Best U.S. Candidate for Israel-Palestine Peace By Liam Bailey

Liam

By Liam Bailey
featured writer
Dandelion Salad

The Bailey Mail
March 24, 2008

2008-03-24 21:44:45 **opinion**

I have been reading a lot lately about where the various Presidential hopefuls stand on various issues in the Middle East, and when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, I’m afraid the answer for all of them is Pro-Israel. They have to be that way to have any hope of being elected, because of the reliance on getting the Jewish vote in swing states like Florida and Michigan, which would never vote for any candidate that would end the U.S’ staunch support for Israel.

It makes me angry. To be honest it is always difficult to get an idea of the candidates’ views on the Middle East, because they are advised not to talk about it unless it is absolutely unavoidable, but I doubt there hasn’t been a President in all these years that has sympathised with the Palestinians, and saw the conflict’s continuance for what it truly is, Israel’s unwillingness to give back the land.

So, I thought, fair enough they have to hint at their support for Israel, and their continuing of the “special relationship”, but why not give up on it and do what’s right in office. And the only answer I am left with is the desire for a second term; desire to keep your party in the White House, and the fact that both have obviously been more important to all President’s in almost thirty years, than forcing Israel to abide by UN Resolution 242, give back all the land it took in 1967, and saving all these thousands of lives, past, present and future.

I personally believe that if Barack Obama could speak his mind on the conflict he would be pro-Palestinian. In February he told members of the Jewish community in Cleveland that he sought to open up the debate:

“Understandably, because of the pressure that Israel is under,” he was reported as saying, “I think the US pro-Israel community is sometimes a little more protective or concerned about opening up that conversation.”

He was also harsh on my pet hate, people receiving the “anti-Israel and anti-Semite” tags if they don’t adopt the most right-wing of Israeli stances, or criticise any element of Israel’s behaviour in any way, what Obama called the “strain within the pro-Israel community that says that unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel”.

These things are causing worry in the Jewish communities, and his association with the preacher Jeremiah Wright, who has spoken out against Israel’s “state terrorism” against the Palestinians, hasn’t helped either.

If Obama does become the Democrats candidate for President, it will all come down to whether losses in the Jewish vote, are balanced out by his being the most definite on ending the Iraq war and bringing US troops home swiftly, how his economic policies stand up against the others, and obviously we have to factor in the potential for a massively expanded Black vote for the first Black Presidential Candidate in American History.

It gets to me that the other candidates draw attention to the fact that Obama has expressed a willingness to talk to Ahmadinejad as if it’s a bad thing, it’s like schoolchildren running telling tales, miss, miss, he isn’t repeating what you want to hear, he isn’t as pro-Israel as we are — pathetic.

But when all is said and done, even if Obama does become the first black President in the history of America, just how far he will be willing to go to pressure Israel to return the land, allow the creation of a Palestinian state and end the conflict, will all depend on how much he wants a second term, and whether he weighs his party loyalties more than his true feelings and/or sympathy for the Palestinian’s plight.

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Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Pin Hopes on Iraq Resentment By Liam Bailey

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By Liam Bailey
featured writer
Dandelion Salad

The Bailey Mail
March 24, 2008

2008-03-22 12:50:28 **opinion**

The two main hopefuls in the race to become the Democratic Presidential candidate are both pinning their hopes on the level of resentment for the Iraq war. Barack Obama especially is relying on it, and not only a high level resentment for the war, but also a high level of support for a swift withdrawal. But as the situation in Iraq has improved and there haven’t been dozens of US soldiers deaths on the news, the void has been filled by the slow and painful death of the U.S. economy, and so the Iraq war isn’t the biggest issue on voter’s minds at the moment. Barack Obama has repeated continually that within 16 months he will withdraw all troops but a small residual force that would continue to train the Iraqi forces, and possibly deal with threats from Al Qaeda, Obama has outright stated that he will end the war in 2009 — his exact words were:

“I will bring this war to an end in 2009, so don’t be confused.”

Shortly after those strong words, Samantha Powers put her foot in it and said what should only be thought in a BBC interview, that Obama “will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a US Senator. He will rely upon a plan – an operational plan – that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now… It would be the height of ideology to sort of say, ‘Well, I said it, therefore I’m going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.”

Though Powers’ views were widely seen as a realistic take on policy making, she received considerable heat for the comments, obviously because they detracted from Obama’s campaign’s main policy, and did the opposition’s job for them — though they would have had to wait till until he had actually gone back on a policy. Ms Powers later resigned after calling Mrs Clinton a “monster”.

Hilary Clinton is being a, little more cautious, promising to start withdrawing troops two months into her Presidency and to remove 1-2 battle groups per month, but not committing to a timeframe for all troops to be withdrawn — Clinton again would leave a residual force in place.

Meanwhile the main republican candidate Senator John McCain has benefited from the successes of the surge in Iraq, having been a big supporter of the policy. He is maintaining pretty much the same line as Bush has for the last few years — stay the course — that a withdrawal would be seen as a defeat by the extremists and would only strengthen their cause. He did however take it a little too far, saying that the US should stay in Iraq for 100 years if need be. A statement pounced on by Hilary Clinton:

“Senator McCain and President Bush claim withdrawal is defeat. Well, let’s be clear, withdrawal is not defeat. Defeat is keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years.”

The downside of a withdrawal so soon after the election, advocated by both Clinton and Obama is that it may damage Iraq’s legislative elections due to be held towards the end of 2009. Among the downsides of indefinitely “staying the course” are: U.S. forces will endure battle fatigue, the cost will continue to spiral, many more US troops will die and the Iraqi government may never be able to manage the security of Iraq, if they feel they will never have to.

Truth be told, it is unlikely that the ability for the Iraqi government to hold their legislative elections or to secure their country for that matter, will stop those who would vote democrat to bring the US troops home in a hurry, after thousands have died for what is widely seen as an illegitimate war of aggression and imperialism.

In closing: I think that Clinton and Obama are playing the right strategy by saying they will withdraw US forces pronto, but I also think it is prudent that they should properly analyse all facts on the ground before proceeding to enact those policies. But they won’t even get that chance if their plans to revive the economy aren’t equally as popular with the voting public.

UK Government Determined to Pass Genetic Engineering Bill By Liam Bailey

Liam

By Liam Bailey
featured writer
Dandelion Salad

The Bailey Mail
March 24, 2008

2008-03-23 13:34:51 **opinion**

The UK government is absolutely determined to push through a bill that would allow scientists, to create hybrid human/animal embryos and experiment in creating viable stem cells for use in the treatment of human terminal illnesses.

