UN: Dangerous wheat-killing fungus detected in Iran

Dandelion Salad

Global Research, March 30, 2008
UN

5 March 2008 – A dangerous new fungus with the ability to destroy entire wheat fields has been detected in Iran, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today.

The wheat stem rust, whose spores are carried by wind across continents, was previously found in East Africa and Yemen and has moved to Iran, which said that laboratory tests have confirmed its presence in some localities in Broujerd and Hamedan in the country’s west.

Up to 80 per cent of all Asian and African wheat varieties are susceptible to the fungus, and major wheat-producing nations to Iran’s east – such as Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – should be on high alert, FAO warned.

“The fungus is spreading rapidly and could seriously lower wheat production in countries at direct risk,” said Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division.

He urged the control of the rust’s spread to lower the risk to countries already impacted by high food prices.

Iran has said that it will bolster its research capacity to tackle the new fungus and develop wheat varieties that are rust-resistant.

Called Ug99, the disease first surfaced in Uganda and subsequently spread to Kenya and Ethiopia, with both countries experiencing serious crop yield losses due to a serious rust epidemic last year. Also in 2007, FAO confirmed that a more virulent strain was found in Yemen.

The agency appealed to countries to bolster disease surveillance and step up efforts to control it.

The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) – founded by Norman Borlaug, Cornell University, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the Internatioanl Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and FAO – will continue its work in assisting countries develop drug-resistant wheat varieties, upgrading their plant protection measures and creating contingency plans.

For analysis see F. William Endahl’s feature article.

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© Copyright UN, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8484

see

Will Wheat-Killer Fungus be used to spread GMO wheat? by F. William Engdahl

GMO

Sadr orders fighters to stand down

Dandelion Salad

Al Jazeera English
SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2008
17:03 MECCA TIME, 14:03 GMT

Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shia leader, has ordered his fighters to withdraw from the streets of several provinces, six days after Iraqi forces mounted a crackdown against Shia armed groups.

“We want the Iraqi people to stop this bloodshed and maintain Iraq’s independence and stability,” al-Sadr said in a statement released on Sunday.

“For that we have decided to withdraw [al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army] from the streets of Basra and all other provinces.”

At least 270 people have reportedly died since an Iraqi military crackdown in Basra sparked fighting across the country.

…continued

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.

Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products (video; interview)

Dandelion Salad

talkingsticktv

Interview with investigative journalist Mark Schapiro author of “Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power”.

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Weaponizing the Pentagon’s Cyborg Insects By Nick Turse

Dandelion Salad

By Tom Engelhardt
March 30, 2008 4:40 pm

Tomgram: Nick Turse, The Pentagon’s Battle Bugs

We at Tomdispatch love anniversaries. So how could we have forgotten DARPA’s for so many months? This very year, the Pentagon’s research outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), turns 50 old. Happy birthday, DARPA! You were born as a response to the Soviet Union’s launching of the first earth-girdling satellite, Sputnik, which gave Americans a mighty shock. To prevent another “technological surprise” by the Soviets — or anybody else, anytime, ever — the agency has grown into the Pentagon’s good right arm, always there to reach into the future and grab another wild idea for weaponization. Each year, DARPA now spends about $3 billion on a two-fold mission: “to prevent technological surprise for us and to create technological surprise for our adversaries.”

Next month, the agency will celebrate its anniversary with a conference that aims to “reflect on [its] challenges and accomplishments… over the past 50 years and to consider the Agency’s goals for the next 50 years.” What a super idea! Think of that. The next 50! If only Tomdispatch is still around — my brain well preserved and renewed (thanks to some nifty cutting-edge science from the TD Advanced Research Projects Lab) — to see War 2058 arrive and blow out those 100-year anniversary candles on the planet.

In the meantime, the future is now and Pentagon expert Nick Turse is at work — see below — on the latest developments in DARPA’s plans to help an overstretched military by reaching into the insect kingdom for its newest well weaponized recruits. The first larval Marines, perhaps. Ten-HUT! Unlike Americans at present, they should simply swarm to the recruiting offices.

It’s a strange (not to say hair-raising) subject for a journalist who has lately been covering the air war in Iraq and elsewhere for Tomdispatch. But the Pentagon’s urge to weaponize the wild kingdom is a topic Turse has long been familiar with and that he deals with powerfully in his remarkable new book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives. It is — believe me — the single most powerful look yet at all the subtle and complicated ways American lives have been militarized during the last decades. (For a short video discussion I had with Turse, click here.)

Oh, and here’s a suggestion for DARPA from a New Yorker. When you’re recruiting those bugs, don’t forget the roaches in my kitchen. They’ve been idle too long. Tom

***

Weaponizing the Pentagon’s Cyborg Insects

A Futuristic Nightmare That Just Might Come True

By Nick Turse

Biological weapons delivered by cyborg insects. It sounds like a nightmare scenario straight out of the wilder realms of science fiction, but it could be a reality, if a current Pentagon project comes to fruition.

Right now, researchers are already growing insects with electronics inside them. They’re creating cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be remotely controlled. One day, the U.S. military may field squadrons of winged insect/machine hybrids with on-board audio, video or chemical sensors. These cyborg insects could conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, or maybe even in cities closer to home, and transmit detailed data back to their handlers at U.S. military bases.

