Olbermann: FISA + Cheney’s Power Grab + GOP Debate + SCHIP + Worst Person (videos)

Dandelion Salad

clyde1952

Keith is back with more on the attemp… Keith is back with more on the attempts by Congress to pass a workable FISA law. To be honest, I’m not too enamored of the reworked law as I still think it gives Bush too much power to act as King Shrub the First. But it is an improvement and I guess some improvement at this time is better than none. But again, the whole point is moot because as usual, the most unpopular president in the history of this country wants it his way or no way at all so he can please his nutty screwed up goose stepping base who love the idea of a monarchy and think the idea of a Constitution and Bill of Rights is just a plain silly.

Also, Bush wants to give retro acitve immunity from lawsuits to the telecoms, you know just in case they violated some of those rights of American Citizens that Bush’s nincompoopy followers care so little about. Howard Fineman from Newsweek joins Keith Olbermann.

Through a good portion of his political life, Dick Cheney has always believed that the presidency should be all powerful with perhaps Congress being nothing more than a cheerleading section. (Sort of like what they were when it was controlled by Republicans, and through filibusters the Republicans hope to keep it that way.) John Dean joins Keith to look back over the history of the Dick Cheney power grab and the why and how it happened. Hint: The plan was always there, 9/11 gave him the tools to implement it.

(Keith says this is the first in a series of television adaptations of themes in Dean’s book. I hope so.)

Keith and guest Chris Cilizza go over much of what was said at the Republican Debate yesterday including McCain’s Iran moment. Basically all they really needed to say was, “same old same old. Republicans get together to see who can regurgitate the most talking points to satisfy the Repugnicans Looney Tunes Base. That’s all folks!

Okay, here it is. Don’t ask me to control my anger because I just can’t do it anymore. Again we have another case of the Neonuts Repugnicons attacking the messenger instead of the message because they have nothing to attack that message with when 70 percent of us approve of that message. Trashing John Kerry’s service record wasn’t enough, Limbaugh trashing a victim of Parkinson’s disease, trashing the widows of 9/11 wasn’t enough, O’Reilly trashing a kidnap victim wasn’t enough, trashing our service men and women wasn’t enough, now they find it necessary to totally trash a twelve year old boy who did nothing but tell Americans how a medical program, Schip, saved his life. And they do it because they know that 70 percent of Americans are on the side of that twelve year old boy and there is nothing they can do to alter that. Yes, Rush Limpbutt and Michelle “I Love Internement Camps” Malkin have found it necessary to harass and attack with as much venom as possible a twelve year old kid whose life was saved by the Schip. And they did all of this with the help of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who never met an insurance company or pharamceutical company donation he didn’t like. I sometimes believe these people subscribe to the Dickens Line that those who can’t afford medical care should just die and decrease the surplus population. They have even gone so far as to publish this kid’s home address on the internet.

When will it stop. It never will until those 70 percent of us stand up and say that enough is enough.

This is the reason I delete so many Republican comments. After reading comment after comment by them attacking the messenger instead of commenting on the message, I finally decided I have had it. Let them stick their head up the anchors of Fox New’s butt if being stupid and ignorant truly makes them happy.

Michelle, Rush, and their followers have now proved themselves to be the sickest part of our society. They are the bottom feeders.

Rachael: Maddow: “Twelve year old Graeme Frost, meet Cindy Sheehan, meet 9/11 widows, meet Staff Sgt. Brian McGough, meet Michael J. Fox, meet the kids who were targeted by Mark Foley, meet Jack Murtha. I mean, Graeme Frost as a twelve year old now joins an esteemed list of Americans who have been personally attacked, personally slimed, called liars and cowards and frauds, and threatened for daring to publicly espouse a view that the right disagrees with. I mean, just when you think you’ve found the person who they can’t possibly slime, I don’t know, say a twelve year old kid just out of a coma, turns out yeah, the bar does actually go that low, it’s just astonishing.”

Keeping Tabs is included at the end of this segment.

Worst persons:

Bronze – Lou Dobbs, another one who is talking crap about flag lapel pins.

Silver: Fixed News, who have started some crap about war on Religion on Air America. They also used pictures of Jeanine Garafolo and Al Franken who don’t even work at Air America anymore.

The winner: Billo, who said that because Chris Matthews said something about criminality in the White House, said that MSNBC was in the hip pocket of a political organization. Keith hits this one out of the park, and I laughed for a good minute.

Final segment is on Keifer Sutherland, who’ll be spending some time in the pokey. And I left a few minutes of Dan Abrams commentary on at the end.

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Tucker: Ron Paul (video)

Declassified Document: “U.S. Army explored using radioactive poisons to assassinate ‘important individuals'” by Robert Burns

Dandelion Salad

by Robert Burns
Global Research, October 10, 2007
Associated Press – 2007-10-09

US Considered Radiological Weapon
by Robert Burns

October 9, 2007. Associated Press. In one of the longest-held secrets of the Cold War, the U.S. Army explored the potential for using radioactive poisons to assassinate “important individuals” such as military or civilian leaders, according to newly declassified documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Approved at the highest levels of the Army in 1948, the effort was a well-hidden part of the military’s pursuit of a “new concept of warfare” using radioactive materials from atomic bombmaking to contaminate swaths of enemy land or to target military bases, factories or troop formations.

Military historians who have researched the broader radiological warfare program said in interviews that they had never before seen evidence that it included pursuit of an assassination weapon. Targeting public figures in such attacks is not unheard of; just last year an unknown assailant used a tiny amount of radioactive polonium-210 to kill Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London.

No targeted individuals are mentioned in references to the assassination weapon in the government documents declassified in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the AP in 1995.

The decades-old records were released recently to the AP, heavily censored by the government to remove specifics about radiological warfare agents and other details. The censorship reflects concern that the potential for using radioactive poisons as a weapon is more than a historic footnote; it is believed to be sought by present-day terrorists bent on attacking U.S. targets.

The documents give no indication whether a radiological weapon for targeting high-ranking individuals was ever used or even developed by the United States. They leave unclear how far the Army project went. One memo from December 1948 outlined the project and another memo that month indicated it was under way. The main sections of several subsequent progress reports in 1949 were removed by censors before release to the AP.

The broader effort on offensive uses of radiological warfare apparently died by about 1954, at least in part because of the Defense Department’s conviction that nuclear weapons were a better bet.

Whether the work migrated to another agency such as the CIA is unclear. The project was given final approval in November 1948 and began the following month, just one year after the CIA’s creation in 1947.

It was a turbulent time on the international scene. In August 1949, the Soviet Union successfully tested its first atomic bomb, and two months later Mao Zedong’s communists triumphed in China’s civil war.

As U.S. scientists developed the atomic bomb during World War II, it was recognized that radioactive agents used or created in the manufacturing process had lethal potential. The government’s first public report on the bomb project, published in 1945, noted that radioactive fission products from a uranium-fueled reactor could be extracted and used “like a particularly vicious form of poison gas.”

Among the documents released to the AP – an Army memo dated Dec. 16, 1948, and labeled secret – described a crash program to develop a variety of military uses for radioactive materials. Work on a “subversive weapon for attack of individuals or small groups” was listed as a secondary priority, to be confined to feasibility studies and experiments.

The top priorities listed were:

1 – Weapons to contaminate “populated or otherwise critical areas for long periods of time.” 2 – Munitions combining high explosives with radioactive material “to accomplish physical damage and radioactive contamination simultaneously.” 3 – Air and-or surface weapons that would spread contamination across an area to be evacuated, thereby rendering it unusable by enemy forces. The stated goal was to produce a prototype for the No. 1 and No. 2 priority weapons by Dec. 31, 1950.

The 4th ranked priority was “munitions for attack on individuals” using radioactive agents for which there is “no means of therapy.”

“This class of munitions is proposed for use by secret agents or subversive units for lethal attacks against small groups of important individuals, e.g., during meetings of civilian or military leaders,” it said.

Assassination of foreign figures by agents of the U.S. government was not explicitly outlawed until President Gerald R. Ford signed an executive order in 1976 in response to revelations that the CIA had plotted in the 1960s to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro, including by poisoning.

The Dec. 16, 1948, memo said a lethal attack against individuals using radiological material should be done in a way that makes it impossible to trace the U.S. government’s involvement, a concept known as “plausible deniability” that is central to U.S. covert actions.

“The source of the munition, the fact that an attack has been made, and the kind of attack should not be determinable, if possible,” it said. “The munition should be inconspicuous and readily transportable.”