My first thought was “God No – they can’t do that”, but I feel obliged to tell you I was a big fan of dark Angel, a TV series where Jessica Alba starred as the victim of a US government program to that did exactly what the UK government now wants to let scientists do, only with the aim of creating super soldiers, and then when they all escaped the government hunted them down; funny how sci-fi becomes reality all too often.

So my initial feeling was probably something to do with that, but when I realised that the research is to try and save human lives my reaction changed. You never know what is around the corner, and when all is said and done, no one wants to lose a loved one, and most would give anything to prevent it, so if this research could lead to discoveries that save lives then I am afraid I’m all for it.

Not everybody shares my feelings however, the government is coming under increasing pressure from the church, and Brown has had to offer to let MPs tell the government if they cannot support parts of the Bill for ethical or religious reasons, before receiving “permission” to vote against the government. These allowances will only be made where it doesn’t threaten the passage of the bill.

It does make me wonder why Gordon Brown is so desperate for the bill to go through? I was discussing the bill with a mate the other night and he joked: “is that really a nervous affliction or is there a little pig DNA in the mix.” I also wonder, if Brown has to make such allowances for his party’s support in getting the bill through, how he hopes to get it passed with the opposition?

The March 20, 2008 US Declaration of War on Iran by John McGlynn

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by John McGlynn
japanfocus.org
March 22, 2008

March 20, 2008, destined to be another day of infamy. On this date the US officially declared war on Iran. But it’s not going to be the kind of war many have been expecting.

No, there was no dramatic televised announcement by President George W. Bush from the White House oval office. In fact on this day, reports the Washington Post, Bush spent some time communicating directly with Iranians, telling them via Radio Farda (the US-financed broadcaster that transmits to Iran in Farsi, Iran’s native language) that their government has “declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people.” But not to worry, he told his listeners in Farsi-translated Bushspeak: Tehran would not get the bomb because the US would be “firm.”

Over at the US Congress, no war resolution was passed, no debate transpired, no last-minute hearing on the Iran “threat” was held. The Pentagon did not put its forces on red alert and cancel all leave. The top story on the Pentagon’s website (on March 20) was: “Bush Lauds Military’s Performance in Terror War,” a feel-good piece about the president’s appearance on the US military’s TV channel to praise “the performance and courage of U.S. troops engaged in the global war on terrorism.” Bush discussed Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa but not Iran.

But make no mistake. As of Thursday, March 20 the US is at war with Iran.

So who made it official?

A unit within the US Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which issued a March 20 advisory to the world’s financial institutions under the title: “Guidance to Financial Institutions on the Continuing Money Laundering Threat Involving Illicit Iranian Activity.”

FinCEN, though part of the chain of command, is better known to bankers and lawyers than to students of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, when the history of this newly declared war is someday written (assuming the war is allowed to proceed) FinCEN’s role will be as important as that played by US Central Command (Centcom) in directing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In its March 20 advisory FinCEN reminds the global banking community that United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 1803 (passed on March 3, 2008) “calls on member states to exercise vigilance over the activities of financial institutions in their territories with all banks domiciled in Iran, and their branches and subsidiaries abroad.”

UNSC 1803 specifically mentions two Iranian state-owned banks: Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. These two banks (plus their overseas branches and certain subsidiaries), along with a third state-owned bank, Bank Sepah, were also unilaterally sanctioned by the US in 2007 under anti-proliferation and anti-terrorism presidential executive orders 13382 and 13224.

As of March 20, however, the US, speaking through FinCEN, is now telling all banks around the world “to take into account the risk arising from the deficiencies in Iran’s AML/CFT [anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism] regime, as well as all applicable U.S. and international sanctions programs, with regard to any possible transactions” with – and this is important – not just the above three banks but every remaining state-owned, private and special government bank in Iran. In other words, FinCEN charges, all of Iran’s banks – including the central bank (also on FinCEN’s list) – represent a risk to the international financial system, no exceptions. Confirmation is possible by comparing FinCEN’s list of risky Iranian banks with the listing of Iranian banks provided by Iran’s central bank.

The “deficiencies in Iran’s AML/CFT” is important because it provides the rationale FinCEN will now use to deliver the ultimate death blow to Iran’s ability to participate in the international banking system. The language is borrowed from Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a group of 32 countries and two territories set up by the G-7 in 1989 to fight money laundering and terrorist financing. As the FinCEN advisory describes, in October 2007 the FATF stated “that Iran’s lack of a comprehensive anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime represents a significant vulnerability in the international financial system. In response to the FATF statement, Iran passed its first AML law in February 2008. The FATF, however, reiterated its concern about continuing deficiencies in Iran’s AML/CFT system in a statement on February 28, 2008.”

Actually, the February 28 FATF statement does not comment on Iran’s new anti-money laundering law. The statement does say, however, that the FATF has been working with Iran since the October 2007 FATF statement was issued and “welcomes the commitment made by Iran to improve its AML/CFT regime.” Moreover, the February 28 statement, for whatever reason, drops the “significant vulnerability” wording, opting instead to reaffirm that financial authorities around the world should “advise” their domestic banks to exercise “enhanced due diligence” concerning Iran’s AML/CFT “deficiencies.” In linking its March 20 advisory to the recent FATF statements, apparently FinCEN cannot wait for FATF or anyone else to evaluate the effectiveness of Iran’s brand new anti-financial crime laws.

Anyway, the “deficiencies in Iran’s AML/CFT” is probably the main wording FinCEN will use to justify application of one its most powerful sanctions tools, a USA Patriot Act Section 311 designation (see below).

Hammering away at Iran’s state-owned banks is central to US efforts to raise an international hue and cry. Through its state-owned banks, FinCEN states, “the Government of Iran disguises its involvement in proliferation and terrorism activities through an array of deceptive practices specifically designed to evade detection.” By managing to get inserted the names of two state-owned banks in the most recent UN Security Council resolution on Iran, the US can now portray the cream of Iran’s financial establishment (Bank Melli and Bank Saderat are Iran’s two largest banks) as directly integrated into alleged regime involvement in a secret nuclear weaponization program and acts of terrorism.

To inject further alarm, FinCEN accuses Iran’s central bank of “facilitating transactions for sanctioned Iranian banks” based on evidence (which for various reasons appears true) gathered by Treasury and other US agencies that the central bank has facilitated erasure of the names of Iranian banks “from global transactions in order to make it more difficult for intermediary financial institutions to determine the true parties in the transaction.” The central bank is also charged with continuing to “provide financial services to Iranian entities” (government agencies, business firms and individuals) named in two earlier UN Security Council resolutions, 1737 and 1747. In defense, Iran’s central bank governor recently said: “The central bank assists Iranian private and state-owned banks to do their commitments regardless of the pressure on them” and charged the US with “financial terrorism.”

So what does all this bureaucratic financial rigmarole mean?

