Something is Rotten in Iraq and the Pentagon By Dave Lindorff

Dandelion Salad

By Dave Lindorff
ICH
10/15/07 “Counterpunch

Slaughter of the Innocents

Isn’t it odd that in the air attack that the US military claims killed 19 high-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and 15 civilians, all the slain Al Qaeda members were men and all the men were Al Qaeda, while all the civilians were women (6) and children (9)?

Think about this a minute.

This means that no women were Al Qaeda–and yet we know that women also fight, and also blow themselves up as suicide bombers. Yet these women were all civilians. The children, of course, were children.

And we’re to believe that there were no men who were innocent bystanders? All those adult males who were killed were “bad guys.”

Yet there were innocent bystanders: the women and the children. Somehow, any innocent bystanding men managed to duck out of the way, or the bullets and bomb fragments (and I’m sure they were fragmentation bombs that were used, as well as a withering spray of machine-gun fire) that hit all those poor women and kids, just somehow (magically?) missed the men.

Pretty amazing huh?

Except that it’s an absurd claim that should insult our intelligence.

It’s not like the Pentagon has a list of all the enemy fighters, after all. What actually happens is the military has people come in after an action, and they find all these dead people. They look at the guys and have to decide, are they fighters or are they civilians? If the guy’s got a gun in his hand, or nearby, they might assume he’s a fighter, but is that a good test in a country where every guy has an AK47? And if he doesn’t have a gun? Do you honestly think all 19 of those dead guys had a gun with him? I doubt it. These were people fleeing an attack by US troops and planes. They were–whether fighters or ordinary citizens–fleeing for their lives in a surprise attack. If they didn’t have a gun with them at the time, they wouldn’t have stopped to get one.

And since they don’t let reporters travel independently to these battle sites and check what happened, who knows if they even bother looking for evidence. (And this doesn’t even get to the point that they call every kill a “terrorist” or member of Al Qaeda, when odds are that if they are combatants they are neither, but rather some other insurgent group or other just fighting to drive the US out.)

It’s clear to me that what we’re getting is a big lie. Just as in Vietnam the troops would just count the bodies and turn in a report saying that was how many VC were killed, in Iraq (and Afghanistan), they count the men and call them the enemy.

Nobody calls them on this. Certainly nobody in what used to be called the free press.

The numbers are simply accepted as fact and dutifully reported to us.

The truth: we are conducting a slaughter of innocents in Iraq that is as bad as anything the Nazis did in their Eastern Front campaign.

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is “The Case for Impeachment“, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@mindspring.com

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

The Question of Suffering By Nahida Izzat

Dandelion Salad

By Nahida Izzat
10/15/07 “ICH

This is an excerpt from a dialogue (through exchange of emails) written to my friend Sam, when he asked me about suffering

How could an Intelligent Being allow such cruelty?

A most valid, most important, and most relevant question.

To start with, I am afraid that by talking about this topic, it would be very difficult to be objective. We won’t be able to discuss it from a purely scientific perception.

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Outsourcing Torture By Chris Hedges

Dandelion Salad

By Chris Hedges
Truthdig
Oct. 15, 2007

The Bush administration has called for the respect of human rights in Burma, a pretty safe piece of posturing, but it remains silent as Egypt’s dictator, Gen. Hosni Mubarak, unleashes the largest crackdown on public opposition in over a decade. Our moral indignation over the shooting of monks masks the incestuous and growing alliance we have built in the so-called war on terror with some of the world’s most venal dictatorships.

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No Legitimate Justification for War with Iran By Scott Ritter

Dandelion Salad

By Scott Ritter
ICH
10/15/07

Given the complexities of the modern world, and the uncertainties inherent in such, it is prudent for any nation possessing global reach and ambition to be prepared to defend its legitimate interests through the use of military force. The geographic reality of Iran’s physical location vis-à-vis the Straight of Hormuz, and the dire economic consequences that would accrue should Middle Eastern oil supplies become choked off through any closure or lengthy disruption of shipping through the Straight of Hormuz, dictate that the United States plan for the possible deployment and employment of its military to secure this strategic shipping lane.

But there is a far cry from preparing for the possibility of conflict, and planning for the implementation of pre-emptive military action designed to eliminate capabilities not forbidden under international law (such as Iran’s nuclear energy program) or facilitate regime change in a sovereign state.  The actions underway by the US military, operating under the aegis of its civilian leadership, are indicative of the former, not the latter, and as such can be categorized as undesirable on the part of those who embrace the rule of law set forth by the Constitution of the United States and, in related fashion (one only needs to read Article 6 of the Constitution) the Charter of the United Nations.

The United States should only consider the use of military force as representing a viable option once it has exhausted every venue short of war to resolve an identified national security problem. This must include seeking authority for such a military strike in accordance with international law as set forth under the Charter of the United Nations, as well as carrying out the coordination between the executive and legislative branches mandated by the U.S. Constitution. In the case of imminent danger to national security, decisive action would of course need to be taken, hence the need for updated military contingency planning. However, there is simply nothing transpiring in Iran today that constitutes categorization as an imminent threat to the national security of the United States, and as such nothing about the Iranian situation can be interpreted as providing justification for any accelerated military action that seeks to circumvent due process.

