a vote beyond the state legislative bodies that had to ratify it. In contrast to popular myth, the framers crafted a Constitution that didn’t constrain or fetter the federal government nor did they create a government of limited powers.

They devised a government of men, not laws, that was composed of self-serving devious officials who lied, connived, used or abused the law at their whim, and pretty much operated ad libitum to discharge their duties as they wished. In that respect, things weren’t much different then from now except the times were simpler, the nation smaller, and the ambitions of those in charge much less far-reaching than today.

The Constitution can easily be read in 30 minutes or less and just as easily be misunderstood. The opening Preamble contains its sole myth referring to “We the people of the United States of America.” The only people who mattered were white male property owners. All others nowhere entered the picture, then or mostly since, proving democracy operatively is little more than a fantasy. But try explaining that to people today thinking otherwise because that’s all they were taught from the beginning to believe.

They were never told the American revolution was nothing more than a minority of the colonists seceding from the British empire planning essentially the same type government repackaged under new management. Using high-minded language in Article I, Section 8 of the supreme law of the land, the founders and their successors ignored the minimum objective all governments are, or should be, entrusted to do – “provide for….(the) general welfare” of their people under a system of constitutional law serving everyone. But that’s not its only flaw build in by design.

Our revered document is called “The Living Constitution,” and Article VI, Section 2 defines it as the supreme law of the land. In fact, it’s loosely structured for governments to do as they wish or not wish with the notion of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” a nonstarter. “The People” don’t govern either directly or through representatives, in spite of commonly held myths. “The People” are governed, like it or not, the way sitting governments choose to do it. As a consequence, “The Living Constitution” was a “huge flop” and still is.

Setting the Record Straight on the Framers

Popular myth aside, the 55 delegates who met in Philadelphia from May to September, 1787 were very ordinary self-serving, privileged, property-owning white men. They weren’t extraordinarily learned, profound in their thinking or in any way special. Only 25 attended college (that was pretty rudimentary at the time), and Washington never got beyond the fifth grade.

Lundberg described them as a devious bunch of wheeler-dealers likely meeting in smoke-filled rooms (literally or figuratively) cutting deals the way things work today. He called them no “all-star political team” (except for George Washington) compared to more distinguished figures who weren’t there like Jefferson, Adams (the most noted constitutional theorist of his day), John Jay (the first Supreme Court Chief Justice), Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and others. Madison and Alexander Hamilton, who did attend, were virtual unknowns at the time, yet ever since Madison has been mischaracterized as the Constitution’s father. In fact, he only played a modest role.

The delegates came to Philadelphia in May, 1887, assembled, did their work, sent it to the states, and left in a despondent mood. They disliked the final product, some could barely tolerate it, yet 39 of the 55 attendees knowingly signed a document they believed flawed while we today extoll it like it came down from Mt. Sinai. The whole process we call a first-class historical event was, in fact, an entirely routine uninspiring political caucus producing no “prodigies of statecraft, no wonders of political (judgment), no vaulting philosophies, no Promethean vistas.” Contradicting everything we’ve been “indoctrinated from ears to toes” to believe, the notion that the Constitution is “a document of salvation….a magic talisman,” or a gift to the common man is pure fantasy.

The central achievement of the convention, and a big one (until the Civil War changed things), was the cobbling together of disparate and squabbling states into a union. It held together, tenuously at best, for over seven decades but not actually until Appomattox “at bayonet point.” The convention succeeded in gaining formal approval for what the leading power figures wanted and then got it rammed through the state ratification process to become the law of the land.

After much wheeling and dealing, they achieved mightily but not without considerable effort. Enough states balked to thwart the whole process and had to be won over with concessions like legitimizing slavery for southern interests and more. Then consider the Bill of Rights, why they were added, for whom, and why adopting them made the difference. It came down to no Bill of Rights, no Constitution, but they weren’t for “The People” who were out of sight and mind.