What it really means is that the US, again through FinCEN, has declared two acts of war: one against Iran’s banks and one against any financial institution anywhere in the world that tries to do business with an Iranian bank.

To understand how this works requires understanding what FinCEN does. This means going back in history to September 2005, when the US Treasury Department, based on the investigatory work of FinCEN, sanctioned a small bank in Macau, which in turn got North Korea really upset.

FinCEN’s mission “is to safeguard the financial system from the abuses of financial crime, including terrorist financing, money laundering, and other illicit activity” (FinCEN website).

Under Section 311 of the USA Patriot Act the US Treasury Department, acting through FinCEN, has been provided with “a range of options that can be adapted to target specific money laundering and terrorist financing concerns.” Specifically, Section 311 contains six “special measures” to significantly increase the powers of the Treasury (and other US government agencies) to block alleged terrorist financing activities. As explained by a Treasury official during April 2006 testimony before Congress, the most punitive measure requires:

U.S. financial institutions to terminate correspondent relationships with the designated entity. Such a defensive measure effectively cuts that entity off from the U.S. financial system. It has a profound effect, not only in insulating the U.S. financial system from abuse, but also in notifying financial institutions and jurisdictions globally of an illicit finance risk.

On September 20, 2005 FinCEN issued a finding under Section 311 that Banco Delta Asia (BDA), a small bank in the Chinese territory of Macau, was a “primary money laundering concern.” BDA was alleged to have knowingly allowed its North Korean clients to use the bank to engage in deceptive financial practices and a variety of financial crimes (such as money laundering of profits from drug trafficking and counterfeit US $100 “supernotes”).

By publicizing its allegations, FinCEN let the world know that BDA was now at risk of having all “correspondent relationships” with US banks severed, a disaster for any bank wanting to remain networked to the largest financial market in the world. Frightened BDA customers reacted by staging a run on the bank’s assets.

In the interest of self-preservation, BDA was forced to act. After a quick conference with Macau financial authorities the bank decided to freeze North Korean funds on deposit.

It just so happened that the day before the FinCEN finding was made public the US and North Korea, working through the Six-Party talks process (also involving host China, Russia, South Korea and Japan), had formally agreed on a new diplomatic roadmap that promised to lead to a denuclearized and permanently peaceful Northeast Asia. But because of Treasury’s BDA sanctions, North Korea was now labeled an international financial outlaw and the Six Party process stalled.

Other banks began severing their business ties with North Korea, leaving the country more isolated than ever from global commerce and finance. These other banks had no choice. Treasury repeatedly made clear that any bank that continued to do business with North Korea was another potential Patriot Act Section 311 target.

In anger, North Korea withdrew from the Six-Party process. It required 18 months of negotiations before a diplomatic and financial approach was devised that left BDA blacklisted but allowed North Korea to regain access to its frozen funds and rejoin Six Party negotiations.

Neither FinCEN nor anyone else at Treasury has ever publicly produced any evidence in support of the financial crime allegations against BDA and North Korea (articles by this author on BDA, North Korea and Treasury’s lack of proof can be found at the Japan Focus website).

If Treasury was eventually forced to back off in the BDA case (apparently because the Bush administration changed its policy priorities), it had discovered that Patriot Act Section 311 could really shake things up.

The “real impact” of the BDA-North Korea sanctions, as Treasury undersecretary Stuart Levey told members of the American Bar Association in early March 2008, was that “many private financial institutions worldwide responded by terminating their business relationships not only with [BDA], but with North Korean clients altogether.” Levey and his Treasury colleagues had come up with a way to go beyond governments to use the global banking sector to privatize banking sector sanctions against an entire country (this, by the way, is presidential candidate John McCain’s proposed strategy for dealing with Iran as described in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue of the journal Foreign Affairs). This “key difference” in the “reaction by the private sector” was an exciting revelation. Through a little extraterritorial legal arm-twisting of the international banking community the US was able to put “enormous pressure on the [North Korean] regime – even the most reclusive government depends on access to the international financial system,” said Levey. Washington now had “a great deal of leverage in its diplomacy over the nuclear issue with North Korea.” Turning to the present, Levey informed the gathering of US lawyers that “we are currently in the midst of an effort to apply these same lessons to the very real threat posed by Iran.” However, “Iran presents a more complex challenge than North Korea because of its greater integration into the international financial community.”

Over the past two years Levey and other Treasury officials have been crisscrossing the globe to make it abundantly clear in meetings (described by Treasury as opportunities to “share information”) with banking and government officials in the world’s key financial centers that dealing with Iran is risky business. Levey frequently claims that major European and Asia banks, once they hear the US pitch, freely decided to cooperate with anti-Iran banking sanctions for reasons of “good corporate citizenship” and a “desire to protect their institutions’ reputations.”

But these meetings include quite a bit of browbeating. This can be deduced from some of Levey’s public statements, such as his testimony to Congress. On March 21, 2007 Levey told the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that unilateral US financial sanctions “warn people and businesses not to deal with the designated target. And those who might still be tempted to work with targeted high risk actors get the message loud and clear: if they do so, they may be next.” Also, the possibility of becoming a Patriot Act Section 311 sanctions victim (which means exclusion from the US market) probably comes up at the meetings, as this part of his testimony indirectly suggests: “Our list of targeted proliferators is incorporated into the compliance systems at major financial institutions worldwide, who have little appetite for the business of proliferation firms and who also need to be mindful of U.S. measures given their ties to the U.S. financial system.”

Reportedly, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has also been involved in high-level meetings around the world concerning Iran, which presumably includes presentations on the arsenal of US financial sanctions. The message he imparts is unknown, but hints of the likely content can be found in public statements. Among Treasury officials Paulson has used the most dramatic language by making the argument that not only is Iran a danger to the international community but that this danger permeates virtually all of Iranian society. In a June 14, 2007 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations he first makes the point that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a “paramilitary” organization “directly involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts, as well as funding and training other terrorist groups.” Then he offers the alarming revelation that the IRGC “is so deeply entrenched in Iran’s economy and commercial enterprises, it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are somehow doing business with the IRGC.” With such language, Treasury lays the groundwork for applying financial sanctions against the entirety of Iran. All this makes clear that the growing coalition of bankers against Iran the US likes to trumpet may not be such a willing group.

Some indication of how unwilling can be found in the pages of Der Spiegel (English edition). In July 2007 the German news magazine reported that “anyone wishing to do business in the United States or hoping to attract US investors had best tread softly when it comes to Iran. Germany’s Commerzbank stopped financing trade with Iran in US dollars in January, after the Americans piled on the pressure.” One German banker interviewed said: “German financial institutions feel the United States government has been engaging in ‘downright blackmail’.” The magazine goes on to report: “Anti-terror officials from the US Treasury are constantly showing up to demand they cut their traditionally good relations with Iran. The underlying threat from the men from Washington is that they wouldn’t want to support terrorism, would they?”