Today, many people fear U.S. government surveillance of email and cell phone communications. With this program, the Pentagon aims to exponentially increase the paranoia. Imagine a world in which any insect fluttering past your window may be a remote-controlled spy, packed with surveillance equipment. Even more frightening is the prospect that such creatures could be weaponized, and the possibility, according to one scientist intimately familiar with the project, that these cyborg insects might be armed with “bio weapons.”

For the past 50 years, work by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — the Pentagon’s blue skies research outfit — has led to some of the most lethal weaponry in the U.S. arsenal: from Hellfire-missile-equipped Predator drones and stealth fighters and bombers to Tomahawk cruise missiles and Javelin portable “fire and forget” guided missiles. For the last several years, DARPA has funneled significant sums of money into a very different kind of guided missile project, its Hybrid Insect MEMS (HI-MEMS) program. This project is, according to DARPA, “aimed at developing tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems [MEMS] inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis.” Put simply, the creation of cyborg insects: part bug, part bot.

Bugs, Bots, Borgs and Bio-Weapons

This past August, at DARPA’s annual symposium — DARPATech — HI-MEMS program manager Amit Lal, an associate professor on leave from Cornell University, explained that his project aims to transform “insects into unmanned air-vehicles.” He described the research this way: “[T]he HI-MEMS program seeks to grow MEMS and electronics inside the insect pupae. The new tissue forms around the insertions, making the bio-electronic interface long-lasting and reliable.” In other words, micro-electronics are inserted at the pupal stage of metamorphosis so that they can be integrated into the insects’ bodies as they develop, creating living robots that can be remotely controlled after the insect emerges from its cocoon.

According to the latest reports, work on this project is progressing at a rapid pace. In a recent phone interview, DARPA spokesperson Jan Walker said, “We’re focused on determining what the best kinds of MEMS systems are; what the best MEMS system would be for embedding; what the best time is for embedding.”

This month, Rob Coppinger, writing for the aerospace trade publication Flight International, reported on new advances announced at the “1st US-Asian Assessment and Demonstration of Micro-Aerial and Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology” — a Pentagon-sponsored conference. “In the latest work,” he noted, “a Manduca moth had its thorax truncated to reduce its mass and had a MEMS component added where abdominal segments would have been, during the larval stage.” But, as he pointed out, Robert Michelson, a principal research engineer, emeritus at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, laid out “on behalf of DARPA” some of the obstacles that remain. Among them were short insect life-spans and the current inability to create these cyborgs outside specialized labs.

DARPA’s professed long-term goal for the HI-MEMS program is the creation of “insect cyborgs” capable of carrying “one or more sensors, such as a microphone or a gas sensor, to relay back information gathered from the target destination” — in other words, the creation of military micro-surveillance systems.

In a recent email interview, Michelson — who has previously worked on numerous military projects, including DARPA’s “effort to develop an ‘Entomopter’ (mechanical insect-like multimode aerial robot)” — described the types of sensor packages envisioned, but only in a minimalist fashion, as a “[w]ide array of active and passive devices.” However in “Insect Cyborgs: A New Frontier in Flight Control Systems,” a 2007 article in the academic journal Proceedings of SPIE, Cornell researchers noted that cyborg insects could be used as “autonomous surveillance and reconnaissance vehicles” with on-board “[s]ensory systems such as video and chemical.”

Surveillance applications, however, may only be the beginning. Last year, Jonathan Richards, reporting for The Times, raised the specter of the weaponization of cyborg insects in the not-too-distant future. As he pointed out, Rodney Brooks, the director of the computer science and artificial intelligence lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, indicated that the Pentagon is striving toward a major expansion in the use of non-traditional air power — like unmanned aerial vehicles and cyborg insects — in the years ahead. “There’s no doubt their things will become weaponized,” he explained, “so the question [is]: should they [be] given targeting authority?” Brooks went on to assert, according to The Times, that it might be time to consider rewriting international law to take the future weaponization of such “devices” into account.

But how would one weaponize a cyborg insect? On this subject, Robert Michelson was blunt: “Bio weapons.”

Cyborg Ethics

Michelson wouldn’t elaborate further, but any program using bio-weapons would immediately raise major legal and ethical questions. The 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention outlawed the manufacture and possession of bio-weapons, of “[m]icrobial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin… that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes” and of “[w]eapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.” In fact, not only did President George W. Bush claim that Iraq’s supposed production and possession of biological weapons was a justification for an invasion of that nation, but he had previously stated, “All civilized nations reject as intolerable the use of disease and biological weapons as instruments of war and terror.”

Reached for comment, however, DARPA’s Jan Walker insisted that her agency’s focus was only on “fundamental research” when it came to cyborg insects. Although the focus of her agency is, in fact, distinctly on the future — the technology of tomorrow — she refused to look down the road when it came to weaponizing insect cyborgs or arming them with bio-weapons. “I can’t speculate on the future,” was all she would say.

Michelson is perfectly willing to look into future, especially on matters of cyborg insect surveillance, but on the horizon for him are technical issues when it comes to the military use of bug bots. “Surveillance goes on anyway by other means,” he explained, “so a new method is not the issue. If there are ethical or legal issues, they are ones of ‘surveillance,’ not of the ‘surveillance platform.'”

