“Web of Debt”: The Inner Workings of the Monetary System by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, May 6, 2009

A review of Ellen Brown’s book

This is the first of several articles on Ellen Brown’s superb 2007 book titled “Web of Debt,” now updated in a December 2008 third edition. It tells “the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free.” Given today’s global economic crisis, it’s an appropriate time to review it and urge readers to digest the entire work, easily gotten through Amazon or Brown’s webofdebt.com site. Her book is a remarkable achievement – in its scope, depth, and importance.

In the forward, banker/developer Reed Simpson said:

“I have been a banker for most of my career, and I can report that even most bankers (don’t know) what goes on behind (top echelon) closed doors….I am more familiar than most with the issues (Brown covered, and) still found it an eye-opener, a remarkable window into what is really going on….(Although many banks follow high ethical practices), corruption is also rampant, (especially) in the large money center banks, in one of which I worked.”

“Credible evidence (reveals) a world (banking) power elite intent on gaining absolute control over the planet and its natural resources, including its subservient human (ones).” Money is their “lifeblood,” and “fear (their) weapon.” Ill-used, they can “enslave nations and ensure perpetual wars and bondage.” Brown exposes the scheme and offers a solution.

Debt Bondage Continue reading

Obama’s New World Order – Michael Hudson’s analysis of the financial crisis by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, April 10, 2009

This article addresses Washington’s financial coup d’etat in the context of discussing Michael Hudson’s important, very lengthy and detailed April 5 Global Research.ca one titled: “The Financial War Against Iceland – Being defeated by debt is as deadly as outright military warfare.” It reviews its key information in advance of Hudson’s April 14 scheduled appearance on The Global Research News Hour to discuss.

What’s true for Iceland holds everywhere, including the developed world, the idea being to enrich finance capitalism through state-sponsored debt bondage and neo-feudal impoverishment. The global economic crisis was no accident. It was long ago hatched, and has been brewing for years, gestating, percolating, then bubbling into the 2000 tech crash, a mere prelude for today’s greater one spreading everywhere like a cancer but hitting the developing world and most indebted nations hardest.

Hudson: “Iceland is under attack – not militarily but financially.”

Continue reading

More from the Front Lines of the Financial Crisis by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, November 3, 2008

In its latest economic outlook, Merrill Lynch economists “worry about inflation, or more precisely,” a lack of it. From crashing global equity markets, falling commodity prices, rising unemployment, stagnant wages, over-indebted households, declining production, the continuing housing crisis, and more. All pointing to several future quarters of negative growth. Showing that Fed chairman Bernanke will face “his greatest fear: deflation.” An analysis of the coincident to lagging indicators signals “deep recession.”

In his October 24, commentary, Merrill’s North American economist David Rosenberg sees “economic data deteriorating in a very serious way (and says) we are witnessing unprecedented stuff happen:”

— the two-year housing recession “is still far from over” with new lows in a number of key readings;

— it’s “morphed into a capex recession, industrial production” had its worst decline in 34 years;

— consumer confidence showed record declines;

— retail sales keep falling; evidence is that auto and chain store sales will show four straight down months; it’s happened only four other times since 1947, so “we’re living through a 1-in-200 event;”

— based on CPI data, prices are falling; at a rapid pace also seen only four other times since 1947;

— GDP will decline at 2% annual rate in Q 4; 4% in Q 1 2009 and 3.3% in Q 2.

Conclusion: “This recession is unlike any seen in the last five decades.” Typically caused by inflation, inventory cycles or aggressive Fed tightening. “This is a balance sheet recession deeply rooted in asset liquidation and debt repayment, and would seem to have more in common with pre-WW I cycles.”

Going back to 1855, “a typical recession lasts 18 months.” It’s no assurance this one won’t be longer. Rosenberg thinks it started in January and believes will end “within a month of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) making the call.” It defines recession as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.” Some say that occurs when economic growth is negative for two or more consecutive quarters.

The signs are evident and growing, yet NBER is usually late making its call. It may hold off until housing shows signs of stabilizing. For some analysts, it’s the core economic problem, and as long as it keeps eroding no end of recession is in sight. The latest data aren’t encouraging:

— Case-Shiller’s 10 and 20-city composite indexes set new record declines of 17.7% and 16.6% respectively; year-over-year dropping for 20 consecutive months; Case-Shiller predicts a peak to trough 28.6% drop in its 10-city composite index; it also sees up to 50% declines in some areas;

— nominal house prices down 20% from their 2006 peak; according to the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), this implies a 27% real decline; a loss of $5 trillion in housing wealth, and 60% of the bubble deflated so more is yet to come; at least another 10 – 15% to return to trend levels; another question is “whether markets will overshoot on the downside;” a very distinct possibility;

— on October 29, CEPR reported record high ownership vacancies according to Census Bureau data at 2.8%; for rental units at 9.9%, slightly below the peak first quarter 10.1% level; CEPR predicts a fully deflated housing bubble by mid-2009 but added a caveat; “With the employment picture turning bleaker and the plunge in the stock market,” housing is certain to be even more negative in coming months; “the tens of millions of workers….fearful about their future job prospects will be very reluctant to buy a new home;” compounded by trillions of lost personal wealth (from home and stock market losses) will make households “much more cautious in all their expenditures;”

— the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) index fell .6% in its latest July reading and is down 5.3% on a year-over-year basis; its sharpest decline ever;

— Fitch expects home prices to fall another 10% in the next 18 months and will decline by an average 25% in real terms over the next five years; beginning from the second quarter 2008; they’re now back to early 2004 levels and heading lower;

— the PMI Group predicts home price declines will double to a national average of 20% by next year with lower values in areas experiencing the sharpest increases;

— economist Paul Krugman cites his “preferred metric;” the ratio of housing prices to rental rates; it shows the former got way overvalued; will retrace and result in about a 25% home valuation decline;

— Goldman Sachs forecasts a 15% home price decline with no recession and 30% with one; and

— The Economist sees “no end in sight….to America’s housing bust as prices continue to fall fast.”

On October 28, economist Nouriel Roubini was even more alarming on housing citing “The recessionary macro effect of the worst US housing bust ever.” He reported the view of a “senior professional in one of the (world’s) largest financial institutions” who emailed him “privately and confidentially.” As early as a year ago, he predicted “the worst housing recession in US history” and described “a bust process” in four phases:

(1) “rising mortgage defaults, home prices start falling, sale volumes fall, housing starts and permits decline;” it’s been happening and we’re beginning phase two;

(2) “home-builders’ bankruptcies, housing starts and permits crash, substantial layoffs in construction and real estate-related fields (mortgage brokers, mortgage lenders, etc.);”

(3) “substantial price declines in major metro areas, large rise in defaults of prime but low-equity mortgages;”

(4) “large-scale government intervention to help households going bankrupt;” a political phenomenon so its timing and nature can’t be reliably forecast.

He cites clear phase two evidence already:

— countless smaller builder and subcontractor bankruptcies;

— Levitt Corp. home-building unit getting loan default notices;

— national home builder Tousa with $1 billion in senior notes and subordinated debt hired law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer Feld as a precaution in case of bankruptcy; and

— Neumann Homes and Enterprise Construction file for bankruptcy.

Roubini agrees with his emailer “with one caveat.” He believes we’re past the beginning of phase two; most of its aspects have occurred, and we’re heading into phase three or close to it; he cites sharply falling home prices; rising defaults in prime and near prime mortgages; also some prime and near prime lenders in trouble; we’re also getting close to phase four as “over a dozen proposals to rescue 2 million plus households on the way to default and foreclosure are now being debated in Washington.” Debate is one thing. Meaningful action another and likely a ways off at best. Possibly once a new president is in office for something substantial if it comes at all.

Rubini’s emailer followed up with another. That consensus now “admits” what it denied last year. The reality of a severe housing downturn. In price action and foreclosures. The worst since the 1930s. But they’re still behind the curve by acknowledging “only minor macro effects.” He called it extraordinary that a decline this severe is being taken dismissively. “Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of this event is the refusal to recognize the possible dimensions, the impact of what is coming.” It’s “delusional” to believe that the “biggest housing recession in US history will not have severe macro effect. Most of the consensus (according to Bloomberg earlier)” was for 1.8% fourth quarter growth. It then predicted a Q 4 slow growth bottom with “economic growth recover(ing) in soft landing territory (2.5%).”

On what basis, he asks? “Mostly wishful thinking (because of) the economic and financial shocks leading to falling demand (and a worsening housing bust); anemic capex spending; slowdown in commercial real estate demand; sharp private consumption slowdown and weak supply (from weakening ISM – Institute of Supply Management;” falling employment; a glut of new and existing homes; weak auto sales; consumer durables; “a capacity overhang;” and excess inventory); these factors will persist well into the new year.

The latest Q 3 GDP report hints at what’s coming. A minus .3% with personal consumption (PCE) dropping 3.1%. The first decline since 1991 and largest drop since falling 8.6% in 1980. Residential construction also fell at a 19.1% annual rate. Its 11th straight quarter drop.  It now represents 3.3% of GDP. Its lowest level since 1982. Non-residential investment fell 1% and will likely fall further in Q 4. A quarter likely to be much weaker than Q 3 as most private activity is slowing. Only government spending remains strong.

On October 31, still another disturbing report. Bloomberg reported that the “US Chicago Purchasers Index (the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago, ISM) Falls by Most on Record.” To 37.8 down from 56.7 in September, and its lowest reading since the 2001 recession. A clear indication of a deepening downturn. Readings below 50 signal contraction.

Another Shoe to Drop: Credit Cards

Even The New York Times published a rare ahead-of-the-curve October 28 admission. In an Eric Dash article headlined: “Consumers Feel the Next Crisis: Credit Cards.” As they’re squeezed by an “eroding economy.” An “already beleaguered banking industry” is threatened as lenders are sharply curtailing credit card offers and “sky-high credit lines.” Even creditworthy consumers are affected because of growing amounts of bad loan losses. An estimated $21 billion in the first half of 2008.

With layoffs increasing, analysts forecast at least another $55 billion in the next 18 months. Around 5.5% of outstanding debt now and may “surpass the 7.9% level reached after the technology bubble burst in 2001.” As a result, lenders like American Express, Bank of America, MasterCard and Visa are “tightening standards (and) culling their portfolios of the riskiest customers.” Credit lines are being reduced as well, and lenders are avoiding over-indebted consumers. Treading carefully in housing ravaged areas and with customers employed by troubled industries.

It’s impacting already strapped households. With lower credit scores. Higher rates for those rated creditworthy. Less willingness to allow high balances. Less availability of loans with many needing them shut out. “The depth of the financial crisis has shocked a credit-hooked nation into rethinking its habits. Many families once content to buy now and pay later are eager to trim their reliance on credit cards….At the same time,” lenders are retrenching with one CEO saying “If you’re not fearful, you’re crazy.”

It’s seen in mail solicitations slowing to a trickle. “Credit card issuers have realized their market is shrinking and that there is no room for extra credit cards, so they have to scale back,” according to Mintel analyst Lisa Hronek. “People are completely maxed out with mortgages, home equity lines and credit card debt.”

It’s hitting hard on both ends. Rising losses and shrinking profits for issuers. Less credit availability for consumers already strapped and cutting back of necessity. At a time the only bull market is in bailouts. Amidst towering debt levels. Soaring defaults. Wobbly global economies. Some cratering. America teetering. Confidence shattered, and everyone wondering what’s next.

First the Banks. Next “the Coming Insurance Meltdown”

According to analyst Mike Larson of Weiss Research. AIG was just the beginning. Falsely called an “anomaly (and that) the rest of the insurance industry is doing just fine.” Larson and Weiss disagree and identified “46 insurers with $500 million or more in assets that are at an elevated risk of failure.” It’s seen in their share prices. Down 80 – 90% for some because the largest US and Bermuda-based insurers have lost $98 billion year-to-date, and they have more in unrealized losses.

A Possible Goeotterdaemmerung?

On October 28, from the Financial Times forum in a Peterson Institute for International Economics Anders Aslund article titled: “It can be worse than the Great Depression.” A possibility, not a prediction. Because of “the worst global asset bubble and financial panic” since that time. Because lessons learned then haven’t prevented new mistakes, and unlike in the 1920s, “CNBC and Bloomberg can spread worldwide panic instantly.” Old blunders may not be repeated, but “new policies (may be) even worse.”

Anders laid out a “then” and “now” comparison:

— Then: exchange rates over-zealously defended; Now: floating exchange rates could cause a trade panic;

— Then: the money supply shrank dramatically; Now: monetary expansion and budget deficits are dangerously excessive; currency collapses may result; the fundamentals don’t justify the current dollar surge;

— Then: nations didn’t go bankrupt; some may today; some major ones; Italy, for example, had over 100% of GDP in public debt before the crisis; it risks major state bankruptcies; America was unmentioned, but the rapidly mounting public debt and money supply growth alone pose immense risks, including default and future hyperinflation;

— Then: subprime loans existed at modest levels, but that era didn’t have “non-transparent collateralized debt obligations;” Now: derivatives “created the mother of all bubbles; the deeper the financial system, the harder we may fall;”

— Then: the Great Depression “largely emanated from two countries, the US and Germany; Now: “never before has the world seen such a monstrous and truly global bubble;”

— Then: financial institutions engaged in minimal overleveraging; Now: it’s mirror opposite; “never have big financial institutions been as overleveraged as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the former US investment banks, not to mention the hedge funds;”

— Then: protectionism froze global trade; Now: frozen finances in countries like Iceland, Ukraine and possibly others have temporarily left them outside the world financial system;”

— Then: the dollar and gold “were unchallenged sources of value;” Now: the dollar is neither stable nor the uncontested world currency;

— Then: policymakers made mistakes but “stood for principles;” Now: “George Bush is assembling (Group 20 leaders) for a photo opportunity in Washington on November 15;” failure to come up with meaningful corrective policies “could unleash untold (global) financial panic;” and

— Then: the 1920s lacked television and the internet for fast information dissemination; Now: information and decisions move instantly; often with no transparency; the combination is potentially harmful.

The Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB), LEAP/E2020’s Disturbing Prediction

In its October 15 28th edition. About a “global systemic crisis.” An alert because its researchers believe that before summer 2009 “the US government will be insolvent (and will) default and be prevented to pay its creditors (holders of US Treasury Bonds, of Fannie May and Freddy Mac shares, etc.).” It envisions “the setting up of a new Dollar to remedy the problem of default and of induced massive drain from the US.” It gives five reasons for its prediction:

— the current US dollar surge is temporary; the result of world stock market collapses;

— the Euro has become “a credible ‘safe haven;’ ” an alternative to the dollar;

— the out-of-control US public debt;

— the collapsing US economy; and

— future “strong inflation or hyper-inflation;” by 2009.

GEAB states: “the whole planet has become aware that a global systemic crisis is unfolding, characterised by the collapse of the US financial system and its contagion to the rest of the world.” As a result, “a growing number of global players are beginning to act on their own.” In their own self-interest. Because US policies are ineffective. The crisis is very serious and “far more important, in terms of impact and outcome, than” in 1929. With the US economy weaker now than then. Because of unmanageable public debt. Reckless consumer borrowing and spending. Enormous current account and budget deficits. A hollowed out industrial base, and a highly inflated dollar.

With that in mind, it’s up to “vigilant” citizens and “clear-sighted” leaders to assure that America won’t “drive the planet into a disaster.” It will take divergent policies. What’s “good for the rest of the world will not be good for the US.” America defaulting will be partly from “this decoupling of decision-making….” A new dollar will be “imposed.” And “one morning (in) summer 2009….after a long week-end or bank holiday,” Americans will discover that their “US T-Bonds and Dollars are only worth 10 per cent of their value….”

A Jesse’s Cafe Americain commentary suggests something similar. That in 2009, “the US will be forced to selectively default and devalue its debt.” Because of its extraordinary financial needs. A $2 trillion annual deficit. It will take a terrible toll on Treasuries. Forcing a significant drop by 2011. We’re approaching “the apogee of the Treasury bubble, with the credit bubble” already broken.

Once market deleveraging subsides, “the dollar and Treasuries will drop, perhaps with momentum, as the rest of the world realizes that the US has no choice but to default.” Unless foreign sources (for a while at least) keep buying American debt despite the risk. Offer debt forgiveness. The dollar is devalued short of default. Taxes raised substantially, and debt instruments pay higher interest rates. Even then, these measures may fall short and prove ineffective.

America way exceeded its debt service ability from real cash flows. A turnaround will require a “severe devaluation and selective default.” For GEAB down to 10 cents on the dollar. Following on its March 2008 prediction that by yearend “a formidable debacle will affect pension funds (worldwide) endangering the entire system of capital-based pensions.” Their revenues  collapsing “at the very moment when they should be making their first large series of payments to pensioners.” A disturbing picture in the current climate that may reveal other unexpected hazards in the coming months.

On October 28, Bloomberg reported on the Treasury’s “unprecedented” 2009 financing needs. To fund a growing budget deficit and raise hundreds of extra billions to contain the current financial crisis. To assure guarantees the government committed for. Almost $6 trillion alone for Fannie and Freddie debt and mortgage securities. With continued growing demands as other obligations arise. Plus over $1 trillion annually for national defense with all expenditure categories included. An impossible burden Bloomberg didn’t mention. A deepening dilemma as the financial crisis grinds toward more unsettling realities.

What Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff writes about in his 2007 book “Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse.” What he adds to in commentaries on his web site: europac.net. His latest on October 31 titled “The Tales Get Taller.” Debunking mainstream explanations for recent dollar strength. A currency he’s very bearish on. Because of our extreme profligacy. Decades of borrowing trillions we can’t repay. How we blew it on consumption and by letting our industrial base erode.

Our problems are now too big to contain. A possible bankruptcy is ahead. “The main lesson our creditors will learn from this crisis is not to lend American consumers any more money. Once the lending stops, our ‘cart before the horse’ borrow to spend economy will crumble. While the rest of the world absorbs their losses and moves on, we will be digging our way out of the rubble for years to come. Earthquakes are caused by the fundamental shifts of tectonic plates beneath the Earth’s surface. A similar move is underway in the global economy.”

America’s salad days are over, he believes. We’ve gone from a nation of savers, investors and producers to one of borrowers, consumers and gamblers. Official government statistics lie. They conceal hidden truths. America’s house of cards is crumbling. It won’t be pretty when it collapses. His advice is get out of the dollar. Get your money out of the country while you can, and gold is one of his recommendations.

Gold is on Paul Amery’s mind as well in his Prudent Bear.com October 31 commentary titled “The Credit Crisis Endgame.” He sees it likely becoming “a bloody standoff between investors and governments (on a) market for government bonds” battlefield.

He reviewed the unfolding credit crunch stages:

— its beginning with liquidity drying up in “esoteric, structured-finance securities, linked to riskier types of mortgages;”

— it then spread “to more mainstream mortgage bonds, structured finance in general, and other types of debt;”

— by early summer 2008, it hit many non-financial companies having trouble refinancing loans;

— by late summer, it affected sovereign states; mostly ones with high current account deficits like Iceland, Hungary and Ukraine;

— it points globally to a spreading ailment affecting major economies and their bond markets.

The US for example. While nominal Treasury bond yields declined (10 year T-bonds at 4% October 31), their credit risk component has been increasing since last year. Credit specialists CMA DataVision shows the 10 year credit default swap (CDS) spread rose steadily. From 1.6 basis points in July 2007; to 16 basis points in March 2008; to 30 basis points in September; and to over 40 basis points on October 27. In other words, insuring against a US government bond default rose 25-fold in the past 15 months. The same is true for Britain and Germany.

Some observers find this astonishing. How could America or other major states default on their debt? It would be “the equivalent of a (financial market) nuclear explosion” smashing global economies with it.

Further, the dollar is the world’s reserve currency. The Fed can create unlimited amounts of them, so any default would likely be through inflation and devaluation, some argue.

Maybe not, according to University of Maryland’s Carmen Reinhart and Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff in their April 2008 paper: “The Forgotten History of Domestic Debt.” They explained that throughout history debt defaults have been more common than realized. They’re the rule, not the exception, in times of severe economic stress.

Again America for example. Budget and national debt levels have exploded. Bailout amounts will increase them and cause enormous strains. Morgan Stanley  forecasts a sharply rising 2009 fiscal deficit. Besides the escalating national debt, to more than double the previous 1983 record. As a percent of GDP, it’s expected to be around 70% in 2009. The tip of the iceberg, some say, compared to the private debt to GDP ratio. At an unprecedented 300%, according to University of Western Sydney economist Steve Keen.