Also, an April 2007 report from the UK’s House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee states that the Confederation of British Industry indicated “strong concern” about Patriot Act provisions and other US extra-territorial sanctions. The Committee recognized the need for “vigorous action” in response to terrorist threats but also “endorse[d] the condemnation by the EU of the extra-territorial application of US sanctions legislation as a violation of international law.”

Thus the US will need help from European government leaders to overcome resistance among major European financial institutions to US-led financial sanctions. Such help has already come from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During her recent state visit to Israel, Merkel told the Knesset that Iran was global enemy number one. “What do we do when a majority says the greatest threat to the world comes from Israel and not from Iran?” she asked. “Do we bow our heads? Do we give up our efforts to combat the Iranian threat? However inconvenient and uncomfortable the alternative is, we do not do that.” Iran is public enemy #1 in the world, and everyone – including the European banking establishment it would seem – has to accept that.

To summarize to this point: (1) the March 20 advisory represents a US declaration of war by sanctions on Iran and a sanctions threat to the international banking community, (2) the US has various unilateral financial sanctions measures at its command in the form of executive orders and Patriot Act Section 311 and (3) the BDA-North Korea sanctions were, at least in retrospect, a test run for Iran.

If the US succeeds, an international quarantine on Iran’s banks would disrupt Iran’s financial linkages with the world by blocking its ability to process cross-border payments for goods and services exported and imported. Without those linkages Iran is unlikely to be able to engage in global trade and commerce. As 30% of Iran’s GDP in 2005 was imports of goods and services and 20% was non-oil exports (World Bank and other data), a large chunk of Iran’s economy would shrivel up. The repercussions will be painful and extend well beyond lost business and profits. For example, treating curable illnesses will become difficult. According to an Iranian health ministry official, Iran produces 95% of its own medicines but most pharmaceutical-related raw materials are imported.

With a financial sanctions war declared, what happens next? There have been some hints.

On February 25 the Wall Street Journal reported that Treasury was considering sanctioning Iran’s central bank (known as Bank Markazi). “The central bank is the keystone of Iran’s financial system and its principal remaining lifeline to the international banking system,” explains the Journal. “U.S. sanctions against it could have a severe impact on Iranian trade if other nations in Europe and Asia choose to go along with them.” In anticipation of future events, the Journal notes: “U.S. officials have begun trying to lay the groundwork for a move against the central bank in public statements and meetings with key allies.”

So look for the following to happen in the coming weeks: FinCEN will probably issue a Patriot Act Section 311 finding that Iran’s central bank is a “primary laundering concern.” The “deficiencies in Iran’s AML/CFT” wording lifted from the FATF statement will be a key reason for that finding. The finding may be accompanied by a formal decision to cut off Iran’s central bank from the US financial market, or such a decision could come later. Of course, an actual or threatened cut-off has no immediate financial implications for Iran since no Iranian-flagged bank is doing business in the US, except possibly to allow shipments from the US of humanitarian provisions of food and medicine, which, if they exist, probably terminate with the March 20 FinCEN announcement.

But a Section 311 designation of Iran’s central bank would have a powerful coercive effect on the world’s banks. For any bank in Europe, Asia or anywhere else that goes near the central bank once the 311 blacklist is on, it would be the kiss of death for that bank’s participation in the international banking community, as it was (and remains today) for BDA. Not only would that bank be barred from the US financial market, it would also be shunned by European and Japanese financial markets, as government and private banking officials in those markets are likely to cooperate with Washington’s intensifying sanctions campaign.

What about China, now one of the world’s major financial centers (two Chinese banks ranked among the top 25 in The Banker’s 2007 survey of world banks) and a major trading partner for Iran?

China and Japan “were the top two recipients of exports from Iran, together accounting for more than one-quarter of Iran’s exports in 2006,” according to an analysis of International Monetary Fund (IMF) trading statistics contained in a December 2007 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Washington’s anti-Iran sanctions regime. On the import side, the GAO found that in 2006 “Germany and China were Iran’s largest providers of imports, accounting for 23 percent of Iran’s imports.” Airtight global banking sanctions imposed on Iran would presumably make the financial administration of this trade next to impossible.

Will China bend to US sanctions wishes? Early signs suggest the answer is yes.

In December 2007 ArabianBusiness.com reported that Chinese banks were starting to decline to open letters of credit for Iranian traders. Asadollah Asgaroladi, head of the Iran-China chamber of commerce, was quoted as saying that China’s banks did not explain the refusal but “if this trend continues it will harm the two countries’ economic cooperation and trade exchange.” In February, ArabianBusiness.com found that China’s cutbacks in its banking business with Iran was affecting a joint automobile production arrangement.

Such disruptions in the Chinese-Iranian banking relationship are minor. Meanwhile, Beijing keeps insisting that peaceful diplomacy with Iran is the best policy and that the only sanctions needed are those mandated under the three UN Security Council resolutions already on the books. Thus, to make China cooperate with Washington’s unilateral banking sanctions, the US and the EU, reports the Financial Times, are apparently using a tag-team strategy.

On February 12 the FT told readers that “the US believes that tighter EU sanctions will put pressure on other nations that do more business with Iran – China for example – to curb their activities.” Therefore, explained an anonymous diplomat apparently from the US: “We will be pushing the EU to go further than the Security Council,” a move intended, the diplomat said, to “gold plate” Security Council requirements.

To explain this move the FT provided an example of “gold plating” from 2007, when the EU implemented UN Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747 on Iran.

In similar language to the current text on Banks Saderat and Melli, the UN had called for “vigilance and restraint” concerning the movements of individuals linked to Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes and members of its Revolutionary Guard. But in implementing the resolutions, the EU subjected all the named individuals to a travel ban – a much tougher measure.

Reading between the lines, the intention behind “gold plating” Security Council resolutions is to put pressure on China to bow to a more aggressive US-EU sanctions program. In the case of the most recent Security Council resolution on Iran, 1803, which put sanctions on two Iranian banks, FinCEN rolled two “gold plating” actions into one. It combined the Security Council’s naming of the two banks with the October and February FATF statements to justify its March 20 warning to the world that Iran’s entire banking system is a danger. Whether the EU will follow FinCEN’s action, and how China will respond to any of this, remains to be seen.

In short, the US has in effect declared war on Iran. No bombs need fall as long as the US strategy relies solely on financial sanctions. But if the US Section 311 designates Iran’s central bank as a financial criminal, the impact will be the financial equivalent to the first bombs falling on Baghdad at the start of the US-UK invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

In a 1996 publication written for the National Defense University, Harlan Ullman and James Wade introduced a military doctrine for “affecting the adversary’s will to resist through imposing a regime of Shock and Awe to achieve strategic aims and military objectives.”