Peter Eckersley, a staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights and civil liberties group, sees that same future in a different light. Cyborg insects, he says, are an order of magnitude away from today’s more standard surveillance technologies like closed circuit television. “CCTV is mostly deployed in public and in privately owned public spaces. An insect could easily fly into your garden or sit outside your bedroom window,” he explained. “To make matters worse, you’d have no idea these devices were there. A CCTV camera is usually an easily recognizable device. Robotic surveillance insects might be harder to spot. And having to spot them wouldn’t necessarily be good for our mental health.”

Does Michelson see any ethical or legal dilemmas resulting from the future use of weaponized cyborg insects? “No, not unless they could breed new cyborg insects, which is not possible,” he explained. “Genetic engineering will be the ethical and legal battleground, not cybernetics.”

Battle Beetles and Hawkish Hawkmoths

Weaponized or not, moths are hardly the only cyborg insects that may fly, creep, or crawl into the military’s future arsenal. Scientists from Arizona State University and elsewhere, working under a grant from the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, “are rearing beetle species at various oxygen levels to attempt to produce beetles with greater-than-normal size and payload capacity.” Earlier this year, some of the same scientists published an article on their DARPA-funded research titled “A Cyborg Beetle: Insect Flight Control Through an Implantable, Tetherless Microsystem.” They explained that, by implanting “multiple inserted neural and muscular stimulators, a visual stimulator, a polyimide assembly and a microcontroller” in a 2 centimeter long, 1-2 gram green June beetle, they were “capable of modulating [the insect’s] flight starts, stops, throttle/lift, and turning.” They could, that is, drive an actual beetle. However, unlike the June bug you might find on a porch screen or in a garden, these sported on-board electronics powered by cochlear implant batteries.

DARPA-funded HI-MEMS research has also been undertaken at other institutions across the country and around the world. For example, in 2006, researchers at Cornell, in conjunction with scientists at Pennsylvania State University and the Universidad de Valparaiso, Chile, received an $8.4 million DARPA grant for work on “Insect Cyborg Sentinels.” According to a recent article in New Scientist, a team led by one of the primary investigators on that grant, David Stern, screened a series of video clips at a recent conference in Tucson, Arizona demonstrating their ability to control tethered tobacco hawkmoths through “flexible plastic probes” implanted during the pupal stage. Simply stated, the researchers were able to remotely control the moths-on-a-leash, manipulating the cyborg creatures’ wing speed and direction.

Robo-Bugs

Cyborg insects are only the latest additions to the U.S. military’s menagerie. As defense tech-expert Noah Shachtman of Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog has reported, DARPA projects have equipped rats with electronic equipment and remotely controlled sharks, while the military has utilized all sorts of animals, from bomb-detecting honeybees and “chickens used as early-warning sensors for chemical attacks” to guard dogs and dolphins trained to hunt mines. Additionally, he notes, the DoD’s emphasis on the natural world has led to robots that resemble dogs, monkeys that control robotic limbs with their minds, and numerous other projects inspired by nature.

But whatever other creatures they favor, insects never seem far from the Pentagon’s dreams of the future. In fact, Shachtman reported earlier this year that “Air Force scientists are looking for robotic bombs that look — and act — like swarms of bugs and birds.” He went on to quote Colonel Kirk Kloeppel, head of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s munitions directorate, who announced the Lab’s interest in “bio-inspired munitions,” in “small, autonomous” machines that would “provide close-in [surveillance] information, in addition to killing intended targets.”

This month, researcher Robert Wood wrote in IEEE Spectrum about what he believes was “the first flight of an insect-size robot.” After almost a decade of research, Wood and his colleagues at the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory are now creating small insect-like robots that will eventually be outfitted “with onboard sensors, flight controls, and batteries… to nimbly flit around obstacles and into places beyond human reach.” Like cyborg insect researchers, Wood is DARPA-funded. Last year, in fact, the agency selected him as one of 24 “rising stars” for a “young faculty awards” grant.

Asked about the relative advantages of cyborg insects compared to mechanical bugs, Robert Michelson noted that “robotic insects obey without innate or external influences” and “they can be mass produced rapidly.” He cautioned, however, that they are extremely limited power-wise. Insect cyborgs, on the other hand, “can harvest energy and continue missions of longer duration.” However, they “may be diverted from their task by stronger influences”; must be grown to maturity and so may not be available when needed; and, of course, are mortal and run the risk of dying before they can be employed as needed.

The Future is Now

There is plenty of technical information about the HI-MEMS program available in the scientific literature. And if you make inquiries, DARPA will even direct you to some of the relevant citations. But while it’s relatively easy to learn about the optimal spots to insert a neural stimulator in a green June beetle (“behind the eye, in the flight control area of the insect brain”) or an electronic implant in a tobacco hawkmoth (“the main flight powering muscles… in the dorsal-thorax”), it’s much harder to discover the likely future implications of this sci-fi sounding research.

The “final demonstration goal” — the immediate aim — of DARPA’s HI-MEMS program “is the delivery of an insect within five meters of a specific target located a hundred meters away, using electronic remote control, and/or global positioning system (GPS).” Right now, DARPA doesn’t know when that might happen. “We basically operate phase to phase,” says Walker. “So, it kind of depends on how they do in the current phase and we’ll make decisions on future phases.”

DARPA refuses to examine anything but research-oriented issues. As a result, its Pentagon-funded scientists churn out inventions with potentially dangerous, if not deadly, implications without ever fully considering — let alone seeking public or expert comment on — the future ramifications of new technologies under production.