Radioactive agents were thought to be ideal for this use, the document said, because of their high toxicity and the fact that the targeted individuals could not smell, taste or otherwise sense the attack.

“It should be possible, for example, to develop a very small munition which could function unnoticeably and which would set up an invisible, yet highly lethal concentration in a room, with the effects noticeable only well after the time of attack,” it said.

“The time for lethal effects could, it is believed, be controlled within limits by the amount of radioactive agent dispersed. The toxicities are such that should relatively high concentrations be required for early lethal effects, on a weight basis, even such concentrations may be found practicable.”

Tom Bielefeld, a Harvard physicist who has studied radiological weapons issues, said that while he had never heard of this project, its technical aims sounded feasible.

Bielefeld noted that polonium, the radioactive agent used to kill Litvinenko in November 2006, has just the kind of features that would be suitable for the lethal mission described in the Dec. 16 memo.

Barton Bernstein, a Stanford history professor who has done extensive research on the U.S. military’s radiological warfare efforts, said he did not believe this aspect had previously come to light.

“This is one of those items that surprises us but should not shock us, because in the Cold War all kinds of ways of killing people, in all kinds of manners – inhumane, barbaric and even worse – were periodically contemplated at high levels in the American government in what was seen as a just war against a hated and hateful enemy,” Bernstein said.

The project was run by the Army Chemical Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Alden H. Waitt, and supervised by a now-defunct agency called the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. The project’s first chief was Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves, the Army’s head of the Manhattan Project that built the first atomic bombs. The radiological project was approved by Groves’ successor, Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Nichols.

The released documents were in files of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project held by the National Archives.

Among the officials copied in on the Dec. 16 memo were Herbert Scoville, Jr., then the technical director of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project and later the CIA’s deputy director for research, and Samuel T. Cohen, a physicist with RAND Corp. who had worked on the Manhattan Project.

The initial go-ahead for the Army to pursue its radiological weapons project was given in May 1948, a point in U.S. history, following the successful use of two atomic bombs against Japan to end World War II, when the military was eager to explore the implications of atomic science for the future of warfare.

In a July 1948 memo outlining the program’s intent, before specifics had received final approval, a key focus was on long-lasting contamination of large land areas where residents would be told that unless the areas were abandoned they probably would die from radiation within one to 10 years.

“It is thought that this is a new concept of warfare, with results that cannot be predicted,” it said.

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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© Copyright , Associated Press, 2007
The url address of this article is:
www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7046

“Tempo of Attack Planning” Increases for U.S. Military Strikes on Iran by Larry Everest

Dandelion Salad

by Larry Everest
Global Research, October 10, 2007
rwor.org

Based on high-level sources inside the U.S. government and military, journalist Seymour Hersh reports: “This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, request

ed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran.” (“Shifting Targets—The Administration’s plan for Iran,” New Yorker, October 8, 2007.) Hersh writes that the focus of U.S. attack plans has shifted from “a broad bombing attack” to “surgical” strikes on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Hersh says Bush recently told U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, “he was thinking of hitting Iranian targets across the border and that the British ‘were on board.’”

Hersh details the military plans being put in place: “The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.” One former intelligence official called it “fast in and out” and told Hersh the necessary forces are already within striking distance. “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need—even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.” A Pentagon consultant told Hersh that the air assault “would be accompanied by a series of what he called ‘short, sharp incursions’ by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites.”

Hersh’s revelations are the latest (and most comprehensive) in a growing wave of reports on a gathering momentum toward a U.S. military confrontation—and very possibly war—with Iran. (Go to revcom.us for previous Revolution alerts and coverage.) “There has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning,” Hersh sums up. One recently retired CIA official told him, “They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk… It’s just like the fall of 2002” (before the U.S. launched war on Iraq).

The latest indication of this acceleration includes a New York Times report (9/30) that “Freedom Watch,” a new lobbying group with close ties to the White House, plans to raise $200 million to launch a campaign targeting Iran, among other things. And there are reports that Vice President Cheney’s office is directing an anti-Iran propaganda offensive by a constellation of government institutions, right-wing organizations, think tanks, political figures, and media. According to Britain’s Telegraph (9/30/07), “American diplomats have been ordered to compile a dossier detailing Iran’s violations of international law that some fear could be used to justify military strikes against the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.”

The Telegraph also reports there was recently a conference aimed at the U.S. Air Force coordinating “with military leaders from the Gulf to train and prepare Arab air forces for a possible war with Iran.”

Notably, these reports have mainly appeared in British papers or the alternative U.S. press. Major U.S. media—ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post—have refused to seriously report on these heightened military preparations.

Shift in Pretext Building: From Counter-proliferation to Counter-terrorism

In recent months, the focus of the Bush regime’s propaganda campaign against Iran’s Islamic Republic has shifted somewhat from charges that Iran is building nuclear weapons to claims that Iran is waging a “proxy” military campaign against U.S. forces in Iraq. “What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism,” Hersh writes.

Maintaining a stranglehold on the Middle East is crucial to the U.S. global power and the functioning of its capitalist-imperialist system. Bush’s so-called “war on terror” was launched to solidify this U.S. stranglehold by defeating anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism and taking down states like Iraq and Iran that stood in the way of the goal of U.S.-controlled regional transformation. But today, six years after launching their war for greater empire, the Bush regime is finding that its plans have backfired in important ways. Instead of weakening Iran (and Islamic fundamentalism more broadly), the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have strengthened it. “There has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq,” Hersh concludes. The Guardian (9/30) quoted former UN Ambassador John Bolton saying, “If we were to strike Iran it should be accompanied by an effort at regime change.”

The reactionary state of Iran has its own ambitions in the region, and its role in Iraq and the scope of its nuclear program are not completely clear. But the Bush regime has yet to produce any substantial, concrete evidence for its charges that Iran is behind attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, or that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Hersh was told by one former high-level C.I.A. official that “the intelligence about who is doing what inside Iran ‘is so thin that nobody even wants his name on it.’” And according to Hersh, ongoing International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) inspections have found that “There’s no evidence that Iran is significantly into weapons fabrication or that Iran has done any of the kind of testing it needs to do to develop an actual warhead. And so, they are enriching, and they may have ambitions, but there’s no rush.”

The difficulty of trying to attack Iran in a way that will not end up backfiring on the U.S. has given rise to sharp debate within the U.S. ruling class, along with diplomatic, political, and military maneuvering. For instance, U.S. strategists have worried that even massive bombing might not destroy Iran’s nuclear and military infrastructure and might provoke an Iranian counterattack with the potential of uncorking an uncontrollable regional conflagration.

Bush, Cheney, and others may hope U.S. threats, coupled with diplomatic and economic sanctions, may trigger upheaval in Iran, and the collapse or capitulation of the regime. Smaller military strikes on the Revolutionary Guards, a pillar of Islamic rule, could be aimed at the same result—without the dangers of a full-scale bombing campaign. Cheney et al may hope limited strikes don’t remain limited, but provoke an Iranian response that the U.S. would then use to justify a massive U.S. counterstrike. Or Cheney could just do an “end run,” putting the rest of the ruling class in a position where they feel compelled to go along. In short, the U.S. imperialists are creating an extremely dangerous situation, including the potential for war to break loose as a result of miscalculations by either side, or an unanticipated incident.

Democrats Paving the Way for War

And what are the “anti-war” Democrats doing in the face of this growing drumbeat for attacking Iran? They’re paving the way for it. On September 26, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed an amendment 76-22 blaming Iran for U.S. deaths in Iraq and calling on the State Department to designate its Revolutionary Guard Corps “a foreign terrorist organization.” The day before, the House of Representatives, also controlled by the Democrats, approved a resolution (introduced by Democrat Tom Lantos) 397-16 calling for new energy sanctions against Iran and also labeling the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group.

At a debate between Democratic presidential candidates, former Sen. Mike Gravel lashed out at the leading candidates: “This is fantasy land. We’re talking about ending the war. My god, we’re just starting a war right today. There was a vote in the Senate today…and it is essentially a fig leaf to let George Bush go to war with Iran…. I’m ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it…. And Obama was not even there to vote.” Clinton burst out laughing as if Gravel’s opposition to war was ludicrous. She then repeated Bush regime charges that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are “promoting terrorism” and demanded the U.S. “put some teeth into all this talk about dealing with Iran.” Bush had “ignored” Iran, Clinton charged. “Now we’ve got to make up for lost time.”