Former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld made Shock and Awe famous by invoking it as the US strategy in the attack on Iraq in March 2003 (though weeks later Ullman was claiming Rumsfeld was misapplying the doctrine).

But Shock and Awe’s authors (apparently with something like Vietnam or the 1993-1994 Somalia fiasco in mind) also envisioned that “[i]n certain circumstances, the costs of having to resort to lethal force may be too politically expensive in terms of local support as well as support in the U.S. and internationally.” Consequently, they wrote:

“Economic sanctions are likely to continue to be a preferable political alternative or a necessary political prelude to an offensive military step . . . In a world in which nonlethal sanctions are a political imperative, we will continue to need the ability to shut down all commerce into and out of any country from shipping, air, rail, and roads. We ought to be able to do this in a much more thorough, decisive, and shocking way than we have in the past . . . Weapons that shock and awe, stun and paralyze, but do not kill in significant numbers may be the only ones that are politically acceptable in the future.”

It was only a matter of finding a sanctions strategy systematic enough to make this more obscure portion of the Shock and Awe doctrine operational. What Ullman and Wade could not have imagined was that Washington’s global planners would use extraterritorial legal powers and its financial clout to coerce the global banking industry into accepting US foreign policy diktat. North Korea was a test-run for the new strategy of Shock and Awe financial sanctions. As Washington Post columnist David Ignatius put it in February 2007, “[t]he new sanctions are toxic because they effectively limit a country’s access to the global ATM. In that sense, they impose — at last — a real price on countries such as North Korea and Iran.”

What then will the impact be of this US-Iran banking standoff? For the US, almost no impact at all. Treasury bureaucrats will spend some time and a little taxpayer money making phone calls, checking computer screens and paper trails to monitor global banking compliance with sanctions. The cost of financially ostracizing Iran will be a bargain for US taxpayers compared with the eventual $3 trillion cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars estimated by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard financial expert Linda Bilmes.

Iran, however, will become another Gaza or Iraq under the economic sanctions of the 1990s, with devastating impact on economy and society. That Iran’s complete financial and economic destruction is the goal of US policy was spelled out by the State Department the day before the FinCEN announcement.

During a daily press meeting with reporters on March 19, the State Department’s spokesperson was asked about a deal recently signed between Switzerland and Iran to supply Iranian natural gas to Europe. After condemning the deal, the spokesperson explained that the US is opposed to any “investing in Iran, not only in its petroleum or natural gas area but in any sector of its economy” and questioned rhetorically the wisdom of doing business with Iranian “financial institutions that are under UN sanctions or could become under sanctions if it’s found that they are assisting or aiding or abetting Iran’s nuclear program in any way.” A clearer expression of US desires is hardly possible.

John McGlynn is an independent Tokyo-based economic and financial analyst. His three reports on the US use of financial sanctions against North Korea in the Banco Delta case are available at 1, 2, 3. Email: jmcgtokyo@yahoo.com

This article was written for Japan Focus and posted on March 22, 2008.

h/t: Cem Ertür

Permission is granted to forward electronically to others and to post Japan Focus texts on non-commercial community Internet sites and course sites, provided the texts are reproduced intact and the source indicated. To publish Japan Focus texts in electronic, printed and/or other forms, contact info@japanfocus.org

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Black Swans Everywhere by James Howard Kunstler

Dandelion Salad

by James Howard Kunstler
Atlantic Free Press
March 24, 2008

After a one-day reprieve from total meltdown in the financial markets, news media cheerleaders for the most reckless gang of bankers in world history declared the crisis over on Good Friday (with the markets safely closed). Whew, that’s a relief. Problem solved. And just in time for baseball season, too, so none of the Banker Boyz have to sell their sky box leases.

Commodities Drop, Rally in Dollar, Stocks Vindicate Bernanke

What is meant by “meltdown,” by the way, since the word is used so promiscuously by myself and others. I’d define it as the shock of recognition that many big institutions are worse than flat broke and are therefore powerless to conduct normal operations. By “worse than flat broke” I mean they are so deep in hock that all the accountants who ever lived, in the life of this universe and several others like it, using the fastest parallel processing computers ever built, could not keep up with their compounding accelerating losses (now approaching the speed of light).

The current vacation from reality on Wall Street may last a few more days, or even a couple weeks, but it seems as though a whole flock of black swan events is circling the sky over Financial-land and is about to blot out the sun. By black swan, I refer to the concept popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his recent book of that name, namely unexpected events of great power that tend to change the course of history.

For the moment, with the crisis “contained,” and the Boyz getting ready to air out their Hampton villas for the coming season, we are once again primed to be blindsided by potent random events that nobody saw coming. The trouble is, there are enough potent potential fiascos already visible on the horizon.

…continued

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Worried Yet? Saudis Prepare for “Sudden Nuclear Hazards” After Cheney Visit

Dandelion Salad

by Chris Floyd
Empire Burlesque
Sunday, 23 March 2008

I. One Tick Closer to Midnight

Last Friday, Dick Cheney was in Saudi Arabia for high-level meetings with the Saudi king and his ministers. On Saturday, it was revealed that the Saudi Shura Council — the elite group that implements the decisions of the autocratic inner circle — is preparing “national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts’ warnings of possible attacks on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors,” one of the kingdom’s leading newspapers, Okaz, reports. The German-based dpa news service relayed the paper’s story.

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Mosaic News – 3/21/08: World News from the Middle East

Dandelion Salad

Warning

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This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

linktv

More: http://linktv.org/originalseries
“Three Kurds Killed in Syria During New Year Celebrations,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Palestinians Live Like Prisoners in Hebron,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Settlers Celebrating Purim in Hebron,” IBA TV, Israel
“Alan Dershowitz Defends Israel’s Human Rights Record,” IBA TV, Israel
“Russia Calls for Peace Conference in Moscow,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Russia Wants Hamas to Attend Peace Conference,” Al-Alam TV, Iran
“Pakistan Elects First Woman Speaker,” Abu Dhabi TV, UAE
“MIR – Egypt: The War of Bread,” Link TV, USA
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

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America’s Next 9/11 – A Little Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Craig Roberts
03/24/08 “ICH

The investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein has taken up the Litvinenko case. [The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko, New York Sun, March 19, 2008]

The media used the Litvinenko case as sensational propaganda against Russian President Putin and then tossed it aside. For those whose memories of the case have faded, Alexander Litvinenko was a former KGB officer living in England who died in 2006, apparently from the radioactive isotope Polonium-210.