“The people who build this equipment are always going to say that they’re just building tools, that there are legitimate uses for them, and that it isn’t their fault if the tools are abused,” says the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Eckersley. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen that governments are more than willing to play fast-and-loose with the legal bounds on surveillance. Unless and until that changes, we’d urge researchers to find other projects to work on.”

Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of Tomdispatch.com. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Adbusters, the Nation, the Village Voice, and regularly for Tomdispatch. His first book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, has just been published in Metropolitan Books’ American Empire Project series. His website is NickTurse.com

Copyright 2008 Nick Turse
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.

see

Military Builds Robotic Insects by David Hambling (Israel; MAVs)

Robot Army in the Holy Land (bionic insects)

Will Israel’s Bionic Hornet Fulfill Prophecy? By Thomas Horn

Pentagon plans cyber-insect army By Gary Kitchener

DARPA

The Opium Brides of Afghanistan

Dandelion Salad

By Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau
NEWSWEEK
Apr 7, 2008 Issue

In the country’s poppy-growing provinces, farmers are being forced to sell their daughters to pay loans.

Khalida’s father says she’s 9—or maybe 10. As much as Sayed Shah loves his 10 children, the functionally illiterate Afghan farmer can’t keep track of all their birth dates. Khalida huddles at his side, trying to hide beneath her chador and headscarf. They both know the family can’t keep her much longer. Khalida’s father has spent much of his life raising opium, as men like him have been doing for decades in the stony hillsides of eastern Afghanistan and on the dusty southern plains. It’s the only reliable cash crop most of those farmers ever had. Even so, Shah and his family barely got by: traffickers may prosper, but poor farmers like him only subsist. Now he’s losing far more than money. “I never imagined I’d have to pay for growing opium by giving up my daughter,” says Shah.

The family’s heartbreak began when Shah borrowed $2,000 from a local trafficker, promising to repay the loan with 24 kilos of opium at harvest time. Late last spring, just before harvest, a government crop-eradication team appeared at the family’s little plot of land in Laghman province and destroyed Shah’s entire two and a half acres of poppies. Unable to meet his debt, Shah fled with his family to Jalalabad, the capital of neighboring Nangarhar province. The trafficker found them anyway and demanded his opium. So Shah took his case before a tribal council in Laghman and begged for leniency. Instead, the elders unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving Khalida to him in marriage. Now the family can only wait for the 45-year-old drugrunner to come back for his prize. Khalida wanted to be a teacher someday, but that has become impossible. “It’s my fate,” the child says.

…continued

h/t: ICH
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.

Halliburton caught poisoning the troops in Iraq (video)

Dandelion Salad

reece2076

This video describes how Halliburton is poisoning the troops in Iraq through their water supply.If you are a war vet there is information at the end of the video as to where you can get tested.

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

.

h/t: ICH

see

Fever Named After Blackwater by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail

Martial Law, Inc. – KBR: A Halliburton Subsidiary by Andrew G. Marshall

6 year old Iraqi girls forced into prostitution (video)

Dandelion Salad

reece2076

As a result of the Iraqi invasion many Iraqi girls have fled the violence to Syria. In order to support their families many girls resort to prostitution.

If this video doesn’t make you oppose the War then you have no heart.

Continue reading

Countdown: 5th Year Special: Staying The Course + Lewis Black + Sad, Sadr, Saddest

Dandelion Salad

Ryokibin

March 30, 2008

Countdown: 5th Year Special – Staying The Course

Keith speaks with Richard Wolffe.

A Delegate Matter 

Keith speaks with Chuck Todd.

Presidential Study Guide

Keith speaks with Lewis Black.

The Commander In Chief Test

The questions you need to get right to qualify to be President of the United States.

Well it helps if you get at least one right… Maybe not…

Sad, Sadr, Saddest

Keith speaks with Rachel Maddow.

Bushed!

McSame-Gate

Your Tax Dollars In Action-Gate

Nexus Of Politics & Terror-Gate

World’s Worst

Worse: Wal-Mart

Worser: Rush Limbaugh

Worst: Dick Morris

see

Larry King Live: Lewis Black 3.24.08 (videos)

The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War by Zbigniew Brzezinski

Dandelion Salad

by Zbigniew Brzezinski
Global Research, March 30, 2008
Washington Post

Both Democratic presidential candidates agree that the United States should end its combat mission in Iraq within 12 to 16 months of their possible inauguration. The Republican candidate has spoken of continuing the war, even for a hundred years, until “victory.” The core issue of this campaign is thus a basic disagreement over the merits of the war and the benefits and costs of continuing it.

The case for U.S. disengagement from combat is compelling in its own right. But it must be matched by a comprehensive political and diplomatic effort to mitigate the destabilizing regional consequences of a war that the outgoing Bush administration started deliberately, justified demagogically and waged badly. (I write, of course, as a Democrat; while I prefer Sen. Barack Obama, I speak here for myself.)

The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for “staying the course” draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush‘s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of “falling dominoes” that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.

Nonetheless, if the American people had been asked more than five years ago whether Bush’s obsession with the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth 4,000 American lives, almost 30,000 wounded Americans and several trillion dollars — not to mention the less precisely measurable damage to the United States’ world-wide credibility, legitimacy and moral standing — the answer almost certainly would have been an unequivocal “no.”