He saw the storm coming before most others. He’s also very skeptical about the rescue plan and compares it to King Canute’s effort against the tide. Given the enormity of the problem, he sees the possibility of the debt pyramid crashing from a violent and uncontrollable chain of defaults, taking the government bond market down with it.

Strains in the US Treasury market are already evident in spite of their historically low yields. Recent auctions have had poor bid-to-cover ratios and long “tails” indicate weak demand. Secondary market delivery failures are also at record levels. Another sign of poor liquidity. If the worst of all possible worlds happens – a US debt default – the consequences will be “cataclysmic for the financial economy.” The entire system will be bankrupt.

Where to hide if it happens? Amery suggests a few safe havens. The “ultimate” one being in precious metals. Think gold. Understand also that the $725/ounce October 31 spot price reflects market manipulation (over the short term) to drive it down from its March 2008 high above $1000. As one analyst puts it: I’ll “give you three good reasons why gold is (underperforming). First: manipulation. Second: rampant manipulation. Third: incessant, nonstop, unabated, fiendish manipulation.”

He also believes the process is only temporary and won’t stop the metal’s eventual rise. Given the current crisis and its likely duration, it won’t surprise experts to see its price above $1000 again before it ends.

A Final Comment

In spite of trillions of asset losses. American and global households hardest hit. Wobbly world economies getting weaker. The virtual certainty of a deep and protracted recession, and the likelihood of no robust recovery when it ends.

Despite all this and Wall Street’s worst year in decades, it’s celebrating like it always does. With big bonuses. In the many billions of dollars. According to Bloomberg, Merrill Lynch plans $6.7 billion. Goldman Sachs about $6.85 billion and Morgan Stanley about $6.44 billion.

Bloomberg noted that Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Merrill, Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns paid their employees “a cumulative $145 billion in bonuses from 2003 through 2007,” or more than the Philippines’ GDP. In 2007, the firms paid out a record $39 billion. In a year when three of them posted their worst quarterly losses ever and their shareholders lost over $80 billion. Two of them no longer exist. Another went into forced liquidation. Their combined 2008 losses should way exceed last year when they’re reported.

Yet there’s plenty of money for bonuses. Courtesy of ESSA/TARP. For executive pay and dividends as well. At a time all these companies are insolvent. Their survival dependent on federal handouts. US taxpayers are on the hook for them as their consumption declines. According to the Commerce Department at the fastest rate in 28 years. Because they don’t get big bonuses. Are maxed out on credit and haven’t the money to spend.

But the Fed and US Treasury do and plan to dispense more of it. To other takers lining up. Sovereign nations. Insurance companies. GM and Chrysler perhaps for their reported merger. Dependent on government cash to complete it. Any other company as well deemed worth saving. Big campaign contributors with friends in high places. What beleaguered homeowners don’t have.

Floated proposals to help them appear meager at best. For a fraction of the millions in trouble with inadequate suggested funding amounts. A suggested $40 billion for 20 million or more homeowners facing foreclosure. With more at issue as well, according to The New York Times. Giving qualified borrowers a few grace years. Perhaps three. For lower mortgage payments that won’t reduce their principal balance. It would only provide temporary relief and delay today’s problem for a later time. When households may be no better off than now, yet face higher ARM reset obligations.

What’s needed, but not proposed, is a 1930s type Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) plan that refinanced homes at affordable rates and prevented foreclosures. One on a grand scale as part of an enlightened New Deal agenda.

In lieu of “trickle down” to fraudsters, “trickle up” for beleaguered households. An idea so far with no traction for a new administration to consider. The one now in charge has no “imminent” plan, according to White House spokesperson, Dana Perino. On October 30, she added only that “If we find one that we think strikes the right notes….then we would move forward and announce it.” Ones so far advanced are for Wall Street. Main street apparently can wait.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national topics. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10773
© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10794

see

The End of Prosperity – The Worst Is Yet to Come by Stephen Lendman

Wall Street’s Trojan Horse by Michel Chossudovsky

The World Tires of Dollar Hegemony By Paul Craig Roberts

Richard C. Cook’s latest book, We Hold These Truths now available

Special Report: War or Peace? The World After the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election By Richard C. Cook

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

The End of Prosperity – The Worst Is Yet to Come by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, October 31, 2008

From too much of a good thing. From the 1980s and 1990s excesses. From the longest ever US bull market. Heavily manipulated to keep it levitating. From August 1982 to January 2000. An illusory reprieve from October 2002 to October 2007. Fluctuations aside, all lost in the past 12 months. The wages of sin are now due, and payment is being painfully extracted. From all nations globally. Affecting ordinary people the most who had nothing to do with creating booms and busts. They got little on the upside but are paying dearly for the down.

Even “free-market” champions are unnerved. Arthur Laffer for one in his October 27 Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined: “The Age of Prosperity Is Over.” He states that “This administration and Congress will be remembered like Herbert Hoover,” but not for the right reasons. He continued: “what this administration and Congress have done will be viewed in much the same light as what Herbert Hoover did in the years 1929 through 1932. Whenever people make decisions when they are panicked, the consequences are rarely pretty. We are now witnessing the end of prosperity.”

Readers will remember Laffer from the Reagan era. The “supply side trickle down” guru. More popularly called “Reaganomics.” GHW Bush’s “voodoo economics.” The faux theory that tax cuts for the rich grow the economy and benefit everyone. By encouraging well-off recipients to earn more money. For more tax revenue. For the greater good of everyone.

What Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, called a “Trojan Horse.” To con Congress into accepting “Republican orthodoxy (and pave the way for) the greed level, the level of opportunism, (to get) out of control.” From tax cuts for the rich. Loopholes for special interests. Tax increases on low and middle-income households. Taking from the many for the few. What Laffer and others championed and still do. Along with believing markets work best so let them. Government is the problem, not the solution.

The results weren’t encouraging. Macroeconomic growth for sure until it ended. The rich got much richer. The top 1%. Another 9% to some extent. Not the rest, however. Their well-being either stagnated or declined and now are in free-fall. Their savings and futures erased by rampant deleveraging. Market manipulation. Massive fraud. Leaving millions of households in trouble. With the worst likely yet to come. All Laffer can do is resurrect Hoover. The real villains are present and among us. Some active. Others not. Their venom corrosive and harmful. Hurting economies and people everywhere.

From boom now bust. Rampant speculation and fraud. In most asset classes. Especially equities, housing, commercial real estate, commodities, currencies, and huge leveraged debt for levitation.

As a consequence, world economies are reeling and leaders scrambling to contain them. With the most ambitious/outrageous rescue plans ever. Likely mindful, or they should be, that all their grand schemes can’t undue nearly three decades of excess. The most extreme financial sins. The age of levitation is over. As financial expert and investor safety advocate Martin Weiss puts it:

Here’s the “inescapable reality – Now that the global debt bubble has burst, all the world’s leaders and all their radical new measures can’t” contain, let alone undue, all the damage. They can’t “turn back the clock or reverse decades” of excess and greed. “They cannot repeal the law of gravity or prevent investors from selling. Even as they sweep piles of bad debts under the carpet with bailouts and buyouts, mountains of new debts will go bad – another flood of mortgages that can’t be paid, a new raft of credit cards falling behind, an avalanche of companies defaulting on their bonds.”

No matter how many billions they throw at the problem, “trillions more in wealth will be wiped out in market declines. For a while longer, our leaders may try to play their last cards in a herculean effort to stop the fall.” They may commit good money to save bad. “Inject more money into bankrupt banks, broken brokerage firms, endangered insurers and any company they deem essential to the economy.”

It won’t work. “It will be a blood transfusion with a failing heartbeat.” Soon enough they’d better learn that “it’s impossible to save the entire world.” The right choice is to “accept the (inevitable) decline, manage it proactively,” and avoid the perilous alternative. An “open floodgate (of) climatic selling. A crash producing “the final phase of the decline.” Erasing “anywhere from 50% to 90% of (stocks, corporate bonds, real estate, foreign currencies and commodities valuations) in a matter of months or even weeks.”

“As many as one-fourth (of S & P 500 companies) could go bankrupt.” The entire index “flip(ing) from the black to the red.” Around 20% of US workers could lose their jobs. The standard of living of American households seriously harmed. The potential for big trouble ahead is real and growing. The effect on world economies serious and spreading.

Weiss called the Fed’s latest rate cut a “DUD,” and said the big news was “the Fed’s latest cockamamie effort to save the world.” With $120 billion to Brazil, South Korea, Singapore and Mexico ($30 billion each). Besides committed IMF funds for Hungary ($25.5 billion), Ukraine ($16.5 billion), and Iceland ($2.5 billion) and a new $100 billion Short-Term Liquidity Facility offering short-term loans.

It’s an illusion to think Bernanke can play “Santa Claus, the Pied Piper and the Fairy Godmother all in one act.” In fact, he’s “desperate” and resorting to “the most radical measures of all time. Playing his last cards.” Knowing that if he fails, “it’s game over. Taking huge risks – that his rescue-the-whole-world schemes will backfire in the form of falling confidence in the US government as a whole.” Besides there’s no way make banks lend. Consumers borrow. Continue to spend. Have the means to do it. Reverse decades of excess or repeal the law of gravity to keep markets levitating.

On October 28, more evidence of what he’s up against from the Washington Post. In an article headlined: “Downturn Clobbers Public Pension Funds.” According to staff writer Peter Whoriskey, they’re being ravaged across the country, “with many state and local governments (losing) more than 20% of their retirements pools.” Even worse because they were inadequately funded before the crisis, according to the Government Accountability Office. And the 20% figure is conservative given the severity of the October selloff.

According to Chicago-based Northern Trust Investment Risk and Analytical Services’ William Frieske, “We expect this (will) be the worst year we’ve seen since we’ve been tracking the funds.” They service 27 million people. Supported by taxpayer money, investment returns and employee contributions. The bear market “played havoc on” actuarial calculations to ensure enough is available for future retirees. Because about 60% of fund assets are in common stocks, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators.

What’s ahead depends on economic prospects. Whether markets will continue to contract. How deep and for how long. When recovery will occur. Will it be sustainable, and is there enough time to make up the shortfall for retirees expecting their pensions. After the Dow bottomed in 1932, it took a generation to recoup losses. What investors hope won’t repeat today.

Much will given the raft of bad news:

— spreading layoffs across the country; on October 29, The New York Times reporting their painful impact in New York; spreading “well beyond Wall Street;” expected to “drive up the city’s unemployment rate and strain the state’s unemployment insurance fund;” hitting everywhere, including service firms; professional ones – law firms, banks, other financial services, publishers, tourism, besides tens of thousands on Wall Street;

— official unemployment heading for the high single digits; the true number far higher and growing; real pain is being felt as a result;

— the worst housing crisis since the 1930s; continued record home price declines, according to the S&P Case-Shiller Index; 16.6% in its latest (20 major metropolitan areas) reading; compounded by a glut of unsold homes;

— in an October 28 news release, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) reported grim findings; a comparison of ownership vs. rental costs “points to negative equity accruals in many markets over the next 4 years” even as prices keep falling; many homeowners won’t ever accrue equity with many going under water; in the most inflated markets, homeownership costs outpace rents by as much as 300% placing enormous stress on household income, especially for middle and lower-income families;

— declining production; autos especially hard hit; Chrysler sacking 25% of its salaried force; GM suspending employee benefits; all three auto makers closing or idling plants; steel affected as a result; 17 of the nation’s 29 blast furnaces shut down; other industries also under stress;

— economists lowering their GDP forecasts; many saying we’re well into recession; fourth quarter results will be the worst since the severe 1981 – 82 one, and 2009 also looks even bleaker; third quarter ones out show an annualized .3% decline; most disturbing a minus 3.1% PCE (personal consumption expenditure) reading, the first drop since 1991; private investment also shrunk 1.9%;

— against this backdrop, little relief is being proposed; where it’s most needed; so beleaguered homeowners can keep their properties; to struggling households to stimulate demand; not for toxic assets or to fund giant bank acquisitions; what Alan Nasser reported in his article titled “The Bailout Lie Exposed;” that big banks won’t lend out their windfall; that New York Times economics reporter Joe Nocera confirmed from an employee-only recording of a JP Morgan Chase conference he secured; that the bank will use bailout funds for acquisitions; leveraged buyouts; with public money; for assets at fire sale prices; courtesy of US taxpayers; for further consolidation; a multi-generational tradition; to crush competition and grow monopolies; with both presidential candidates on board; assuring reduced social spending and no return to enlightened New Deal policies when they’re most needed.

In Times of Crisis, Bring Out the Heavy Artillery

It’s a common tactic and the one used in 1929. Following Black Thursday (October 24), Black Monday (October 28) and Black Tuesday (October 29). Popularly called the Great Crash of 1929. After which the publication Variety headlined: “Wall Street Lays an Egg.” A much larger one than at first realized but serious enough for the establishment to get John D. Rockefeller to state (on Black Tuesday):

“Believing that fundamental conditions of the country are sound and that there is nothing in the business situation to warrant the destruction of values that has taken place on the exchanges during the past week, my son and I have for some days been purchasing sound common stocks.” Fast forward to the present. History is again repeating. At another crisis time. No garden variety one. The most serious since the 1930s. With investor and public confidence severely shaken. Enough for a repeat of Rockefeller’s bravado.

Dire enough to get Warren Buffett to do what he rarely if ever does. Pen an op-ed. On October 16 in The New York Times. To sound like John D. and say in spite of gloom and doom, he’s “buying American stocks.” To affirm his faith in “the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies.” To predict “most major companies will be setting new profit records 5, 10 and 20 years from now.” At age 78, he may not be around to confront critics if he’s wrong.

On October 27, the Wall Street Journal took aim at him. A very uncharacteristic gesture toward a large (and successful) investor. Let alone the most famous individual one and one of the richest. “Even the Oracle Didn’t Time It Perfectly” headlined the Journal. His class A Berkshire Hathaway shares have taken a hit like most others year to date, but that’s a side issue for the Journal.

It’s troubled because “the Oracle of Omaha failed to see how bad the market was going to get.” And he’s even exposed to credit default swaps (CDSs). Increased his position to $8.8 billion from mid-2006 – mid-2008. Already took a $490 million loss in the first quarter. Another $136 million in the second, and likely much more unreported so far for the third and beyond.

These positions show he “was relatively comfortable about the prospects for US corporations and global stocks at a time when (other observers) were predicting a bust.” Maybe it’s “time for the Oracle to get a new crystal ball.”

Warnings from Abroad

Overseas comments differ greatly from more optimistic ones here. Germany’s finance minister, Peer Steinbruck, for example. On October 26, the Financial Times reported his fears about global financial markets collapsing. At least through 2009. He said: “The danger of a collapse is far from over. Any attempt to give the all clear would be wrong.”

His government committed $635 billion to rescue troubled banks. A “financial market stabilization fund.” With most of it in credit guarantees and a smaller portion to recapitalize banks and buy toxic assets. But unlike the Paulson plan, Germany won’t compel banks to take it and many so far haven’t. For fear investors will punish them for admitting they’re in trouble and also over concerns that conditions imposed are too stringent. Steinbruck is working through this and said banks eschewing state aid are “irresponsible.”

Leaders in Europe fear the financial crisis will tip the continent into serious recession. And cause a currency meltdown in the East. Across former Soviet bloc nations. Testing currency pegs “on the fringes of Europe’s monetary union in a traumatic upheaval” reminiscent of the 1992 Exchange Rate Mechanism collapse. Bank of New York strategist Neil Mellor called it “the biggest currency crisis the world has ever seen.”

On October 26, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote about it in the UK Telegraph. He cites what experts fear. A “chain reaction within the eurozone itself.” A surge in capital flight from Austria. The latest Bank of International Settlements data aren’t encouraging. They show Western European banks in trouble. With the most exposure “to the emerging market bubble, now bursting with spectacular effect.”

The amount involved is huge. Around three-fourths of “the total $4.7 trillion in cross-border bank loans to Eastern Europe, Latin America and emerging Asia.” Much greater than America’s subprime lending. Iceland was at the leading edge of the problem. Hungary and other states may follow. In a Paul Krugman New York Times op-ed, he discussed currency crises and said he “never anticipated anything like what’s happening now.”

He cited Morgan Stanley’s chief currency strategist Stephen Jen (his former student) saying since Lehman’s demise, we’ve seen world emerging market currency crises. “So far, the US financial sector has been (at) the epicentre of the global crisis. I fear that a hard landing in EM assets and economies (unfolding in Europe) will become the second epicentre in the coming months, with very damaging feedback effects on the developed world.”

Already Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, Belarus “queuing up for” IMF rescue packages. Jumping from the frying pan into the fire unless they can arrange no-strings loans. Given the gravity of the crisis and danger of its contagion, maybe so or at least escape the worst type IMF demands. They’ve swallowed enough neoliberalism already. It exacerbates their dire condition.

Europe is now reeling under stress. Heavily pressured by emerging market debt. The Eastern bloc borrowed heavily in dollars, euros and Swiss francs. Some in Hungary and Latvia in Yen. An unpublished 2006 IMF report warned about their most dangerous excesses in the world. Nothing was done to curb them, and finally its authors “had their moment of vindication as Eastern Europe went haywire.” It hit Hungary, Romania and put Russia “in the eye of the storm, despite its energy wealth. The cost of insuring Russian sovereign debt (through CDSs) surged to 1200 basis points last week.” More than Iceland “before Gotterdammerung struck Reykjavik.”

With oil prices plunging, markets no longer believe that Russian state spending is viable, and the fear is that peripheral contagion will invade the eurozone’s core. Yield spreads between German and Italian 10-year bonds are being watched. “They reached a post-EMU (European Economic and Monetary Union)” high of 93 in late October. No one knows the “snapping point” but it’s feared that anything above 100 is cause for alarm.

BNP Paribas’ chief currency strategist Hans Redeker cites “an imminent danger that East Europe’s currency pegs will be smashed unless EU authorities wake up to the full gravity of the threat, and that in turn will trigger a dangerous crisis for EMU itself.”

“The system is paralyzed,” he said, “and starting to look like Black Wednesday 1992.” He fears a very deflationary effect across Western Europe. One “almost guaranteed” to implode the euroland money supply. As for UK banks, they’re lightly exposed to the former Soviet bloc. But not to emerging Asia. In the amount of $329 billion. Almost as much and America and Japan combined. Evan-Pritchard concludes with a sobering note for his UK readers. “Whether you realise it or not, your pension fund is sunk in Vietnamese bonds and loans to Indian steel magnates.” Like for many other investments, that money’s safety is far from secure.

Neither is Britain according to a Mail online October 27 article headlined: The country “may need 0% interest rate to avoid a depression, leading economist warns.” He’s Charles Goodhart. A founding member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). Now a professor emeritus of banking and finance at the London School of Economics.

He told Channel 4’s Dispatches program: “Interest rates will go down from now, by how far and how fast nobody knows. They could go to zero” like in Japan. And may have to. Yet other experts warn that at this stage big cuts are “too little, too late” because the country already faces a long severe recession.

On October 29, more confirmation from a UK Independent article headlined: “Repossessions soar by 70 per cent as joblessness rises.” From new Financial Services Authority figures. Some 11,054 second quarter foreclosures. Up from under 6500 last year. Numbers expected to keep rising, and new Land Registry data revealed continuing house price declines. Around 8% in the past 12 months.

A gloomy picture, according to Howard Archer. Global Insight’s chief UK economist. In his view, “The fundamentals continue to be largely stacked against the housing market, and it seems odds-on that prices will fall considerably further.” Especially given “accelerating unemployment set to pick up significantly….recession (and) wages (held) down.” Add to this a 167% rise in calls to the housing charity Shelter helpline. Its chief executive, Adam Sampson, said: “These figures are not only shocking and worse than expected, they highlight the crippling severity of the credit crunch on ordinary homeowners.” It’s hit Britain especially hard, but economic woes are little different throughout the continent.

In Japan as well after the benchmark Nikkei index hit a 26 year low and a scant 18% of its 1989 high. Despite a few days of rebound, it made front page (October 28) Wall Street Journal news in an article headlined: “Crisis Deals New Blow to Japan” in a feature story about the nation’s largest bank. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. On October 27, it said it would raise $10.7 billion in new capital. The result of its own vulnerabilities and Japan’s economic turmoil. According to Kristine Li of Tokyo’s KBC Securities: Mitsubishi’s announcement was a “big blow” to investors’ confidence. Its share price reflected it. Plunging 15% on October 27. Other banks hit as well. Major ones. They, too, need more capital and will have to raise it from investors.