Urgently Needed: Mass Resistance to a U.S. War on Iran

While war on Iran may not be inevitable (Hersh writes that he was told “the President has yet to issue the ‘executive order’ that would be required”), many signs show it’s a rapidly growing danger and a real possibility. A U.S. attack on Iran would in all likelihood have catastrophic consequences for the people of Iran, the peoples of the Middle East and the world. It would be an escalation of the U.S.’s global war of aggression for greater empire—no matter what pretext the Bush regime used to launch it—and it would be totally unjust.

Massive resistance in this country must put an end to the war in Iraq and prevent a U.S. war with Iran. Millions of ordinary people from all segments of society, acting now, could change the political terrain—and the calculations of those in power. Today, the Bush regime is planning to stay in Iraq indefinitely and preparing for a possible attack on Iran and it calculates that—and is counting on—people going along with all this. We need to change that calculus. Now.

Larry Everest is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Larry Everest

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Larry Everest , rwor.org, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7047

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The Administration’s plan for Iran By Seymour M. Hersh

 

 

Iraqi probe finds Blackwater mercenaries fired without provocation in Baghdad massacre by Kate Randall

Dandelion Salad

by Kate Randall
Global Research, October 8, 2007
wsws.org

An official Iraqi investigation into the deadly shooting involving Blackwater USA found that the security contractors opened fire without provocation on September 16 in a main square in Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqis and wounding 22.

The probe also found that the massacre amounted to a deliberate crime and recommended those involved face trial, a demand that has been rejected by US authorities in all cases of atrocities committed by both contractors and US military personnel in Iraq. It will also reportedly recommend compensation to the victims and their families.

The Iraqi investigative committee, which was commissioned by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the Blackwater guards at no time came under direct or indirect fire before shooting up the intersection in Nisour Square. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement, “It was not touched even by a stone.”

The Iraqi probe’s findings were in line with those of a US military report last week as well as a New York Times examination of the shooting incident, both of which took testimony from multiple eyewitnesses. A joint US-Iraqi investigation into the killings held its first meeting into the shootings on Sunday, a full three weeks following the deadly incident.

Blackwater officials continue to maintain that they acted in self-defense and were fired upon and approached by what they perceived as possible suicide car bombers. According to the Washington Post, US military officials were denied access to Blackwater managers for interviews at the company’s compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to the Post about the US military’s findings, a US military official said, “It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong. The civilians that were fired upon, they didn’t have any weapons to fire back at them. And none of the IP [Iraqi police] or any of the local security forces fired back at them.” The official also said that the Blackwater mercenaries appeared to have fired grenade launchers as well as machine guns.

A US military unit working with Iraqi police was in the area of the shooting at the time, and also helped transport civilian victims to hospitals. US soldiers have viewed video of the incident and reviewed statements from eyewitnesses, according to the Post.

The Pentagon is conducting a review of its relationship with the contractors it employs, one indication of tensions between the military and the US State Department over the operations of security firms in Iraq. The military has also stopped issuing weapons permits to the contractors until it can review who has them and how they have been used.

The New York Times report, published October 3, was based on interviews with 12 Iraqi eyewitnesses, several Iraqi investigators and a US official familiar with an American investigation into the shootings. It indicates that 17 were killed and 24 wounded in the incident.

According to the Times account, the car carrying the first people to be killed did not approach the Blackwater convoy in the square until the driver in the car—subsequently identified as Ahmed Haithem Ahmed—had been shot in the head and lost control of the vehicle, possibly moving forward as his dead weight fell on the accelerator.

Ahmed’s mother, Mahassin Kadhim, cried out “My son, my son. Help me, help me!” A traffic policeman tried to get the young driver out of the car, but the car was moving forward out of control. Following an initial burst of gunfire, the security guards unleashed a torrent of bullets, even as Iraqis were turning their vehicles around and attempting to flee.

Mrs. Kadhim was apparently shot as she held her son in her arms. The car then caught fire after the Blackwater guards fired some type of grenade into the vehicle. Earlier accounts had said the mother had been holding a baby, but it now appears that the charred remains of her son, the driver, were mistaken for those of an infant. Ahmed’s father later counted 40 bullet holes in the car.

Based on the description of an Iraqi lawyer who was wounded in the shooting, the account confirms preliminary findings of the American investigation that at least one of the Blackwater guards called out for the shooting to stop, screaming, “No! No! No!” No witnesses reported any gunfire coming from Iraqis in and around the square.

Truck driver Fareed Walid Hassan told the Times, “The shooting started like rain; everyone escaped his car.” He said he saw a woman dragging her child’s body. “He was around 10 or 11. He was dead. She was pulling him by one hand to get him away. She hoped that he was still alive.”

Iraqi investigators also say that Blackwater helicopters flying overhead fired into cars, leaving bullet holes in car roofs. Several minutes later in a separate, previously unreported shooting, a Blackwater convoy—perhaps the same one—moved north and opened fire on another line of traffic. According to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official who spoke to the Washington Post, Blackwater guards fired from all four vehicles in this convoy.

An earlier deadly incident involving Blackwater is being investigated by the US Justice Department. Andrew J. Moonen, 27, is the primary suspect in the killing of Raheen Khalif, one of the bodyguards of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi, on December 24, 2006. Moonen, a Blackwater firearms technician, reportedly shot Mahdi three times with his Glock 9-millimeter pistol while in a drunken stupor.

Within 36 hours, Blackwater arranged with the State Department to have Moonen flown out of Iraq. He was reportedly hired two months later by another private contractor, Combat Support Associates, to work in the region. Moonen, a former army paratrooper, is presently living in the Seattle area and no charges have yet been filed in the incident.

According to a report compiled by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, based largely on internal Blackwater email messages and State Department documents, the acting ambassador at the US Embassy in Baghdad suggested at the time that Blackwater pay the dead man’s family $250,000 in an effort to stop the Iraqi government from calling for the company to be banned from the country.

According to the Times, “Blackwater eventually paid the family $15,000, according to the report, after an embassy diplomatic security official complained that the ‘crazy sums’ proposed by the ambassador [identified by the State Dept. as Margaret Scobey] could encourage Iraqis to try to ‘get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family’s future.’”

In the face of continuing revelations over the September 16 incident and Blackwater’s violent record, the State Department is pretending to be reining in the private security operatives, ordering new security procedures for American diplomatic convoys in Iraq on Friday.

The new State Department procedures will require that agents from the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security ride with Blackwater security details, that the bureau review shooting incidents and that convoys communicate with US military units. Video cameras will be mounted in security vehicles and radio transmissions from Security convoys will be recorded.

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives also overwhelmingly approved a bill that would bring US government contractors in the Iraq war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal law and would require the FBI to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing.

Popular outrage in Iraq against Blackwater and other US-hired security contractors has mounted in the wake of the shootings. In an effort aimed at damage control, and reflecting tensions between the US military and government officials over the mercenary operations, the US State Department has begun three investigations into the incident.

The State Department measures and Congressional legislation can be expected, however, to have little impact of the operations of Blackwater and other security firms. They serve the purpose of providing an appearance of “oversight” while the mercenary operations continue. At present there is no indication that Blackwater will be withdrawn from Iraq, or that any of the personnel involved will be punished, either in Iraqi or US courts.

Despite numerous complaints about the violent and aggressive behavior of Blackwater, the State Department has continued to utilize the company. Janessa Gans, a US official in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, complained to high-level embassy officials after Blackwater guards transporting her in Irbil in northern Iraq fired on a car driven by an older man carrying a young woman and three children. (See “I survived Blackwater”)

A heavily armored Blackwater vehicle in Gan’s speeding convoy smashed into the car as the driver frantically tried to get out of the way. After she complained to her driver, “It was an old guy and a family, for goodness’ sake. Was it necessary for them to destroy their poor old car?” the driver responded, “Ma’am, we’ve been trained to view anyone as a potential threat. You don’t know who they might use as decoys or what the risks are. Terrorists could be disguised as anyone.”

Despite this and other incidents in which security contractors have indiscriminately terrorized the population, inflicting casualties and destroying property, to date, no criminal charges have been filed against them. Blackwater and other security firms—like the US military itself—are immune from prosecution under Iraqi law under a decree issued by the US in the early days of the occupation.

The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), enacted in 2000, extended US federal criminal jurisdiction to felony crimes committed overseas by contractors working on behalf of the Defense Department. The bill passed Thursday by the US House extends the authority of MEJA to contractors working for any agency, including the State Department, which contracts the bulk of the Blackwater security guards.