Nor do the costs of this fiasco end there. The war has inflamed anti-American passions in the Middle East and South Asia while fragmenting Iraqi society and increasing the influence of Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s recent visit to Baghdad offers ample testimony that even the U.S.-installed government in Iraq is becoming susceptible to Iranian blandishments.

In brief, the war has become a national tragedy, an economic catastrophe, a regional disaster and a global boomerang for the United States. Ending it is thus in the highest national interest.

Terminating U.S. combat operations will take more than a military decision. It will require arrangements with Iraqi leaders for a continued, residual U.S. capacity to provide emergency assistance in the event of an external threat (e.g., from Iran); it will also mean finding ways to provide continued U.S. support for the Iraqi armed forces as they cope with the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The decision to militarily disengage will also have to be accompanied by political and regional initiatives designed to guard against potential risks. We should fully discuss our decisions with Iraqi leaders, including those not residing in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and we should hold talks on regional stability with all of Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran.

Contrary to Republican claims that our departure will mean calamity, a sensibly conducted disengagement will actually make Iraq more stable over the long term. The impasse in Shiite-Sunni relations is in large part the sour byproduct of the destructive U.S. occupation, which breeds Iraqi dependency even as it shatters Iraqi society. In this context, so highly reminiscent of the British colonial era, the longer we stay in Iraq, the less incentive various contending groups will have to compromise and the more reason simply to sit back. A serious dialogue with the Iraqi leaders about the forthcoming U.S. disengagement would shake them out of their stupor.

Ending the U.S. war effort entails some risks, of course, but they are inescapable at this late date. Parts of Iraq are already self-governing, including Kurdistan, part of the Shiite south and some tribal areas in the Sunni center. U.S. military disengagement will accelerate Iraqi competition to more effectively control their territory, which may produce a phase of intensified inter-Iraqi conflicts. But that hazard is the unavoidable consequence of the prolonged U.S. occupation. The longer it lasts, the more difficult it will be for a viable Iraqi state ever to reemerge.

It is also important to recognize that most of the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq has not been inspired by al-Qaeda. Locally based jihadist groups have gained strength only insofar as they have been able to identify themselves with the fight against a hated foreign occupier. As the occupation winds down and Iraqis take responsibility for internal security, al-Qaeda in Iraq will be left more isolated and less able to sustain itself. The end of the occupation will thus be a boon for the war on al-Qaeda, bringing to an end a misguided adventure that not only precipitated the appearance of al-Qaeda in Iraq but also diverted the United States from Afghanistan, where the original al-Qaeda threat grew and still persists.

Bringing the U.S. military effort to a close would also smooth the way for a broad U.S. initiative addressed to all of Iraq’s neighbors. Some will remain reluctant to engage in any discussion as long as Washington appears determined to maintain its occupation of Iraq indefinitely. Therefore, at some stage next year, after the decision to disengage has been announced, a regional conference should be convened to promote regional stability, border control and other security arrangements, as well as regional economic development — all of which would help mitigate the unavoidable risks connected with U.S. disengagement.

Since Iraq’s neighbors are vulnerable to intensified ethnic and religious conflicts spilling over from Iraq, all of them — albeit for different reasons — are likely to be interested. More distant Arab states such as Egypt, Morocco or Algeria might also take part, and some of them might be willing to provide peacekeeping forces to Iraq once it is free of foreign occupation. In addition, we should consider a regional rehabilitation program designed to help Iraq recover and to relieve the burdens that Jordan and Syria, in particular, have shouldered by hosting more than 2 million Iraqi refugees.

The overall goal of a comprehensive U.S. strategy to undo the errors of recent years should be cooling down the Middle East, instead of heating it up. The “unipolar moment” that the Bush administration’s zealots touted after the collapse of the Soviet Union has been squandered to generate a policy based on the unilateral use of force, military threats and occupation masquerading as democratization — all of which has pointlessly heated up tensions, fueled anti-colonial resentments and bred religious fanaticism. The long-range stability of the Middle East has been placed in increasing jeopardy.

Terminating the war in Iraq is the necessary first step to calming the Middle East, but other measures will be needed. It is in the U.S. interest to engage Iran in serious negotiations — on both regional security and the nuclear challenge it poses. But such negotiations are unlikely as long as Washington’s price of participation is unreciprocated concessions from Tehran. Threats to use force on Iran are also counterproductive because they tend to fuse Iranian nationalism with religious fanaticism.

Real progress in the badly stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process would also help soothe the region’s religious and nationalist passions. But for such progress to take place, the United States must vigorously help the two sides start making the mutual concessions without which a historic compromise cannot be achieved. Peace between Israel and Palestine would be a giant step toward greater regional stability, and it would finally let both Israelis and Palestinians benefit from the Middle East’s growing wealth.

We started this war rashly, but we must end our involvement responsibly. And end it we must. The alternative is a fear-driven policy paralysis that perpetuates the war — to America’s historic detriment.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. His most recent book is “Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower.”