However, the reality is that the United States continues to plan to initiate and sustain a military strike against Iran. The Executive Branch of the U.S. government has successfully manipulated the Congress of the United States to the point that, through two War Powers resolutions (one issued in September 2001, the other in October 2002), there no longer remain any Constitutional remedies to the problem of unprovoked unilateral military action by a Unitary Executive which increasingly positions itself to operate above the law and beyond legislative oversight.

In the environment of post-September 11, 2001 America the executive branch of government has successfully extricated itself from legitimate oversight by claiming to be acting in the interests of homeland security. The resultant “Global War on Terror” has served as a cover for actions which are more about implementing far-reaching global dominance per the National Security Strategy of the United States (initially promulgated in September 2002, and recently updated in March 2006). Policies of regime change in Iraq were implemented under the umbrella of reaction to the terror attacks of 2001, although Iraq was not linked in any way to that horrific event, or the perpetrators of that event. In the same way, the U.S. government today seeks to pursue similar policies of destabilization and regime-termination in Iran making similar rhetorical linkage, although the factual record clearly demonstrates Iran’s absolute lack of involvement in either the September 11, 2001 attack or the organization, al-Qaeda, which carried it out.

Any military action on the part of the United States against Iran, lacking as it would be in justification and legal authority, would ultimately fail to achieve any objectives that could be construed as improving either the regional security posture of the Middle East, or the national security environment of the United States. In fact, the exact opposite situation would arise, with the Middle East sinking into a morass of conflict the consequences of which would detrimentally impact the global energy markets. Since the ostensible justification for any strike against Iran by the United States is illusory, there could be no real security benefit derived from a strike, in the same way that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 did not increase the security of the world by eliminating WMD stockpiles, since those stockpiles did not exist.

Iran today is a nation suffering under the combined effects of decades of sanctions, conflict and governmental mismanagement. There is a growing recognition inside Iran, reaching to the highest levels of government that something needs to be done to effect a change in course for the Islamic Republic. Iran has long since ceased engaging in the kind of irresponsible international adventurism which characterized its export of the Islamic Revolution. Iran’s nuclear program, declared as being exclusively for energy use, has become an impediment towards the normalization of relations with the world, and Iran would be willing to negotiate it away if the appropriate diplomatic environment could be created, especially vis-à-vis the United States. Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah in Lebanon could likewise be moderated through genuine diplomatic engagement which sought a resolution to the crisis in southern Lebanon in a manner which respected the sovereign will of the citizens of south Lebanon.

The bottom line is that while one may be able to articulate justification for prudent military contingency planning in the Middle East inclusive of an Iranian scenario (I myself participated in such planning in the mid-1980’s), there must be a distinction between planning and implementation. Implementation of military action should only come in the face of an identified viable threat, authorized by proper authorities in accordance with due process set forth by legal mandate, and then only when all venues short of conflict have been exhausted in seeking a resolution to the situation. None of these prerequisites for conflict have been met in the case of the current state of affairs between Iran and the United States. Simply put, there is no justification whatsoever for the United States to be planning for the implementation of a pre-emptive war of aggression against Iran. If we are to have learned anything from history, it is that such pre-emptive wars generally tend to lead to defeat (Iraq, 2003) and are recognized by international law as constituting war crimes as we saw at Nurnberg in 1945.

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

Promised Social Change in Ecuador by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, October 15, 2007

Raphael Correa was elected Ecuador’s president last November and took office January 15 promising social change. He’s the country’s eighth president in the last decade including three previous ones driven from office by mass street protest opposition against their misrule and public neglect. Correa must now deliver and just got a boost from his governing Movimiento Alianza Pais’ landslide Constituent Assembly election victory to rewrite the nation’s constitution for the 177th time in Ecuador’s history hoping to get it right this time. Awaiting a final tabulation of results, it appears Correa supporters got around 70% of the vote winning 80 of the 130 Assembly seats. That’s a comfortable majority to push through change, but doing it won’t be easy, and Correa’s commitment has yet to be tested.

Longtime Latin American expert James Petras writes “Ecuador today faces great opportunities for a basic social transformation and also grave threats from imperial networks” the way states in the region always do. He notes how in recent years mobilized urban and rural popular classes ousted neoliberal regimes only to see them resurface under so-called left-center leaders (who are neither left nor center) like Lula in Brazil, Kirchner in Argentina, Morales in Bolivia, Vasquez in Uruguay and others. Even Hugo Chavez governs from the “pragmatic left.” He combines grassroots participatory democracy and redistributive social policies with support for business interests but on a more equitable basis than under previous Venezuelan leaders.

Petras quotes a Forbes magazine editor’s comment on former Mexican president Luis Echeverria (1970 – 1976) that’s very revealing and explains Correa’s challenge – “He talks to the Left and works for the Right.” That’s pretty common in Latin America today, and Brazil stands out as Exhibit A under former Workers’ Party co-founder and the country’s current president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2002 to present).