It is highly unlikely that this legislation will result in any prosecutions of military contractors. According to Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution, who has followed the contractor issue, while as many as 20 potential criminal cases involving contractors have been referred to the Bush administration’s Justice Department, none have been pursued. He told the New York Times, “They have disappeared into a black hole.”

The House bill is not retroactive, so it would not apply to the contractors involved in the September 16 incident. Democrats agreed as well to insert language requested by the White House into the bill specifying that it was not intended to impede intelligence efforts.

There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 security contractors in Iraq. In the case of the Blackwater guards protecting the US diplomats in Baghdad, their activities are seamlessly integrated into the operations of the US State Department.

A Blackwater contractor, in fact, wrote the initial “spot report” on the September 16 incident on the letterhead of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security for the embassy’s Tactical Operations Center. This report claimed the Blackwater convoy responded properly to an insurgent attack, and made no mention of civilian casualties.

Despite outraged posturing on the part of Congressional Democrats and several Democratic presidential candidates over Blackwater’s activities, it is framed within the confines of protecting the “US mission” in Iraq and concern over the damage it might inflict on the “war on terror.”

On October 2, Blackwater founder and CEO Erik Prince appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In his opening remarks to the hearing, committee Chairman Henry Waxman (Democrat of California), stated that central to the committee’s examination into Blackwater would be whether the private mercenary outfit is “helping or hurting our efforts in Iraq.”

Waxman asked, “The question for this hearing is whether outsourcing to Blackwater is a good deal for American taxpayers, the military, and our national interest in Iraq” and went on to praise Prince for his four years of service in the elite Navy SEALS. The committee agreed to a State Department request not to specifically question Prince on the September 16 shooting incident at the hearing.

Just the day before the House committee hearing, a new US government contract with Blackwater took effect. Presidential Airways Inc., which is owned by Blackwater’s corporate parent, Prince Group LLC, has been awarded a four-year contact to supply specialized airplanes, crews and equipment for flight operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Blackwater USA has government contracts totaling at least $800 million, providing security to US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and other diplomats in Iraq. The company’s private security guards earn as much as $1,200 a day. It is estimated that 40 percent of the money authorized by Congress to fund the war goes to private military contractors, who constitute a critical component of the neo-colonial occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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© Copyright Kate Randall, wsws.org, 2007
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Making a Killing: A Blackwater Timeline from Mother Jones

Krugman: The Conscience of a Liberal (vid interview)

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Veracifier

On Monday we sat down (virtually) with the New York Times oped page’s Paul Krugman to talk about his new book, The Conscience of a Liberal, what it… On Monday we sat down (virtually) with the New York Times oped page’s Paul Krugman to talk about his new book, The Conscience of a Liberal, what it’s like being ‘radicalized’ by the Bush administration and what he thinks the “big stand up and cheer moment” of the 2008 campaign has been so far.

Pres Jimmy Carter: I Don’t Think U.S. Using Torture, I Know It! + Do Not Attack Iran (videos)

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CSPANJUNKIEdotORG

OCTOBER 10, 2007 CNN WOLF BLITZER

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Dennis Kucinich Playlist (videos)

Rep Dennis Kucinich to Dem Leadership: “Stand Up” to Pres. Bush (video)

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

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

Selected Episode

Oct. 9, 2007

linktv

“Olmert Investigated for Corruption,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“It is Difficult to Convict Olmert,” IBA TV, Israel
“Hariri: U.S. Does Not Fund March 14 Coalition,” Future TV, Lebanon
“92 Iraqis Killed & Injured in Baghdad,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani

Rep Dennis Kucinich to Dem Leadership: “Stand Up” to Pres. Bush (video)

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liamh2 On Oct. 10, 2007, Rep. Dennis J. Kuci…

On Oct. 10, 2007, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) demanded that the Democratic leadership “stand up” to President George W. Bush, with respect to ending the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. He underscored how the Democrats won the election in 2006 by promising the American people that they would end the war if they gained control of the U.S. Congress. Rep. Kucinich, in taking sharp exception to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s views on ending the conflict, said: “You don’t need another vote…another Bill to end this war. There is money available today to bring the troops home…There are men and women [our troops] dying right now [in Iraq]…This was a war based on lies…” He added that a “similar path of lies” are being laid to take the country into a war with Iran. Rep. Kucinich’s remarks were made at a press conference, held on the Cannon Terrace, in Washington, D.C. For background, see: http://kucinich.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=76042

Al Jazeera: Exclusive footage of Myanmar crackdown (video)

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Warning

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

AlJazeeraEnglish

For almost two weeks, Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley saw first hand the popular protests against Myanmar’s military government and the subsequent crackd…

For almost two weeks, Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley saw first hand the popular protests against Myanmar’s military government and the subsequent crackdown. Each day he filed reports as soldiers were ordered to open fire on unarmed protesters. Three Al Jazeera cameras captured the events as they unfolded in the largest city, Yangon. The scenes of repression show the violent treatment meted out to protesters. You can Watch Al Jazeera’s exclusive programme ‘Inside Myanmar: The Crackdown’ at the following times GMT:
Wednesday 10th October 2007: 1330, 1930
Thursday: 11th October 2007: 0300, 1130
Friday: 12th October 2007: 0600, 1630

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“Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire” by Stephen Lendman (James Petras)

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by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, October 10, 2007

Review of James Petras’ most recent book

James Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus of Sociology, whose credentials and achievements are long and impressive. He’s a noted academic figure on the left, a well-respected Latin American expert, and a longtime chronicler of the region’s popular struggles as well as being an advisor to the landless workers (MST) in Brazil and unemployed workers in Argentina. Petras is also a prolific author. He’s written hundreds of articles and 63 books (and counting), published in 29 languages, including his latest one and subject of this review – “Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire.”

The book is information rich on a core issue of our time. It discusses the US empire’s “systemic dimensions,” evolving changes in its ruling class, its corporatist system, myths about its coming collapse, contradictions in the current debate on immigration and market liberalization policies, the use of force and genocidal carnage, corruption as a market penetrating tool, the Israeli Lobby’s power and influence, Latin American relations and events in the region, social and armed resistance, and much more in four power-packed parts under 17 subject chapter headings.

It’s all covered below giving readers a detailed sampling of Petras’ thoroughly documented, powerful and insightful account of his subject – who rules America, who’s ruled, the US imperial role in the world economy and politics, and challenges to it in China, Latin America and the Middle East. This is another must-read book by a distinguished intellect and major figure on the left who writes dozens of them. This is his latest.

Part I: The US Empire As A System

Petras distinguishes between who sets policies and rules America and whose interests are served. He defines the ruling class as “people in key positions in financial, corporate and other business institutions” with rules “established, modified and adjusted” as the composition and “shifts in power” within the ruling class change over time. One example is manufacturing decline (from outsourcing to low cost countries) as a “multidimensional financial sector” (finance capital) rose in prominence with Wall Street’s influence especially dominant.

Petras defines “finance capital” to include investment banks, pension funds, hedge funds, saving and loan banks, investment funds and many other “operative managers” of a multi-trillion dollar economy they’ve all benefitted hugely from. They’ve been the driving force powering real estate and financial markets speculation, agribusiness, commodity production and manufacturing. Petras calls “finance capital” the “midwife” of wealth and capital as well as a “direct owner of the means of production and distribution.”

He stratifies it into three sub-groups from top to bottom in importance: big private equity bankers and hedge fund managers, Wall street executives, and senior officials of private and Wall Street public equity funds as well as major figures in top law and accounting firms. Political leaders are drawn from their ranks with Wall Street in the lead and one firm in particular standing out – Goldman Sachs. Today, its former CEO Henry Paulson is the de facto US economic czar in charge of proving doomsayers wrong about the US economy with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s money creation power partnered with him. Both of them must also navigate around the powerful Israeli Lobby and its pro-war agenda that could lead to catastrophic consequences if the US and/or Israel attack Iran and the Middle East explodes and disrupts oil flows.

Petras sees an inevitable split between wealth-first financial ruling class objectives and militarists in the Bush administration, their counterparts in Israel, and the Lobby representing Israeli interests with a stranglehold on most of Congress. The battle lines shape up over Israeli Middle East dominance at the cost of imperial overreach, an escalating trade deficit, a ballooning national debt, decreasing capital inflows to offset it, and a declining dollar as other nations move to euros, yen and pounds sterling. Something has to give, says Petras, as both sides support opposing agendas that only a crisis-provoking widespread backlash may resolve.