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© Copyright Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington Post, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8487

Will Wheat-Killer Fungus be used to spread GMO wheat? by F. William Engdahl

Dandelion Salad

Digg It

by F. William Engdahl
Global Research, March 30, 2008

A deadly fungus, known as Ug99, which kills wheat, has likely spread to Pakistan from Africa according to reports in the British New Scientist magazine. If true, that threatens the vital Asian Bread Basket including the Punjab region. The spread of the deadly virus, stem rust, against which an effective fungicide does not exist, comes as world grain stocks reach the lowest in four decades and government subsidized bio-ethanol production, especially in the USA, Brazil and EU are taking land out of food production at alarming rates. The deadly fungus is being used by Monsanto and the US Government to spread patented GMO seeds.

Stem rust is the worst of three rusts that afflict wheat plants. The fungus grows primarily in the stems, plugging the vascular system so carbohydrates can’t get from the leaves to the grain, which shrivels. In the 1950s, the last major outbreak destroyed 40% of the spring wheat crop in North America. At that time governments started a major effort to breed resistant wheat plants, led by Norman Borlaug of the Rockefeller Foundation. That was the misnamed Green Revolution. The result today is far fewer varieties of wheat that might resist such a new fungus outbreak.

The first strains of Ug99 were detected in 1999 in Uganda. It spread to Kenya by 2001, to Ethiopia by 2003 and to Yemen when the cyclone Gonu spread its spores in 2007. Now the deadly fungus has been found in Iran and according to British scientists may already be as far as Pakistan.

Pakistan and India account for 20 percent of the annual world wheat production. It is possible as the fungus spreads that large movements could take place almost overnight if certain wind conditions prevail at the right time. In 2007 a three-day wind event recorded by Mexico’s CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), had strong wind currents moving from Yemen, where Ug99 is present, across Pakistan and India, going all the way to China. CIMMYT estimates that from two-thirds to three-quarters of the wheat now planted in India and Pakistan are highly susceptible to this new strain of stem rust. One billion people who live in this region and they are highly dependent on wheat for their food supply.

These are all areas where the agricultural infrastructure to contain such problems is either extremely weak or non-existent. It threatens to spread into other wheat producing regions of Asia and eventually the entire world if not checked.

FAO World Grain Forecast

The 2007 World Agriculture Forecast of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, projects an alarming trend in world food supply in the absence of any devastation from Ug99. The report states, “countries in the non-OECD region are expected to continue to experience a much stronger increase in consumption of agricultural products than countries in the OECD area. This trend is driven by population and, above all, income growth – underpinned by rural migration to higher income urban areas…OECD countries as a group are projected to lose production and export shares in many commodities…Growth in the use of agricultural commodities as feedstock to a rapidly increasing biofuel industry is one of the main drivers in the outlook and one of the reasons for international commodity prices to attain a significantly higher plateau over the outlook period than has been reported in the previous reports.” (my emphasis—w.e.).

The FAO warns that the explosive growth in acreage used to grow fuels and not food in the past three years is dramatically changing the outlook for food supply globally and forcing food prices sharply higher for all foods from cereals to sugar to meat and dairy products. The use of cereals, sugar, oilseeds and vegetable oils to satisfy the needs of a rapidly increasing bio-fuel industry, is one of the main drivers, most especially the large volumes of maize in the US, wheat and rapeseed in the EU and sugar in Brazil for ethanol and bio-diesel production. This is already causing dramatically higher crop prices, higher feed costs and sharply higher prices for livestock products.

Ironically, the current bio-ethanol industry is being driven by US government subsidies and a scientifically false argument in the EU and USA that bio-ethanol is less harmful to the environment than petroleum fuels and can reduce CO2 emissions. The arguments have been demonstrated in every respect to be false. The huge expansion of global acreage now planted to produce bio-fuels is creating ecological problems and demanding use of far heavier pesticide spraying while use of bio-fuels in autos releases even deadlier emissions than imagined. The political effect, however, has been a catastrophic shift in world grain stocks at the same time the EU and USA have enacted policies which drastically cut traditional emergency grain reserves. In short, it is a scenario pre-programmed for catastrophe, one which has been clear to policymakers in the EU and USA for several years. That can only suggest that such a dramatic crisis in global food supply is intentional.

Ug99 is a race of stem rust that blocks the vascular tissues in cereal grains including wheat, oats and barley. Unlike other rusts that may reduce crop yields, Ug99-infected plants may suffer up to 100 percent loss.

A plan to spread GMO?

One of the consequences of the spread of Ug99 is a campaign by Monsanto Corporation and other major producers of genetically manipulated plant seeds to promote wholesale introduction of GMO wheat varieties said to be resistant to the Ug99 fungus. Biologists at Monsanto and at the various GMO laboratories around the world are working to patent such strains.

Norman Borlaug, the former Rockefeller Foundation head of the Green Revolution is active in funding the research to develop a fungus resistant variety against Ug99 working with his former center in Mexico, the CIMMYT and ICARDA in Kenya, where the pathogen is now endemic. So far, about 90% of the 12,000 lines tested are susceptible to Ug99. That includes all the major wheat cultivars of the Middle East and west Asia. At least 80% of the 200 varieties sent from the United States can’t cope with infection. The situation is even more dire for Egypt, Iran, and other countries in immediate peril.

Even if a new resistant variety was ready to be released today it would take two or three years’ seed increase in order to have just enough wheat seed for 20 percent of the acres planted to wheat in the world.