Lula promised social change, but delivered betrayal. Even before being elected, he signed a letter of understanding with the IMF promising no change and business as usual. He agreed to full debt service and repayment terms as well as to back economic stability and neoliberal policies. He didn’t disappoint.

Once elected with a clear majority, he cut public employee pensions 30%; his agrarian policy subsidized agribusiness; his promise of land redistribution to the Landless Workers Movement (MST) was broken; spending for health and education was cut; employer rights to fire workers and cut severance pay were supported; extended privatizations of state-owned companies were backed; thuggish troops occupied Haiti; and right-wing bankers, corporate executives and free-marketeers were appointed economic ministers and central bankers. Petras sums up his record saying: “Lula fits the profile of a right-wing neoliberal politician,” not a “center-leftist” one.

Current Argentina president Nestor Carlos Kirchner is Exhibit B (in office from 2003 to the present with an October 28 presidential election ahead and the president’s wife ahead in the polls to win it). Petras notes how compared to Lula, he seems progressive. He cut unemployment from 20 to 15%, raised pensions and wages, renegotiated part of the country’s foreign debt and rescinded immunity for military torturers although with little to show for it.

In sharp contrast, “fraudulent privatizations” in Argentina’s key industrial areas weren’t reversed; inequalities remained the same or increased in some sectors; poverty levels are still almost 30%; 10% inflation diluted nominal earnings gains; the socio-economic power structure stayed the same; Argentina’s thuggish troops occupy Haiti; its central bankers and economic ministers are hard right; debt service was placed above health and education spending; and unfettered capitalism was supported following the 2001 economic collapse and subsequent uprisings. Petras calls Kirchner a “pragmatic conservative willing to dissent from the US when it” serves Argentina’s business interests. As for being a social democrat? Forget it.

Bolivia’s president and first ever indigenous head of state (2006 to present), Juan Evo Morales Ayma, is Exhibit C, and along with Lula, the greatest disappointment. Petras cites his government as “the most striking example of (a) ‘center-left’ regime” to betray its supporters and embrace neoliberalim once in office. Mass uprisings ousted two earlier presidents who defended foreign investor natural resources ownership, and Bolivians elected Morales to do what they didn’t. Instead, he rejected oil and gas expropriation, supports Big Oil interests, and embraced business as usual policies. Under nationalizations Morales-style, current contractual arrangements are effectively intact, and the country’s mineral resources have been sold off to the greatest ever number of foreign investors.

In addition, Morales broke his promise to triple the painfully low minimum wage, increased it 10% instead, and maintained previous neoliberal fiscal austerity and economic stability policies. He also tolerates the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s intrusive presence and the Pentagon’s Chapare military base; appointed hard right economic, defense and other ministers; opposed agrarian reform; supports large landowners; provides them large subsidies and tax incentives; and backs the Confederation of Private Businessmen in Bolivia by promoting foreign investment, social spending cuts, prioritization of exports, and other pro-business policies above the interests of the people who elected him. Petras says Morales “excels in public theater” by combining “political demagogy” to his base while backing neoliberal IMF austerity and business-friendly policies.

Here’s a sample of the former from Morales’ September 24 UN General Assembly speech when he said: “….each day we are destroying the future of humanity. (We must) pinpoint who our enemies are (and the) damage (they do) that may put an end to humanity….I think that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity and if we do not change the model, change the system (our efforts here) will be totally in vain….Capitalism has twins, the market and war….This is why (we must) change economic models….particularly in the western world.” It’s lovely rhetoric from a man who, in fact, embraces the model he denounces.

He symbolizes the fantasy of “new winds from the Left” sweeping the region, but too many others do as well in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and all of Central America including Costa Rica. There, a US intimidation campaign narrowly got DR-CAFTA passed in an October 7 national referendum that still awaits a recount before confirming what pre-referendum polls predicted would go the other way.

That aside, there’s strong support for the left throughout Latin America that eventually may bubble up into change. It’s too early to know for sure where Correa stands, but his commitment will soon be fully tested. Here’s what he’s up against.

US regional dominance is still strong, and thinking otherwise is misguided. It’s not like in the 1990s “Golden Age of Pillage,” but it’s still able to keep business flourishing, including in Venezuela where it’s booming. Nonetheless, a new generation of committed leftist leaders are emerging with Correa yet to prove he’s one of them and may in the end disappoint.

His chance to prove otherwise is coming, and he won it convincingly with a 54% second round presidential electoral victory. It was followed by an overwhelming 82% referendum majority to convoke a Constituent Assembly to draft a new socially progressive constitution. Correa says it will be based on “principles not models (and) every country must decide according to its own different realities.” The Assembly will convene the end of October to begin its work with a long struggle ahead to complete it. It hopes to finish in six months, but its mandate allows more time if it’s needed.

Correa wants the constitution to “facilitate” foreign investment (especially in banking) “to force competition.” He’s against monopolies, traditional oligarchic power, and the one-sided big media opposition to his government. He’s also renegotiating the country’s debt, is assessing its legitimacy, wants a constitutional limit on its repayment, and intends to keep the dollar the official currency with eventual plans to abandon it. In addition, he favors ending the central bank’s autonomy, joined the Bank of the South (to be officially founded November 3 and headquartered in Caracas), expelled the World Bank’s representative in April, is ending relations with the IMF, and aims to transform the current neoliberal system into one that will aid “the recovery of the government’s planning capacity (and be a) beginning of the concept of a solidarity system.”