For now, however, things couldn’t be better for the ruling class (despite their disrupted plans in Iraq and Afghanistan) with the top 2% of adults in the world owning half its wealth, the top 10% with 85% of it, and the bottom half with just 1%. The result is an unprecedented wealth disparity with corporate CEO’s on average earning over 400 times the median income of wage and salaried workers, and for top-earning speculators and hedge fund managers the ratio is 1000 to one with some having incomes topping a billion dollars a year. In addition, corporate wealth was at a record 43% of 2005 national income accruing to profits, rents and other non-wage/salary sources compared to a declining percentage of it to individuals, except for those at the top gaining hugely.

Petras states: “The growth of monstrous and rigid class inequalities reflects the narrow social base of an economy dominated by finance capital” with the US redistributing far less to its people than other developed nations like those in Western Europe. Democrats are as culpable as Republicans with both parties tied to big monied interests through campaign funding and the power of lobbies. It makes everyone in the political power structure unwilling to change things so they don’t. The result is working Americans suffer hugely while those at the top never had it so good. It signals warnings of a potential worker backlash ahead that for now have gone unheeded. Elitists ignore it at their peril, so far without negative consequences to their dominance, but watch out.

Capitalism or US Workers in Crisis?

Petras notes how for years many on the left and some in the financial community have been predicting the “coming collapse, decline or demise of capitalism” as though (for some) wishing would make it so. They’re still predicting, but it hasn’t happened, and Petras explains why not. It’s because business and government partnered (especially since the 1980s) to let workers take the pain so business could gain and prosper. It’s done it hugely and continues to despite the resurgent summer doomsday predictions still ongoing.

In a letter to clients, noted investment manager Jeremy Grantham explained why business is resilient by comparing the global financial system (with its US anchor) to a giant suspension bridge. Thousands of bolts hold it together, so when some of them fail, even a lot of them, it’s not enough to bring it down. Short of “broad-based….financial metal fatigue,” even more bolts may fail, but he’s betting the bridge will hold, supported by amazing “animal spirits,” at least for now.

Grantham is likely right in the near term, while Petras takes a longer view, and his arguments are compelling. He sees labor today in crisis with living standards declining the result of reduced or eliminated business benefits, government services and stagnating wages. He also lists popular myths predicting doom ahead – the growing budget and current account deficits; ballooning national debt; excess speculation; weakening dollar; high energy costs; outsourcing of jobs at all levels, and more. Petras maintains these problems aren’t as serious as claimed because:

— budget deficits declined in 2006 as tax revenues rose from high-end earners’ greater income at the expense of labor getting less;

— foreign investment in the US remains high;

— the dollar remains the world’s reserve currency; over time, it weakens and strengthens based on interest rates, political events, and the overall level of economic activity; nonetheless, the dollar weakened considerably after the Fed cut interest rates and depreciated to an all-time low against a basket of six of its major peer currencies that include the euro, pound and yen; in addition, the New York Board of Trade index hit its weakest level since it came out in 1973, and the same is true for the Fed’s trade-weighted dollar index since its creation in 1971; what’s ahead? Likely more of the same until everyone believes the dollar is dead; then, watch out;

— a decade-long trade deficit hasn’t caused apocalypse;

— strong economic underpinnings (Grantham’s giant suspension bridge) offset excess speculation, and workers, not capital, take the pain;

— high energy profits overseas are recycled back into dollar-based investments and have been for years although countries like Iran, Venezuela and others are moving away from the dollar at least for now;

— the potential of new technologies is underestimated;

— corporate profits have had their longest ever run of double-digit gains; the number of millionaires and billionaires is growing; the rich are becoming super-rich; and the beneficiaries are largely in North America, Western Europe (plus Russia) and Asia.

Petras concludes that as long as worker exploitation continues, the fundamental law of “casino capitalism” applies – the house never loses, or in this case the neighborhood (of developed nations) with some in it doing better than others and the US their anchor. The weakness of US labor and its history of overpaid, underperforming, corrupted leaders explains why with only 7.4% today in the private sector organized compared to 34.7% in the 1950s. Unless new social and political movements surface under activist leaders, Marx’s “dirty secret” and Adam Smith’s “vile maxim of the masters of mankind” will continue proving “the wealth of all nations” depends on the rich taking it “all for ourselves and (leaving) nothing for” the working class.

Market Liberalization and Forced Emigration

Migration and so-called illegal immigrants make headlines but never the reasons why that are two-fold: fleeing political strife (as in Iraq) or for economic reasons that the imperial globalized market system causes horrifically. The latter forces millions of Mexicans el norte because of NAFTA. Its disastrous effects on their lives leaves them no choice – emigrate or perish.

Petras explains when protective trade barriers come down, millions of small farmers and entrepreneurs are no match for the power of subsidized agribusiness, big manufacturers and corporate service providers. They’re displaced when their livelihoods are lost, and that creates a huge surplus army of labor on the move and an opportunity for business to exploit for profit. It affects all skill types and levels (farm workers to computer specialists to doctors), undermines unions, and allows management to replace higher-paid US workers with low-wage immigrants at their mercy and getting little. Pay is kept low, benefits few or none, working conditions unsafe, unions weakened, and dare complain and be sent home.

Petras notes that as imperial power grows, “the massive movement of dislocated workers toward the imperial center multiplies,” and there’s no end in sight nor will there be as long as highly exploitative sectors like agriculture, construction and low-end manufacturing and services thrive on it. Workers lose and so do “sender” countries. They bore the costs of raising, educating, training and providing services for millions with “receiver” nations getting the benefits. It amounts to multi-billions in the form of critically needed skilled areas lost that include professionals like doctors, nurses, teachers and others. This won’t ever change unless worker movements unite against it.

Empire-Building and Corruption

Petras notes how empire-building “is the driving force of the US economy (especially post-9/11),” corruption a key corporate predator tool to re-divide the world, and nations with the greatest firepower get the choicest slices. Business profit growth depends on exploiting overseas opportunities for their resources, markets and cheap reserve armies of labor with four so-called “BRIC” countries especially targeted:

— China for its cheap labor and opportunities in finance, insurance and real estate;

— India for its low cost information technology services;

— Brazil for its high interest rates that hit 19.5%, were then greatly cut, but are still around 11%; and

— Russia for its high profit oil and gas reserves, transport and luxury goods markets with booming opportunities in real estate once political leaders are bought off in a country rife with corruption as is China.

Petras notes that today over half the top 500 transnational corporations earn most of their profits overseas, and for many it’s 75% of it. This trend will continue, he says, as these companies shift most of their operations abroad for greater cost savings. In addition, “political corruption, not economic efficiency, is the driving force of economic empire-building (with) the scale and scope of Western pillage of the East….unprecedented in recent world history.” It’s from business-friendly legislation on low wages, pensions, job tenure, land use, worker safety and health, all designed for maximum profit. Political leaders are bought off to get state-owned businesses privatized, markets deregulated, wages kept low, with a huge reserve army of exploitable labor the payoff for “the US Imperial System.”

Hierarchy of Empire and Use of Force

Petras explains the US imperial system in terms of its “hierarchy of empire” rankings. Imperial powers top it (the US, EU and Japan) followed by emerging powers (China, Russia, India), semi-autonomous client regimes (Brazil, South Korea, South Africa), and collaborator regimes on the bottom (Egypt, Mexico, Colombia). Then come independent “revolutionary” (social democratic) states like Venezuela and nationalist ones like Iran as well as “contested terrain and regimes in transition (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine).” Client regimes provide “a crucial link in sustaining imperial powers” by allowing them to project and extend their state and market reach.

One “anomaly” in the hierarchy is Israel. It’s a colonialist and nuclear power and world’s fourth largest military power and arms exporter that’s breathtaking for a country of 7.1 million and 5.4 million Jews. It’s influence over US Middle East policy, however, inordinately outweighs its size with Iraq exhibit A and Iran moving up fast. More on this below.

Petras notes the constant flux within the imperial system the result of wars, national struggles and economic crises. They bring down regimes and elevate others with examples like Russia, the Eastern European states, South Africa and Venezuela. It shows “no singular omnipotent imperial state….unilaterally defines the international or….imperial system (that in the case of the US) proved incapable of….defeating popular….resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Even in Somalia, a US proxy war is in trouble, but it’s too early to predict the outcome. The easy 2006 overthrow of the popular Islamic Courts Union (ICU) put an unsupported warlord regime in charge (that plundered the country from 1991 – 2005) with predictable results – strong resistance against the US puppet regime and its deeply corrupted Transitional Federal Government (TFG) “president,” Abdullahi Yusuf.