Some in Tokyo believe the country can do little to reverse the downward trend. According to Credit Suisse’s Toyko-based chief equity strategist, Shinichi Ichikawa, “The Japanese government alone can’t fix” the nation’s export woes or the deepening global crisis. “The factors hurting the market are beyond Japan’s control.”

The Financial Times paints a similar picture. The Nikkei down 53% through late October and has “the dubious honour of having been the worst performing leading developed country market last year.” The current crisis hit Japan in several ways. Its banking and financial sectors “in spite of having relatively less exposure to toxic assets.” Nonetheless, investors worry about their underlying strength or lack of it.

Japan is heavily export dependent. For most of its economic growth and health. It’s hurt by a surging Yen. At a 13 year high against the dollar. In addition, hedge funds and foreign investors are bailing out. The way they’re doing everywhere, but it’s hurting Japan more than most because it relies so heavily on outside capital.

So does China in the form of foreign investment that doesn’t affect how it manages its banks. At least in what they can invest in non-Chinese securities. Very little and why the government is spending nothing to bail them out. There’s no need because they own scant amounts of toxic assets and use their own to fuel internal growth. What China needs badly for its large and growing population.

It’s not insulated from the global crisis and will feel it in slower growth. Still expected to be impressively high although certain to drop from its 9.9% in the first nine months of 2008. Down from 12% last year. Amidst a deepening global slump. It’s helped by strong domestic demand and its exports. Up an impressive 21.5% over last year. Heavily to Asia to make up for slumping Western demand.

It’s affected China’s toy manufacturers. China’s customs agency reported that 52.7% of them shut down in the first seven months of 2008. Mass layoffs resulted. Other industries are also affected. Textiles, shoes, clothing, home appliances and electronics because of slumping Western markets. Millions of workers are at risk and why China announced an economic stimulus plan to keep growth as high as possible. A targeted minimum 8%. If achieved will be impressive by any standard.

A potential glimmer of light amidst a dismal global outlook with China determined to keep it that way although there’s no assurance it can. The reason its stock market slumped like most others. However, it may rebound sooner given the government’s commitment to big infrastructure spending increases. With its “embarrassment of riches” according to The Economist. Growing “at a staggering rate” says its Intelligence Unit. Its huge $1.75 trillion in foreign currency reserves. Likely to top $2 trillion by yearend. That can be used for roads, airports, nuclear power plants, hydro power stations, and more. To create new jobs for laid off workers. As many as possible. What America should do to stimulate growth. Not commit billions for corporate acquisitions. Bailouts that won’t work. That will harm the economy, not heal it. The reason even in today’s climate China’s star is rising. In the US, it’s growing dim.

The Worst Is Yet to Come

According to economist Nouriel Roubini. Called Dr. Doom for his gloomy views that today command worldwide respect. Opinions once dismissed now widely sought. He believes recession began in early 2008. Will last throughout 2009. Will be severe and painful with GDP contracting 4 – 5%. On October 29, he told Bloomberg: “We’re entering a vicious circle where economies are spinning down, financial markets are spinning lower, and policy makers in my view – and that’s my biggest fear – have lost control of what’s going on in the financial markets.”

In London in late October he predicted that hundreds of hedge funds will close down and given the extent of panic selling markets may have to suspend trading. Perhaps for a week or more before resuming. In September, Russia’s stock exchanges shut down after their steepest ever one day fall. They did again in late October after falling nearly as much. Perhaps Wall Street is next. Maybe Europe.

If the latest (October 28 reported) consumer confidence report is an indication, it may happen sooner, not later. It was dismal by any standard. From the Conference Board. An all-time low and far below expectations. Surveyed economists forecast a reading of 52. It came in woefully short at 38 from an upwardly revised 61.4 September figure. Results were “significantly more pessimistic” on future business prospects and jobs. It signals trouble if translated into spending that, in turn, means lower profits and share prices already crushed over the past 12 months. With no end of pain in sight.

Yet markets remain volatile because of heavy insider manipulation for big profits up or down. The “not-so-invisible hand” working its magic. Killing the “free-market” according to author Ellen Brown. Making it hazardous for ordinary investors to risk anything in this climate. Casino capitalism with the odds heavily favoring the house. Getting Brown to quote a talk show commentator saying: “I’m fully diversified; some under the mattress; some under the floor boards; and some in the backyard.” Better that than lose everything.

Because world economies are “at a breaking point” according to Roubini. “Essentially in free fall (and near) sheer panic.” Played out in markets that reflect future expectations. Despite relief rallies, very much pointing down and signaling no end of crisis in sight. It got Roubini to state:

“Every time there has been a severe crisis in the last six months, people have said this is the catastrophic event that signals the bottom.” Every time so far they were wrong. “They said it after Bear Stearns, after Fannie and Freddie, after AIG, and after” the $700 billion bailout plan. “Each time they have called the bottom, and the bottom has not been reached.”

Despite everything world governments throw at their problems, Roubini thinks investors no longer trust them or believe they’ll do the right things. For good reason. Because so far they haven’t and what they’re now doing is mostly woefully misdirected and inadequate. “Even using the nuclear option of guaranteeing everything, providing unlimited liquidity, nationalising the banks, making clear that nobody of importance is going to fail, even that has not helped.” Economic fundamentals no longer apply. “We are reaching a breaking point frankly.”

From his Hong Kong base, long-time investment advisor and fund manager Marc Faber publishes the “Gloom Boom and Doom” report. On how he views economic and financial prospects and investment opportunities worldwide. Given today’s climate, he’s more than ever in demand and shows up often in the financial press and on business channels like Bloomberg and CNBC. But not with good cheer.

He thinks that government interventions may be partially responsible for world market selloffs. Not least because in the current climate guaranteeing bank deposits leaves investors with no incentive to take risks. And other measures have been counterproductive as well. “They have increased volatility. It’s impossible to forecast market movements when you have interventions.”

Downward readjustments of company book values may be next in his view as happened in previous bear markets. That revealed overstated estimates. “If the global economy slows down as much as I think,” he said, “then a lot of book values will have to be adjusted downward quite substantially.” And rate cuts will create their own headache. “I think first we’ll have a bout of deflation that will actually be quite substantial, but then the budget deficits will go through the roof and the Fed will print even more money (so that) later on we’ll have very high inflation.”

Morgan Stanley (“perennial bear”) economist and chairman of the company’s Asia operations Stephen Roach was extremely critical of Fed policy in an October 27 Financial Times op-ed titled: “Add ‘financial stability’ to the Fed’s mandate.” He called “the era of excess as much about policy blunders and regulatory negligence as about mistakes by financial institutions.” We need a new system and new role for the Fed in his judgment. Explicitly to reference “financial stability.”

Something critically needed for a “post-bubble, crisis-torn US economy.” To make the Fed “tougher in its neglected regulatory oversight capacity.” To counter “bubble denialists (like) Alan Greenspan.” To mandate Fed policy “err on the side of caution.” To expose the “fatal mistake” in trusting “ideology” over “objective metrics. Like all crises, this one is a wake-up call. The Fed made policy blunders of historic proportions that must be avoided in the future.”

However, dealing with today’s crisis requires an even bigger international rescue according to Roubini. And whatever’s done, America faces “year(s) of economic stagnation.” After a deep protracted downturn. If as true as he forecasts, it signals the end of prosperity. A new age of austerity and world economies in extreme disrepair and needing an alternative model in lieu of a clearly failed one. Hugely corrupted as well.

Will world leaders seize the challenge and act? Only if mass outrage demands it and even then change at best may be minimalist and short-lived. If history is a guide. What better time to prove history wrong. If not now, when? If not by us, who? If not soon, maybe never. If that’s not incentive enough, what is?

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Republic Broadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national topics. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10685

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=LEN20081031&articleId=10771

see

Wall Street’s Trojan Horse by Michel Chossudovsky

The World Tires of Dollar Hegemony By Paul Craig Roberts

Richard C. Cook’s latest book, We Hold These Truths now available

Special Report: War or Peace? The World After the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election By Richard C. Cook

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse

US Election Campaign: National Security and Permanent Wars. Vying to Be Toughest

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, September 8, 2008

Ignoring public sentiment, both party nominees stress “national security” and face off on who’s toughest on “terrorism.” For 2009, expect more of the same. A continued right wing agenda. Bigger budgets for militarism. Police state repression for enforcement. Little attention to public needs. No end to wars and occupation. Possible new ones against Iran, Pakistan, elsewhere in Eurasia, and a resurgent confrontation with Russia.

Welcome to the future. Securing it for capital. More of the same after eight years under Bush. New policies the same as failed ones. Hopes again raised and then dashed. Repeating November 2006. Everything changed but stayed the same. New faces, same agenda. All parts interchangeable. A two party duopoly assures it. Get prepared. The new incumbent will disappoint, and if it’s John McCain consider Chalmers Johnson’s advice about a Vancouver condo for safety.

No guessing about a man who even scares some in the Pentagon. Extremists on the right advise him. He’s comfortable with a 100 year Iraq occupation. Militarism as a way of life. American boots on the ground everywhere. An enlarged military to achieve it – 150,000 more troops for starters. Endless wars. For their own rewards. Imperialism for its own sake. Colonizing everything. Committed to the most extremist Israeli – Christian Right agenda. Unilateralism. Nationalism. Patriotism’s dark side. Americanism as expansionism. Unlimited federal power. Civil liberties sacrificed for security. One-sided support for privilege. A future most Americans oppose. A man to make Cheney look like Gandhi, according to Pat Buchanan. A de facto third Bush term or worse. GW on steroids some believe. Absolute executive power. Rock hard-line. A neo-con’s neocon. Unparalleled dangers under him. No different than most dictators. No one to trust with the presidency. Think it can’t happen here. Think again.

The Obama Alternative

Many see him as change. The “Obama Moment” for The Nation magazine. “Electric” when he was nominated. A “historic candidacy.” A “new generation (with) new possibilities.” A “sea-change election.” A “stark ideological contrast.” A clear “change of course.” Progressive-driven reform. The “end of the Reagan era” if he wins. “An end of the occupation of Iraq.” Committed to “affordable healthcare for all….holding corporations and banks more accountable…empowering labor….challenging our trade policies….a social liberal.” He’ll tax the wealthy, avoid right wing judicial nominees, and launch a whole new direction for America under his leadership.

A shameful Nation magazine display that turns reality on its head and echoes its 19th century roots. It was once unapologetic about slavery. Later failed to advocate for black and other minority rights, labor, women’s suffrage and more. It championed 19th century laissez faire. Attacked the Grangers, Populists, trade unions and socialists.

In 1999, it called the US-led NATO Serbia-Kosovo aggression “humanitarian intervention.” After 9/11, it backed the official explanation in spite of huge amounts of evidence debunking it. Initially supported the Afghan war. The Iraq war early on. “No evidence” the 2004 election was stolen. Attacks Hugo Chavez. In January 2006, ran a repugnant full-page anti-Muslim ad titled “Arabian Fables” claiming Palestinians are prone to violence and deception. Then in March 2006, ran an article titled “The Fight for Haiti” in which it attacked Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Called him “feared and despised,” and blamed Haitians for their occupation and Washington-inflicted misery.

No surprise their editorial position would endorse a candidate and party supporting privilege over beneficial social change and ending foreign wars and occupation. They’re gatekeepers and hide the truth about Democrats. Misrepresent them as offering change. Betray their readers and deceive them about a party and their multi-millionaire machine politician favorite – no populist, liberal, or for real progressive change. Just business as usual for his establishment backers picking him to lead his party because he’s “safe.”

Still he’s called different. Less risky. Progressive. Hopeful change. A new direction. A man of the people. Anyone but Bush. The alternative to McCain. A pragmatist. A realist. Non-ideological or less so. Middle-of-the-road. A Kennedy type figure. His natural heir. Inheriting the “torch.” Measured, not impulsive. Thoughtful. A good communicator. Think again. Maybe another opportunist like Kennedy was viewed and about whom his biographer, Robert Dallek, wrote: “He never said a word of importance in the Senate,” and according to some never did much there either.

Even so, he shunned aggressive wars and opposed a Vietnam escalation. But 1960 was different than today’s new millennium world with McCain in the wings to extend it. Would Obama be as bad or worse? Likely not. Just the lesser of two evils or what Ralph Nader calls the “evil of two lessers.” No choice to settle for in his judgment. Especially when both candidates support global militarism, backing Israel and the Christian Right against Iran, unilaterally attacking Pakistan, staying in Iraq for the duration, upping the ante in Afghanistan, and risking a dangerous Eurasian confrontation with Russia.

Both conventions are over. It’s Obama v. McCain, and expect the winner to disappoint like always and on what voters say matter most – ending aggressive wars and addressing long-neglected social needs, made all the worse given capitalism’s global crisis and both parties’ commitment to privilege.

After the Democrat convention ended, author, media activist, critic, and independent filmmaker Danny Schechter wrote: “You won’t hear a call for a national crackdown on the corporate crime, fraud, and abuse that, in just the last few years, have robbed trillions of dollars from workers, investors, pension holders, taxpayers and consumers….Democrats will not shout for a payback of ill-gotten gains, to rein in executive pay, ending corporate personhood, or to demand corporate sunshine laws.”

Instead of embracing change, Obama has a rogue’s gallery for advisors. He’s largely dismissive. Assures business as usual, and wants to prove he’s toughest on national security. He’s for expanding the military – for starters, 65,000 more Army troops and 27,000 more Marines along with bigger supportive budgets. He also wants more counter-insurgency and intelligence resources and funding for language and cultural skills.

His new running mate, Joe Biden, advocates larger special operations forces and a new civilian corps to respond to post-conflict emergencies worldwide. He favors “universal national service” that sounds very much like conscription, but he won’t say. He’s also a six-term senator and:

— longtime defender of privilege;

— backer of military adventurism;

— Bush’s foreign wars;

— partitioning Iraq into Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish areas;

— now critical of failure in Iraq, not the war he supports; just the way it’s run; “a deep hole” in his own words;

— eliminating “fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan;”

— confronting Russia and China;

— enlarging NATO;

— supporting Georgia over Russia;

— securing US dominance in Eurasia; and

— recommending the Saakashvili government get $1 billion in emergency aid – for weapons and munitions, but he won’t say.

He also supports:

— a tightened Cuba embargo;

— US intervention in Darfur;

— repressive laws like the USA Patriot Act;

— tough RICO ones; and

— big business interests foremost at the expense of beneficial social change.

In the 1990s, he backed Clinton’s Balkans aggression. In a 2007 (American Jewish cable) Shalom TV interview he called Israel “the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East” and said: “I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.” AIPAC responded with praise and called him “a strong supporter of the US-Israel relationship….and the pro-Israeli community.”

He also supported anti-consumerist laws like the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, now hurting homeowners in trouble and facing foreclosure. Others including the 1996 Telecommunications Act. It was grand theft media. A colossal giveaway. The loosening of ownership rules for further consolidation, and the problem of today’s journalism compounded – all propaganda all the time, carefully filtered news, hundreds of irrelevant cable channels, and the reason a free and open society isn’t possible. Reason also why both party candidates support it.

Reason as well why media pundits hail Obama’s choice, according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). USA Today called him “pragmatic.” His foreign policy depth makes up for what Obama lacks. The Washington Post agreed that Biden “shores up Obama’s inexperience on national security issues.” The New York Times, AP, ABC News and others echo the same theme with some adding that the choice highlights Obama’s weakness, and ABC’s George Will saying: “When you pick a running mate to correct a defect in your resume….you underscore the defect. Now the thinness of Mr. Obama’s resume is as clear as putty.”

What about McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin – Alaska’s (population 684,000) governor since December 4, 2006, former two-term mayor of (Anchorage suburb) Wasilla (population 9800), and before that on its City Council for four years and PTA. Another Dan Quayle – Geraldine Ferraro moment. Maybe a Tom Eagleton one. A woman only notable for having been chosen. Clearly with no qualifications for the job. Done to appease the Christian Right. A thumb-in-the-eye to other Americans.

The New York Times said her selection “astonished the political world….a little-known governor of Alaska and self-described “hockey mom” with almost no foreign policy experience.” Putting a brave face on a surprise pick, The Times called her “a kindred spirit to Mr. McCain (who) play(s) especially well among evangelicals and other social conservatives, who have always viewed (McCain) warily and who have been jittery in recent weeks because of reports that (he) was considering naming a running mate who favors abortion rights.”

The Times added that “Many conservatives (believe Palin) would energize them,” and according to former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, “They’re beyond ecstatic.” The AP was less enthusiastic saying “In two short years (Palin) moved from small-town mayor….to the governor’s office and now….the first female running mate on a Republican presidential ticket. She has more experience catching fish than dealing with foreign policy or national affairs.”

No problem for the Wall Street Journal that called Palin “a surprise stroke aimed at attracting Hillary Clinton supporters (with) solid conservative positions (and a) reputation as a reformer.” Its editorial page referred to “A Reform Ticket” responding to the “public want(ing) change (and that shows) Mr. McCain is serious about changing his party.”

As for experience, the Journal says “Palin’s credentials as an agent of reform exceed Barak Obama’s….(a man who) rose through the Chicago Democratic machine without a peep of push-back….Obama slid past the kind of forces that Mrs. Palin took head on.” She represents “a new generation of leaders….Mr. McCain (aims) to offer himself to voters as a reformer.” With a “genuine” one in Palin, he “may have found the right idea and the right person to make his run.”

More neutral observers have different views:

— about a Republican party in crisis; more than ever being run by its most extremist elements;

— a questionable vice-presidential choice;

— a woman allied with Big Oil; favoring drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; opposing the Interior Secretary’s decision to list polar bears as endangered species as it might anger the state’s oil interests;

— opposes government-funded healthcare;

— up to her nomination had no stated positions on war and peace; foreign policy; the economy; “free” trade; immigration; and various other world and national  issues; nor ones of public concern; now, of course, she’s for permanent war, a homeland police state, ending social services, “work(ing) to expand and deepen the strategic (US – Israeli) partnership,” and placing corporate interests above all others;

— supports red meat Christian Right issues – pro-life, creationism, and against gay rights and same-sex marriage;

— also an enlarged military, the death penalty, school vouchers, tough drug laws, and for churches to provide welfare services, not government;

— her lifetime NRA membership and right to bear arms;

— her ethics problem over her controversial firing of Alaska’s public safety commissioner; also her attempt to remove Wasilla’s librarian for refusing to ban books with views she opposes;

— her lightweight political credentials;

— her past membership (with her husband) in Alaska’s Independence Party (AIP) – a right wing advocacy group favoring secession from the US in contrast with McCain’s campaign slogan: “Country First;” also AIP’s affiliation with the far-right Constitution Party and its extremist theocratic fascist agenda;

— in her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, supported Alaska’s controversial “bridge to nowhere;” for spending hundreds of millions of dollars connecting mainland Ketchikan with its Gravina Island airport – a scheme John McCain opposed in the Senate and ridiculed in his campaign;

— the disturbing media makeover of an extremist political lightweight; giving her star treatment on TV and major magazines; highlighting post-convention rallies with crowds chanting “Sa-rah! Pa-lin;!” turning her into an instant celebrity and “main attraction for many voters “at joint campaign stops with McCain, according to AP; suggesting “McCain-Palin (may) becom(e) Palin-McCain;” and if Republicans win

— she’ll be a heartbeat away from the presidency under a man, now 72, and in questionable health;

As for McCain, there’s:

— a “passion gap” among conservatives for his candidacy;

— his unpredictable temperament;

— explosive temper;

— unimpressive intellect;

— questionable health;

— a lack of a coherent message and strategy;

— up and down standing in the polls;

— being noticeably uninspiring, mean-spirited, and bumbling on the stump, and

— a genius for making enemies among the faithful he needs for support.

National Security and Permanent Wars to Secure It

Defying public sentiment, both parties (and their standard-bearers) support “Global Wars on Terrorism.” But it’s unknown if either backs a draft at a time the Pentagon struggles to fill its ranks and only manages through tour extensions, high-pressure tactics, lowered standards, ignoring past criminal records, recruiting non-citizens, offering attractive reinlistment bonuses, and relying on paramilitaries to make up for shortfalls. It’s clear a “back door” one exists and that under “emergency” conditions Congress will support conscription. So will a new president.