Correa’s close economic adviser and leading September 30 vote getter, Alberto Acosta, said the nation’s “economy should be based on human beings” and that capital, investment, the profit motive motive and workings of the state should be subordinate to human needs. If Correa supports that view and will back it fully, he’s off to a good start. It’s too soon to tell but early signs are promising.

He talks the talk and is starting to prove it. He promised social democratic change and a “citizens’ revolution” and said he’ll use the country’s oil revenues for the people with a positive step already taken. On October 4, he signed a decree increasing Ecuador’s share of windfall foreign oil company profits from 50 to 99% while committing to honor existing contracts. Announcing the move, Correa said: “No more plundering, no more surrender, no more waste. (Ecuador’s oil) now belongs to all Ecuadoreans” with revenues from it earmarked for social welfare and infrastructure.

Correa also indicated after a new constitution is drafted and approved by referendum, he’ll call for new elections for president, vice-president and Congress. The current legislature has no Correa party representatives in it, but he hopes overwhelming popular support will change that. The sitting Congress, according to Correa “must be tossed back into the street,” but that’s for the people to decide. Democracy, however, isn’t just about elections. It’s about what happens afterwards, and that’s for Correa, the Constituent Assembly and a newly elected Congress to decide.

The September 30 victory was Correa’s third triumph in nine months, and he hailed it saying the “Ecuadorean people have won the mother of all battles. (It was) an unquestionable victory.” Earlier he echoed Hugo Chavez’s call for a “new socialism of the twenty-first century (and that Ecuador must end) the perverse (neoliberal) system that has destroyed our democracy, our economy, our society.” He won’t have long to back that rhetoric with action, but doing it won’t be easy.

The long shadow of Washington haunts the region, and its influence pressures and subverts change from the left. At the same time, countries like Ecuador face conflicting interests – maintaining the status quo from the right and demands for real change from below through redistributive social policies and nationalizing strategic sectors like oil, gas, banks and land.

Petras is hopeful “decay and profound disintegration of all the traditional parties opens the way for (progressive) new political forces.” He sees an “historical opening” and opportunity for change through an “alliance of trade unionists, Indian militants, movement leaders and ecologists” in the newly formed Polo Democratico (PD). Its agenda calls for a “total rupture (and) transformation of the Constituent Assembly into the legislative arm of the peoples’ movement.” Its aim is bold and revolutionary – to establish “popular sovereignty” that places basic resources like oil and gas under “popular self-management” and out of the hands of local oligarchs and exploitive foreign capital. It’s a national liberation struggle to defeat imperialism and savage capitalism and return power to the people. Now it’s for Correa and his coalition to prove they’re up to the challenge. So far at least, it looks like they’ll try.

Stephen Lendman is Research Associate of the Centre of Research on Globalization (CRG). Stephen Lendman is based 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 now moved to Mondays at noon US central time.

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

Myanmar’s “Saffron Revolution”: The Geopolitics behind the Protest Movement by F. William Engdahl

Dandelion Salad

by F. William Engdahl
Global Research, October 15, 2007

Burma’s “Saffron Revolution,” like the Ukraine “Orange Revolution” or the Georgia “Rose Revolution” and the various Color Revolutions instigated in recent years against strategic states surrounding Russia, is a well-orchestrated exercise in Washington-run regime change, down to the details of “hit-and-run” protests with “swarming” mobs of Buddhists in saffron, internet blogs, mobile SMS links between protest groups, well-organized protest cells which disperse and reform. CNN made the blunder during a September broadcast of mentioning the active presence of the NED behind the protests in Myanmar.

There are facts and then there are facts. First it’s a fact which few will argue that the present military dictatorship of the reclusive General Than Shwe is right up there when it comes to world-class tyrannies.

It’s also a fact that Burma enjoys one of the world’s lowest standards of living. A dramatic collapse in purchasing power resulted from the ill-conceived 100% to 500% price hikes in gasoline and other fuels in August.

IMF “Economic Medicine”

Inflation, the nominal trigger for the mass protests led by Saffron-robed Buddhist monks, is unofficially estimated to have risen by 35%. Ironically, the demand to establish “market” energy prices was implemented under the helm of the IMF and World Bank.

The UN estimates that the population of some 50 million inhabitants spends up to 70% of their monthly income on food alone. The recent fuel price hike, which was a direct result of the IMF sponsored reforms, makes matters unbearable for tens of millions.

Myanmar is also deeply involved in the world narcotics trade, ranking only behind Hamid Karzai’s Afghanistan as a source for heroin. As well, it is said to be Southeast Asia’s largest producer of methamphetamines.

This is all understandable powder to unleash a social explosion of protest against the regime.

It is also a fact that the Myanmar military junta is on the Hit List of Condi Rice and the Bush Administration for its repressive ways. Has the Bush leopard suddenly changed his spots? Or is there a more opaque agenda behind Washington’s calls to impose severe economic and political sanctions on the regime?