These “glorified” first 10 Amendments were first rejected twice, then only added to assure enough state delegates voted to ratify the final document with them included. Many in smaller states were displeased enough to want a second convention that might have derailed the whole process had it happened. To prevent it, concessions were made including adding the Bill of Rights because they addressed key state delegate concerns like the following:

— prohibitions against quartering troops in their property,

— unreasonable searches and seizures there as well,

— the right to have state militias,

— the right of people to bear arms, but not as the 2nd Amendment today is interpreted,

— the rights of free speech, the press, religion, assembly and petition, all to serve monied and propertied interests alone – not “The People,”

— due process of law with speedy public trials for the privileged, and

— various other provisions worked out through compromise to become our acclaimed Bill of Rights. Two additional amendments were proposed but rejected by the majority. They would have banned monopolies and standing armies, matters of great future import that might have made a huge difference thereafter. We’ll never know for sure.

In the end and in spite of its defects, the framers felt it was the best they could do at the time and kept their fingers crossed it would work to their advantage. None of them suggested or wanted “a sheltered haven….for the innumerable heavily laden, bedraggled, scrofulous and oppressed of the earth.” On the contrary, they intended to keep them that way meaning things weren’t much different then than now, and the founders weren’t the noble characters they’re made out to be.

There were no populists or civil libertarians among them with men like Washington and Jefferson (who was abroad and didn’t attend) being slave-owners. In fact, they were little more than crass opportunists who willfully acted against the will of “The People” they ignored and disdained. In spite of it, they’re practically deified and ranked with the Apostles, and one of them (Washington) sits in the most prominent spot atop Mt. Rushmore.

The constitutional convention ended September 17, 1787 “in an atmosphere verging on glumness.” Of the 55 attending delegates, 39 signed as a pro forma exercise before sending it to the states with power to accept or reject it. Again, “The People” were nowhere in sight in Philadelphia or at the state level where the real tussle began before the founders could declare victory.

What Was Achieved and What Wasn’t

Contrary to popular myth, the new government wasn’t constrained by constitutional checks and balances of the three branches created within it. In fact, then and since, sitting governments have acted expediently, with or without popular approval, and within or outside the law. In this respect, our system functions no differently than most others operating as we do. It’s accomplished through “the narrowest possible interpretations of the Constitution,” but it’s free to go “further afield under broader or fanciful official interpretations.” History records many examples under noted Presidents like Lincoln, T. and F. Roosevelt and Wilson along with less distinguished ones like Reagan, Clinton, Nixon, GHW Bush and his bad seed son, the worst ever of a bad lot.

Key to understanding the American system is that “government is completely autonomous, detached, (and) in a realm of its own” with its “main interest (being) economic (for the privileged) at all times.” Constitutional shackles and constraining barriers are pure fantasy. Regardless of law, custom or anything else, sitting US governments have always been freelancing and able to operate as they please. They’ve also consistently been unresponsive to the public interest, uncaring and disinterested in the will and needs of the majority, and generally able to get around or remake the law to suit their purpose. George W. Bush is only the latest and most extreme example of a tradition begun under Washington, who when elected unanimously (by virtual coronation) was one of the two richest men in the country.

The Legislative Branch

The Constitution then and since confers unlimited powers on the government constituted under its three branches of the Congress, Executive and Judiciary. Article I (with seven in all plus 27 Amendments) deals with the legislative branch. Section 8, Sub-section 18 states Congress has power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution….or in any department or officer thereof.” It’s for government then to decide what’s “necessary” and “proper” meaning the sky’s the limit under the concept of sovereignty.

The Executive and Judiciary branches are dealt with below with the three branches comprising a labyrinthine system the framers devised under the Roman notion of “divide and rule” as follows:

— a powerful (and at times omnipotent) chief executive at the top,

— a bicameral legislature with a single member in the upper chamber able to subvert all others in it through the power of the filibuster (meaning pirate in Spanish),

— a committee system controlled mostly by seniority or a political powerbroker,

— delay and circumlocution deliberately built into the system,

— a separate judiciary able to overrule the Congress and Executive, but too often is a partner, not an adversary,

— staggered elections to assure continuity by preventing too many officials being voted out together,

— a two-party system with multiple constituencies, especially vulnerable to corruption and the influence of big (corporate) money that runs everything today making the whole system farcical, dishonest and a democracy only in the minds of the deceived and delusional.