The British government encouraged the tale that Russian President Putin had sent Andrei Lugovoi to poison Litvinenko’s tea at a meeting on November 1, 2006. The story appealed to people brought up on James Bond thrillers, but the story never made any sense. Polonium 2-10 is a rare and tightly controlled substance as likely to contaminate the assassin as the victim. There are far easier and more effective ways of killing someone.

Moreover, there is no evidence to connect Russia to Litvinenko’s death. But this didn’t stop the British government from grandstanding, sending an extradition request for Lugovoi in July 2007. The British government sent the request despite the facts that there is no extradition treaty between Britain and Russia and the Russian constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens. Epstein suggests that the purpose of the extradition request was to block the Russian government from investigating Litvinenko’s death in London. Litvinenko had a false passport provided by the British government. A real investigation might have opened up the shadowy world of security consultants in which Litvinenko rubbed shoulders with former British police and intelligence officials.

The Russians asked to see the evidence. The case file delivered by the British contained nothing of substance. Not even the autopsy report was provided to the Russians. Epstein managed to convince the Russians to let him see the file and to question them about the case. In brief, if the British have a case, they are withholding the evidence.

The charge that Putin was behind Litvinenko’s death seems to have originated with Boris Berezovsky, one of the Russian Jewish oligarchs who had grabbed the lion’s share of privatized Soviet assets during Yeltsin’s presidency. Epstein reports that Berezovsky’s protector in Russia was Litvinenko, the deputy head of the organized crime unit of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB. When Berezovsky fled Russia to escape fraud charges, Litvinenko followed. Epstein reports that Berezovsky has declared an agenda of “overthrowing the regime of his archenemy, Mr. Putin.” According to Epstein, “Alex Goldfarb, the executive director of Mr. Berezovsky’s foundation, prepared for Litvinenko’s end by writing out his ‘deathbed’ statement, which, according to Mr. Goldfarb, was drawn from statements Litvinenko had dictated to him.”

Epstein writes: “A few hours after Litvinenko died on November 23, 2006, Mr. Goldfarb arranged a press conference and released the sensational deathbed statement accusing Mr. Putin of the poisoning.” Web sites supported by Berezovsky spread the story that Litvinenko was murdered by the FSB.

The effort to link Putin and the FSB to Litvinenko’s death might be a tale designed to cover-up a more serious crime in the making. Polonium-210 is an indication that someone is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Epstein finds reasons to suspect that Litvinenko had, and perhaps Berezovsky has, connections to a Polonium smuggling scheme, and Litvinenko’s death resulted from accidental or careless exposure to Polonium-210.

Who would be trying to build a secret nuclear weapon or perhaps only a “dirty bomb” that would serve to spread some radiation and massive amounts of fear and hysteria? The public has been carefully prepared to suspect Iran. If such a device were exploded somewhere in the United States, Bush, Cheney, and the neocon Nazis would have their second new Pearl Harbor to justify their planned attack on Iran.

We know that the Bush regime wants to attack Iran. Despite the NIE report that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program several years ago and despite no signs of a weapons program having been uncovered by IAEA inspectors, Bush, Cheney, and the neocon Nazis continue to agitate for striking Iran “before it is too late.” Their politicized military commander in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus, keeps insisting that Iran is training Iraqi insurgents and supplying weapons that are killing US troops. Bush and Cheney themselves have made trips to Europe and the Middle East trying to marshall support for an attack on Iran. Anyone who is not deaf, blind and stupid knows that the Bush regime is doing everything it can to create circumstances that will permit a US attack on Iran.

We know for a fact that the Bush regime created false evidence, lied, and deceived in order to attack Iraq. All the reasons given for the US invasion have proven to be false. The real agenda has never been declared. Yet, five years later the traitors in high office who deceived Americans into a war in behalf of a hidden agenda have not been held accountable. As Agatha Christie said, getting away with one murder makes it easy to commit another.

There is so much that Americans do not know about secret schemes serving undeclared agendas. Those who have attempted to clue in fellow citizens are invariably frustrated, because Americans have been trained to dismiss the messenger who brings news of “false flag” events as a “conspiracy theorist.”

Best-selling author Steve Alten in his recently published book, The Shell Game, attempts to reach Americans with a thriller that mixes fiction with fact. Alten describes a conspiracy, beginning in 2007 and ending in 2012, by a Black Op group in a Republican administration to set off nuclear weapons in two American cities, with planted evidence pointing to Iran. It is a historical thriller predictive of our immediate future by an author who has no illusions about the US Government or the interest groups that control it.

Alten’s book is a first-class thriller set in the real world of today. It is a perfect read for Americans who need their dose of reality to be watered down with fiction and delivered as entertainment.

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Litvinenko case: interview with Edward Epstein (videos)

Litvinenko

Alexander Litvinenko/Ex-KBG Spy

Litvinenko case: interview with Edward Epstein (videos)

Dandelion Salad

RussiaToday

March 21, 2008

A U.S. journalist says Aleksandr Litvinenko may have accidentally poisoned himself while trying to smuggle polonium-210. Edward Epstein joined RT to comment on his article in the New York Sun.

Continue reading

So? … A Note from Michael Moore (+ video)

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Moore
Monday, March 24th, 2008

Friends,

It would have to happen on Easter Sunday, wouldn’t it, that the 4,000th American soldier would die in Iraq. Play me that crazy preacher again, will you, about how maybe God, in all his infinite wisdom, may not exactly be blessing America these days. Is anyone surprised? Continue reading

Did U.S. Mercenaries Bomb the FARC Encampment in Ecuador?

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, March 23, 2008
Antifascist Calling…

As diplomatic and military fallout from the March 1 Colombian raid into Ecuador escalate regional tensions, allegations from Ecuadorean sources link the unprovoked attack to the U.S. Manta airbase and charge the American mercenary firm DynCorp with piloting the planes that killed FARC commander Raúl Reyes and 24 others.

According to investigative journalist Kintto Lucas,

A high-level Ecuadorean military officer, who preferred to remain anonymous, told IPS that “a large proportion of senior officers” in Ecuador share “the conviction that the United States was an accomplice in the attack” launched Mar. 1 by the Colombian military on a FARC…camp in Ecuador, near the Colombian border.

“Since Plan Colombia was launched in 2000, a strategic alliance between the United States and Colombia has taken shape, first to combat the insurgents and later to involve neighbouring countries in that war,” said the officer. “What is happening today is a consequence of that.” (“Ecuador: Manta Air Base Tied to Colombian Raid on FARC Camp,” Inter Press Service, March 21, 2008)

 

Ecuadorean Defense Minister Wellington Sandoval said an investigation into whether the Manta airbase was used in the attack should be carried out by Ecuador’s armed forces. According to the leasing agreement, the Manta base can only be used for counternarcotics operations.