Behind the recent CNN news pictures of streams of saffron-robed Buddhist Monks marching in the streets of the former capital city Rangoon (Yangon) in Myanmar—the US government still prefers to call it by the British colonial name, Burma—calling for more democracy, is a battle of major geopolitical consequence.

The major actors

The tragedy of Burma, whose land area is about the size of George W. Bush’s Texas, is that its population is being used as a human stage prop in a drama scripted in Washington by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the George Soros Open Society Institute, Freedom House and Gene Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution, a US intelligence asset used to spark “non-violent” regime change around the world on behalf of the US strategic agenda.

Burma’s “Saffron Revolution,” like the Ukraine “Orange Revolution” or the Georgia “Rose Revolution” and the various Color Revolutions instigated in recent years against strategic states surrounding Russia, is a well-orchestrated exercise in Washington-run regime change, down to the details of “hit-and-run” protests with “swarming” mobs of Buddhists in saffron, internet blogs, mobile SMS links between protest groups, well-organized protest cells which disperse and reform. CNN made the blunder during a September broadcast of mentioning the active presence of the NED behind the protests in Myanmar.

In fact the US State Department admits to supporting the activities of the NED in Myanmar. The NED is a US Government-funded “private” entity whose activities are designed to support US foreign policy objectives, doing today what the CIA did during the Cold War. As well the NED funds Soros’ Open Society Institute in fostering regime change in Myanmar. In an October 30 2003 Press Release the State Department admitted, “The United States also supports organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities.” It all sounds very self-effacing and noble of the State Department. Is it though?

In reality the US State Department has recruited and trained key opposition leaders from numerous anti-government organizations. It has poured the relatively huge sum (for Myanmar) of more than $2.5 million annually into NED activities in promoting regime change in Myanmar since at least 2003. The US regime change, its Saffron Revolution, is being largely run according to informed reports, out of the US Consulate General in bordering Chaing Mai, Thailand. There activists are recruited and trained, in some cases directly in the USA, before being sent back to organize inside Myanmar. The USA’s NED admits to funding key opposition media including the New Era Journal, Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma radio.

The concert-master of the tactics of Saffron monk-led non-violence regime change is Gene Sharp, founder of the deceptively-named Albert Einstein Institution in Cambridge Massachusetts, a group funded by an arm of the NED to foster US-friendly regime change in key spots around the world. Sharp’s institute has been active in Burma since 1989, just after the regime massacred some 3000 protestors to silence the opposition. CIA special operative and former US Military Attache in Rangoon, Col. Robert Helvey, an expert in clandestine operations, introduced Sharp to Burma in 1989 to train the opposition there in non-violent strategy. Interestingly, Sharp was also in China two weeks before the dramatic events at Tiananmen Square.

Why Myanmar now?

A relevant question is why the US Government has such a keen interest in fostering regime change in Myanmar at this juncture. We can dismiss rather quickly the idea that it has genuine concern for democracy, justice, human rights for the oppressed population there. Iraq and Afghanistan are sufficient testimony to the fact Washington’s paean to Democacy is propaganda cover for another agenda.

The question is what would lead to such engagement in such a remote place as Myanmar?

Geopolitical control seems to be the answer. Control ultimately of the strategic sea lanes from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea. The coastline of Myanmar provides naval access in the proximity of one of the world’s most strategic water passages, the Strait of Malacca, the narrow ship passage between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Pentagon has been trying to militarize the region since September 11, 2001 on the argument of defending against possible terrorist attack. The US has managed to gain an airbase on Banda Aceh, the Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base, on the northernmost tip of Indonesia. The governments of the region, including Myanmar, however, have adamantly refused US efforts to militarize the region. A glance at a map will confirm the strategic importance of Myanmar.

The Strait of Malacca, linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, is the shortest sea route between the Persian Gulf and China. It is the key chokepoint in Asia. More than 80% of all China’s oil imports are shipped by tankers passing the Malacca Strait. The narrowest point is the Phillips Channel in the Singapore Strait, only 1.5 miles wide at its narrowest. Daily more than 12 million barrels in oil supertankers pass through this narrow passage, most en route to the world’s fastest-growing energy market, China or to Japan.

If the strait were closed, nearly half of the world’s tanker fleet would be required to sail further. Closure would immediately raise freight rates worldwide. More than 50,000 vessels per year transit the Strait of Malacca. The region from Maynmar to Banda Aceh in Indonesia is fast becoming one of the world’s most strategic chokepoints. Who controls those waters controls China’s energy supplies.

That strategic importance of Myanmar has not been lost on Beijing.

Since it became clear to China that the US was hell-bent on a unilateral militarization of the Middle East oil fields in 2003, Beijing has stepped up its engagement in Myanmar. Chinese energy and military security, not human rights concerns drive their policy.

In recent years Beijing has poured billions of dollars in military assistance into Myanmar, including fighter, ground-attack and transport aircraft; tanks and armored personnel carriers; naval vessels and surface-to-air missiles. China has built up Myanmar railroads and roads and won permission to station its troops in Myanmar. China, according to Indian defense sources, has also built a large electronic surveillance facility on Myanmar’s Coco Islands and is building naval bases for access to the Indian Ocean.