The Judiciary

Article III of the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court saying only: “The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Congress is explicitly empowered to regulate the Court, but, in fact, the opposite often happens or, at times, it cuts both ways. The function of Congress is to make laws with the Court in place to interpret them and decide their constitutionality if challenged and it decides to adjudicate.

As for the common notion of “judicial review,” it’s nowhere mentioned in the Constitution nor did the framers authorize it. Nonetheless, courts use it to judge the constitutionality of laws in place and public sector body actions. They derive their power to do it by deduction from two separate parts of the Constitution: Article VI, Section 2 saying the Constitution, laws and treaties are the supreme law of the land and judges are bound by them; then in Article III, Section 1 saying judicial power applies to all cases, implying judicial review is allowed. Under this interpretation of the law, appointed judges, in theory, “have a power unprecedented in history – to annul acts of the Congress and President.”

With or without this power, Lundberg makes a powerful case overall that the constitutional story comes down to a question of money and money arrangement – who gets it, how, why, when, where, what for, and under what conditions. Also addressed is who the law leaves out. The story has nothing whatever to do with guaranteeing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Jefferson’s Orwellian language meaning property); establishing justice; upholding the rule of law equitably for everyone; promoting the general welfare; or securing the blessings of freedom for “The People” unconsidered, unimportant and ignored by the three branches of government serving monied and property interests only, of which they are a part.

The Executive Branch

Lundberg’s theme is clear and unequivocal. Under US constitutional law, the President is the most powerful political official on earth, bar none under any other system of government. “The office he holds is inherently imperial,” regardless of the occupant or how he governs, and the Constitution confers this on him. Unlike the British model, with the executive as a collectivity, the US system “is absolutely unique, and dangerously vulnerable” with one man in charge fully able to exploit his position. “The American President (stands) midway between a collective executive and an absolute dictator (and in times of war like now) becomes, in fact, quite constitutionally, a full-fledged dictator.” Disturbingly, the public hasn’t a clue about what’s going on.

A single sentence, easily passed over or misunderstood, constitutes the essence of presidential power. It effectively grants the Executive a near-limitless source, only constrained to the degree he chooses. It’s from Article II, Section 1 reading: “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. Article II, Section 3 then almost nonchalantly adds: “The President shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed” without saying Presidents are virtually empowered to make laws as well as execute them even though nothing in the Constitution specifically permits this practice. More on that below.

To understand how the US government works, it’s essential to know what executive power is, in fact, knowing it’s concentrated in the hands of one man for good or ill. Also crucial is how Presidents are elected – “literally (by) electoral (unelected by the public) dummies” in an Electoral College. The scheme is a long-acknowledged constitutional anomaly as these state bodies are able to subvert the popular vote, never meet or consult like the College of Cardinals electing a Pope, and, in effect, reduce and corrupt the process into a shameless farce.

Once elected, it only gets worse because the power of the presidency is awesome and frightening. The nation’s chief executive:

— is commander-in-chief of the military functioning as a virtual dictator in times of war; although Article I, Section 8 grants only Congress that right, the President, in fact, can do it any time he wishes “without consulting anyone” and, of course, has done it many times;

— can grant commutations or pardons except in cases of impeachment;

— can make treaties that become the law of the land, with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate (not ratification as commonly believed); can also terminate treaties with a mere announcement as George Bush did renouncing the important ABM Treaty with the former Soviet Union; in addition, and with no constitutional sanction, he can rule by decree through executive agreements with foreign governments that in some cases are momentous ones like those made at Yalta and Potsdam near the end of WW II. While short of treaties, they then become the law of the land.