Obama is noncommittal and about-faced on his earlier pledge for a 16 month Iraq combat troop withdrawal. He claims he “always said (he’d) listen to the commanders on the ground….that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain security.” He also wants 10,000 more forces for Afghanistan (two additional combat brigades) to bolster our 36,000 in place. In a New York Times July 14 op-ed, he pushed for our “long-term success in Iraq” and a need to confront “Al Queda and the Taliban” in Afghanistan. “(O)ur first priority” he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars (on August 20) as he vies with McCain on toughness. He suggested that he’s not opposed to aggressive wars so long as they’re winnable and “strategic errors” are avoided.

In commenting on his piece, The Times cited Democrat criticism for his “shift to the political center on a variety of issues, including the Iraq war.” Others see populism on the rocks. A lurch to the right as well as war, militarism and homeland repression. It particularly turns off young voters and those comprising his base. They fear this type presidency. Its support for the status quo. Continued “Global Wars on Terrorism.” Outsized budgets to fund them – over $1 trillion annually with everything factored in. Multi-billions more in secret add-ons. The DLC agenda. The forces of wealth and power. Wall Street and the bankers. Imperialism abroad. Selling out American workers. Neglected social needs. Rhetoric over substance, and special privilege over beneficial social change.

Then there’s redeploying from Iraq. First his about-facing on a 16 month timetable. Adding he wants many troops to remain. Permanent he won’t say, but it’s clear he’s for it. He wants “a residual (tens of thousands) force to target remnants of Al Qaeda, to protect our service members and diplomats, and to train Iraq’s Security Forces if the Iraqis make political progress.” He’s for other troops freed up to pursue American militarism globally. To advance US strategic interests everywhere. To assert our dominance in Eurasia. To “support the people of Georgia.” To respect its “territorial integrity.” To back its NATO membership. To ignore how that angers Russia. To say Russian “aggression” has “consequences.” To sound as belligerent as McCain, and, if fact, go all out to outdo him.

The Democrat convention was scripted for him. To highlight his toughness. His embrace of aggressive wars and militarism. Allegiance to the Israeli Lobby. Homeland repression for enforcement. Supporting Wall Street and the right. Telling CNBC “I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market.” Selling out his base and supporters. Assuring once again he’ll disappoint. Using false promises, deceptive rhetoric, and bread and circuses for cover.

Presenting an illusion of democracy. Convincing some  progressives to buy the charade. Suggesting elections give Americans choice. Selling Democrats as offering “change you can believe in.” Making them look toughest on “security” and Obama the right man at the right time. The new JFK.

His acceptance speech theme was quite opposite and ominous in its implications. High-sounding rhetoric for change. Hollow and empty at its core. People issues to go unaddressed. Business as usual instead. “Securing America’s Future” most of all. Wars without end. Controlling Eurasia. Confronting Russia and China. Risking armageddon for imperial gain. Militarizing America to quash dissent. Making it a de facto police state. Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul streets heading everywhere.

Militarizing Denver and Minneapolis – A Metaphor for America and Beyond and Exposing A Two-Party Duopoly’s Dark Side

Silencing dissent. Pummelling protesters. Institutionalizing violence. It’s now de rigueur against the right to assemble, free expression, and to petition for redress of grievances. Even address them peacefully on Denver and Minneapolis-St.Paul streets. Police responded harshly.

Denver’s Rocky Mountain News writer Daniel Chacon called it “Cop and Awe” with “hundreds of heavily armed officers, (from 52 police agencies) some clad in riot gear or hanging off SUVs (saturating) Denver’s streets in unprecedented numbers; on foot, horseback, bicycles and motorcycles; armed with black batons and pepperball guns that resemble assault rifles.”

They moved quickly to isolate protesters. Formed what he called “cop sandwiches.” Targeted the Unconventional Denver protest coordinating center. Seized equipment. Destroyed materials. Made arrests. Contrived charges for justification. Arrested an ABC producer filming the “wrong” things. Working on a “Money Trail” series on influence peddling and how corporate lobbyists work. Stopped a 5000 “Iraq Veterans Against the War” march. Allowed right wing counter-demonstrators free reign on city streets.

On August 25, about 300 peaceful protesters were assaulted about a mile from Denver’s Pepsi Center. Pepper spray and balls, truncheons, and rubber bullets were used. About 100 were arrested. More followed Tuesday through Thursday. Charged with failing to disperse, obstructing public streets and areas, and throwing rocks and other projectiles. Totally false, according to independent People’s Law Project and National Lawyers Guild observers. They disputed the claims and said police instigated confrontation. Assaulted protesters with SWAT teams. Blocked and surrounded them. Brought in reinforcements and two armored vehicles. Held them in place for 90 minutes, then began making arrests. Kept them in detention. Brought them to special “kangaroo courts.” Denied them access to counsel. Kept the press away. Turned the DNC and DHS into Gestapo. Made the nominating process a sham. Showed America to be a police state, and had powerful video images for evidence.

Working alongside police were National Guard, US Secret Service, FBI, other federal agencies, and the Pentagon:

— the US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM);

— North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD);

— US Customs and Border Protection (CBP);

— the Transportation Security Administration (TSA);

— Coast Guard; and

— various intelligence agencies operating covertly.

This for a designated DHS “National Special Security Event.” In Minneapolis as well. Intimidating. Lawless. A show of power. Overkill. Denver under siege.  Minneapolis-St. Paul also. Police distributing provocative warning pamphlets. Like Chicago ’68. Planned a year in advance. Multi-millions budgeted. Big corporate funding as well. Spoiling for a fight at the least sign of disruption, peaceful or otherwise. Justified in the name of “national security.” Monitored with high-tech surveillance from secret Multi-Agency Command Centers (MACCs). Police State America – upfront and belligerent from a two-party duopoly.

Denying ACLU and various advocacy group protests, US (Colorado) District Judge Marcia Krieger (as expected) ruled that federal and Denver security plans could proceed, in spite of clear First Amendment infringements. They include denying protesters proximity to the Pepsi Center. Invesco Field for Obama’s acceptance speech. Restricting them to a so-called “free speech” zone. Making it an isolated parking lot surrounded by two black steel security fence rings. Diverting parade routes from it, and arranging for what one writer called a “Gitmo on the Platte” – referring to central Denver’s river and an empty warehouse converted to holding cells (“cages”), topped with razor wire as backup for city jails. Inside are signs warning prisoners of stun-gun use.

Absent are bathrooms, phones to call families and lawyers, or any attentiveness to detainee needs. A replay of 2000 and 2004 and the subsequent lawsuits. Similar to global justice crackdowns in Seattle, Washington, Miami, Montreal, Genoa, Prague and elsewhere. Heavy use of violence and mass arrests. All to support business as usual. Betraying the public trust. The latest in Denver and Minneapolis-St.Paul. Selling out the country to the highest bidders. Corporations buying favors. Donating millions to get them. A display of organized bribery and influence-peddling. Democrats on the take like Republicans. Each outdoing the other’s promises. Too many willing to buy them. Preparing to be fooled again in 2008. A repeat of 2000 and 2004.

Orchestrated Minneapolis-St.Paul Repression

National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn explained that it was planned months ago. That “the FBI-led Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force actively recruited people to infiltrate vegan groups and other leftist organizations and report back about their activities.” Even ran a Minneapolis City Pages piece called “Moles Wanted.” This is how Police State America works. Now on Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul streets and neighborhoods. Heading everywhere across the country to quash dissent. Mocking the political process, a democratic America, the rule of law, and justice.

Preemptively on August 29, around the (late 9PM) dinner hour and with no warrants or bogus ones, police (in masks and black swat gear) broke down doors and raided the St. Paul Convergence Center with guns drawn. It’s a public gathering place and where activists’ meetings are preparing protests. Claiming to be looking for “bomb-making” materials, they ordered everyone on the floor, face down – around 50 people. They then photographed and handcuffed them. Seized laptops, hard drives, journals and political pamphlets. Held them against their will. Released them around midnight, and shut down the space due to “fire code” violations. According to City Council member Dave Thune, only Fire Department officials have that authority.

Coincidentally, raids were conducted on houses where activists are staying – bursting in the same way without cause, again with no warrants or bogus ones, and making arrests. Issuing false charges as well of “probable cause conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder, and conspiracy to damage property.” Claiming items seized included “assorted edged weapons, including a machete, hatchet and several ‘throwing’ knives.” Plus a gas mask, empty glass bottles, rags, flammable liquids, an army helmet, and even “weaponized urine.”

In an August 30 statement, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said raids targeted the RNC Welcoming Committee – a group he called “a criminal enterprise made up of 35 self-described anarchists….intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention.” Specifically: “to blockade and disable delegate buses, breach venue security and injure police officers.”

Activists denied any criminal intent and called the actions “terrorism” and state-directed “violence” – a hint they said of what’s planned throughout the convention week. They were right.

Minnesota National Lawyers Guild President Bruce Nestor represents several of those arrested. He described the raids as “anticipatory” and designed to frighten people planning to be on the streets protesting. One group calls itself the “RNC Welcoming Committee.” Others are “Food Not Bombs” and “I-Witness Video,” there to videotape police violence.

They were on the streets Monday, September 1, and met by “police in riot gear (battling) hundreds of protesters with pepper spray and smoke bombs,” according to Reuters. Rubber bullets, water cannons, concussion grenades, and squad cars driving into crowds to disperse them as well. Tear gas also, according to a brief New York Times account that featured reports of “breaking windows and blocking traffic” over real issues and peaceful protests.

Over 160 were arrested, according to AP, (independent reports said around 300) and charged with street violence, vandalizing police cars, punching an officer, and trespassing. Among them, Democracy Now (DN) host Amy Goodman (charged with “obstruction” and released) and two DN producers (on felony riot charges and also released). AP photographer Matt Rourke as well (briefly and then released) for photographing police violence against protesters.

Thousands marched on the “heavily barricaded Xcel Center” demanding an end to the Iraq war and other issues like immigrant rights and the country’s need for change. It was only day one, and Gustav commanded the spotlight. St. Paul resembled an armed camp “to intimidate demonstrators and silence dissent,” according to one independent report.

New York’s WNBC reported “Violence Follows Second Day of RNC Protests.” Police targeted anti-protest marchers “outside the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.” They used flash grenades, smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Made arrests. Sustained violence to force thousands from the downtown area. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign organized the march. Its leader, Cheri Honkala, told protesters she would “march to the steps of the Xcel (Energy) Center to serve Republicans with a citizen’s arrest.” Inside, business as usual proceeded, with delegates insulated from mass public opposition to their agenda. Dismissive as well with one calling protesters “goons” and Republicans “acting like adults.”

Day three saw continued repression with more arrests and dozens charged and detained for offenses like “conspiracy to commit riot.” Independent reporters covered it and explained that convictions may mean prison terms of up to seven and a half years. Others arrested the previous weekend face charges of plotting to kidnap delegates, assaulting police officers, and airport attacks. False, an abuse of the criminal justice system and intimidation, according to Bruce Nestor who represents them. He called the charges “an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC” with terrorism.

The dominant media was largely silent, except for editorials like the September 2 Minneapolis Star Tribune one praising “an appropriate show of police force (against) rogue protesters who traveled to the Twin Cities for no other reason than to damage property, abuse the police and disrupt the business of the Republican National Convention.”

Inside the Exel Center, business went on as usual. Accepting her nomination, “Palin Assail(ed) Critics and “Electrifie(d) the Party,” according to The New York Times.

A final day on Thursday featured more street protests, police violence, arrests (200 according to AP and over 800 for the week), and a large late afternoon Capitol Mall anti-war rally. Twin Cities Indymedia reported that police interrupted rally speakers and “tried to provoke the audience into a confrontation. At one point the cops stormed into the center of the crowd (and) continued to intimidate the protest by surrounding the back of the stage….”

Following the rally and without a permit, protesters marched toward the Exel Center, but police stopped them violently – for over three hours with concussion grenades, smoke bombs, pepper spray, and tear gas.

Inside the Center, protesters interrupted McCain’s acceptance speech that The New York Times described as “seem(ing) low on energy, and the crowd responded less enthusiastically (than) for Mrs. Palin.” The Chicago Tribune called it “one of the quietest acceptance speeches in presidential campaign history – quiet crowd, quiet candidate, quiet rebukes of the opponent he has bombarded for months.” But the Tribune hailed it anyway. Called it “much like the candidate: calm, forceful and blunt; (highlighted) a roaring arena’s response to his call to ‘stand up, stand up, stand up and fight,’ ” and gave most of its front page to that headline, including a near-half page McCain-Palin photo after he concluded.

“Political preseason is over. Let the games begin (CNN)”

Dateline September 5. Two months to November 4. Putting it in focus after Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Proving Lincoln right that “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time,” but enough of them every time it counts most. November 4. Obama v. McCain. One interchangeable with the other. Differences between them are minor. Not a dime’s worth to matter. A two-party duopoly assures it. Whoever wins, the outcome is certain. Voters again will lose out. Their interests will go unaddressed. Democracy will again prove fantasy. Big money runs things, so everything will change yet stay the same. The way it always works.

Democracy in America. The best that money can buy. Real change awaits a new order. One wanting America the Beautiful for everyone and not just the privileged few alone.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10045

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10118

see

Neo-Progressives Sell Out To Democrats, by Joel S. Hirschhorn

9/11’s Accomplices vie for US Presidency by Larry Chin

Bill Moyers Journal: RNC Recap + NJ National Guard + A.R.M.S.

The U.S. 2008 Presidential Election: An Evaluation by Rodrigue Tremblay

RNC in Twin Cities: Eight protesters charged with terrorism under Patriot Act

RNC – St Paul-Minneapolis MN

DNC – Denver CO

McCain-John

Obama-Barack

Palin-Sarah

Torture As Official Israeli Policy by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 28, 2008

The UN Convention against Torture defines the practice as:

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity….”

The US and Israel are the only two modern states that legally sanction torture. An earlier article covered America. This one deals with the Jewish state, but let there be no doubt:

Although its language in part is vague, contradictory and protects abusive practices, Section 277 of Israel’s 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture by providing criminal sanctions against its use. It specifically states in language similar to the UN Convention against Torture:

“A public servant who does one of the following is liable to imprisonment for three years: (1) uses or directs the use of force or violence against a person for the purpose of extorting from him or from anyone in whom he is interested a confession of an offense or information relating to an offense; (2) threatens any person, or directs any person to be threatened, with injury to his person or property or to the person or property of anyone in whom he is interested for the purpose of extorting from him a confession of an offense or any information relating to an offense.” However, Israel clearly discriminates against Palestinians, (including Israeli Arab citizens), denies them rights afforded only to Jews, and gets legal cover for it by its courts. More on that below.

Nonetheless, the Jewish state is a signatory to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and other international laws banning the practice. It’s thus accountable for any violations under them to all its citizens and persons it controls in the Occupied Territories.

US statutes leave no ambiguity on torture. Neither do international laws like The (1949) Third Geneva Convention’s Article 13 (on the Treatment of Prisoners of War). It states:

They “must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited….(these persons) must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation….”

Third Geneva’s Article 17 states:

“No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war” for any reasons whatsoever.

Third Geneva’s Article 87 states:

“Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.

The (1949) Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 27 (on the treatment of Civilian Persons in Time of War) states:

Protected persons “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof….”

Fourth Geneva’s Articles 31 and 32 state:

“No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons.”

“This prohibition applies to….torture (and) to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.”

Fourth Geneva’s Article 147 calls “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment….grave breaches” under the Convention and are considered “war crimes.”

All four Geneva Conventions have a Common Article Three requiring all non-combatants, including “members of armed forces who laid down their arms,” to be treated humanely at all times.

The (1966) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 7 states:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Its Article 10 states:

” All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity….”

The (1984) UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is explicit in all its provisions. It prohibits torture and degrading treatment of all kinds against anyone for any purpose without exception.

Various other international laws affirm the same thing, including the UN Charter with respect to human rights, 1945 Nuremberg Charter on crimes of war and against humanity, the (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the (1988) UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any form of Detention or Imprisonment, the UN (1955) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and (1990) UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So does Article 5 of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute with regard to crimes of war and against humanity. Torture is such a crime – the gravest of all after genocide.

Israeli Torture Violates International Law

From inception to today, and especially since its 1967 occupation, Israel’s military and security forces have willfully, systematically and illegally practiced torture – as official state policy against Palestinian detainees called “terrorists.” Yet Israel always denies it, and its 1977 Penal Law prohibits it.

In 1987, the Landau Judicial Commission addressed the practice after two among many revelations became public:

— defense minister Moshe Dayan’s 1979 statement to Israel’s Maareef daily regarding Arab prison detainees: “We will make of these detainees parasites in their societies, and we will not release them until they become like mummies, empty and full of holes from inside like Swiss cheese;” and

— the 1980s torture scandals tarnishing Shin Bet’s reputation as a respected internal security agency.

The Landau Commission condemned the practice but approved the Penal Law’s “necessary defense” provision (in violation of international law) and sanctioned “psychological and moderate physical pressure” to obtain evidence for convictions in criminal proceedings. It said coercive interrogation tactics were necessary against “hostile (threats or acts of) terrorist activity” and all expressions of Palestinian nationalism.

Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) legitimized coercive interrogations in three 1996 cases – by plaintiffs Bilbeisi, Hamdan and Mubarak for interim injunctions against abusive General Security Service (GSS – now the Israeli Security Agency or ISA) practices. Ones cited included violent shaking, painful shackling, hooding, playing deafeningly loud music, sleep deprivation, and lengthy detainments. After due consideration, the HCJ ruled painful shackling illegal, but not the other practices.

Israel claims it never uses torture and complies with international laws and norms. International law experts, the UN Committee Against Torture, and sources like B’Tselem, United Against Torture (UAT), and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) disagree.

So does Dr. Afi Rabs in testimony to Israel’s High Court on 14 Palestinian prisoners. They were all detained for trivial offenses like stone-throwing and tire-burning and weren’t “ticking bombs.” Yet they all were tortured as one detainee explained:

“I was shackled in iron cuffs that entered my flesh, and a bag was put on my head as a certain music roared in my ears and almost deafened me. They used to beat me up and kick me, and my body was full of wounds and bruises. After that I was sent to a doctor who asked me if I was tortured, and I said yes, but he didn’t reply or say something. Then I was taken back and tortured again.”

PCATI petitioned the HCJ, and it responded with a landmark September 1999 ruling. It reversed the Landau Commission’s recommendations, barred the use of torture against detainees, but left a giant loophole. It ruled that pressure and a measure of discomfort are legitimate interrogation side-effects provided they’re not used to break a detainee’s spirit. But it sanctioned physical force in “ticking time bomb” cases in direct violation of international laws allowing no exceptions under any circumstances. Moreover, Israeli security forces routinely claim detainees are security threats enough to justify its interrogation practices.

In November 2001, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights disagreed. It issued “Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee against Torture” and addressed the 1999 HCJ ruling in the case of the Public Committee against Torture in Israel v. the State of Israel. It held that: “the use of certain interrogation methods by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) involving the use of ‘moderate physical pressure’ was illegal as it violated constitutional protection of the individual’s right of dignity….While recognizing the right of Israel to protect its citizens from violence, it reiterates that no exceptional circumstances may be invoked as justification of torture” or abusive interrogation practices.

Since its 1967 occupation, the Palestinian peace and justice group MIFTA estimates that over 650,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned – or the equivalent of about one-sixth of today’s Occupied Palestinian population. Currently, Israeli security forces hold around 10 – 12,000 Palestinian men, women and children detainees under deplorable conditions and many administratively without charge. According to human rights organizations like B’Tselem, Hamoked, UAT and PCATI, up to 85% are subjected to torture and abusive treatment.

PCATI’s June 2008 Torture Report

PCATI is a 1990-founded “independent human rights organization” that monitors and decries “the use of torture in (Israeli) interrogations (and works for its) complete prohibition.” It also provides legal counsel, aids victims, and helps lawyers representing them.

Its June 2008 report is titled “No Defense: Soldier Violence against Palestinian Detainees.” It begins with a question asked Brig. General Yossi Bachar (former commander of Israel’s Paratrooper Brigade) at the trial of one of his soldiers accused of abusing a Palestinian detainee: “How common is the phenomenon of beating shackled Palestinian prisoners?”

His answer: ” Unfortunately I want to admit something that we are not fully aware of. These cases are not all that exceptional in their quantity….to my great regret. Many of them are not the subject of any complaint and are cloaked in various kinds of conspiracies of silence,” only revealed years later and “usually only through anonymous statements….”