In fact Myanmar is an integral part of what China terms its “string of pearls,” its strategic design of establishing military bases in Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia in order to counter US control over the Strait of Malacca chokepoint. There is also energy on and offshore of Myanmar, and lots of it.

The gas fields of Myanmar

Oil and gas have been produced in Myanmar since the British set up the Rangoon Oil Company in 1871, later renamed Burmah Oil Co. The country has produced natural gas since the 1970’s, and in the 1990’s it granted gas concessions to the foreign companies ElfTotal of France and Premier Oil of the UK in the Gulf of Martaban. Later Texaco and Unocal (now Chevron) won concessions at Yadana and Yetagun as well. Alone Yadana has an estimated gas reserve of more than 5 trillion cubic feet with an expected life of at least 30 years. Yetagun is estimated to have about a third the gas of the Yadana field.

In 2004 a large new gas field, Shwe field, off the coast of Arakan was discovered.

By 2002 both Texaco and Premier Oil withdrew from the Yetagun project following UK government and NGO pressure. Malaysia’s Petronas bought Premier’s 27% stake. By 2004 Myanmar was exporting Yadana gas via pipeline to Thailand worth annually $1 billion to the Myanmar regime.

In 2005 China, Thailand and South Korea invested in expanding the Myanmar oil and gas sector, with export of gas to Thailand rising 50%. Gas export today is Myanmar’s most important source of income. Yadana was developed jointly by ElfTotal, Unocal, PTT-EP of Thailand and Myanmar’s state MOGE, operated by the French ElfTotal. Yadana supplies some 20% of Thai natural gas needs.

Today the Yetagun field is operated by Malaysia’s Petronas along with MOGE and Japan’s Nippon Oil and PTT-EP. The gas is piped onshore where it links to the Yadana pipeline. Gas from the Shwe field is to come online beginning 2009. China and India have been in strong contention over the Shwe gas field reserves.

India loses, China wins

This past summer Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Understanding with PetroChina to supply large volumes of natural gas from reserves of the Shwe gasfield in the Bay of Bengal. The contract runs for 30 years. India was the main loser. Myanmar had earlier given India a major stake in two offshore blocks to develop gas to have been transmitted via pipeline through Bangladesh to India’s energy-hungry economy. Political bickering between India and Bangladesh brought the Indian plans to a standstill.

China took advantage of the stalemate. China simply trumped India with an offer to invest billions in building a strategic China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline across Myanmar from Myanmar’s deepwater port at Sittwe in the Bay of Bengal to Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province, a stretch of more than 2,300 kilometers. China plans an oil refinery in Kumming as well.

What the Myanmar-China pipelines will allow is routing of oil and gas from Africa (Sudan among other sources) and the Middle East (Iran, Saudi Arabia) independent of dependence on the vulnerable chokepoint of the Malacca Strait. Myanmar becomes China’s “bridge” linking Bangladesh and countries westward to the China mainland independent of any possible future moves by Washington to control the strait.

India’s dangerous alliance shift

It’s no wonder that China is taking such precautions. Ever since the Bush Administration decided in 2005 to recruit India to the Pentagon’s ‘New Framework for US-India Defense Relations,’India has been pushed into a strategic alliance with Washington in order to counter China in Asia.

In an October 2002 Pentagon report, ‘The Indo-US Military Relationship,’ the Office of Net Assessments stated the reason for the India-USA defense alliance would be to have a ‘capable partner’ who can take on ‘more responsibility for low-end operations’ in Asia, provide new training opportunities and ‘ultimately provide basing and access for US power projection.’ Washington is also quietly negotiating a base on Indian territory, a severe violation of India’s traditional non-aligned status.

Power projection against whom? China, perhaps?

As well, the Bush Administration has offered India to lift its 30 year nuclear sanctions and to sell advanced US nuclear technology, legitimizing India’s open violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, at the same time Washington accuses Iran of violating same, an exercise in political hypocrisy to say the least.

Notably, just as the Saffron-robed monks of Myanmar took to the streets, the Pentagon opened joint US-Indian joint naval exercises, Malabar 07, along with armed forces from Australia, Japan and Singapore. The US showed the awesome muscle of its 7th Fleet, deploying the aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk; guided missile cruisers USS Cowpens and USS Princeton and no less than five guided missile destroyers.

US-backed regime change in Myanmar together with Washington’s growing military power projection via India and other allies in the region is clearly a factor in Beijing’s policy vis-à-vis Myanmar’s present military junta. As is often the case these days, from Darfur to Caracas to Rangoon, the rallying call of Washington for democracy ought to be tasted with at least a grain of good salt.

F. William Engdahl is the author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press Ltd.. To contact by e-mail: info@engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net. Further articles can be found at his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.

F. William Engdahl is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

His most recent book, forthcoming with Global Research, is Seeds of Destruction, The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation.