Washington backed a hated regime and an equally detested Ethiopian government that’s been “prop(ping) up its Somali puppet” with a lift from US-supported force. Earlier in 1993-94, the Clinton administration’s intervention failed. It spawned mass opposition, took thousands of Somali lives in retaliation, and ended in defeat and a humiliating US pullout. That may repeat despite Washington’s establishing an African Command (AFRICOM) to solidify its hold on the continent and its strategically important Horn. So far, it’s very much up for grabs with US presence in the region unwelcome and greatly destabilizing. The “empire” never learns, so it’s on to the next target that looks like Iran. More on that below.

Imperialism and Genocide

Petras explains how Korea, Vietnam and other wars hid their true cost in lives, devastation and human wreckage. It’s the way of all empires sweeping over populations like crabgrass. It becomes “an accelerating predisposition to genocides to accomplish political aims,” and in an age of “shock and awe,” it can come with “awesome” speed. An example is from the latest O.R.B. British polling data reporting 1.2 million Iraqi deaths since March, 2003 alone plus another 1.5 million up to that date. The true toll may be even higher with huge uncounted numbers of daily violent and non-violent deaths that one estimate by Gideon Polya places at 3.9 million from 1990 to the present. No one knows for sure, and his estimate may be as good as any other. All of them are horrific.

Petras notes the “quantity” of killings elsewhere – six million Jews and 20 million Soviet civilians in WW II as well as 10 million Chinese civilians in Asia. He explains genocide as policy from a “state (promoted) racialist-exterminationist ideology (as well as from) an historical antipathy of one culture to another.” This allows ruling classes to legitimize their ideology and achieve “uncontested dominance” and ability to economically exploit domestic and overseas markets. An omelet requires breaking eggs. Mass human slaughter is the frequent fallout from consolidating empires with living beings having no more worth than egg shells.

Genocides also result from revolutionary challenges to unpopular puppet rulers with Korea, Indo-China and Iraq Exhibits A, B, and C. Up to eight million perished in Asia, and three (or maybe four) million could be reached in Iraq in 2008 at the present pace. There’s no end to it in sight with billions funding it, and no reporting on the carnage in the mainstream.

Petras reviews examples of imperialism becoming genocide with the Reagan administration alone responsible for its share. It committed multiple proxy genocides in Africa, Afghanistan and Central America, but you’d never know it from reports at the time about a president being prepped for Mount Rushmore with a spot for George Bush beside him until Iraq got him in trouble.

Another unreported genocide is Israel’s six decade-long crusade against the Palestinians with predicable results. It caused many thousands of deaths, mass population displacement, and excessive use of detentions and torture to deny a people freedom and justice in their own land. The policy continues because Israel has a powerful ally in Washington and an even more influential Lobby working on its behalf. More on that below.

Petras notes genocides are “repeated, common practices,” impunity for committing them the norm, and no effective international order is in place to stop them. Victors justice prevails so victims face kangaroo tribunals like the ICTY for Yugoslavia and the equally corrupted one for Iraq. Genocides will only end when imperial powers are defeated and their leaders held to account for their crimes, but that goal is nowhere in sight.

The Global Billionaire Ruling Class

The number of world billionaires reached 946 in March, 2007, they have an estimated combined wealth of $3.5 trillion, and over half of them are in three countries – 415 in the US, 55 in Germany and 53 in Russia where never did so many people lose more so a handful of others could gain so hugely in so short a time. India ranks high as well with 36 billionaires with China next in the region at 20. The number of millionaires exploded as well with close to 10 million in 2007, and in 2006 their numbers grew by an estimated 8.3%.

Balzac was right saying behind every great fortune is a crime (and most often a small fortune as seed money) but likely nowhere more rapaciously than in Russia. Petras notes “Without exception, the transfers of (state) property were achieved through gangster tactics – assassinations, massive theft, and seizure of state resources, illicit stock manipulation and buyouts.” They strip mined over a trillion dollars of Russia’s wealth into private predatory hands who, in turn, stuffed them in offshore accounts. It happens everywhere with the US exhibit A. The Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords and Carnegie’s didn’t amass wealth by being neighborly or nice. They got it the old-fashioned way – by strong-arming and stealing.

In developing countries, it came faster under Washington Consensus rules favoring capital over people with billionaires coming out on top. Latin America has 38 of them, mostly in Brazil (with 30) and Mexico (with industrialist Carlos Slim Helu now the world’s third richest man). These “two countries…. privatized the most lucrative, efficient and largest public monopolies,” and benefitted hugely from regressive taxes, tax exemptions, deregulation, big subsidies, and the ability to hike prices and make vital services unaffordable to millions who can’t pay for them.

“How to become a billionaire,” Petras asked. No need for an MBA or market savvy when the “interface of politics (aka friends in high places) and economics” works much better. The road to super-riches came from privatized state assets that began with bloody military coups in Latin America. In countries like Chile, Colombia and Argentina, results were always the same – great riches at the top, stagnant economies, vast poverty, high unemployment, two-thirds of the region’s population with “inadequate living standards,” and the long shadow of US involvement backing military dictators, business elites, and neoliberal politicians to assure lucrative ties to corporate interests in America. More on this below.

Part II – The Power of Israel and Its Lobby in the US

Petras covered how the Israeli Lobby defeated the Jim Baker Iraq Study Group’s (ISG) proposal released December 6, 2006. Its alternative US Middle East agenda lost out to the Israeli Lobby’s influence on Congress, a massive supportive propaganda campaign in the major media, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert being as able to “have the US president under our control” as Ariel Sharon once boasted.

For a time it looked like the ISG plan would prevail with top Bush advisors recommending dialogue with Iran; high-ranking military, active and retired, wanting a phased withdrawal for a failed effort; and the Army, Navy and Marine Corps weekly publications wanting Defense Secretary Rumsfeld sacked shortly before he resigned. Even Big Oil interests backed Baker because stable conditions favor business more than conflict (at least to pump oil), and that won’t happen without a change of course now off the table.

Iran wants rapprochement as well but not on the usual US terms – making demands and offering nothing in return. Iran’s objectives are simple and reasonable – normalized relations and an end to Washington’s confrontational stance and military threats. They’re off the table because the “Israel-First power structure (Lobby-Congress-Mass Media-Democratic Party Donors)” reject them. Syria is just as compliant, but its overtures are also rebuffed for the same reason.

Petras explained that AIPAC wants war with Iran as its top priority objective. In addition, the publications, conferences and press releases of the Conference of Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO) asked their members “to go all-out to fund and back candidates (mostly Democrats) who supported Israel’s military solution to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program” even though IAEA agrees it’s in total compliance with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty rules while Israel violates them with impunity.

In the end, Prime Minister Olmert co-opted George Bush, got him to reject the ISG proposal and ally with Israel’s aim to solidify its Middle East dominance by removing a non-existent Iranian threat with Syria also targeted. In many respects, this flies in the face of logic as many influential US figures know. Petras believes Iran is a key interlocutor for a Middle East settlement that might let Washington retain its strategic Arab allies. Tehran is willing to cooperate but not when its government is lumped with Al-Queda, the Taliban and Iraqi resistance and is being threatened with war. That’s the current condition with renewed Bush administration efforts to prep the public to accept more of it if it comes.

Hamas also has been conciliatory. Its leaders made two peace proposals as a show of good faith, is willing to recognize Israel if Palestinians get justice, pledged a cease-fire in the face of Israeli attacks, and was rebuffed with rejection and an Israeli blockade of Gaza along with frequent hostile incursions. Conflicts rage in Iraq and occupied Palestine, more war threatens in Iran, and the road to peace in the region runs through Jerusalem providing Washington concurs. But it’s not possible, in Petras’ judgment, unless foreign military bases are closed, there’s public control or nationalization of the region’s resources, and Israel ends its colonial occupation of Palestine. So far, those objectives are nowhere in sight.