PCATI and other human rights organizations break the silence publicly:

— “to describe the scope and frequency of (torture);”

— its “moral, legal, and practical gravity;

— to publicize (it);

— to examine how (those responsible) address (it);

— to clarify (its) absolute prohibition under Israeli and international law; and

— to demand” its prohibition “by providing the relevant bodies with useful information and tools.”

PCATI based its report on 90 testimonies: from Palestinian detainees and soldiers who arrested them. Also from published media information and comments from Israeli military and political figures. It covers the period June 2006 through October 2007 and is symptomatic of a broader phenomenon, largely unrevealed because most abused Palestinians “refrain from submitting complaints.” As a result, PCATI’s cases reflect the tip of the iceberg that’s been “particularly severe over the past eight years” since the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000. From then until now, PCATI describes a pattern of abuse that begins from the moment of arrest.

It’s done by force in violation of the prohibition of the practice and the responsibility of soldiers to guarantee detainees’ (in their custody) safety, dignity and physical integrity. Instead they expose them to “ill treatment and humiliation” – on arrest and immediately thereafter, in transit, and at military bases and installations pending transfer to detention facilities.

Abuse Begins at the Start

Most often, soldiers beat Palestinians during and right after painfully shackling them. Plastic handcuffs are used that can only be tightened, not released or loosened, and subjects are kept that way (generally for hours) long enough to cause permanent injury.

In response to PCATI requests, the IDF Spokesperson provided no regulations, procedures or orders regarding use of plastic handcuffs. However, Chief Military Police Officer Order No. 9810 discusses shackling in detention facilities and states: “only metal (devices) are to be used, (and) the tightening of the shackles should be undertaken….to prevent injury to the detainee (particularly to blood vessels).”

Violence and threats are also common from the start. Besides painful shackling, subjects describe being blindfolded, threatened with weapons and death, accused of harboring suicide attackers, shouted at, beaten, kicked, punched in the face, and in at least one instance told his house would be destroyed and burned. Complaining did no good. It incited more abuse.

Treatment During Transport – From Place of Arrest to Detention Facilities

This is stage two of abuse and humiliation – inside military vehicles. Subjects are made to sit or lie on their floors and at times are thrown on them. They’re bare, hot, and when soldiers step on detainees’ heads or bodies (a frequent practice) abrasions and injuries result. PCATI again found no orders or procedures regulating transport, so detainees are subjected to the whims of their captors while on site commanders look the other way.

Treatment in Temporary Army Base Detention

Here, too, abusive practices continue the way one detainee described: “I was put in a small room and they beat my legs. They put me on the floor. Then I felt one of the soldiers take something from the floor and beat me on my head and shoulders….Then they took me out into a concrete yard and tied my handcuffs to a concrete pole and made me sit on the ground and they beat me. Every hour or half hour they would beat me on the face.” Lack of oversight and procedures invite ill treatment, and soldiers take full advantage. It’s painful, protracted and humiliating – sometimes so extreme that subjects lose consciousness or require hospitalization.

Sting dogs are also used and trained for one of five purposes: “assault, identification of explosives, scouting, weapons and ammunition searches, or rescue and release.” Mere contact with dogs terrify and humiliate detainees who feel “dishonored whenever (these animals are) close to” or touch them.

Officially, sting dogs never attack “innocent persons,” according to the IDF Spokesperson. But one soldier explained that they’re trained for assault and “seek humans (by) their scent.” Another sergeant confirmed that these dogs attack people, “more than once,” because they’re trained to do it:

— on indicators like gunshots or scent; no human order is needed;

— they move at some distance from their handlers, alongside soldiers not trained to control them; and

— they’re trained to be highly aggressive and capable of causing serious injury.

A Sting unit commander confirmed that these dogs “neutralize and attack hostile elements….seizes a subject and won’t let go.” They present a serious and imminent danger to any designated target – in some cases children identified as “wanted persons.” Without oversight and procedures, soldiers can easily abuse them with Sting dogs.

Under Israeli law, minors are of special concern – defined as persons under 18, or under Occupied Territory military orders, youths under 16. Israeli law affords special protection to minors, yet, in practice, it’s solely for Jews.

Nonetheless, Israel is a signatory to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child that’s explicit and binding in its provisions:

— that “every human being” below 18 is a child;

— that the state must ensure that their economic, social and cultural rights, safety and welfare set forth in the Convention are protected “without discrimination of any kind” with regard to “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status,” including their “right to life….survival (and) development;”

— that all measures shall be taken to protect children from physical and mental violence, exploitation or ill treatment; and

— that children deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and not subjected to torture or other abusive or degrading treatment, in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

Nonetheless, clear evidence shows that soldiers exercise no special caution in arresting and detaining minors. At times, they exploit their weaknesses – beating, abusing and terrifying them for merely throwing stones. PCATI characterizes this treatment as “just one link in a chain” of abuse beginning with arrest – in violation of international law and “accepted legal and moral standards in….Israel.”

A Yesh Din human rights report showed that Occupied Territory Palestinian minors are prosecuted as adults under Israeli military law since no military juvenile courts exist. Prosecutors and judges make no distinction or reference to age nor did the IDF Spokesperson when asked to clarify special orders or procedures regarding minors. As a result, they’re treated no differently than adults. No monitoring or procedures are in place, so the “grave consequences of this action can be anticipated in advance.”

PCATI describes abusive practices throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and “not confined to one or two military units.” Evidence obtained confirms a much broader phenomenon than testimonies revealed, and other human rights organizations concur – a pervasive, systematic practice going back “many years.”

Israel Radio military correspondent, Carmella Menashe, discussed it in one broadcast:

“How can it be that….these events keep repeating themselves and….no one is bothered….And this is the morality of the IDF; these are the most basic values to which soldiers should be educated from the (start); it isn’t (about) Palestinians….(it’s) about normative behavior, the most basic things….(how) a soldier in the IDF (can commit such abusive acts); it (comes down to) some kind of disregard for the lives of Palestinians” who simply don’t matter to these soldiers.

For their part, military officials don’t recognize the phenomenon and thus end up encouraging and reinforcing it. So do the Knesset, courts and respective governing administrations.

Treatment After Arrest

Israeli military law contains the specific offense of “ill treatment” that prohibits soldiers from abusing persons in their custody. Those found guilty face up to three years in prison and under “aggravating circumstances” up to seven years. In many of the instances PCATI uncovered, abuse amounted to “torture.”

According to military law, “ill treatment” may be committed by one soldier against another or against someone “in custody for which the soldier is responsible” – characterized by denying the person’s liberty.

A vast discrepancy of power exists between captive and captor. It’s exploited whenever soldiers use violence and abusive practices against shackled, blindfolded and defenseless detainees denigrating their human dignity. Also when they endanger their lives or health or deviate from standard procedures.

In nearly all cases examined, this, in fact, happened as soldiers committed assault or assault in “aggravating circumstances.” These are military “ill treatment” offenses and civilian ones under penal code articles 378 – 382. Other penal code offenses as well such as injury, battery, forcible extortion, ill treatment of a minor, and so forth. In all cases, soldier-committed violence against shackled detainees is a “criminal phenomenon (subject to penalties) under an entire system of offenses in Israeli criminal law.”

Even so, in the few cases where soldiers were prosecuted, penalties imposed were minor compared to similar civil court convictions. And rarely are commanders charged even when they order detainees harmed, or they simply witness or know abuses occur but fail to intervene. At most in these cases, higher-ranking officers go before a disciplinary hearing, get charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, and receive suspended sentences. Never do senior commanders answer for ill treatment charges against their subordinates.

Coercive Field Interrogations

The Military Justice Code authorizes no operational need to beat or ill treat detainees under arrest. But enforcement, in fact, is lax and international law dismissed. It results in what PCATI discovered in spite of military investigatory bodies responsible for interrogation and prosecution. Three exist under the Military Justice Code:

— an examining officer;

— the Military Police Investigation Unit (MIU); and

— an investigative judge.

In most cases, alleged offenses are examined by an examining officer or investigative judge (in cases of death) before offenders are prosecuted in a military court. Examining officers hear witnesses, examine evidence, order suspect arrests, and recommend if prosecutions are justified. In practice, investigations are inadequate so few cases, in fact, enter the legal system and few offenders end up convicted.

According to Knesset member Ophir Paz-Pines: Unaccountability for abusing Palestinians is no “small problem – it is a big problem.” It was so bad during 2003 – 2005 that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s Preparedness and Routine Security Subcommittee described operational debriefings as “out of control.” Most complaints charged go unaddressed, and most that are end up dismissed for “lack of evidence” or because accused soldiers are believed over complainants.

The result – almost no prosecutions or convictions. At most around two a year throughout the Intifada period when abuses were rampant and extreme. Furthermore, months go by before complaints are examined during which time many accused complete their service, return to civilian life, and end up free from prosecution or conviction.

Military courts are supportive. They:

— abstain from most investigations;

— rely on non-professional debriefing institutions with clear conflicts of interest and histories of false reporting;

— manage their few investigations unprofessionally with no regard for justice; so

— allow criminal abuse to go unpunished or barely so while absolving perpetrators of their responsibility; even rare convictions show leniency and send a powerful message: Palestinian rights don’t matter so act with impunity; an obvious concern is raised; Palestinians face enormous obstacles getting justice in all Israeli courts; in military ones (against their own soldiers) it’s near impossible; solution: an international law requiring:

— civilians to be tried in civil courts;

— soldiers as well when their victims are civilians; and

— military courts for their own personnel solely in cases of military offenses.

Further, binding rules, procedures and guidelines must be in place as well as proper training, supervision and monitoring to insure that arrests, detentions and prosecutions are justly handled. Israel’s military relies solely on the “values (spirit and norms) of the IDF.” They’re woefully inadequate, unresponsive to Arab rights, and always produce injustice. PCATI puts it this way: “Given this reality, it is hardly surprising that an examination of the actual behavior of the military, as distinct from its declarations, also reveals denial, evasion, and obfuscation.”

Thousands of Palestinians are arrested, detained and abused. With little or no accountability, here’s how one Israeli soldier put it: “When you deny thousands of people a day (free) movement, it is impossible to do it in a nice way.” Nonetheless, government and military officials deny there’s a problem. Examples of publicly exposed abuse are called exceptions or errors in judgment that are “dealt with exhaustively,” according to the IDF Spokesperson. In fact, testimonies and reports reveal a widespread phenomenon.

Denial and cover-up assure its continuance, legitimization, and destructive consequences. And guilt goes right to the top – to senior Defense Ministry generals and Ministers of Defense. To Knesset members as well and ruling party officials. A review of unclassified Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee materials from 2003 – 2008 reveals no discussion of Palestinian detainees ill treatment – in spite of “countless reports in the media….by soldiers,” and by human rights organizations like PCATI, B’Tselem and others. The Committee “failed to fulfill its function and obligation” to supervise the security establishment, identify problems and propose solutions. As a consequence, human rights abuses continue unabated.

PCATI Recommendations for Change

International law is clear. As an occupying power, Israel is obligated to assure Palestinians’ welfare, safety and rights:

— recognizing the existence of the problem comes first; widespread ill treatment exists and must be addressed equitably;

— reporting, inspection and enforcement mechanisms must be established to do it;

— military and security forces must take the lead – through “tangible objectives for securing a drastic reduction in as short a period of time as possible (toward) the ultimate goal of completely eradicating this phenomenon;

— high level examination of the problem should be made public, shared with commanders and soldiers, the media, and members of the Knesset – to send a clear message that this behavior won’t be tolerated;

— Defense Ministry orders, directives, procedures and guidelines should be established:

(1) to assign responsibility;

(2) define its range;

(3) how it’s transfered;

(4) the command and residual responsibility for abusers to avoid the excuse that they can’t be located;

(5) identify weak spots where ill treatment occurs;

(6) neutralize them by command presence or through a controlled physical space;

(7) allow no contact between dogs and detainees;

(8) give special attention to the arrest and detention of minors; and

(9) define arrest, transfer and detention procedures; the nature of an “imprisonment facility” as well as other defined guidelines and allowed procedures and practices.

In addition:

— everything must be in writing and available to every soldier;

— they should be fully briefed and trained;

— no deviations should be tolerated;

— adequate resources should be available for arrests through incarceration;

— all arrests should be documented in detail;

— training and procedures must assure detainee well-being, absolutely prohibit ill treatment, and require it be reported when observed;

— assure binding and meaningful monitoring and enforcement of the rules; and

— have the Knesset, administration and appropriate government bodies and officials involved to assure ill treatment won’t be tolerated, and when it happens, those at the top share culpability.

It’s up to the entire Israeli establishment to own up to the problem, recognize its gravity, and establish strong binding measures to eliminate it. Toward that end, PCATI and other human rights organizations and their supporters will continue to “expose and highlight this phenomenon” that continues to inflict great harm on defenseless Palestinians.

United Against Torture (UAT)

UAT is a (2005 established) “coalition of Israeli, Palestinian and international NGOs (united) against the practice of torture and ill-treatment in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)….”

In December 2007, it issued its second annual report on “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” – through the period ending October 2007. It’s based on questionnaires “to various stakeholders in Israel and the OPT, including the EU Tel Aviv Delegation (ECD), European Commission Technical Assistance Office for the West Bank and Gaza (ECTAO), EU Ambassadors and/or other relevant EU contact persons in EU Missions, and NGOs particularly active in this field.”

UAT states that its report doesn’t address specific instances of torture and abuse. Its purpose is to provide an overview of how “the EU and its Member States contribute to the prevention and eradication of torture” in Israel and the OPT.

It cites “EU guidelines against torture and ill-treatment.” Some are as follows:

–“prohibit(ing) torture and ill-treatment in law, including criminal law;

— condemn(ing), at the highest level, all forms of torture and ill-treatment;

— tak(ing) effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures (against torture and ill-treatment);

— adher(ing) to international norms and procedures….;” and

— “combat(ing) impunity to hold perpetrators liable, establish(ing) reporting procedures, and provid(ing) reparation and rehabilitation for victims.”

UAT cites various international laws against torture and abuse to which Israel is a signatory, including:

— the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

— the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and

— the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

International laws are clear. They not only prohibit torture and abuse, they legally bind states to undertake independent, impartial, and effective investigations into allegations and suspicions of these practices. They also require perpetrators be prosecuted and punished, that redress be afforded to victims, and that continuance of these crimes are banned.

UAT states: “if there is something (all) humanity (can) agree (on at least theoretically), it is that (preserving individual dignity in difficult situations requires that) we all conform to some elementary (common) standards of conduct.” Otherwise, we risk “perishing in a mutual spiral of non-ending violence.”

Israel on the Issue of Torture

Israel is a self-professed democracy, yet defines itself as a Jewish state, treats Jews preferentially, and affords them special rights and privileges denied those of other faiths. The country has no formal constitution. It’s governed by its Basic Laws that guaranteed no human rights until the 1992 “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom” passed. It authorized the Knesset to overturn laws contrary to the right to dignity, life, freedom, privacy, and property as well as to leave and enter the country. The law states:

“There shall be no violation of the life, body or dignity of any person. All persons are entitled to protection” of these rights, and “There shall be no deprivation or restriction of the liberty of a person by imprisonment, arrest, extradition or otherwise.”

Another Basic Law deals with “The Right to Life and Limb in Israeli Law.” It implies that life is sacred and states: “Israeli law has abolished the death penalty for murder (and corporal punishment).” The 1998 “Good Samaritan Law” requires assistance be given in situations “of immediate and severe danger to another.” These provisions are for Jews only because Basic Law provisions deny equality for non-Jews in spite of the following language:

Israeli law affirms “Fundamental human rights….founded upon recognition of the value of the human being, the sanctity of human life, and the principle that all persons are free.” Israeli Basic Law exists “to protect human (life,) dignity and (assure that) All government authorities are bound to respect (these) rights under this Basic Law” – with one proviso: Israel is a Jewish state so all rights, benefits, privileges and protections are for Jews only. Others are unwelcome, unwanted, unequal, and afforded no protections under the law.

Further, and in spite of unambiguous international laws, torture, abuse, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment aren’t designated crimes under Israeli law. But the 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture and provides criminal sanctions against it in language similar to the UN Convention against Torture.

Nonetheless, Israel maintains that it “officially proclaimed (a) state of public emergency from 19 May 1948, four days after its founding, until the present day.” It remains in force “due to the ongoing state of war or violent conflict between Israel and its neighbours, and the attendant attacks on the lives and property of its citizens.” It thus illegally deviates from international law provisions that differ from whatever means it chooses to protect its liberty and security. By implication, torture and ill treatment are permissible. Exceptional conditions are normal, and temporary is permanent in direct contradiction to accepted norms and standards.

UAT states: freedom “from torture and other forms of ill-treatment or punishment may not be violated under any circumstances (and) states of emergency” allow no exceptions. The right to be free from torture and abuse is sacrosanct. Permissible “temporary” deviations allow no basic human rights violations. Such acts are strictly prohibited under accepted international laws to which State Party signatories are bound at all times, under all conditions, with no exceptions.

Yet Israel inflicts torture and ill treatment “in the context of the arrest and interrogation of persons suspected of being security threats” even when no charges against them are brought and no substantiating evidence exists. So practices like the following are common:

— beatings;

— sleep deprivation;

— painfully tightened hand cuffs;

— violent shaking;

— kicking;

— sharp twisting of the head sideways or backwards as well as painful twisting of arms, wrists and hands under conditions when they’re tied to backs or other parts of chairs;

— the painful and injury prone “frog” crouch on tiptoes with hands cuffed behind the back;

— the “banana” position involving bending the back in a painful arch while extending the body horizontally to the floor on a backless chair – with arms and feet bound beneath it;

— cuffing behind the back and shackling legs in the “shabah” position – a prolonged, painful binding of detainees’ hands and feet to a standard-sized unupholstered, metal frame, rigid plastic chair fixed to the floor with no armrests;

— using informer-collaborators to get information;

— prolonged isolation, including psychologically harmful solitary confinement in tiny cells under painfully oppressive conditions designed to crush human resistance; as well as

— cursing, humiliating and degrading treatment, strip searches, physical threats, and other practices designed to soften up detainees for questioning.

NGOs also harshly criticize Israeli prison conditions and family hardships faced to visit loved ones. Restrictions are onerous:

— only first-degree relatives may come; and

— male visitors between 16 and 35 are severely restricted; brothers get only one visit a year and sons only two; wives are also restricted; and

— families need ICRC transport help to visit prisoners inaccessible to them otherwise because of distances involved and travel prohibitions.

UAT believes that human rights violations “are at the heart of the Middle East conflict” and directly affect “Israel’s own stability and security.” Yet Israel won’t discuss them, and little compliance pressure is applied because of the country’s “special status” with the EU and, of course, Washington. As a result, in spite of persistent human rights violations, the US turns a blind eye, and EU countries prefer dialogue to punishment, including sanctions against Israel with teeth.

Palestinians throughout the Territories lose out, but Hamas and Gazans under siege feel it most. They believe the international community and fellow Arab states abandoned and betrayed them and are leaving them to rot in spite of EU member states pledging billions to help build a Palestinian state at the December 2007 Paris Conference. Given Israel’s alliance with the West, past pledges made and broken, and current conditions in Occupied Palestine, it’s hard to imagine any of these funds going for meaningful improvements on the ground. It’s easy to believe they’ll finance Israel’s security state and harm Palestinian interests.

UAT underscores the problem this way:

“Israel’s sensitivity (in) dealing with….human rights (issues) and the problem of torture and ill-treatment makes any dialogue on these matter particularly slow and complex….” So much so that EU member states “may become overly reluctant to raise such issues systematically, consistently and firmly, notwithstanding their legal and political duty to put human rights in the centre of their foreign and security policy.”

Dialogue nonetheless is ongoing. Human rights are addressed, but “apparently not the subject of torture and ill-treatment….Given the political realities in Israel and the OPT, progress in preventing and eradicating torture and ill-treatment must be regarded as a mid-and-long-term goal” in spite of modest NGO successes.