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WILLIAM ENGDAHL’S SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION

F. William Engdahl is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by F. William Engdahl

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright F. William Engdahl, Global Research, 2007
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Kucinich Campaign update 10-15-07 (video)

Dandelion Salad

Kucinich2008

Hosted by Anne Marie Howard
Produced & edited by Chad Ely for Kucinich for President 2008
Writer, Director: Dutch Merrick
Camera Operator, Sound Mixer: Jim Legoy

see
Kucinich Will Introduce Legislation To Ban U.S. Oil Companies From Iraq

Only One Congress Member Gets It By David Swanson

Colbert Challenges Kucinich: Redux By Manila Ryce (link)

Shield Law Slated for House Vote By John Eggerton (updated)

Dandelion Salad

By John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable
10/12/2007

Bloggers, Web Journalists Included in the Protection

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s (D-Calif.) office confirmed that there will be a floor vote next Tuesday, Oct. 16, on a federal shield law, H.R. 2102, that would protect journalists and their sources from overzealous federal prosecutors.

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Leadership Void by Cindy Sheehan

The Real Cindy Sheehan

by Cindy Sheehan
Dandelion Salad
featured writer

October 12, 2007

Nancy Pelosi and the Arrogance of Power

“They are advocates. We are leaders.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in regards to “Anti-war activists.”

People of America, this is truly the problem with what was once a Representative Republic and now is a country run by “elected” officials who believe that they, individually and collectively, are above any accountability and are not answerable to their constituents. Our public servants erroneously believe that they are the leaders!

Ms. Pelosi made this statement to a group of reporters at a luncheon recently and she also went off on activists who have been participating in vigils outside of her chi-chi home in the Pacific Heights district of San Francisco. The people who are vigiling outside her house regularly, in a Pelosi Watch are only exercising their rights as American citizens to make their concerns known to a Rep who was elected from a district that is wholeheartedly against the occupation of Iraq and for impeaching the liars who got us into the illegal and immoral situation.

No, Ms. Pelosi, you are not a leader. You have proven time and again in what you laughably believe is a “mistake” free run as Speaker of a Democratic House that you will do anything to protect an Imperial Presidency to the detriment of this Nation and the world, particularly the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This Democratic Congress supported BushCo’s disastrous and deadly surge; handed him over billions of their constituent’s tax dollars to wage this murder; have by their silence and votes countenanced an invasion of another country; approved more restrictions on the rights of the citizenry to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure; Ms. Pelosi does not even know if “torture” (which violates international law and the 8th Amendment in our Bill of Rights) is an impeachable offense; and worst of all the impeachment clauses were taken “off the table” in an ongoing partnership with BushCo to make the office of the presidency a Congressionally protected crime conglomerate that is rapidly sending this Nation down a crap-hole of fascism. So, Congress has led us to a few things: war, poverty, oppression, unemployment, and an inexplicable continuance of the Bush Regime.

No, Ms Pelosi, you are not even a leader in the very narrowest of definitions. We do not elect our Congressional Representatives to be leaders, not to be used as willing marionettes for the war machine and other special interests that serve the elite to the detriment of the rest of us, but to represent the will of the people. We send our elected officials to DC and pay their salaries and subsidize their benefits to do the “Will of the People.”

No matter how many times Ms. Pelosi and George Bush share tea and giggles and no matter how often she “prays’ for him, George is not the Decider and she is only the Leader of the House of Representatives not the people. We are the sovereigns in this country and I tried to demonstrate this when I demanded a meeting with another haughty public servant: George Bush.

I cannot speak for every Democrat, Independent, Green or disenchanted Republican (and there are many) in America, but the consensus from my travels all over this country is that we put Democrats back in power in both Houses of Congress to be an opposition to the Bush Regime and to stop the annoying “bobble-headed, rubber-stamping” approval of all things criminal and murderous. We did not wish to keep heading in the same direction but desired to go another way, which would have required the Dems to finally step up and forcefully counter and stop the high crimes of BushCo. They have failed.

We are sick of excuses. We are tired of the blame being diffused on the Senate, the Blue Dog Dems, the Republicans or even, incredibly, the people of Iraq. A true leader accepts responsibility in ways that are not even dreamed of by BushCo or Congress Inc. A true leader would stand up and do what is intelligent and what is right and if he/she were a leader then people would follow. A leader does not wait idly by for a crowd of sycophants to gather around her before she does her job with integrity and courage; a leader leads the way and the Democratic Congress with an approval rating even lower than George’s had better wake up to whom they need to follow: us!

We have countless examples of true leaders throughout American history and if not for them, women would not have the right to vote, much less be Speaker of the House; Black Americans would still be slaves or at the very least still drinking out of separate fountains; workers would not have the right to unionize and children would still be mining coal; we would still have troops in Southeast Asia, and we would still be under the aegis of our close Cousins in Empire: the British. Some of our courageous leaders have had to pay the ultimate price for their bravery and vision and Ms. Pelosi should be ashamed of arrogantly whining over her rubber chicken that Americans exist who want her to do her job because people are dying and lives are being ruined with her complicity.

We have the right to hold both of the political parties accountable. We not only have the right, we have the responsibility.

We not only have the right and the responsibility we have the power.