The Lobby and Media on Lebanon

In Petras’ powerful 2006 book, “The Power of Israel in the United States,” he documented how this power derives from a vast pro-Israel Lobby in the country supporting all aspects of its agenda. It’s position is firm – “Israel is always right, Arabs and Muslims are a threat to peace,” and the US should unconditionally support Israel across the board. In Petras’ view, that’s the main reason why the Bush administration attacked Iraq and may now target Iran and Syria. Israel perceives these countries as threats, Washington seems willing to remove them, and a chorus of media-driven propaganda approves.

They always support Israel and jumped right in last summer backing “Operation Change of Direction” against Hezbollah and “Operation Summer Rain” against Hamas that caused many hundreds of deaths and mass destruction. It was all papered over in the major media and characterized as Israel’s “defensive, existential war for survival against Islamic terrorists.” It was pure baloney. In fact, and unreported, Israel launched dual long-planned aggressive wars with Hezbollah’s capture of three IDF soldiers in Lebanon the pretext and Hamas taking one Israeli corporal the justification in occupied Palestine. Never mentioned are the many thousands of Palestinians illegally abducted, imprisoned and tortured, and that unprovoked aggressive wars and their fallout are war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Also unmentioned is that if Hezbollah and Hamas hadn’t provided the pretexts, Israel (as it’s often done) would have manufactured them to launch its summer aggression. With full US support and backing from its Lobby and dominant media, these type actions continue at the expense of their victims with US taxpayers duped into funding them generously.

US Empire and the Middle East

Petras notes key factors help explain US Middle East policy that in his judgment are “challenged from within and without, are subject to sharp contradictions,” and are likely to fail.

First, is the influence of the Israeli Lobby he documented powerfully as have Mearsheimer and Walt in their work. It’s likely the most potent lobby in Washington and can practically mobilize the entire Congress, every administration and the dominant media to back pro-Israeli policies even when they run counter to US corporate interests that in Middle East means those of Big Oil primarily.

The Lobby wanted war with Iraq and got it. Now its top priority is stiff sanctions and war on Iran, and if the orchestrated media hate frenzy targeting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Columbia University address September 24 is an indication, it may get it. As Petras notes, the Lobby’s fanatical support for Israel is so extreme and uncompromising, it’s even willing to risk world war and economic collapse to get its way.

Another key factor is the US ability to enlist and co-op client states and proxy forces to serve our interests – the Kurds in Northern Iraq; the Abbas-Dahlan Fatah militants in Palestine; the Sinoria-Hariri-Jumblat pro-US/Israel, anti-Syria/Hezbollah/Hamas alliance in Lebanon; Mubarak in Egypt; King Hussein in Jordan; pro-US regimes in Turkey; the Saudis and others.

Petras then explains how the Israeli Lobby’s influence runs counter to the US “Arab agenda.” It shows up in Washington’s failure to construct a NATO-style power-sharing alliance in the region, except for Turkey and Israel, and the former may not prove solid. The Iraq policy has been disastrous, each tactic tried failed, resistance is unabated, the Arab street overwhelmingly rejects occupation, and Arab leaders offer tepid support.

Petras calls Washington’s permanent war strategy (next targeting Iran and Syria) “an irrational gamble comparable to Hitler’s attack on Russia” that doomed him. Today in the Middle East, attacking these two countries may only compound the Iraq failure with “greater defeats, greater domestic rebellion” and still more wars without end promising gloomy prospects ahead.

Part III – The Possibility of Resistance

Petras discusses China and the “general consensus (it’s) emerging as the next economic superpower” to challenge US dominance. Petras expresses doubts that can only be summarized briefly. He notes Chinese capitalism not only depends on growth and the ability to generate jobs, but also on “the social relations of production, circulation and reproduction.” They come at a high price – ferocious labor exploitation, rampant corruption and nepotism, mass small farmer displacement, firing millions of workers from state-owned and bankrupt enterprises, ending social services, and higher living costs increasing class warfare in the streets against billionaire kleptocrats and foreign investors profiting hugely at the expense of most Chinese.

Petras then distinguishes between “made in China” and Chinese-owned and whether the former enhances China’s growth or foreign investor profits instead. He sees China taking on “features of both a neo-colony and an emerging imperial power,” but mostly the former. He notes the standard of living for most Chinese “declined precipitously;” air, water and ground pollution greatly increased; the quality of life for most Chinese suffers; class inequalities are vast; and gains from a consumerist society for a minority of the population are offset by dirty air, loss of leisure, job security, near rent-free housing, state-provided health care and education, deteriorated working conditions and more. Paradise it’s not, at least for workers, and conditions aren’t improving.

Petras then discusses China’s transition from state to “liberal” capitalism. As it deepened, trade barriers were dismantled; protective labor laws abolished; price controls lifted; the countryside ravaged; a massive new army of unemployed workers created; and an export-driven market strategy followed. The result today is a new class of billionaires and about 2900 former party “princelings” who control around $260 billion of wealth. In addition, property, real estate and construction boomed, an export strategy concentrated development on coastal regions, and domestic consumption is relatively constrained.

In contrast, “millions of construction workers, miners, domestic servants and assembly-line workers (labor) under the most abominable conditions” – long hours, low pay, awful sanitary conditions and little regard for safety in an unregulated environment structured for maximum profit. China today is a “magnet for capitalists and investors worldwide,” a free market paradise that’s hell on workers paying hugely for the country’s marketplace “success.”

Petras envisions China’s capitalism deepening and mainly benefitting foreign investors. He sees their “initial beachheads as minority shareholders” extending into production, distribution, transport, real estate,

telecommunications, consumer goods and services, entertainment, finance and more and eventually gaining more control. As a result, he believes China’s next great leap forward will be from liberalism to neoliberalism, the country will lose its national identity, it will become a “territorial outpost” for foreign-owned transnationals, and the country’s bid for world power status will be subverted.

Petras sees 21st century China emerging as a “gigantic proxy for imperial powers,” but China won’t be one of them. Its “Great Leap Backwards” will be consummated when the nation’s “share of profits shifts from the national bourgeoisie” to foreign investors in a process now accelerating.

But it won’t come easily as a new generation of China’s leaders may stop or curtail it. In addition, growing mass resistance has now emerged for obvious reasons cited above. Already, close to 100,000 mass demonstrations have occurred involving millions of Chinese protesting a workers’ hell. Social crisis is deepening, class struggle has returned, and the government has taken note. It’s beginning to address concerns but giving back pathetically little considering China’s massive population. Petras calls these remediating actions “too little and too late.” Ahead he sees decentralized protests becoming organized urban worker movements that when joined with displaced farmers may set off a new rebellious period. This may then blossom into “a new revolutionary struggle” that will determine China’s future and its climate for investors.

The US and Latin America

Petras has studied Latin America for decades and knows the region as well as anyone. Here he dispels notions of a revitalized regional populism with US dominance waning. His case is compelling as he argues Washington’s influence has increased in recent years (though not to the level of the 1990s) despite the success of Hugo Chavez and his ability to thwart US efforts to unseat him.

The Bush administration lost out on FTAA but has had other successes:

— bilateral trade agreements with numerous Latin American states from the Caribbean to Chile;

— an expanded number of military bases despite the possible loss of one in Ecuador ahead;

— US business interests in the region flourishing, including in Venezuela where they’re booming; and

— neoliberal free market policies intact despite campaign rhetoric promising change.

Aside from Venezuela and maybe Ecuador (where it’s too soon to tell), the left’s appraisal of progressive change is nowhere in sight, so what are they seeing that’s not there.

Petras assesses the current state of things in the region after reviewing its recent history readers can get from the book. He notes signs of Washington’s declining influence that’s had no adverse affect on corporate interests except in Venezuela where taxes are now fair compared to earlier when they were too low. He also explains so-called center-left regimes in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and elsewhere tamed mass social movement demands while embracing 1990s neoliberalism. In Brazil, if fact, President Lula da Silva actually deepened and extended the privatization and restrictive budget policies of the preceding Cardoso regime, and despite his Workers Party background, demobilized mass movements and trade unions instead of supporting them as people expected. Many now see him for what he is – a traitor, but sadly, he’s got company, too much of it.

Of great significance is the way Petras explains four competing regional power blocs representing varying degrees of accommodation or opposition to US policies and interests.

1. The Radical Left

It includes:

— the FARC guerillas in Colombia (active since 1964); some trade union sectors; and peasant and barrio movements in Venezuela;

— the labor confederation CONLUTAS and sectors of Brazil’s Rural Landless Movement (MST);

— sectors of the Bolivian Labor Confederation (COB) and the Andean peasant movements and barrio organizations in El Alto;

— peasant movement sectors (CONAIE) in Ecuador;

— teachers and peasant-indigenous movements in Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas, Mexico;

— nationalist-peasant-left sectors in Peru;

— trade unionist and unemployed sectors in Argentina; and

— other Central and South American social movements and some Marxist groups in several countries.