— can appoint administration officials, diplomats, federal judges with Senate approval, that’s usually routine, or can fill any vacancy through (Senate) recess appointments; can also discharge any appointed executive official other than judges and statutory administrative officials;

— can veto congressional legislation, and history shows through the book’s publication they’re sustained 96% of the time;

— while Congress alone has appropriating authority, only the President has the power to release funds for spending by the executive branch or not release them;

— Presidents also have a huge bureaucracy at their disposal, including powerful officials like the Secretaries of Defense, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security and the Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department;

— Presidents also command center stage any time they wish. They can request and get national prime time television for any purpose with guaranteed extensive post-appearance coverage promoting his message with nary a disagreement with it on any issue;

— throughout history, going back to George Washington, Presidents have issued Executive Orders (EOs) although the Constitution “nowhere implicitly or explicitly gives a President (the) power (to make) new law” by issuing “one-man, often far-reaching” EOs. However, Presidents have so much power they can do as they wish, only constrained by their own discretion.

— George Bush also usurped “Unitary Executive” power to brazenly and openly declare what this section highlights – that the law is what he says it is. He proved it in six and a half years of subverting congressional legislation through a record-breaking number of unconstitutional “signing statements.” – They rewrote over 1132 law provisions through 147 separate “statements,” more than all previous Presidents combined. Through this practice, George Bush expanded presidential power well beyond the usual practices recounted above.

— Presidents are, in fact, empowered to do almost anything not expressively forbidden in the Constitution, and very little is; more importantly, with a little ingenuity and lots of creative chutzpah, the President “can make almost any (constitutional) text mean whatever (he) wants it to mean” so, in fact, his authority is practically absolute or plenary. And the Supreme Court supports this notion as an “inherent power of sovereignty.” If the US has sovereignty, it has all powers therein, and the President, as the sole executive, can exercise them freely without constitutional authorization or restraint.

In effect, “the President….is virtually a sovereign in his own person.” Compared to the power of the President, Congress is mostly “a paper tiger, easily soothed or repulsed.” The courts, as well, can be gotten around with a little creative exercise of presidential power, and in the case of George Bush, at times just ignoring their decisions when they disagree with his. As Lundberg put it: “One should never under-estimate the power of the President….nor over-estimate that of the Supreme Court. The supposed system of equitable checks and balances does not exist, in fact, (because Congress and the courts don’t effectively use their constitutional authority)….the separation in the Constitution between legislative and the executive is wholly artificial.”

Further, it’s pure myth that the government is constrained by limited powers. Quite the opposite is true “which at the point of execution (resides in) one man,” the President. In addition, “Until the American electorate creates effective political parties (which it never has done), Congress….will always be pretty much under (Presidents’) thumb(s).” Under the “American constitutional system (the President) is very much a de facto king,” and under George Bush a corrupted, devious, criminal and dangerous one.

As for impeaching and convicting a President for malfeasance, Article II, Section 4 states it can only be for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Based on the historical record, it’s near-impossible to do with no President ever having been removed from office this way, and only two were impeached, both unjustly. John Adams, the most distinguished constitutional theorist of his day, said it would take a national convulsion to remove a President by impeachment, which is not to say it won’t ever happen and very likely one day will with no time better than the present to prove it.

In sum from the above, the US system of constitutional law is full of flaws and faults. “The People” were deliberately and willfully left out of the process proving the Constitution doesn’t recognize democracy in America in spite of the commonly held view it does. In addition, the President, at his own discretion, can usurp dictatorial powers and end republican government by a stroke of his pen. That should awaken everyone to the clear and present danger that any time, for any reason, the President of the United States can declare a state of emergency, suspend the law of the land and rule by decree.

Constitutional Government in Venezuela

How does America’s system of government contrast with rule under the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela? Hugo Chavez was first elected president in December, 1998 and took office in February, 1999. He then held a national referendum so his people could decide whether to convene a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution to embody his visionary agenda. It passed overwhelmingly followed three months later by elections to the National Assembly to which members of Chavez’s MVR party and those allied with it won 95% of the seats. They then drafted the revolutionary Constitucion de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela. It was put to a nationwide vote in December, 1999 and overwhelmingly approved changing everything for the Venezuelan people.