Work is also being done by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the same agency which co-developed Monsanto’s Terminator seed technology. In my book, Seeds of Destruction I document the insidious role of Borlaug and the Rockefeller Foundation in promoting patents on food seeds to reduce global population. The spreading alarm over the Ug99 fungus is being used by Monsanto and other GMO agribusiness companies to demand that the current ban on GMO wheat be lifted to allow spread of GMO patented wheat seeds on the argument they are Ug99 stem rust resistant.

F. William Engdahl is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization and the author of Seeds of Destruction: the Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation published by Global Research and A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order (Pluto Press). He may be contacted at www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.

Click to order William Engdahl’s Seeds of Destruction

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

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© Copyright F. William Engdahl, Global Research, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8483

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The sieges of Basra & Sadr City: another US war crime in Iraq

Dandelion Salad

By Bill Van Auken
wsws.org
29 March 2008

US fighter planes and helicopter gunships struck the southern Iraqi city of Basra and the teaming slums of Baghdad’s Sadr City with bombs and missiles Friday as the offensive launched by Iraqi puppet troops against the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia loyal to Muqtada al Sadr, faltered badly.

These air attacks, carried out in densely populated cities, represent another war crime in the five-year-old campaign of aggression and colonial-style occupation carried out by Washington in pursuit of US strategic interests in the region.

Fighting raged for a fourth straight day Friday, with US helicopters firing HHellfire missiles into Sadr City, a vast and impoverished area of Baghdad that is home to some 2 million people. US military sources said the attack killed four “terrorists.” Film from the area, however, showed dead and wounded children and there were reports that attacks caused dozens of civilian casualties.

The night before, US and British fighter planes bombed neighborhoods in Basra, the port city in southern Iraq, with a population of 1.5 million.

The US military reported Friday morning that American troops had fought running battles with Iraqi militiamen across six neighborhoods of Baghdad the day before. The Pentagon claimed that US forces killed 42 people in the fighting in the Iraqi capital, labeling all of the dead as “terrorists.”

According to some Iraqi estimates, the dead in Basra alone now number over 400, with hundreds more wounded. Fighting is also raging across much of Iraq, with fierce battles reported in Kut, Hilla, Amara, Kirkuk, and Baquba. US sources put the death toll Friday at 170.

American occupation forces have clearly stepped up their role in the crackdown, as Iraqi puppet forces have failed to achieve their objectives. In Basra, some 30,000 Iraqi troops and police have apparently been unable to wrest control from the Mahdi Army over at least three quarters of the city.

While Maliki had initially given a 72-hour ultimatum for the Sadrists in Basra to lay down their arms, he extended it Friday until April 8. The date coincides with scheduled testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the US military commander in Iraq, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Congress on proposals for continued troop deployments in the occupied country. The eruption of fighting has already led to speculation that Petraeus and the administration may well call for a suspension of the withdrawals that were to have reduced US forces to 140,000—still above the “pre-surge” levels—by this summer.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, the Washington Post reported: “US forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting. “Four US Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army’s AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. US helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.”

Baghdad, like Basra before it, has been placed under a 24-hour curfew that began Thursday night and will run at least until Sunday morning. The effect is to turn the city’s streets into a free-fire zone for occupation troops and their Iraqi puppet allies.

Speaking at the White House Friday, President George W. Bush called the bloody clashes a “defining moment in the history of a free Iraq” that demonstrated the Iraqi regime’s commitment to “even-handed justice” and Maliki’s “leadership.”

The American president added: “There’s going to be violence. And that’s sad. But this situation needed to be dealt with, and it’s now being dealt with — just like we’re dealing with the situation up in Mosul.”

Referring to Maliki, Bush declared: “This was his decision. It was his military planning. It was his causing the troops to go from point A to point B. And it’s exactly what a lot of folks here in America were wondering whether or not Iraq would even be able to do in the first place.”

There is no reason to believe the official story coming out of the White House and the Pentagon that the sieges being laid to Basra and Sadr City are the result of some independent decision made by the Maliki regime. Whatever differences may exist over the timing or execution of this operation, it has clearly been carried out to fulfill definite US objectives.

The operation comes barely one week after Vice President Dick Cheney’s surprise visit to Baghdad for talks that centered on provincial elections scheduled for October, the future of Iraq’s oil industry and plans for the continued and long-term occupation of Iraq by US forces.

The bloodbath that is now being carried out is in all likelihood the practical outcome of these discussions.

While claiming that Maliki is upholding the rule of law against “gangs, militias and outlaws,” Washington has deliberately instigated what amounts to a civil war between rival political factions and militias within Iraq’s majority Shia population in order to advance its own predatory interests in the country.

The crackdown has not been launched against militias in general, but at Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Its aim is to severely weaken the Sadrists to the benefit of their political rivals, Maliki’s Dawa party and its principal government ally, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), led by Shia cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose own militia, the Badr Brigade, is well represented in the government’s security forces.

In an analysis prepared last November, the International Crisis Group described the conflict between the Shia factions as taking “the form of a class struggle between the Shiite merchant elite of Baghdad and the holy cities, represented by ISCI (as well, religiously, by [Grand Ayatollah] Sistani), and the Shiite urban underclass,” which is the principal base of support for the movement led by Sadr.

The determination to suppress the Sadrist movement is driven in part by the electoral calendar. Those now holding power in the Maliki government—who have little in the way of mass support—fear that the Sadrists could sweep provincial elections set for October.