Overall, challenges to ending torture are formidable and numerous. In dealing with Israel, “there is never a good moment to raise human rights questions (and) always a reason for not doing something….” But UAT is forthright: despite Middle East tensions, political reality, and complexity of tough issues, no excuses justify EU member states for not “strongly and consistently promot(ing) full compliance with basic and absolute legal obligations to protect individuals’ most fundamental rights.” Action must overcome challenges on issues like these:

— Israel’s “extreme sensitivity” to criticism of its human rights record;

— its security argument and state of war to justify abuses and disdain for international law;

— its lack of political will to end 41 years of occupation;

— its lack of accountability on issues of “necessity,” including sanctioning torture and abuse;

— its abusive detention conditions, including;

(1) denying Palestinians access to legal counsel during interrogations;

(2) interrogation methods used;

(3) overall policy brutality, including torture and abuse;

(4) horrific prison conditions;

(5) inadequate medical care and unseemly role of doctors during interrogations; and

(6) highly restrictive prison visitation rules. Also:

— limited contact between NGOs and the Israeli government and practically no chance to exert influence;

— the EU’s lack of political will to “interfere” in Israeli “affairs;” member states have practically given up because “it is not worth having a fight with Israel;”

— EU-Israeli economic ties relegate human rights issues to second tier status; and

— mistaken EU Middle East policy allied with America instead of forging an independent one.

UAT notes that various human rights organizations have lost faith with the international community, including the EU and UN. They prefer their own efforts and resources, legally and politically, for whatever modest gains they can get rather than none at all from ineffective nations.

UAT conclusions are as follows:

— information on guidelines and their implementation is essential to eradicating torture and abuse;

— NGOs are highly respected, and their information is considered accurate; but some of them have more contact with EU members than others;

— given Israel’s sensitivity and growing economic ties, EU states have considerable discomfort raising issues of torture and abuse; however, to some degree (if inadequate) they’ve engaged on matters of administrative detentions, the Separation Wall, and West Bank settlements; yet their efforts come down to this: with minor exceptions, no successes have been achieved and Israeli policies continue unabated; so EU efforts amount to little more than a “balancing act” – to maintain good relations with Israel for appropriate political and economic gains; and

— on a positive note, EU states have contributed “financial assistance to civil society actors in Israel and the OPT;” but it doesn’t substitute for positive pressure and action.

Recommendations

— hearts and minds on all sides must be changed to eradicate torture and abuse;

— America’s moral leadership is defunct so EU states must take the lead and stick to their legal, political and ethical principles;

— they must overcome individual differences and “act as one entity;”

— they must press their advantage with Israel; economic gains have a price – improving the country’s human rights record, particularly regarding torture and abuse, and complying fully with international law obligations;

— NGOs should press for laws penalizing torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; they should also lobby for independent, impartial and competent remedies to these practices in accordance with international law; and

— they should address all other violations and enforcement of international laws prohibiting them.

Ending the cycle of violence is challenging. Time and will are needed. It starts by respecting everyone’s equal rights and their intrinsic human worth. If agreement on not resorting to violence can be achieved, “the magic key to peace, justice and true security” may be at hand, but it’ll take a determined effort to turn it constructively and no time to waste doing it.

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

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on www.RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9899

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

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Reinventing the Evil Empire by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 25, 2008

For the West, everything changed but stayed the same, hard-wired and in place. Things just lay dormant in the shadows during the Yeltsin years, certain to reemerge once a more resolute Russian leader took over. If not Vladimir Putin, someone else little different.

Russia is back, proud and reassertive, and not about to roll over for America. Especially in Eurasia. For Washington, it’s back to the future, the new Cold War, and reinventing the Evil Empire, but this time for greater stakes and with much larger threats to world peace. Conservatives lost their influence. Neocons are weakened but still dominant. The Israeli Lobby and Christian Right drive them. Conflict is preferred over diplomacy, and most Democrats go along to look tough on “terrorism.” Notably their standard-bearer, vying with McCain to be toughest.

Several former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Republics are part of NATO: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In addition, Georgia and Ukraine seek membership. Russia is strongly opposed. And now for greater reason after Poland (on August 20) formally agreed to allow offensive US “interceptor missiles” on its soil. A reported 96 short-range Patriot ones also plus a permanent garrison of US troops – 110 transfered from Germany, according to some accounts. Likely more to follow. In addition, Washington agreed to defend Poland whether or not it joins NATO, so that heightens tensions further.

The Warsaw signing followed the Czech Republic’s April willingness to install “advanced tracking missile defense radar” by 2012. In both instances, Russia strongly objected, and on August 20 said it will “react (and) not only through diplomatic protests.” Both former Warsaw Pact countries are now targets. The threat of nuclear war is heightened. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock heads closer to midnight – meaning “catastrophic destruction.” It’s no joking matter.

The US media downplays the threat and hails a pact Zbigniew Brzezinski (a Polish national, former Carter National Security Advisor, and key Obama foreign policy strategist) calls a watershed in the two countries’ relationship – “This changes the strategic relationship between the US and Poland. There is a clear and explicit understanding that if there are negative consequences of stationing the missile shield, the US will come to Poland’s defense.”

On the one hand, a surprising statement from a man critical of Bush administration policies, its failure in Iraq, and the dangers of a widened Middle East war. He fully understands the heightened potential for world conflict but sounds dismissive of the threat. On the other hand, he has bigger fish to fry and apparently willing to wage big stakes on winning. The Iraq war and Iran are distractions by his calculus. The real Great Game embraces all Eurasia and assuring America comes out dominant – not Russia, not China, nor any rival US alliance.

The major media also downplay the dangers and explain nothing about the high stakes. Instead they beat up on Russia and highlight comments from Secretary Rice that missiles aren’t “aimed in any way at Russia,” or White House spokesperson Dana Perino saying: “In no way is the president’s plan for missile defense aimed at Russia. (It’s to) protect our European allies from any rogue threats” that suggests Iran, but, clearly means Russia, according to Hauke Ritz’s recent analysis in Germany’s influential Leaves for German and International Politics journal.

He explained that Iran’s missiles can’t reach Europe, and that Washington rejected Russia’s proposed Azerbaijan-based joint US-Russian anti-missile system – to intercept and destroy Iranian missiles on launch. He thus concluded that Washington’s scheme is for offense, not defense. That it targets Russia, not Iran, with Alaskan and other installations close to Russia as further proof. He wrote: “The strategic significance of the system consists of intercepting those few dozen missiles Moscow (can launch) following a first strike. (It’s) a crucial element….to develop a nuclear first strike capacity against Russia. The original plan is for….ten interceptor missiles in Poland. But once….established, their number could be easily increased.”

According to Ritz, Washington wants a missile system that “guarantee(s a) US (edge) to carry out nuclear war without (risking a) counter-strike.” It can then be used for geopolitical advantage “to implement national interests,” but it highlights the dangers of possible nuclear confrontation and the catastrophic fallout if it happens.

In an August 20 Veterans of Foreign Wars convention address, Bush was essentially on this theme in focusing on “terrorism” and saying: “We’re at war against determined enemies, and we must not rest until that war is won.” Georgia “stands for freedom around the world, now the world must stand for freedom in Georgia” – clearly linking Russia’s response with “terrorism” and suggesting from his September 2001 address to a joint session of Congress and the America people that: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Any that are “will be regarded….as a hostile state.” Clearly, Russia is on his mind just as Moscow is carefully evaluating his threat.

The BBC echoed the US media, covers all the bases, mentioned the Iranian threat, singles out Russia, obfuscates facts about the conflict, sides with Washington and Poland on the new missile deal, and quoted Polish President Lech Kaczynski saying: “no one (with) good intentions towards us and (the West) should” fear the missiles. It also cited a miraculous turnaround in sentiment saying two-thirds of Poles now favor them. Astonishing since overwhelming opposition was recently evident, so it’s hard imagining it shifted so fast.

High-Octane Russia Bashing – The Dominant US Media

The Wall Street Journal asserted that Poles “see the US as their strongest ally” given “two centuries of invasions and partitioning by Russia” and other European powers. It also highlighted Russia’s “nuclear threat” (not Iran’s) in a Gabriel Schoenfeld article painting Russia as an aggressor and America aiding its European allies.

Schoenfeld (a senior editor of the hawkish, pro-Israeli Commentary magazine) cites “Moscow’s willingness to crush Georgia with overwhelming force (and claims) the Kremlin has 10 times as many tactical (short-range) warheads as the US.” The “shift in the nuclear imbalance….helped embolden the bear.” He ignores America’s overall nuclear superiority, but it hardly matters as both countries combined have around 97% of these weapons (an estimated 27,000 world total) according to experts like Helen Caldicott – more than enough to destroy the planet many times over.

Nonetheless, Schoenfeld supports the Polish agreement in the face of a “pugnacious Russia (determined to acquire) economic and military power (and) not afraid to use threats and force to get (its) way (with) nuclear weapons central to the Russian geopolitical calculus.” It’s reminiscent of “the dark days of communist yore (and captures the threat of what) we and Russia’s neighbors are up against.”

For the moment, anti-Iranian rhetoric has subsided with Russia the new dominant villian. En route to the NATO Brussels August 18 meeting, Secretary Rice called Russia’s action against Georgia a “very dangerous game and perhaps one the Russians want to reconsider.” Russian “aggression” is the buzzword, and the media dutifully trumpet it.

So do the presidential candidates. John McCain was especially belligerent in denouncing “Russian aggression” and calling on Moscow to “immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory.” He called for emergency Security Council and NATO meetings in hopes condemnation would follow and “NATO (can act) to stabiliz(e) this very dangerous situation.” He also wants Russia expelled from the G-8 nations and an end to 10 years of partnership and cooperation.

Barak Obama first said that Russia’s “aggression” must not stand and denounced “Russian atrocities.” He then softened his tone somewhat with: “Now is the time for action – not just words….Russia must halt its violation of Georgian airspace and withdraw its ground forces from Georgia, with international monitors to verify that these obligations are met.” But expect those comments to harden as Democrats meet in Denver, and the party’s nominee will likely match his opponent’s tough stance. Or at least try under a slogan of “Securing America’s Future” to advance the nation’s interests in the world. Beating up on Russia is now fair game and made easier with lockstep media support.

The Wall Street Journal is more hostile than most, and practically frothed in its August 16 – 17 weekend edition. It called for “Making Putin Pay (and) Turning Russia’s Georgian rout into a political defeat.” It cited Russian aggression “to remove President Saakasvili from the office to which he was elected in 2004 (and to) overthrow a democratic government.”

It called on “western authorities (to) explore the vulnerability of Russian assets abroad (or) at least make life difficult for the holders of those assets.” The Journal might remember the billions of US fixed income and other investments Russia holds – although the country’s Central Bank reported late July that it pared its $100 billion in US “mortgage bonds” to $50 billion early in the year. The US Treasury reports that Russia holds around $36 billion of Treasury securities with considerably more in private hands.

The Journal then compared Russia to China and managed a slap at both. It said: “In the world of global commerce….China calculated that….staging an Olympic extravaganza (could enhance its) ambivalent reputation….By contrast, the Putin government….seems to believe its power grows in sync with its reputation as an international pariah, an outsider state,” and George Bush added that “Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world” – with the Journal writer hardly blinking at such brazen hypocrisy.

Nor did Journal editorial board member Matthew Kaminski in his headlined piece: “Russia Is Still a Hungry Empire” without a hint about the Soviet Union’s bloodless 1991 dissolution now down the memory hole in light of today’s inflammatory headlines.

Kaminski highlights “Russian tanks rolling through Georgia (with) images of Chechnya in 1994 and ’99, Vilnius ’91, Afghanistan ’79, Prague ’68, Hungary ’56” and before that Poland, the Baltics and other Eastern European states. “The war in Georgia marks an easy return to territorial expansion and attempted regional dominance.”

Boris Yeltsin “tried to give Russians an alternative narrative. (He) put forward democracy as a unifying and legitimizing idea for the new Russian state.” But that was swept away when “Putin took over.” He’s unresponsive to the idea of “partnership with the West and freedom at home.” He aims to force “young democracies around Russia….back into Moscow’s sphere of influence….The worldview of a Russian nationalist is hard for outsiders to comprehend,” and for Kaminski one that mustn’t be allowed to stand.

Nor for other Journal contributors daily (in op-eds and editorials) with some of the most outlandish attack journalism heard since before Gorbachev. Claims that “Kremlin capitalism is a threat to the West….by using its market strength in oil and gas resources to strong-arm its neighbors and outmaneuver the US and EU.” And that Russia’s real aim “is to replace a pro-western government with a new Russian satellite….reminiscent of the Brezhnev doctrine. (It’s) part of a broader campaign (to annex new territory, expand the Russian empire, conduct) cyber attacks against the Baltic states, (assassinate enemies, and use) economic intimidation (through) cutoffs of Russian oil and gas shipments to Ukraine and the Czech Republic….It is important that Moscow pays a concrete and tangible price for its latest aggression, at least comparable to (what) it paid for the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.”

The New York Times is more measured but, on August 19, highlighted “Survivors in Georgia Tell of Ethnic Killings” with suggestions of “ethnic cleansing” – a practice that “haunted the borderlands of the old Soviet bloc.” Villages were “burned and houses broken; unburied bodies lay rotting; fresh graves were dug in gardens and basements….most victims interviewed (were) ethnic Georgians….(In central Georgian) villages, some killings were carried out for revenge….some (involved) theft (and still others) seemed to be that the power balance was shifting, away from ethnic Georgians to the Ossetian separatists and their Russian backers.”

Independent reporters on the ground contradicted The Times and similar US media accounts. One wrote: “Georgians living in several of the villages said the Russians occupying their land had treated them well, done nothing to encourage them to leave and offered the only protection available from the South Ossestian militias they feared most” and perhaps their own army in an effort to inflict harm and blame it on Russia.

On August 21, The Times headlined: “US Sees Much to Fear in a Hostile Russia (by) usher(ing) in a sustained period of renewed animosity with the West….problems extend(ing) far beyond (arms deals with) Syria and the mountains of Georgia.” Others with “anti-American states like Iran and Venezuela.” Pressuring US “military bases in Central Asia….counterterrorism, Hamas” and numerous other issues. Obama’s chief Russia advisor, Stanford University professor Michael McFaul, was quoted saying Russia appears intent on “disrupt(ing) the international order” and can do it. They’re “the hegemon in that region and we are not and that’s a fact.”

“Russia has all the leverage,” according to Carnegie Moscow Center’s Masha Lipman (with) potential for causing headaches” if it chooses – in the region, the UN, on Iran, Zimbabwe, and to halt “any kind of coercive actions, like economic sanctions or anything else,” according to former National Security Council advisor Peter Feaver. An old post-Cold War concern is now arisen. Russia is now “a spoiler.”

An August 21 AP report cites an example in its headlined piece” “Russia blocks Georgia’s main (oil) port city” of Poti and continues to hold positions around Gori and Igoeti….30 miles west of….Tbilisi.”

Reports from Other Sources

On August 21, Russia Today reported that “Abkhazia rallie(d) for independence (and) the Abkhazian Parliament has approved an official appeal to Russia to recognize its independence.” Tens of thousands rallied in support, and on August 23, Reuters reported that South Ossetia did as well and its president, Eduard Kokoity, plans to ask Russia and the international community for recognition. Russia’s Deputy Federation Council Speaker, Svetlana Orlova, told the rally that “Russia is always with you and will never leave you in the lurch.”

On August 23, The New York Times reported that “the Kremlin is nearing formal recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, possibly as early as next week.” Apparently likely according to Russian Regional Development Minister, Dmitry Kozak, who told Itar-Tass “support is likely (and) that after all the events that have occurred, one should not expect otherwise.”

On August 21, Abkhazian President Sergey Bagapsh “appealed to Russia and to governments of other countries to recognize Abkhazia’s independence,” for both his province and South Ossetia. On August 20, Interfax reported that the Russian Federation Council (Russia’s upper House of parliament) is prepared to recognize both provinces’ independence if their people “express such a will….and if the Russian president makes a relevant decision on this score,” according to Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov.

On August 25, Russia Today reported that (in emergency session) the Federation Council unanimously voted to ask President Medvedev to recognize Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence. Both province presidents addressed the chamber and “again said they will never agree to remain within Georgia” and are more entitled to independence than Kosovo. Konstantin Zatulin, deputy head of the Duma Committee for International Affairs in Russia’s State Duma, its lower chamber, stated that his body “most probably” will go along.

At the same time, tensions remain high. Both sides continue hostile accusations. Russia maintains it’s conducting an orderly withdrawal “in accordance with the international agreements (to their) previous (places) of deployment,” according to Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of Russia’s General Staff. US military officials at first said they saw no significant pullback. On August 22 with a clear withdrawal underway, the International Herald Tribune reported that the “US and France say Russia is not complying” with the cease fire.

Russia is observing a 1999 joint Russian-S. Ossetian-N. Ossetian-Georgian agreement prepared by the Joint Control Commission, an international South Ossetian monitoring body. It lets Russian troops secure a corridor five miles beyond either side of South Ossetia’s border that extends into Georgia. It also allows Russian peacekeepers to operate under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

On August 23, RIA Novosti reported that Nogovitsyn said Russian forces will patrol Georgia’s Black Sea Poti port as “envisaged in the international agreement. Poti is outside of the security zone,” he said, “but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers.” Nor allow Georgia to rearm for more aggression as Russia suspects, and that Georgia’s deputy defense minister, Batu Kutelia, admitted doing initially. On August 22, he told the Financial Times that his government attacked the S. Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, and attempted to seize it.

On August 22, Nogovitsyn heightened tensions by claiming Georgia is now preparing for new military action against Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “We have registered an increase in (Georgian) reconnaissance activities and preparations for armed actions in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone.” As a result, he said that Russia reserves the right to maintain peacekeepers in both provinces. For its part, RIA Novosti reports that America now refuses to participate with Russia in “NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour naval antiterrorism exercise,” according to a Russian Black Sea Fleet source. The announcement came after Russia’s NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, said his country was “temporarily suspending military cooperation with NATO until a political decision on relations” between the two nations had been resolved.

Also on August 22, the Israeli Ynetnews.com published a Russian daily Kommersant interview with Washington’s new Moscow ambassador, John Beyrle, sure to embarrass his superiors. He called Russia’s response justified after its troops came under attack. “Now we see Russian forces which responded to attacks on Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia, legitimately….” He went on to criticize Russia’s over-reaction and warned about its impact on US – Russia relations as well as investor confidence. Nonetheless, his first comment is telling and quite contrary to everything from Washington and biting anti-Russian media responses.

Finally on August 23, Russia Today reported that the “local (S. Ossetian and Abkhazian) population (said) they fear Georgia might repeat its regional aggression. They also (want) Russian troops to stay in the area to shield them from any possible attacks.” Russia has set up 18 S. Ossetia peacekeeping posts and plans a similar number in Abkhazia “to deter looters and the transportation of arms and ammunition.”

All the News Not Fit to Print

Not a major media hint that Georgia is a US vassal state. That its military is an extension of the Pentagon. That its aggression was manufactured in Washington. That it’s well-supplied and trained by America and Israel. That pipeline geopolitics is central. Beating up on Russia as well. Diverting Moscow from any planned intervention against Iran. Even enlisting Russia’s cooperation – not to sell Iran sophisticated S-300 air defense missile systems and agreeing to tougher sanctions in return for perhaps Washington deferring on Georgian and Ukrainian NATO admission and recognizing S. Ossetian and Abkhazian independence. Perhaps more as well to put off greater confrontation for later under a new administration.

Clearly, however, the fuse is lit. It has been for some time. It relates to everything strategic about this vital area with its immense energy and other resources as well neutralizing Russia’s power as America’s top rival and key Eurasian competitor.

Controlling the region’s oil and gas is crucial and what Michel Chossudovsky explains in his August 22 article titled: “The Eurasian Corridor: Pipeline Geopolitics and the New Cold War.” He calls the Caucasus crisis “intimately related to the control over energy pipeline and transportation corridors (and cites) evidence that the Georgian (August 7) attack….was carefully planned (in) High level consultations (between) US and NATO officials” months in advance. On August 23, RIA Novosti said a Russian security source accused Georgia of involvement a year ago in “coordinat(ion) with NATO’s plans to strengthen its (Black Sea) naval presence.”

Chossudovsky discusses America’s (1999) “Silk Road Strategy: The Trans-Eurasian Security System (as) an essential building block of (post-Cold War) US foreign policy.” Proposed in House legislation but never enacted, it was for “an energy and transport corridor network linking Western Europe to Central Asia and eventually to the Far East.” It aims to integrate South Caucasus and Central Asian nations “into the US sphere of influence.” It involves “militariz(ing) the Eurasian corridor,” much like Security and Prosperity Partnership plans are for North America.