It established a model humanistic participatory social democracy, unimaginable in the US, providing real (not imagined) checks and balances in the nation’s five branches of government. They comprise the executive, legislative and judicial ones plus two others. One is the independent national electoral council that regulates and handles state and civil society organization electoral procedures to assure they conform to the law requiring free, fair and open elections. The other is a citizen or public power branch functioning as a unique institution. It lets ordinary people serve as ombudsmen to assure the other government branches comply with constitutionally-mandated requirements. This branch includes the attorney general, the defender of the people, and the comptroller general.

The Legislative Branch

Venezuela is governed under a unicameral legislative system called the National Assembly. It’s composed of 167 members (compared to 535 in the two US Houses) elected to serve for five years and allowed to run two more times. It differs from the bicameral system in the US but is broadly similar to governments like in the UK. Although it’s bicameral, it’s governed solely by publicly elected members of the House of Commons that includes the Prime Minister and his cabinet as members of Parliament. The upper House of Lords is merely token and advisory, there by tradition like the Queen, with no power to overrule the lower House that runs everything.

The Office of the President

The President is elected with a plurality of universally guaranteed suffrage. Article 56 of the Bolivarian Constitution states: “All persons have the right to be registered free of charge with the Civil Registry Office after birth, and to obtain public documents constituting evidence of the biological identity, in accordance with law.” In addition, all Venezuelans are enfranchised to vote under one national standard and are encouraged to do it under a model democratic system with the vast majority in it actively participating.

In contrast, the US system is quite different. Precise voting rights qualifications are for the states to decide with no constitutionally mandated suffrage standard applying across the board for everyone. The result is many US citizens are denied their franchise right. They’re unable to participate in the electoral process for a variety of reasons no democratic state should tolerate, but America built it into the system by design.

The Judicial System

Under Article 2 in The Bolivarian Constitution, the judicial system shares equal importance to the law of the land. But it wasn’t always that way earlier when the Venezuelan judiciary had an odious reputation before Chavez was elected. It had a long history of corruption, a disturbing record of being beholden to political benefactors, and a tradition of failing to provide an adequate system of justice for most Venezuelans. Chavez vowed to change things and undertook a major restructuring effort after taking office. He put this government branch under the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and made it independent of the others. The law now requires those serving be elected by a two-thirds legislative majority (not the previous simple one), and tighter requirements are in place regarding eligible candidates along with public hearings to vet them.

In addition, to root out long-standing corrupt practices, Chavez created a Judicial Restructuring Commission to review existing judgeships and replace those not fit to serve. Henceforth, all sitting judges with eight or more corruption charges pending are disqualified. It effectively eliminated 80% of those on the bench in short order and showed the extent of malfeasance in the national judicial culture. It also suggested the huge amount throughout the government from generations of institutionalized privilege. Those in power were licensed to steal the country blind and enrich themselves and foreign investors at the expense of the vast majority.

Reform in all areas of government is still a work in progress, including in the judiciary needing much of it. The process hasn’t been perfect because of the enormity of the task. By the end of 2000, about 70% of sitting judges in the so-called capital region of Caracas, Miranda and Vargas states were replaced by provisional ones with charges of old judges removed for equally beholden new ones. It may be true and points to how hard the going is to change the long-standing culture of privilege and institute real democratic reforms throughout the government.

Nonetheless, the Constitution established Chavez’s vision for a foundation and legal framework for revolutionary structural change. He’s been working since to transform the nation incrementally into a model participatory social democracy serving all Venezuelans instead of for the privileged few alone the way it traditionally was in the past and how US framers designed American constitutional law. The differences between the two nations couldn’t be more stark.