It is worth recalling that the last major urban siege conducted in Iraq—the razing of the predominantly Sunni city of Fallujah in November of 2004 in which thousands of Iraqi civilians died—was also carried out in preparation for US-organized elections scheduled three months later.

The US interest in this conflict is clear. While the Sadrists have repeatedly demanded the withdrawal of US forces, Maliki’s Dawa Party and the ISCI have made clear that they are prepared to support an indefinite occupation.

While the ISCI supports the carving out of an autonomous Shia region in the south in order to lay hold of the region’s oil wealth—it includes 60 percent of the country’s known reserves—the Sadrists have rejected regionalism in favor of a centralized federal government. To realize their objectives, the ISCI must oust the Sadrists and other rivals from positions of control in Basra and elsewhere.

As the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, “The battle for Basra marks the latest clash over the region’s biggest source of wealth: its oil reserves, comprising 9.5% of the world’s total.”

The Journal reported that during his recent visit, Cheney “held one-on-one meetings with Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders in Iraq to speed passage of a law opening Iraq’s enormous petroleum reserves to more efficient production by global oil companies.”

While the passage of a national law opening Iraq’s oil wealth to foreign exploitation has been held up, the Journal noted, “Kurdish officials in Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern enclave have passed an oil law of their own and are signing deals with foreign firms without waiting for permission from Baghdad.”

Washington may well be seeking to forge similar relations in the south of Iraq, with even larger oil reserves, and would certainly be prepared to spill considerable amounts of blood to secure such a prize.

Those who point to the eruption of violence in Iraq as a manifestation of the “failure of the surge” are missing the point. The Bush administration has deliberately provoked this violence in pursuit of the objective that has driven the Iraq intervention from its outset: the cementing of semi-colonial US control over the country and its oil wealth.

US actions have compelled the Sadrist movement to renounce, at least in practice, the cease-fire that it initiated last August. This began not just with this week’s military offensive, but with a prolonged campaign by US occupation forces, the Maliki government and the Badr Brigade to use the cease-fire as a cover for arresting and killing thousands of Sadrists. It is this campaign that produced the so-called “rogue” elements that have fought back, providing a pretext for intensifying the repression.

These actions, however, have only underscored the failure of five years of American occupation to either install a reliable puppet regime or quell the resistance of the Iraqi people. The US military’s sealing off of Sadr City, the air and ground attacks against the Mahdi Army militia and the imposition of the round-the-clock curfew have all failed to halt the mortar and rocket attacks on the heavily fortified Green Zone, which was hit more than 20 times on Friday, with the US Embassy compound, the United Nations offices and the offices an Iraqi vice president all suffering direct hits.

The principal result of the US strategy is the unleashing of barbarism against millions of people living in two major cities—Baghdad and Basra.

Residents of Basra told the BBC Friday that the level of violence being inflicted on the city is the worst in memory, surpassing even that of the repression carried out by the Iraqi military against the 1991 Shia uprising that followed Iraq’s defeat in the first Persian Gulf War. It should be recalled that one of the pretexts incessantly repeated by the Bush administration for its 2003 invasion was that Saddam Hussein had “killed his own people.” But now, with ample backing from the US military, Washington’s Iraqi puppet Maliki is doing the same thing.

Aside from those killed and wounded, the entire population has been locked in their homes under conditions of rising early summer heat and dwindling water and food supplies. Both electricity and water supplies have been cut off to Basra.

“This is a catastrophe that could lead to a huge problem as we are entering summer and, of course, if it continues like this, it will lead to waterborne diseases including diarrhea,” Mahdi al-Tamimi, head of the Basra’s Human Rights Office told the United Nations news agency, IRIN. “All aspects of life have been paralyzed with the closure of schools, government offices and markets due to clashes that have forced people indoors with not enough food as there was no prior notice for this operation.”

“The humanitarian situation is getting worse by the minute — not the hour or the day — due to clashes taking place in the streets; as a result, the humanitarian effort has been severely hampered and paralyzed,” Salih Hmoud, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society’s office in Basra, told IRIN on Thursday.

Lack of clean water has led to outbreaks of diarrhea in Basra. “Some of these people with diarrhea have somehow managed to defy the curfew and reach nearby hospitals on foot but the majority is still in their houses,” said Hmoud. “This is very dangerous because they can die if they are not treated.”

Reporting on Baghdad, Patrick Cockburn of the British Independent noted that Sadr City’s two million residents have been encircled by the US military and ordered to stay indoors. He quoted a Sadr City resident named Mohammed, who said, “We are trapped in our homes with no water or electricity since yesterday. We can’t bathe our children or wash our clothes.” Temperatures in both Baghdad and Basra have risen into the upper 90s (30s Celsius).

Both Maliki (who has vowed to “fight until the end”) and US military sources have indicated that the sieges being waged against Basra and Sadr City have only just begun. The strategy of “clearing” the crowded slum neighborhoods will take many more days if not weeks of combat. It threatens a bloodbath that could easily eclipse the one that was inflicted upon Fallujah more than three years ago.

See Also:
Iraqi government offensive in Basra threatens to trigger Shiite uprising
[28 March 2008]
Iraqi regime launches assault on Basra
[26 March 2008]
Cheney’s “peace” trip to Middle East prepares new wars
[21 March 2008]
Five years after the invasion of Iraq: a debacle for US imperialism
[19 March 2008]

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