Efforts are largely directed against Russia, China and Iran as well as other Eastern-allied states. It’s to turn all Eurasia into a “free market” paradise, secure it for capital, assure US dominance, control its resources, exploit its people, transform all its nations into American vassals, and likely aim to dismantle Russia’s huge landmass if that idea ever comes to fruition.

Russia, however, isn’t standing idle and is partnered in two strategic alliances:

— the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) since June 2001 along with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan with Iran in observer status. It defines its goals as: “good neighborly relations;” promoting “effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology” and more as well as “ensur(ing) peace, security and stability in the region.” Given NATO’s potential threat, its main purpose is military; and

— the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) since 2003 “in close liaison with the SCO” with a heavy emphasis on security against NATO Eurasian expansionism; its members include: Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The stakes are huge as both sides prepare to confront them. All part of the new Cold War and Great Game. Reinventing the Evil Empire and beating up on Russia as part of it. Risking a potential nuclear confrontation as well and what a new US president will inherit with no assurance a Democrat will be any more able than a Republican. And with a global economic crisis unresolved, either one may resort to the age old strategy of stoking fear, going to war, hoping it will stimulate the economy, and be able to divert public concerns away from lost jobs, home foreclosures, and a whole array of other unaddressed issues.

In early 2003, it worked. Will 2009 be a repeat? Will it deepen what author Kevin Phillips calls “the global crisis of American capitalism?” Will the Doomsday Clock strike midnight? It moved two minutes closer on January 17, 2007 to five minutes to the hour. It cited 27,000 nuclear weapons, 2000 ready to launch in minutes. It said: “We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since….Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices.” It said the situation is “dire.” It called for immediate preventive action. Its message went unheeded, and conditions today have worsened. The high Eurasian stakes up things further, and neither side so far is blinking.

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

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9899

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9933

see

Honest Obama To Continue Surrounding Russia by Bruce Gagnon

We’ve Always Been At War With Russia by Cindy Sheehan

Nuclear Chicken in Poland – Putin Can’t Afford to Back Down By Mike Whitney

The Saakashvili Experiment By Ramzy Baroud

Deconstructing Brzezinski’s Russia By Jim Miles

Pat Buchanan: Georgia started the war + It’s like the Cold War

Planning For Cold War And Beyond + Full spectrum dominance

The Eurasian Corridor: Pipeline Geopolitics & the New Cold War by Michel Chossudovsky

Dr Helen Caldicott: The Earth is in the Intensive Care Unit

Georgia

“Peace Mom” v. “Guardian of Power” by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 21, 2008

Credit both titles to the book authors. Cindy Sheehan as a mother, peace activist, and now candidate to succeed Nancy Pelosi in California’s Eighth Congressional District. Pelosi as both “guardian” and possessor of what Davids Cromwell and Edwards wrote about in their powerful critique of the media.

Both women represent hugely different interests, so let readers choose which ones they prefer. First some background on both candidates.

Sheehan is a peace activist, not a politician, and think how refreshing that is. Here’s some background about her from her cindyforcongress.com web site:

— born in California to working-class parents who experienced the pain of the Great Depression;

— raised four children, including her son Casey; killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004 at age 24 – five days after he arrived;

— Sheehan bitterly opposed the war and begged her son not to re-enlist in August 2003: “I begged Casey not to go. I told him I would take him to Canada. (I would do) anything to get him not to go to that immoral war;”

— as an adult mother, she attended Cerritos College and UCLA;

— she then worked as a Youth Minister at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Vacaville, CA for eight years and coordinated an after-school program for at-risk middle school children;

— everything changed when Casey was killed; it energized her to action;

— she founded Gold Star Families for Peace in January 2005, an organization of family members whose relatives were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and that’s dedicated “to ending the occupation in Iraq and bringing our troops home;”

— in August 2005, she organized demonstrations close to the Bush ranch in Crawford, TX – what became known as “Camp Casey;” it drew thousands of activists and celebrities from around the world in protest against an illegal war they want stopped;

— prior to her congressional campaign, she travelled the world to meet with world leaders about resolving the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts; the US Congress and governments of South Korea, Scotland and Canada paid her special recognition;

— numerous organizations around the country and world now have her as a keynote speaker and honored guest;

— she receives dozens of peace awards and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005; in addition, Dario Fo, 1997 Nobel Laureate for Literature, wrote a play about her called “Peace Mom,” the same title as her book;

— she’s also now an accomplished author of three books to go along with her other achievements that have gotten her featured in the mainstream press and alternative media;

— in sum: major achievements for a once simple “mom” who cared enough to change her life and shake the world; now she hopes to do it as a member of the 111th Congress next January and accomplished the first step toward it – in spite of a determined effort to stop her, she collected enough required signatures (by the August 8 deadline) to be on the November ballot as an independent candidate for Congress.

Nancy Pelosi is the current House Speaker and Democrat Congressional member since winning a special election in 1987. Her 8th Congressional District represents much of San Francisco and is considered one of the most liberal ones in the country. In November 2002, she became the first woman ever in Congress to lead a political party as Minority Leader. After Democrats won control of the House in the 2006 off-year elections, she was elected Speaker in January 2007.

She grew up in Baltimore in a very political family. Her late father, Tommy “The Elder” D’Alesandro, was a local party boss and served in various capacities in the city council, as a state delegate, congressman, and three times as mayor from 1947 – 1959. Her younger brother, Tommy “The Younger” D’Alesandro, also was Baltimore’s mayor for one term.

Pelosi’s husband, Paul, is a successful San Francisco financier and businessman. Largely because of his wealth, Pelosi is considered the ninth richest person in the House (according to OpenSecrets.org) with estimates of their net worth ranging from $25 million to three or four times that amount and a life-style to go with it. Not a model populist in a strongly Democrat district where she’s been re-elected 10 times with at least 75% of the vote. Republicans need not apply, so Democrats win by showing up. At least so far.

On examination, Pelosi’s record is troubling, especially after becoming Speaker and failing to deliver on promises made in the 2006 mid-term election. Along with Senate Majority Leader (Democrat) Harry Reid, they share most blame for why the July Rasmussen Reports gave Congress its lowest ever approval rating at 9% with only 2% of respondents calling its performance excellent. The other 7% called it good. The majority 91% called it fair (36%) or poor (52%). That presents opportunity for Sheehan.

Pelosi on the issues explains why. She:

— supported the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Blily Act that repealed Glass-Steagall and allowed commercial and investment banks and insurance companies to combine; it opened the door for some of the worst financial abuses now apparent;

— voted for the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for “the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States;” it began the “war on terror,” the illegal wars that followed, as well as the Bush administration’s coup d’etat against the Constitution and establishment of a police state;

— opposed the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution responsible for launching the war; but she supported the Afghanistan assault and all illegal war funding;

— on January 5, 2007 (after becoming Speaker), “informed the president” in writing of her opposition to the “surge;” only supported a non-binding February resolution against it and took no effective action to end it or the occupation;

— supported the 2007 Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act (HR 2956); it passed the House, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took no further action;

— supported the 2007 US Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountabiity Act (HR 1591) – the first legislation for supplemental Iraq and Afghanistan funding; it called for ending the occupation by September 1, 2008; a compromise bill was agreed to by the House and Senate; it passed both Houses; George Bush vetoed it, and House Democrats failed to override; a second attempt also failed; Democrats in both Houses (backed by Pelosi) agreed to approve supplemental funding with no occupation withdrawal timetable and clear evidence that their earlier efforts were more posturing than a determined effort to end it;

— despite considerable opposition rhetoric, indicated her support for the Iraq and Afghan wars (on December 5, 2006) after the mid-term elections when she looked assured of being elected Speaker; responding to questions said: “We will not cut off funding for the troops; absolutely not; let me remove all doubt in anyone’s mind; as long as our troops are in harm’s way, Democrats will be there to support them….;”

— voted for every Bush administration Pentagon budget request since 2001; and also supported:

— the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act – a thinly veiled scheme to destroy public education and privatize it;

— the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act;

— the 2001 USA Patriot Act;

— the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act – it denied detainees habeas rights and let US forces use cruel, abusive, inhumane and degrading treatment in the interest of national security;

— the 2006 Homeland Security Department Authorization Act;

— the 2007 Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendation Act;

— the 2008 and 2009 Intelligence Authorization Acts to fund 13 intelligence agencies; and

— the 2008 FISA Amendments Act – to weaken standards of proof and warrants required for surveillance and grant telecom companies retroactive immunity for warrantless spying post-9/11.

She’s also fully committed to and well-funded by the corporate interests she supports. She voted against withdrawing from the WTO, for NAFTA and for similar “free trade” agreements with Australia, Peru, Chile, and Singapore. She calls democratic Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez a “common thug.”

And when it comes to Israel, she states that she and the US “will stand with (the Jewish state) now and forever.” She further contends that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t over the issue of occupation. “This is absolute nonsense. In truth, the history of the conflict is not over occupation, and never has been: it is over the fundamental right of Israel to exist.”

Her AIPAC June 2008 conference address highlighted her “commitment to Israel’s security;” that passage of the 2008 Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act will expedite sending defense equipment and services to Israel; that Israel will be “treated like NATO members;” and that America will guarantee that “Israel’s qualitative military edge (will) be empirically assessed on an ongoing basis.”

She also highlighted Iran as one of her main concerns and said: “Ensuring the security of Israel and the entire world demands that we do more to convince Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and cease its support for terrorist groups.” She further suggested that Iran represents an existential threat and that sanctions against it must be tightened – “and by tighten, I mean tighten.”

She then added: “Thank you (for) lobby(ing) on behalf of bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Ackerman” by which she meant H. Con. Res. 362. It contains outlandish, unsubstantiated accusations against Iran, and if enacted and implemented, will authorize a naval blockade and be an act of war. AIPAC is committed to its passage. Pelosi is committed to AIPAC. Its 2002 – 04 president, Amy Rothschild Friedkin, (a fellow San Franciscan) is her close friend.

Finally, as House Speaker, she declared that efforts to impeach George Bush were “off the table.” Most recently in an August 1 interview with James Carney of Time, Inc., she responded to a question about it as follows:

“I took (impeachment) off the table a long time ago. You can’t talk about impeachment unless you have the facts, and you can’t have the facts unless you have cooperation from the Administration. I think the Republicans would like nothing better than for us to focus on impeachment and take our eye off the ball of a progressive economic agenda.”

Pelosi, of course, turns a blind eye to very clear evidence for impeachment. On January 17, 2003, international law expert Professor Francis Boyle listed them in his “Draft Impeachment Resolution Against President George W. Bush” and presented it to the 108th Congress. It called for impeaching the President for high crimes and misdemeanors for:

— “violat(ing) his constitutional oath to faithfully execute (his) office;”

— failing to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution;

— impos(ing) a police state and military dictatorship;

— ramming the totalitarian USA Patriot Act (and other repressive legislation) through Congress;

— trying to suspend the constitutional Writ of Habeas Corpus;

— mass-round(ing) up and incarcrat(ing) foreigners;

— kangaroo courts;

— depriving at least two United States citizens of their constitutional rights by means of military incarceration;

— interfer(ing) with the constitutional right of defendants in criminal cases to (be represented by) lawyers;

— violating and subverting the Posse Comitatus Act;

— (allowing) unlawful and unreasonable searches and seizures;

— violating the First Amendment rights of free exercise of religion, speech, assembly, and to petition the government for redress of grievances;

— packing the federal judiciary with hand-picked (totalitarian-minded) judges;

— violating the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, US War Crimes Act, (UN) Convention against Torture, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” and other violations of US and international laws and norms – “to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”

Cindy Sheehan on the Issues

Her positions on key issues stand in stark contrast to Pelosi’s. She’s for:

— “repealing all ‘free trade’ agreements;” replacing them with “fair trade” ones that respect worker rights and union empowerment to bargain on equal terms with management;

— enacting “single-payer healthcare and affordable housing” legislation;

— extending unemployment and food stamp benefits at a time of economic distress;

— “compassionate and humane treatment for immigrant workers;” their right to join unions; and for an “expedited path to legalization in the form of Green Cards;”

— ending the militarization of the border as well as funding for ICE and other government agencies that “terrorize immigrant workers (driven here by bipartisan support for unfair) ‘free trade’ and ‘structural adjustment’ policies;”

— making quality free education a “basic human right from infants in day care centers to students in universities;”

— “bring(ing) home our troops from all countries where (they) promote occupation, corporate greed and empire;”

— repealing the No Child Left Behind Act and backing government-supported public education;

— investing in the nation’s infrastructure, long neglected;

— slashing the Pentagon’s budget and putting federal money into job creation (and social services);

— reversing destructive deregulation that enables “corporate profiteers to (avoid) proper oversight and health and safety regulations; reinstating Glass-Steagall that separated investment from commercial banking and insurance operations;

— regulating the corporate media; opposing the “multiple ownership of newspaper, cable, broadcast, internet and all other media operations;” supporting federally-funded “public labor-community broadcast and internet systems;”

— reversing the trend to “privatize and contract out jobs (that) threat(en the nation’s) workforce;” ending the privatization of federal jobs and letting all government workers join unions;

— preventing the US Postal Service from being privatized;

— establishing “a national energy system, for a mass transit system;” alternative fuels as well to end our dependence on oil, gas and nuclear;

— assuring civil rights and privacy protection; ending harassment and discrimination against union members and unorganized workers;

— repealing the Patriot Act and other repressive laws;

— ending pervasive spying – by the government on the citizenry and corporations on their workers; and

— repealing drug and other repressive laws that jail millions of working people in the world’s largest prison population.

Sheehan v. Pelosi. “Peace Mom and supporter of people rights v. “Guardian of Power” and defender of wealth and privilege. On November 3, the people of California’s 8th Congressional District will decide which agenda they prefer. So can readers.

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

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9838

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9898


see

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“This is Horsesh**” by Cindy Sheehan

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Cindy Sheehan for Congress

Blockades: Acts of War by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 18, 2008

From July 21 – 31, Joint Task Force (mostly US, but also UK, France, Brazil and Italy) “Operation Brimstone” large scale war games were conducted off the US East coast in the North Atlantic. Its purpose may have been to prepare for a naval blockade of Iran. From what’s known a naval deployment may be planned, and a blockade may ensue. The situation remains tense and worrisome.

Under international and US law, blockades are acts of war and variously defined as:

— surrounding a nation or objective with hostile forces;

— measures to isolate an enemy;

— encirclement and besieging;

— preventing the passage in or out of supplies, military forces or aid in time of or as an act of war; and

— an act of naval warfare to block access to an enemy’s coastline and deny entry to all vessels and aircraft.

In 2009, it’s believed that the International Criminal Court in the Hague will include blockades against coasts and ports as acts of war.

International law expert Professor Francis Boyle is very outspoken on this topic as well as on others of equal importance. He defines blockades under international and US law as:

— “belligerent measures taken by a nation (to) prevent passage of vessels or aircraft to and from another country. Customary international law recognizes blockades as an act of war because of the belligerent use of force even against third party nations in enforcing the blockade. Blockades as acts of war have been recognized as such in the Declaration of Paris of 1856 and the Declaration of London of 1909 that delineate the international rules of warfare.”

America approved these Declarations, so they’re binding US law as well “as part of general international law and customary international law.” Past US presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower and Jack Kennedy, called blockades acts of war. So has the US Supreme Court.

In Bas v. Tingy (1800), the High Court addressed the constitutionality of fighting an undeclared war. Boyle explained that it ruled that “the seizure of a French vessel (is) an act of hostility or reprisal requiring Congressional approval….The Court held that Congress pursuant to Constitutional war powers had authorized hostilities on the high seas under certain circumstances.” The Court cited Talbot v. Seaman (1801) in ruling that “specific legislative authority was required in the seizure….”

In Little v. Barreme (1804), the Court held that “even an order from the President could not justify or excuse an act that violated the laws and customs of warfare. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that a captain of a United States warship could be held personally liable in trespass for wrongfully seizing a neutral Danish ship, even though” presidential authority ordered it. Only Congress has that power. “The Court’s position seems consistent with a typical trespass case, where defendants are liable even when they have a reasonable, good faith (but mistaken) belief in authority to enter on the plaintiff’s land.”

Boyle cites “The Prize Cases” (1863) as the most definitive Supreme Court ruling on blockades requiring congressional authorization. The case involved President Lincoln’s ordering “a blockade of coastal states that had joined the Confederacy at the outset of the Civil War. The Court….explicitly (ruled) that a blockade is an act of war and is legal only if properly authorized under the Constitution.” It stated:

“The power of declaring war is the highest sovereign power, and is limited to the representative of the full sovereignty of the nation. It is limited in the United States to its Congress exclusively; and the authority of the President to be the Commander-in-Chief….to take that the law be faithfully executed, is to be taken in connection with the exclusive power given to Congress to declare war, and does not enable the President to (do it) or to introduce, without Act of Congress, War or any of its legal disabilities or liabilities, on any citizen of the United States.”

Article I of the Constitution pertains to powers “vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Section 8 relates to powers “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and welfare of the United States….” Two Section 8 clauses relate to this article.

— clause 14: to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;” and most importantly

— clause 11: “to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning capture on land and water.”

The framers believed that no single official, including the President, should ever have sole authority over this most crucial of all constitutional powers because of how easily it can be abused as post-WW II history shows. In 1793, James Madison wrote that the “fundamental doctrine of the Constitution….to declare war is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.” During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, George Mason said that the President “is not safely to be trusted with” the power to declare war. Nonetheless, Congress only observed its responsibility five times in the nation’s history, lastly on December 8, 1941 following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor the previous day.

All treaties to which America is a signatory, including the UN Charter, are binding US law. Its Chapter VII authorizes only the Security Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, or act of aggression (and, if necessary, take military or other actions to) restore international peace and stability.” It permits a nation to use force (including blockades) only under two conditions: when authorized by the Security Council or under Article 51 allowing the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member….until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.”

Iran poses no threat to the US, its neighbors, or any other nations, including Israel. Imposing a blockade against it violates the UN Charter and other international and US law. It will constitute an illegal act of aggression that under the Nuremberg Charter is the “supreme international crime” above all others. It will make the Bush administration, every supportive congressional member, and governments of other participating nations criminally liable.

Two more events further up the stakes. On April 3, in spite of strong public opposition, the Czech Republic agreed to the installation of US “advanced tracking missile defense radar” by 2012. On July 9, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement responded: “We will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods.”

Then on August 14, Poland defied its own people and most Europeans by agreeing to allow offensive “interceptor missiles” on its soil. Legislatures of both countries must approve it, but that will likely follow. Deployment is reckless and indefensible and will head the world closer to serious confrontation.

For two countries wracked by prior wars, these actions are irresponsible and foolhardy. They further heighten tensions and assure a new Cold War arms race or much worse. Russia’s deputy military chief of staff, General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, stated: Poland is “exposing itself to a strike, 100%.” Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said: “The deployment (aims at) the Russian Federation.” Even Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk showed fear by his comment that “We have crossed the Rubicon.” Yet he did it anyway. Where this is heading remains to be seen, but the signs are deeply worrisome.

So is the possibility that Washington will blockade or attack Iran before year end. Things won’t likely crystallize before Congress reconvenes in September after both parties hold their nominating conventions.

Hopefully a wider Middle East war will be avoided because of what might follow. What Barbara Tuchman recounted in her 1962 book, “The Guns of August,” on how WW I war began and its early weeks. Once started, things spun out of control with cataclysmic consequences. Before it ended, over 20 million died, at least that many more were wounded, and a generation of young men was erased.

Igniting another world conflict should give everyone pause. Especially given the destructive power of today’s weapons and the Bush administration’s design for “full spectrum dominance” and stated unilateral right to achieve it with first-strike nuclear weapons. Avoiding that possibility is the top priority of every world leader. It’s unclear if any are up to the challenge.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9838

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9866

see

U.S. Armada En Route to the Persian Gulf: “Naval Blockade” or All Out War Against Iran?

Iran War: Armada of US and allied naval battle groups head for the Persian Gulf

Massive US Naval Armada Heads For Iran

Operation Brimstone

Iran

Bolivarian Socialism: Corporate Media Bashes Hugo Chavez Enabling Law Decrees

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research
August 15, 2008

In January 2007, Hugo Chavez announced his “Bolivarian Socialism” project for the 21st century and explained its dependence on five revolutionary “motors:”

— constitutional reform;

— “Bolivarian popular education;”

— redefining and changing the organs of state power;

— an explosion of communal power at the grass roots; and

— the “mother (Enabling) Law to make all other “motors” possible.