While U.S. Ambassador Linda Jewell assured Ecuadorean Foreign Minister María Isabel Salvador that the planes at Manta “were not involved in any way,” the military source told the IPS reporter that “the technology used, first to locate the target, in other words the camp, and later to attack it, was from the United States.”

Sandoval had earlier said that “equipment that the Latin American armed forces do not have” was used in the Mar. 1 bombing, according to Lucas.

Commenting on the tactical modalities employed in the raid, Sandoval said,

“They dropped around five ‘smart bombs’,” the kind used by the United States in the First Gulf War (1991), “with impressive precision and a margin of error of just one metre, at night, from planes travelling at high speeds,” said the minister.

The military source said that “an attack with smart bombs requires pilots who have experience in such operations, which means U.S. pilots. That’s why I think they did the job and later told the Colombians ‘now go in and find the bodies’, which is when Colombian helicopters and troops showed up” at the site of the raid.

The U.S. role in the raid could have been even greater. The officer claimed that the bombing raid was actually led by “U.S. pilots, possibly from DynCorp.” While demonstrable evidence for these explosive charges has yet to surface, the statements by the Ecuadorean officer seem plausible, particularly when one considers the role played by American military- and mercenary personnel in coordinating Plan Colombia.

Claiming that the aircraft “took off from the Tres Esquinas air base in the southern Colombian department of Caquetá,” the officer went on to describe how “the planes used to fumigate coca crops or to attack the guerrillas are piloted by serving members of the U.S. military or (former) military men at the service of companies like DynCorp.”

More than $5.5 billion dollars has been poured into the region by the United States since 2000, allegedly for “counternarcotics operations.” A key strategic goal of America’s “war on drugs” is to take the “battle” to the source–coca growing, processing and exporting Andean nations, and DynCorp has been a major beneficiary of U.S. largess in the area.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa warned on Saturday that diplomatic tension with Colombia will rise “if an Ecuadorean was among the dead,” in the March 1 raid Reuters has reported. “It would be extremely grave if it is proven that a Ecuadorean died. We will not let this murder go unpunished.”

Citing Uribe’s “dodgy dossier,” the Associated Press claims “that the FARC gave money to Correa’s 2006 presidential campaign.” Without skipping a beat, or apparently examining the files, denounced as forgeries by investigative journalist Greg Palast who actually did, the AP reporter avers, again citing Uribe that “Correa’s ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, planned to give the rebels US$300 million.”

As a key “private partner” of Plan Colombia, DynCorp’s aerial spraying of herbicides over portions of the Colombian countryside has caused wide-spread ecological damage with no discernible diminution of the flow of narcotics into Europe and the United States.

Indeed, according to a February 2008 report published by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), “intensive aerial herbicide spraying of coca crops in Colombia has backfired badly, contributing to the spread of coca cultivation and cocaine production to new areas of the country and threatening human health and the environment.” The WOLA report, citing UN figures, goes on to describe how cocaine production in Colombia has risen from 617 metric tons in 2001 to 640 metric tons in 2005, a wretched failure considering the inestimable cost in human lives and habitat destruction.

Since 2002, congressional authorization for the program has permitted “counternarcotics” funds to be siphoned-off into scorched-earth counterinsurgency operations by the Colombian Army and their paramilitary allies. Some 300 U.S. Special Forces “advisors” serve as “mentors” to elite Army units in what has become another front in the U.S.-led “war on terror.”

Analyst Doug Stokes describes how Plan Colombia has morphed into an all-out war against Colombia’s left-wing opposition:

In the case of Colombia, civil society organizations, especially those that seek to challenge prevailing socio-economic conditions, are construed by the U.S. government as potentially subversive to the social and political order, and in the context of counter-insurgency, legitimate targets for “paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist” attack. [T]he 1991 post-Cold War U.S. reorganization of Colombian military and paramilitary networks and the massive levels of post-Cold War U.S. funding of the Colombian military serves to underline the continued relevance of counterinsurgency for destroying movements that may threaten a stability geared towards U.S. interests. (“The U.S. War of Terror in Colombia, Colombia Journal, December 2, 2002)

The controversial mercenary outfit, like its better-known cousin, Blackwater, has a dodgy history and has been fingered by investigators in human rights and other abuses in countries where it operates.

According to a CorpWatch profile,

DynCorp began in 1946 as a project of a small group of returning World War II pilots seeking to use their military contacts to make a living in the air cargo business. Named California Eastern Airways the original company was soon airlifting supplies to Asia used in the Korean War. By 2002 Dyncorp, headquartered in Reston, Virginia, was the nation’s 13th largest military contractor with $2.3 billion in revenue until it merged with Computer Sciences Corporation, an El Segundo, California-based technology services company, in an acquisition worth nearly $1 billion.

The company is not short on controversy. Under the Plan Colombia contract, the company has 88 aircraft and 307 employees–139 of them American–flying missions to eradicate coca fields in Colombia. Soldier of Fortune magazine once ran a cover story on DynCorp, proclaiming it “Colombia’s Coke-Bustin’ Broncos.” (“CSC/DynCorp,” Company Profiles, CorpWatch, no date)

 

While attempting to fly below the public radar, DynCorp’s questionable Plan Colombia operations surfaced when a group of Ecuadorean peasants filed a class action lawsuit against the outfit in 2001. The suit alleges that herbicides spread by DynCorp aircraft in Colombia drifted across the border, killing their crops and causing widespread livestock and human illnesses; in several cases, aerial fumigation led to the death of several children.

Washington responded by attempting to have the suit squashed. According to CorpWatch, “Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers intervened in the case right away telling the judge the lawsuit posed ‘a grave risk to US national security and foreign policy objectives.'”

In a 2001 article profiling DynCorp’s Latin American operations, investigative reporter Jeremy Bigwood wrote,

DynCorp’s day to day operations are overseen by a secretive clique of officials in the State Department’s Narcotic Affairs Section (NAS) and the State Department’s Air Wing, a group that includes unreformed cold warriors and leftovers from the Central American wars of the 1980’s. Working hand-in-hand with U.S. military officials, Narcotic Affairs is supposed to be part of the drug war only, running the fumigation operations against drug crops. But there are indications that it is also involved in the counter-insurgency. In areas that are targeted for fumigation by Narcotic Affairs, Colombian right-wing paramilitaries arrive, sometimes by military helicopter, according to a human rights worker living in the Putumayo who asked for anonymity. Members of these paramilitaries “clear the ground” so that the planes spraying herbicides, often piloted by Americans, are not shot at by angry farmers or insurgents. (“DynCorp in Colombia: Outsourcing the Drug War,” CorpWatch, May 23, 2001)

Whether or not DynCorp pilots bombed Ecuador on behalf of America’s ally, the paramilitary-linked regime of Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, it is clear the United States will not willingly relinquish the Manta airbase when its lease expires in November 2009.