The spirit of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Constitution is stated straightaway in its Preamble:….”to establish a democratic, participatory and self-reliant, multiethnic and multicultural society in a just, federal and decentralized State that embodies the values of freedom, independence, peace, solidarity, the common good, the nation’s territorial integrity, comity and the rule of law for this and future generations;”

It further “guarantees the right to life, work, learning, education, social justice and equality, without discrimination or subordination of any kind; promotes peaceful cooperation among nations and further strengthens Latin American integration in accordance with the principle of nonintervention and national self-determination of the people, the universal and indivisible guarantee of human rights, the democratization of imitational society, nuclear disarmament, ecological balance and environmental resources as the common and inalienable heritage of humanity;……”

This language would be unimaginable in the US Constitution, and, unlike our federal law, they’re more than words. This is Hugo Chavez’s commitment to all Venezuelans ordained under nine Title headings, 350 Articles, and 18 Temporary Provisions. It’s a first class democratic document, little known in the West, that greatly outclasses and shames what US framers’ enacted for themselves and privileged friends alone. Democracy was nowhere in sight then nor has it shown up since. In Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, it’s resplendent, glorious, still imperfect and a work in progress, but heading in the right direction with newly proposed changes discussed below.

The contrast with America today couldn’t be greater. The nation under George Bush is ruled by Patriot and Military Commissions Act justice under an institutionalized imperial system of militarized savage capitalism empowering the rich to exploit all others. A state of permanent war exists; civil liberties are disappearing and human rights are a nonstarter; dissent is a crime; social decay is growing; a culture of secrecy and growing fear prevail; torture is practically sanctified; injustice is tolerated; the dominant media function as virtual national thought-control police gatekeepers; and the law is what a boy-emperor president says it is. Aside from the privileged it serves, democracy in America is only in the minds of the bewildered and last of the true-believers who sooner or later will discover the truth.

Consider Venezuela’s Bolivarian spirit in contrast. The people freely and openly choose their leaders in honest, independently monitored elections. They’re unemcumbered by a farcical electoral college voting scheme (for Presidents) and a system of rigged electronic voting machine and other electoral engineered fraud corrupting the entire process sub rosa. They also have unimaginable benefits like free quality health and dental care (mandated in Articles 83 – 85) as a “fundamental social right and….responsibility of the state….to guarantee….to improve the quality of life and common welfare.” It’s administered through a national public health system proscribed from being privatized. That’s how health delivery in America gets corrupted for profit. The result is 47 million and counting are uninsured, many millions more have too little coverage, and the cost of care is unaffordable for all but the well-off or those on Medicare, Medicaid (if qualify) or under disappearing company-paid plans.

The Constitution also enacted the principle of participatory democracy from the grassroots for everyone. It’s mandated in Articles 166 and 192 establishing citizen assemblies as a constitutional right for ordinary people to be empowered to participate in governing along with their elected officials. Constitutionally guaranteed rights also ban discrimination; promote gender equity; and insure free speech; a free press; free, fair, and open elections; equal rights for indigenous people (assured a minimum three National Assembly legislative seats); and mandates government make quality free education available for all to the highest levels, as well as housing and an improved social security pension system for seniors, and much more.

Hugo Chavez brought permanent change, and most Venezuelans won’t tolerate returning to the ugly past. Why should they? They never got these essential social services before. Under a leader who cares, they do now, and their lives improved enormously.

Other Venezuelan Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights

The Bolivarian Constitution is a glorious document, fundamentally different in spirit and letter from its US counterpart it shames by comparison. Before Chavez took office in February, 1999, Venezuela only paid lip service to civil liberties, human rights and needs. They’re now mandated by law. It encompasses an impressive array of basic rights and essential services like government-paid health care, education, housing, employment and human dignity enforced and funded by a caring government as the law requires.

Article 58 in the Constitution also guarantees the right to “timely, true, and impartial” information “without censorship, in accordance with the principles of this constitution.” The opposite is true in America where major media are state propaganda instruments for the privileged.