Cindy Sheehan can be reached at: Cindy@CindyforCongress.org

see

Nancy Pelosi, Meet Your Replacement! (video; Sheehan)

Careful whom you idolize By Eric Margolis (Che Guevara)

Dandelion Salad

By Eric Margolis
Toronto Sun
Sun, October 14, 2007

Che Guevara, a pop hero 40 years after his death, was the Osama bin Laden of the 1960s

Back in remote 1963, when I was attending Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service School in Washington, a classmate whose father was Ecuador’s ambassador, told me the following incident.

Ecuador’s then-president, Carlos Arosemena, showed up drunk at a dinner for American officials and yelled, “why don’t all you damned gringos go home and stop exploiting our country!”

An hour later, Ecuador’s army chief called the Pentagon and asked permission to overthrow the government. Washington gave the green light, the tanks rolled, and “El Presidente” was bundled off into exile.

Had I been a Latin American student in those distant days, I might well have become a revolutionary.

ANTI-AMERICAN

An Argentine student, Ernesto Guevara, nicknamed “Che,” did. He determined to launch a crusade against the American Empire. But the dashing Che, who has become a worldwide icon and cult figure of youthful struggle against injustice, ended up the tool of another empire, and a truly evil one, the Soviet Union.

Che Guevara joined Fidel Castro’s revolution against Cuba’s U.S.-supported Batista regime. Guevara quickly became Fidel’s right-hand man and hero of the revolution. Cuba went from dozy banana republic to Marxist police state.

But Guevara was no desk-bound revolutionary, and Cuba too small for two big egos. Che saw himself as natural leader and apostle of anti-western “liberation struggles” across the Third World. He went off, improbably, to Africa to launch world-wide revolution.

Commemorating the 40th anniversary last week of Che’s death, Fidel Castro hailed him as the “messenger of militant internationalism.” Old warhorse Castro added, “he still fights with us and for us.”

Fidel is right. The image of the sexy, cigar-chomping Che, raffishly bearded, sporting jaunty black beret, is universal. Youngsters born 25 years after Che was killed sport his image on T-shirts and quote his fuzzy revolutionary maxims.

Today, the Third World has another version of militant revolutionary Che. Osama bin Laden. Like Che’s vow to “liberate” Latin America, Osama launched a violent, one-man crusade to drive U.S. influence from the Muslim World.

Bin Laden commands the same degree of celebrity in the Muslim World that Che did in ’60s Latin America.

But for all his panache and swashbuckling, Che failed miserably as a guerilla leader, first in eastern Congo, then, fatally, in Bolivia.

Che believed Bolivia’s dirt poor peasants would revolt against the ruling, U.S.-backed oligarchy.

In reality, they turned their backs on Che and his band of Marxist insurgents.

HUNTED DOWN

Guevara was hunted down by a special U.S. unit, led by legendary, Cuban-born CIA agent, Felix Rodriguez. The wounded Che was captured and executed by Bolivian soldiers on Oct. 9, 1967. Interestingly, in 2005, Rodriguez called for “special action” against a new Marxist menace, Venezuela’s anti-American leader, Hugo Chavez.

The glamour cult of the sainted Che has obscured the fact he was an ardent Communist. Revelations from KGB files show that “anti-imperialist” revolutions in Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador, and left wing groups in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile, were secretly funded and armed by the Soviets. Moscow used both Fidel’s Cuba and Che to undermine U.S. influence in Latin America.

COMMUNISTS

Guevara and Castro were hardline Communists from day one, not socialist agrarian reformers, as they pretended. Communism, for those too young to remember, was history’s most lethal political system that killed nearly 100 million people in the 20th Century, far dwarfing Hitler’s crimes.

Che and Fidel had nothing to do with Soviet crimes in Europe, but they supped with the devil in Moscow to advance their cause of anti-Yankee revolution.

Marxist revolution failed. But three decades later, democratic parties of the left have been elected across Latin America, including Bolivia.

Their calls for populist socialism and reduction of America’s influence over the region often sound rather like Che and Fidel’s fiery orations of yore.

However, this time around, the CIA is busy chasing a new revolutionary menace, this time wearing a white turban instead of black beret, one Osama bin Laden.

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

Borrowed a couple of profile pics from Myspace:

John Pilger: Burma – Land of Fear (video; 1996)

Dandelion Salad

Warning

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

51 min 54 sec – Jan 29, 2007
www.johnpilger.com

John Pilger

John Pilger and David Munro go undercover in one of the world’s most isolated, and extraordinary countries, Burma, which Amnesty International calls ‘a prison without bars’. They discover slave labour preparing for tourism and foreign investment. International Actual Award for Risk Journalism, Barcelona, Spain, 1996; Bronze Plaque in the category of ‘Social Issues – International Relations’, The Chris Awards, Ohio, 1996; Gold Special Jury Award, ‘Film & Video Production division’, WorldFest-Charleston, 1996; Award for Best Factual Programme, RTS Midland Centre Awards, Birmingham, 1996; Gold Apple in the category ‘Politics: Social organisations in other lands’, National Educational Media Network Film & Video Competition at The 1997 NEMN Apple Awards, Oakland, California, 1997; the updated version won a Gold Special Jury Award in the ‘Film & Video Production division’, WorldFest-Houston, 1999.

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