In 2001, a retired Ecuadorean army colonel, Fausto Cobo, told IPS that “Manta, for the purposes of Plan Colombia is a U.S. aircraft carrier, on land.”

As one of four “forward operating locations (FOLs), along with Curaçao, Aruba and El Salvador, Manta is a critical strategic base for U.S. “counternarcotics” and “counterinsurgency” operations in Latin America–and as a possible launching pad for an attack on Venezuela.

While the furor surrounding Colombia’s allegations against Ecuador and Venezuela may have fallen off the media’s radar, congressional efforts to have Venezuela declared “a state sponsor of terrorism,” have not.

In Latin America, the “public-private partnership” in repression with well-paid mercenary outfits like DynCorp taking the lead, it is a near certainty that incidents like the March 1 raid will continue as Washington seeks to shore-up the periphery of its shrinking imperialist empire.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

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 Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8423

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$300 Million From Chavez To FARC A Fake By Greg Palast

Impeachment: If Nancy Won’t, Your State Can (video)

Dandelion Salad

briggsmedia

Constitutional Law Attorney John Kaminski argues the case for impeachment and how the constitution allows for any state to initiate it.

Continue reading

A Conscientious Objection By Chris Hedges

Dandelion Salad

By Chris Hedges
truthdig.com
Mar 23, 2008

Those of us who oppose the war, who believe that all U.S. troops should be withdrawn and the network of permanent bases in Iraq dismantled, have only two options in the coming presidential elections—Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. A vote for any of the Republican and Democratic candidates is a vote to perpetuate the occupation of Iraq and a lengthy and futile war of attrition with the Iraqi insurgency. You can sign on for the suicidal hundred-year war with John McCain or for the nebulous open-ended war-lite with Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, or back those who reject the war. If you vote Democrat or Republican in the coming election be honest with yourself—you have voted to allow the U.S. government to continue, in some form, the campaign that needlessly kills ever more Americans and Iraqis in a conflict that has become the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history and a crime under international law.

Continue reading

God Damn America, Especially Pennsylvania By Greg Palast

Dandelion Salad

By Greg Palast
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Forest City, PA

The kids were snoozing so I drove along the back roads skirting the Lackawanna River on a dawn hunt for black coffee and a newspaper.

I think even Norman Rockwell would have found this place too sticky sweet, too postcard: the weathered barns, the fallow fields perfectly snow-frosted; red, white and blue flags already up on the clapboard farmhouses and the white-washed church in the valley already full for Easter prayers.

At a gas station, I scored the paper and coffee, spilled some on the front page – the closest thing I’ve got to a religious ritual – then parked in front of a row of insanely pretty salt-box houses shining like mad teeth on the river bank.

One was missing a pick-up in the driveway; its screen door was left half-open, and there was a letter taped to the window. The Sheriff’s Notice of eviction. Another foreclosure.

God damn America.

I know that’s what Obama’s spiritual guide would say.

But why? It seems likes He’s already done a pretty good job of damning these United States.

And He seems to have really taken it out on this corner of Pennsylvania.

The gargantuan Bethlehem steel works have dwindled to a few robot-operated mills controlled from Mumbai, India. The only remainders of nearby Carbondale’s mining industry are in display cases at the aging Coal Inn. But you could still get out by selling your home to ski tourists from New York – until this year when mortgage markets turned cancerous. That leaves Forest City’s one industry, lumbering – which we can kiss goodbye since a recent ruling by the NAFTA board which allows the import of cheap Canadian wood.

Some local kid has made the paper having been thrown, helmet first, into the volcano called Iraq. The Scranton Times-Tribune, two pages after the photo of a priest blessing a bowl of who knows what, noted that three soldiers killed in yesterday’s bombing are, “pushing the death toll in the five-year conflict to nearly 4,000” – which is true if you don’t count Iraqi dead. But Someone must be counting them. (From way up in heaven, I wonder if we look like a nation of Christians – or an empire of Romans.)

Phil Ochs, before he killed himself, wrote,

“This is a land full of power and glory,
Beauty that words cannot recall.
But her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom.
Her glory shall rest on us all.”

Whatever. It’s a difficult place to be an atheist, in this America, surfeited as it is on every vista with signs of His overwhelming grace and His exasperated wrath. It’s as if the Lord Himself is just as confused and frustrated and disappointed as the rest of us by blessings so abused.

There’s one consolation. He has apparently granted Pennsylvanians the privilege, come April 22, of choosing which Democrat will lose in November.

Which may not mean much to Sandy Ryder on whom the spirit of Easter has landed like a ton of bricks. Sandy, says the flyer tacked up at the Bingham diner, was, “Recently diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.” She’s a, “Single mother of two – Tony and Brandon – and Grandmother of one – Jason.”

And there they were in a photocopied portrait, the earnest elder son and little Jason to her right, the young slacker (Tony? Brandon?) slouched to her left. The town’s hawking a benefit for Sandy, $10 at the door, “including Food and Beverage” and a “Chinese auction.”

(I’ll bet Al Qaeda could pick up some recruits here – if Osama would offer health insurance.)

Whatever. This is, after all, Holy Week, which marks the anniversary of the grounding of the Exxon Valdez, the day the giant oil corporation soaked 1,200 miles of Alaska’s coast with crude sludge. March 24 marks 19 years since the grounding and 19 years since Exxon’s promise to compensate the ruined fishermen. You should watch the 19-year-old video-tape of Exxon’s man in Alaska. I especially like the part where he tells the fishermen,You have had some good luck – and you don’t realize it.

I know some of the fishermen on the TV footage, like the Anderson family, Eyak Natives. I can tell you, the Eyak don’t feel so lucky, still waiting for the Supreme Court to act on Exxon’s latest stall on payment. They’ve seen plenty of Sheriff’s Notices these past 19 years.

So Happy Easter.

George Bush tells us he’s, “feeling just fine.” And we should be glad for him, I suppose.

Bush ends his most belligerent speeches by saying, “God bless America.”

So, why hasn’t He?

Maybe you can tell us, Mr. President: Why hasn’t He?

***

Greg Palast is the author of the NY Times best-selling books Armed Madhouse and Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Read his reports at www.GregPalast.com and sign up for the audio podcasts RSS here.

Join Palast’s Network on MySpace, on FaceBook or on YouTube.

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Was Rev. Wright wrong? (video)

God Damn America – The Fear of a Mortal Empire by Manila Ryce (video)

Obama’s Minister Committed “Treason” But When My Father Said the Same Thing He Was a Republican Hero

Barack Obama’s pastor Wright’s Sermon (video)