Articles 71 – 74 establish four types of popular national referenda never imagined or held in America outside the local or state level where they’re often non-binding. The US is one of only five major democracies never to have permitted this type citizen participation. In Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, the practice is mandated by law and institutionalized to give people at the grass roots a say in running their government. Four types of referenda are allowed:

–consultative – for a popular, non-binding vote on “national transcendent” issues like trade agreements;

— recall – applied to all elected officials up to the President;

— approving – a binding vote to approve laws, constitutional amendments, and treaties relating to national sovereignty; and

— rescinding – to rescind or change existing laws.

Referenda can be initiated by the National Assembly, the President, or by petition from 10 – 20% of registered voters, with different procedural requirements applying for each.

Social, family, cultural, educational and economic rights are guaranteed under Chapters V – VII with the government backing them financially.

Indigenous Native Peoples’ rights are covered in Chapter VIII. Even environmental rights are addressed with Article 127 stating “It is the right and duty of each generation to protect and maintain the environment for its own benefit and that of the world of the future….The State shall protect the environment, biological and genetic diversity, ecological processes….and other areas of ecological importance.” Try imagining any US federal law with teeth containing this type language let alone the Constitution that includes nothing in its Articles or Amendments.

Citizen Power gets considerable attention under Articles 273 – 291. It’s exercised by “the Republican Ethics Council, consisting of the People Defender, the General Prosecutor and the General Comptroller of the Republic….Citizen Power is independent and its organs enjoy operating, financial and administrative autonomy.” Citizen Power organs are legally charged with “preventing, investigating and punishing actions that undermine public ethics and administrative morals, to assure lawful sound management of public property….(to help) create citizenship, together with solidarity, freedom, democracy, social responsibility, work” and more.

Venezuela’s Constitution covers much more as well under each of its nine Titles from:

— stating its fundamental Bolivarian principles in Title I, to

— National Security in Title VII,

— Protection of the Constitution in Title VIII to assure its continuity in the event of “acts of force” or unlawful repeal with each citizen having a duty to reinstate it if that need arises; and finally

— Constitutional Reforms in Title IX in the form of amendments, other reforms to revise or replace any of its provisions, and the National Constituent Assembly with power “resting with the people of Venezuela.” They’re empowered to call an Assembly to transform the State, create a new “juridical order” and draft a new Constitution to be submitted to a national referendum for the people to accept or reject. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. In Venezuela it does. In the US, it doesn’t, never did, and was never conceived or intended to from the nation’s founding to the present.

This happens because Americans know painfully little about their law of the land hidden from them in plain view. They’re taught misinformation about it and the framers who drafted it. Few ever read it beyond a quoted line or two and even fewer ever think about it. In contrast, in Venezuela, the Bolivarian Constitution is sold in pocket-sized form almost everywhere. People buy, read and study it. Why? Because it’s a vital unifying part of their lives codifying core democratic values and principles Venezuelan people cherish and wish to keep.

Prospective Venezuelan Constitutional Reforms

In July, President Chavez announced he’d be sending the National Assembly a proposal of suggested constitutional reforms to debate and consider. He stressed Venezuelans would then get to vote on them in a national referendum so that “the majority will decide if they approve….constitutional reform.”

Chavez submitted his proposal in an August 15 address to the National Assembly that will debate and rule on them in three extraordinary sessions over the next 60 to 90 days. Included are amendments to 33 of the Constitution’s 350 articles to “complete the death of the old, hegemonic oligarchy and the old, exploitative capitalist system, and complete the birth of the new state.” Chavez stressed the need to update the 1999 Constitution because it’s “ambiguous (and) a product of that moment. The world (today) is very different from (then). (Reforms now are) essential for continuing the process of revolutionary transition.” They include:

— extending presidential terms from six to seven years;

— unlimited reelections (that countries like England, France, Germany and others now allow); Chavez wants the reelection option to be “the sovereign decision of the constituent people of Venezuela;”

— guaranteeing the right to work and establishing policies to develop and generate productive employment;

— creation of a Social Stability Fund for “non-dependent” or self-employed workers so they have the same rights as other workers including pensions, paid vacations and prenatal and postnatal leave entitlements;

— reducing the workday to six hours so businesses would have to employ more workers and hold unemployment down;