2. The Pragmatic Left

— Hugo Chavez in Venezuela who combines grassroots participatory democracy and redistributive social policies with support for business interests;

— Evo Morales in Bolivia;

— Fidel Castro in Cuba;

— various large electoral parties and major peasant and trade unions in the region; leftist parties including the PRD in Mexico, FMLN in El Salvador, CUT in Colombia, Chilean Communist Party, Peru’s nationalist parliamentary party, sectors of Brazil’s MST, Bolivia’s MAS governing party, CTA in Argentina, and PIT-CNT in Uruguay.

3. The Pragmatic Neoliberals (the most numerous political block)

— Lula in Brazil;

— Kirchner in Argentina;

— the major trade union confederations in Brazil and Argentina;

— business and financial elite sectors providing subsistence unemployment doles and food aid; and

— similar groups in Ecuador, Nicaragua (the Sandinistas and their split-offs), Paraguay and other countries.

4. The Doctrinaire Neoliberal Regimes

— Calderon in Mexico;

— Uribe in Colombia;

— Bachelet in Chile (in spite of her being imprisoned and tortured under Pinochet);

— the Central American countries: El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala;

— Garcia in Peru;

— Paraguay with the region’s largest military base;

— Uruguay’s ex-leftist regime now rightist;

— US-occupied Haiti through proxy thuggish paramilitary UN peacekeepers; and

— the Dominican Republic.

The notion that populism swept Latin America in the new century is pure fantasy. In fact, there’s a “quadrangle of competing and conflicting” regional forces with Washington having less market leverage than in the 1990s “Golden Age of Pillage” but still enough to be dominant and able to keep business flourishing.

Petras continues his analysis with detailed examples of key center-left regimes in Brazil under Lula, Argentina under Kirchner, Uruguay under Vazquez, Bolivia under Morales plus some comments on Peru and Ecuador under leaders preceding their current ones. Each case substantiates the fantasy that these regimes represented “new winds from the Left” sweeping the region. Hot air maybe, but little, if anything, in the way of progressive change despite the beliefs of many intellectuals on the left.

However, that’s not to say leftist forces aren’t strong enough to bubble up and bring change. Insurrectionary forces brought Evo Morales to power in Bolivia and can take him down if he fails them as he’s now doing. The same is true in other countries with Hugo Chavez their model. He challenged US imperialism, brought real social change, has mass public support and thus far withstood US efforts to oust him. In Cuba, Fidel Castro thwarted every Washington effort against him since 1959 and is still in charge, larger than life, although frail and weak following his protracted illness from which he’s still recovering. Petras sees a new generation of young committed leaders emerging in the region. “They are the ‘Left Winds’ of Latin America,” and it’s in them that hope lies.

Foreign Investment (FI) in Latin America

Petras demystifies FI’s impact, explains the risks in attracting it, and exposes six myths about its benefits.

Myth 1.

It’s untrue FI creates new enterprises, market opportunities and more. Most, in fact, aims to buy privatized and other enterprises while crowding out local capital and public initiative.

Myth 2.

FI doesn’t increase export competitiveness. It buys mineral resources for export with little done to create jobs or stimulate the local economy.

Myth 3.

It’s false to think FI provides tax revenue and hard currency. An FI export model creates more indebtedness and a net loss.

Myth 4.

It’s false believing debt repayments to international lenders is key to a good financial standing. Much foreign debt is odious and repaying it harms borrower countries.

Myth 5.

It’s false believing FI provides developing countries needed capital. It’s used instead to buy local companies and control a country’s markets.

Myth 6.

It’s false believing FI attracts further investment. Capital freely moves to wherever it gets the best returns and is anchored nowhere.

Developing countries benefit most by relying less on FI and more on national ownership and investment. The former is predatory. The latter accrues profits to the national treasury and grows the country’s economy. FI demands conditions favoring capital over labor that results in a widening economic gap and greater inequalities in political and social power. The 20 year (1980 – 2000) record of Latin American FI is socially disastrous. Living standards plunged while unemployment and poverty soared. Hardly reasons to attract it and clear ones to stay away or restrict it.

Part IV – An Agenda for Militants

Petras considers FI economic alternatives and ways to buck its strategic countermeasures. FI generally threatens disinvestment when a country wants to enhance its own economy and benefit popular living standards. Hardball tactics cut both ways, and the state can use its own effectively to counter capital flight threats as well as adopt policies in advance serving its needs first ahead of those FI wants to have things its own way.

Petras notes that FI “is incompatible with any notion of an independent, socially progressive country” even though at times it can be useful in a regulated environment controlling it. He explains a country’s own financial and economic resources can be used instead of FI to enhance its internal development and technological advance by reinvesting profits from export industries; controlling foreign trade to increase retention of foreign exchange; investing pension funds productively; imposing a moratorium on debt payments; recovering stolen public treasury funds and unpaid taxes; maximizing under-employed labor, and more.

Most countries can avoid FI by relying on multiple sources of its own capital. They can also employ alternative effective strategies when outside help is needed by minimizing its ownership, employing short-term contracts on favorable terms, imposing stiff penalties on capital flight, and barring it from returning if it leaves. Petras concludes: “The historical and empirical evidence demonstrates that the political, economic and social drawbacks of (FI) far exceed any short-term benefits perceived by its defenders.”

The Middle Class and Social Movements in Latin America

Petras observes that middle class attitudes in the region depend on the “political-economic context” confronting it. It’s attracted to the right under expanding right-wing regimes and to the left in times of economic crisis. On the other hand, under a “popular, anti-dictatorial, anti-imperialist populist government, the middle class supports democratic reforms” but not radical policies harming it for the benefit of the working class. Three examples make his case – in Brazil under Lula when it took over his Workers Party; in Argentina when it benefitted under Menem and Cardoso and later under Kirchner; and in Bolivia under Morales who combines “political demagogy” to his base and neoliberal IMF austerity in his policies attractive to middle class and business interests.

Petras notes social movements failed by not developing political leadership or a program for state power and depended instead on “electoral politicians of the upwardly mobile professional middle class.” The Left’s key challenge, he believes, is to “convert the public sector middle class from anti-neoliberalism to anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, and to combine urban welfare (with) agrarian reform.”

Iraq and Afghanistan’s Importance in Defeating the Empire

Petras concludes by noting Washington’s imperial wars were stopped in their tracks in Iraq and Afghanistan by resistance too powerful to contain. A “shock and awe” blitzkrieg failed when Iraqis wanted a say in running, rebuilding and transforming their country and rejected its US-installed puppet regime. The country is a wasteland, the nation creation project bankrupt, and the prospect for success bad and worsening with multi-billions expended and nothing gained except huge profits for administration favored contractors that always benefit whoever wins or loses.

The same situation holds in Afghanistan. An easy five week walkover turned into an endless debacle with no end in sight. Washington planned successive wars for unchallengeable world dominance, but local resistance in two countries stopped it cold (so far), may defeat its proxies in Somalia, and resilient opposition in Palestine and South Lebanon may prove equally formidable as well.

The US is now over-extended and its “imperial grand strategy” weakened. It’s made preemptive wars against Iran and Syria and trying again to topple Hugo Chavez less likely, but none of these possibilities are off the table. Cornered and facing defeat, rhetoric is heated making anything possible, and the September 20 Lieberman-Kyl “Sense of the Senate” (no legal force) resolution/amendment to the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill ratchets up the possibility of attacking Iran and its regional “proxies” with potentially catastrophic fallout the risk.

For now, emboldened resistance and strong anti-war opposition are matched against an administration desperate to turn things around and willing to try anything to do it. How this may end is a crapshoot, the stakes on its outcome too great to risk but may be waged anyway, and the world trembles as it waits and watches. Stay tuned and hope Petras is right believing Iraq and Afghanistan thwarted the empire and prevented further aggression against Iran and beyond, now off the table. Or maybe not. When wounded and cornered, desperate animals and politicians may try anything with nothing to lose. Keep a close watch.

Stephen Lendman is Research Associate of the center for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on www.TheMicroEffect.com Mondays (moved from 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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© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2007
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Isaiah (Photo credit: Missional Volunteer)

Isaiah 53 (King James Version)

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