— ending the autonomy of Venezuela’s Central Bank;

— recognition of different kinds of property defined as social, collective, mixed and private;

— redefining the role of the military so henceforth “The Bolivarian Armed Forces (will) constitute an essential patriotic, popular and anti-imperialist body organized by the state to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the nation…;” and

— guaranteeing state control over the nation’s oil industry to prevent any future privatization of this vital resource;

Chavez also wants other changes to strengthen the nation’s participatory democracy at the grassroots. He stresses “one of the central ideas is my proposal to open, at the constitutional level, the roads to accelerate the transfer of power to the people” in an “Explosion of Communal (or popular) Power.” It’s already there in more than 26,000 democratically functioning grassroots communal councils. They’re government-sanctioned, funded, operating throughout the country, and may double in number and be strengthened further under proposed constitutional changes.

Chavez wants “Popular (people) Power” to be a “State Power” along with the Legislature, Executive, Judicial, Citizen and Electoral ones and considers this constitutional change the most important one of all. If it happens, various sovereign powers and duties now handled at the federal, state and municipal levels will be transfered to local communal, worker, campesino, student and other councils. This will strengthen Venezuela’s bedrock participatory democracy making it even more unique and impressive than it already is.

In America, it’s unimaginable a President or other government officials would recommend “People Power” become our fourth government branch, co-equal with the others, with citizens empowered to vote in national referenda on crucial proposed changes in law.

Chavez also proposed a “new geometry of power” by amending article 16 that now states “the territory of the nation is divided into those of the States, the Capital District, federal dependencies and federal territories. The territory is organized into Municipalities.” Chavez wants this amended so popular referenda can create “federal districts” in specific areas to serve as states. He called this idea “profoundly revolutionary (and needed) to remove the old oligarchic, exploiter hegemony, the old society, and (quoting Gramsci weaken the former) historic block. If we don’t change the (old) superstructure (it) will defeat us.”

Chavez also stressed this new structure is needed to be in place when “Venezuela (grows to) 40 – 50 million people.” His plan includes “restructur(ing) Caracas” into a Federal District with more local autonomy, as it was at an earlier time.

These proposals and other initiatives are part of his overall socialism for the 21st century plan that’s also very business-friendly. Chavez opposes savage capitalism, not private enterprise, and under his stewardship domestic and foreign businesses have thrived. They’re a dominant force powering the economy to accelerated growth since 2003 with latest Central Bank 2nd quarter, 2007 figures coming in at 8.9%. With oil prices high and world economies prospering, this trend is likely to continue. That’s good news for business and households sharing in the benefits through greater purchasing power.

Chavez wants his new United Socialist Party (PSUV) to drive the revolutionary process and continue his agenda of reform for all Venezuelans. He wants everyone to enjoy the benefits, not just a privileged few like in the past and in the US today. Under his leadership, their future is bright while in America poverty is growing, the middle class is dying, and the darkness of tyranny threatens everyone under George Bush with his agenda likely continuing under a new president in 2009.

Governance differences exist between these two nations because their constitutional laws are mirror opposite, and America has no one like Hugo Chavez. He’s a rare leader who cares and backs his rhetoric with progressive people-friendly policies. In the US, there’s George Bush, and that pretty much explains the problem. Knowing that, which leader would you choose and under which system of government would you prefer to live?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.

Stephen Lendman is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Stephen Lendman


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The Daily Show – Iraq is the New Indiana By Manila Ryce (video)

Dandelion Salad

By Manila Ryce
Published Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007, 2:55 am

Rob Riggle gave his first actual report from Baghdad last night, confirming the infomercial type claims made by Traitor Joe, Lindsey Graham, and specifically Mike Pence, that Iraq is just like Indiana. I’m sure the Neocons would never want to demean the service of our men and women in uniform, but serving in Iraq is hardly a sacrifice at all from that perspective. As Riggle shows, military service is less like a war and more like a vacation. They should be thanking us that they’re allowed to spend so much time there.

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