Under Venezuelan constitutional law, Enabling Law power is legal but limited. So despite media and opposition claims, it doesn’t grant Chavez sweeping “rule by decree” authority or make him a “dictator.” When the National Assembly (AN) passed the law (unanimously), even US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon, admitted that it’s “valid under (Venezuela’s) Constitution. As with any tool of democracy, it depends how it is used.” Chavez had it two other times and used it responsibly by any standard or measure. He’s also the fifth Venezuelan president to request it under the 1961 Constitution and the 1999 one under Article 203. It runs for 18 months and then expires.

The current one ended July 31 and empowered Chavez in the following areas, all related to the country’s internal functioning:

— to transform sclerotic bureaucratic state institutions to make them more efficient, transparent, honest and allow for greater citizen participation;

— reform the civil service and eliminate entrenched corruption – still, a major problem;

— advance the “ideals of social justice and economic independence” through a new social and economic model based on equitable national wealth distribution in areas of health care, education and social security;

— modernize Venezuela’s financial sectors, including banking, insurance and tax policy;

— upgrade science and technology areas to benefit all sectors of society;

— reform public health, prisons, identification, migration regulations, and the judiciary to improve citizen and judicial security;

— upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, transport and all public services;

— improve and enhance the nation’s military;

— establish territorial organization norms in states and communities relating to voting and constituency size; and

— permit greater state control over the nation’s vital energy sector.

In all the above areas, Chavez was given limited constitutional power for 18 months – over only National Assembly (AN) authorized areas. He had no power to harm civil or human rights, weaken or remove his opponents, expropriate private property, or interfere with the legal right of citizens to rescind all laws by popular referendum if 10% or more of registered voters request it and only 5% for laws passed by decree. In addition, the AN may change or rescind decree-passed laws by majority vote. Unlike in America, checks and balances work in Venezuela – but not according to the hostile US media. More on that below.

On the Enabling Law’s final day, Chavez enacted 26 new laws by decree – related to the armed forces, public administration, social security, agriculture, tourism, reform of the National Banking and Finance Law, and to nationalize the Bank of Venezuela. It was privately owned until 1994 at which time the government became its majority stockholder. Then in 1996 it was again privatized when Banco Santander, Spain’s largest bank, bought a controlling interest.

The company wanted to sell it and asked permission as required by law. Chavez responded by reclaiming the bank’s resources for all Venezuelans. He assured Santander it will receive fair compensation as was done for previous nationalizations and told bank depositors not to worry: “You will be more than guaranteed in the hands of the Republic (and) You know the banking sector of Venezuela is one of the most solid in the world.” Perhaps good as gold compared to shaky US banks in serious trouble.

Chavez announced that the new laws will enhance the “great public sector,” long “subordinated” in the past, to prioritize social areas in line with national and international standards. But opposition leaders weren’t convinced. They called the measures “autocratic” and “non-consultative” and urged their followers to respond in the upcoming November regional and local elections.

Despite opposition claims, all the new measures comply fully with constitutional provisions and are entirely legal. Many were proposed early in the Enabling Law period, debated for over a year in the AN, and 16 additional laws weren’t enacted because they’re still under consideration. In all, 67 new laws were decreed from January 2007 through July 2008 covering a broad range of areas, including:

— monetary conversion;

— steel, cement, oil, banking, and electricity sector nationalizations;

— the new Law on Intelligence and Counterintelligence – now revoked and to be rewritten to eliminate potentially controversial provisions;

— promoting small and mid-sized industries as well as new types of state and community-run enterprises;

— reorganizing the military;

— national finance institutions as well;

— reforming public administration laws; as well as measures on

— price controls, agricultural policy, and food security and sovereignty.

Staged Venezuelan Street Protests Erupt

In what’s now common under Chavez, “Venezuelans protest(ed his) new socialist push,” according to the AP, but it was hardly a resounding denunciation. In Caracas, at most 1000 turned out chanting “freedom,” and “Riot police used tear gas as they blocked hundreds of Venezuelans protesting what they call new moves by President Chavez to concentrate his power.” Their charges were baseless and ludicrous and cited “blacklists barring key opposition candidates from elections and socialist decrees destroying what’s left of their democracy.”

The so-called “blacklist” was, in fact, a Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) August 5 ruling barring 272 government and opposition candidates from running in the November elections because of corruption charges and convictions. The Court held that their ruling “is acceptable in accordance with the laws that are given for reasons of general interest, for the safety of others of society and for the common good, in accordance with the provisions of Articles 30 and 32.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights. This requirement is fully compatible with the provisions of Articles 19 and 156….of the National Constitution.” The TSJ also affirmed the constitutionality of Article 105 regarding the Comptroller General’s office because it assures defendants have full due process rights.

Comptroller Clodosbaldo Russian is legally empowered as Venezuela’s top anti-corruption watchdog. He submitted a list of 368 names to the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE) and asked that they be barred from running in November because they’re being investigated for or were found guilty of corruption and misuse of public funds. CNE approved the list and asked the Supreme Court to rule on it. The Court then disqualified 272 of them.

The (2005-launched) UK-based Venezuela Information Centre (VIC) stands “in solidarity with the people of Venezuela.” Its members include NGOs, academics, students, members of the media and trade unionists. It aims to provide “objective and accurate information about all trade union, social movement and political organisations in Venezuela,” counteract distorted reporting, and “support the right of the Venezuelan people to determine their own future free from external intervention.”

VIC’s assessment of the Comptroller General’s disqualification process was as follows:

— it was “conducted strictly on legal and administrative grounds;

— carried out as part of the constitutional and legal obligations of the Office of the Comptroller General;

— taken following” TSJ 2005 rulings;

— authorized under Venezuela’s Organic Law of the Comptroller General’s Office and Venezuelan Constitution; and

— those on the list were kept fully apprised throughout the process.

The Corporate Media Responds – Hostile As Always

In the lead was The New York Times and its on-the-scene reporter Simon Romero in an August 5 article headlined “New Decrees From Chavez Mirror Spurned Measures.” Romero reported that Chavez “is using his decree powers to enact a set of ‘socialist-inspired’ measures that seem based on a package of constitutional changes” voters previously rejected. It sets the stage for new “confrontation between his government and the political opposition.”

He quoted opposition publisher Teodoro Petkoff saying: “When the government acts, as it has now, without respecting the Constitution, and the word of the president is the law, then an act of tyranny is being committed.” Romero seemed to agree.

He then objected to “a wave of takeovers of private companies,” including nationalizing “a large Spanish-owned bank.” He was unconcerned about “relatively minor” decrees but took aim at more far-reaching ones and some he called efforts to “formalize socialist-inspired policies on the margins of the formal economy, like a measure declaring barter a legitimate system of payment.” Romero seems hopeful that “the coming regional elections have the potential to erode the president’s power base,” and we’ll be hearing more from him in its run-up.

AP reporter Fabiola Sanchez criticized Chavez’s “move(s) toward a social economy,” plans “to set up neighborhood-based militias….state control over agriculture,” new powers over the military, small business loans, and quoted critics saying laws were “pushed through” without “consult(ing) major business groups.”

AFP reporter Carlos Diaz referred to “Chavez enact(ing aggressive) new laws with (an) iron fist increasing the state’s power over the economy ahead of key regional elections.” It’s a resumption of his “drive to create a socialist state, significantly increase his power and resemble proposals included in a constitutional reform narrowly rejected by voters in a December referendum.”

Even the Financial Times (FT) weighed in with Caracas reporter Benedict Mander headlining “Chavez accused of reviving old reforms” and citing government opponents “up in arms over a raft of decree laws they say replicate constitutional reforms” that voters rejected. He mentioned critics “warn(ing) that they’ll “further scare off private investment,” claimed they’re “typical of Mr. Chavez’s authoritarian streak (and will let him) expropriate private property without the need for the (AN’s) approval.” Mander also (on August 2) criticized the disqualification of opposition candidates and quoted Carter Center director of the Americas Programme, Jennifer McCoy, worrying about perceptions of clearing the way for government-backed candidates.

The Wall Street Journal was even more hostile in a Jose De Cordoba, Darcy Crowe article headlined “In Enacting Decrees, Chavez Makes New Power Grab.” They called them “ambitious….decrees which formalize the creation of a popular militia and further consolidate state control over key areas of the economy such as agriculture and tourism.” They referred to his “bypass(ing) Congress in making laws (and being) back on the offensive after suffering a humiliating defeat in December (that might have let him) stay in power for life.”

They cited “accusations that Mr. Chavez is evading the will of the people” and quoted opposition figure Luis Miquilena saying “We are in the presence of a dictatorial government which has given a coup d’etat to the constitution. Here we have no constitution, no law and the president does exactly what he wants.” It sounds like he’s confusing Chavez with George Bush because he describes conditions under him accurately in stark contrast to Venezuelan democracy.

The Journal writers see things differently. They compare Chavez’s government to Iran and take him to task for it. They also cite public opposition to the “Cuban Model,” suggest he follows it, and quote Peter Hakim of the Inter-American Dialogue saying “Everything (he’s doing) is related to the upcoming election, and it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t see this as important in his efforts to keep power.”

Far and away the most outlandish and unfounded Journal diatribes show up in Mary O’Grady’s columns. Her latest was on August 11 headlined “Chavez Sees Cuba as a Model” in which she states “The Venezuelan dictator acts more and more like Fidel” and lots more. Her accusations include “annihilat(ing)” his political competition, “put(ting) down all challengers to (his) power forcibly if necessary,” transforming the country into “a centrally planned economy,” using “his own version of the law,” declaring opponents “guilty (of corruption) by fiat,” “expanding (his) collection of political prisoners,” and near excoriating Jimmy Carter and Senator Chris Dodd for calling “Chavez’s Venezuela a democracy.” According to O’Grady: “Get in the way of Mr. Chavez’s caudillo aspirations at your peril.”

These type comments aren’t surprising from someone with her background: years at Wall Street as an options strategist for Advest, Inc., Thomas McKinnon Securities, and Merrill Lynch & Co. She also once worked at the hard-right Heritage Foundation before joining the Wall Street Journal in 1995 and becoming a senior editorial page writer in 1999 for her weekly America’s column. It’s long on the worst kind of agitprop and very short on reporting the truth.

No wonder then that neither O’Grady or other Chavez critics explain Venezuelan law or how TSJ rulings interpret it. Nor do they report how the Enabling Law works, that the nation’s Constitution authorizes it, that four other presidents used it, that Chavez scrupulously complies with its provisions, and that the National Assembly (by majority vote) and Venezuelan people (by referendum) can override his decrees. How can they? It would expose their false accusations and discredit their entire argument that will heat up soon again in the run-up to November’s state and local elections. Stay tuned.

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

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9761

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9837

Using Georgia to Target Russia by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 13, 2008

After the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution, Georgia’s South Ossetia province broke away and declared its independence. So far it remains undiplomatically recognized by UN member states. It’s been traditionally allied with Russia and wishes to reunite with Northern Ossetes in the North Ossetia-Alania Russian republic. Nothing so far is in prospect, but Russia appears receptive to the idea. And for Abkhazia as well, Georgia’s other breakaway province. The conflict also has implications for Transdniestria, the small independent Russian-majority part of Moldova bordering Ukraine, and for Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan.

Tensions arose and conflict broke out in late 1991. It resulted in a 1992 ceasefire to avoid a major confrontation with Russia, but things remained unsettled. Moscow maintains a military presence in the province as well as in Abkhazia and exerts considerable political and economic influence. Throughout the 1990s, intermittent conflict erupted but nothing on the order of early August 7 when Georgia acted with aggression against the S. Ossetian capital, Tskninvali.

Russiatoday.com reported the early timeline:

— at 22:50 GMT, Tskhinvali reported heavy shelling;

— 22:00 GMT – TASS news agency reported intensive Georgian firing on the capital’s residential areas;

— 21:27 GMT – Russia’s Vesti television reported that S. Ossetia’s military downed a Georgian attack plane;

— 21:25 GMT – Georgia announced plans to withdraw half its Iraq forces because of the conflict;

— 21:22 GMT – S. Ossetia claimed to be in control of Tskhinvali, but Georgian forces attempted to retake the city;

— 20:36 GMT – The UN Security Council began closed-door discussions on the conflict – initiated by Georgia and the second in 24 hours;

— 20:25 GMT – Georgia asked the US to pressure Russia to “stop (its) armed aggression;”

— 19:08 GMT – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said “Russia is taking adequate military and political measures” to end the violence;

— 18:56 GMT – S. Ossetia’s government said it controls Tskhinvali, but fighting in one city district continued;

— 17:35 GMT – Georgian President Saakashvili claimed that Georgia controlled Tskhinvali and most S. Ossetian villages and regions;

— 17:20 GMT – S. Ossetian leader Kokoity asked the world community to stop Georgia’s “genocide” and recognize the territory’s independence; he claimed 1400 deaths in the fighting;

— 16:46 GMT – thousands of S. Osettians fled the fighting;

— 16:14 GMT – Russia’s Air Force denied bombing a Georgian military base;

— 14:23 GMT – reports from Tskhinvali indicated mass fires in the city;

— 13:25 GMT – Russia’s Defence Ministry accused Georgian troops of shooting peacekeepers and civilians and denying them medical help;

— 13:16 GMT – Saakashvili accused Russia of waging war and asked for US support;

— 12:55 GMT – Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov accused Georgia of ethnic cleansing Ossetian villages;

— 12:04 GMT – Russia’s Defence Ministry said it sent peacekeeping reinforcements to S. Ossetia;

— 11:25 GMT – reports indicated that Tskhinvali was completely destroyed;

— 10:33 GMT – Georgia announced a three-hour ceasefire to let civilians evacuate the conflict zone;

— 9:36 GMT – Russia’s Parliament cited Georgia’s aggression as a “serious reason” to recognize S. Ossetian independence;

— 8:18 GMT – firefights spread to Tskhinvali streets;

— 6:51 GMT – the UN Security Council failed to approve a Russia-sponsored ceasefire call; fighting intensified;

— 5:01 GMT – S. Ossetia sought Russian protection and help to stop the fighting; and

— 4:13 GMT – Georgian troops resumed attacking Tskhinvali in a continued act of aggression; things remained unsettled; fighting continued and at times with ferocity.

On August 8, The New York Times reported that Georgia officials “accused Russia (on August 5) of violating the country’s airspace and firing a guided missile….” Russia denied the charge, called it baseless, and said no Russian planes were in the area either August 4 or 5th. Georgia, on the other hand, said they were as a “provocation aimed only” to disrupt Georgia’s peace and “change the political course of the country.”

Earlier in March, Georgia accused Russia of launching missile attacks on Georgian villages in the volatile Kodori Gorge. Relations deteriorated markedly last year after Georgia arrested and deported four Russian Army officers, accusing them of spying. Moscow recalled its ambassador, cut air, sea and postal links, and deported several thousand Georgians in response. These events and others led up to the present conflict with considerable suspicions about what’s behind them. The New York Times reported (August 10) that conflict had been brewing for years but suggested Russia is at fault:

— emboldened by its Checknya successes;

— the Kremlin’s loathing of President Saakashvili – personally and politically;

— tensions over Washington’s ties with him – providing political, economic and especially military support, including a total overhaul of its forces complete with large stockpiles state-of-the-art weapons and munitions as well as training to use them;

— Saakashvili’s alliance with the Bush administration in Iraq; and

— President Putin granting citizenship and passports to most S. Ossetian and Abkhazian adults.

Unmentioned by The Times are:

— reasons behind the growing tensions between Washington and Moscow;

— the Bush administration’s unilateral abandonment of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM);

— its continued provocations around the world, including in areas sensitive to Russia;

— its massive military buildup;

— its advocacy for preventive, preemptive and “proactive” wars with first-strike nuclear weapons;

— NATO’s role in serving America’s imperial interests;

— enlarging it with new member states, including former Soviet republics;

— encircling Russia with US military bases;

— situating them in former Soviet republics and regional states;

— the strategic importance of Georgia for the Anglo-American Caspian oil pipeline; its extension from Baku, Azerbaijan (on the Caspian) through Georgia (well south of S. Ossetia), bypassing Russia and Iran, and across Turkey to its port city of Ceyhan – the so-called BTC pipeline for around one million barrels of oil daily, adjacent to the South Causasus (gas) Pipeline with a capacity of about 16 billion cubic meters annually;

— the regional stakes involved: Washington and Russia vying to control Eurasia’s vast oil and gas reserves;

— Israel’s role in the region; its interest in the BTC pipline; its negotiations with Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azarbaijan to have it reach its Ashkelon oil terminal and Red Sea Eilat port; its selling Georgia state-of-the-art weapons, electronic warfare systems and intelligence; its use of military advisors to train Georgian forces in commando, air, sea, armored and artillery tactics as well as instruction on military intelligence and security;

— its refusal to freeze its Georgian military alliance; the dubious reliability of Haaretz citing an AP August 7 report that “Israel has decided to halt all sales of military equipment to Georgia because of (Russia’s) objections….to give Israel leverage with Moscow….not to ship arms and equipment to Iran” such as sophisticated S-300 air defense missiles; the Israeli Foreign Ministry refusing comment on an arms freeze and Georgian Cabinet minister Temur Yakobashvili saying “There has been no decision by Israel to stop selling (us) weapons;”

— believe it, and here’s what Haaretz says Israel supplies: high-tech infantry weapons, artillery systems electronics, and upgrades for Soviet-designed Su-25 ground attack jets as well as Israeli generals advising Georgia’s military; Israel also sells Hermes 450 UAV spy drones according to Russiatoday.com; according to some sources, it’s a virtual gold mine for Israeli defense contractors, but Haaretz reports it’s much less at around $200 million a year – well below American and French sales;

— on August 10, the Israeli ynetnews.com highlighted “The Israeli Connection” and reported “Israeli companies have been helping (the) Georgian army (prepare) for war against Russia through arms deals, training of infantry and security advice;” it was helped by Georgian citizens “who immigrated to Israel and became businesspeople,” and the fact that Georgia’s Defense Minister, Davit Kezerashvili, “is a former Israeli fluent in Hebrew (whose) door was always open to the Israelis who came and offered his country arms;” deals went through “fast” and included “remote-piloted (Elbit System) vehicles (RPVs), automatic turrets for armed vehicles, antiaircraft systems, communications systems, shells and rockets;”

— Russia’s anger over Georgia and Ukraine seeking NATO membership and Washington’s pressuring other members to admit them;

– the planned installation of “missile defense” radar in the region – in Poland, Czechoslovakia and potentially other sensitive areas, all targeting Russia, China, and Iran;

— its provoking Russia to retarget nuclear missiles at planned “radar” locations; and

— targeting Russia for dissolution (as the US’s main world rival), diffuse its power, control Eurasia, including the country’s immense resources on the world’s by far largest land mass.

The New Great Game

What’s at stake is what former National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski described in his 1997 book “The Grand Chessboard.” He called Eurasia the “center of world power extending from Germany and Poland in the East through Russia and China to the Pacific and including the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.” He continued: “The most immediate (US) task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role.” Dominating that part of the world and its vast energy and other resources is Washington’s goal with NATO and Israel its principal tools to do it:

— in the Middle East with its two-thirds of the world’s proved oil reserves (about 675 billion barrels); and

— the Caspian basin with an estimated 270 billion barrels of oil plus one-eighth of the world’s natural gas reserves.

“New World Order” strategy aims to secure them. Russia, China, and Iran have other plans. India allies with both sides. Former Warsaw Pact and Soviet republics split this way:

— NATO members include the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania;

— Georgia and Ukraine seek membership; while

— Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazahkstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgystan ally with Russia.

Georgia now occupies center stage, so first some background about a nation Michel Chossudovsky calls “an outpost of US and NATO forces” located strategically on Russia’s border “within proximity of the Middle East Central Asian war theater.” Breakaway S. Ossetia and Abkhazia, though small in size, are very much players in what’s unfolding with potential to have it develop into something much bigger than a short-lived regional conflict.

In 2003 with considerable CIA help, Georgia’s President Saskashvili came to power in the so-called bloodless “Rose Revolution.” Georgia held parliamentary elections on November 2. International observers called them unfair. Sackashvili claimed he won. He and the united opposition called for protests and civil disobedience. They began in mid-November in the capital Tbilisi, then spread throughout the country. They peaked on November 22, the scheduled opening day for parliament. Instead, Saakashvili-led supporters placed “roses” in the barrels of soldiers’ rifles, seized the parliament building, interrupted President Eduard Shevardnadze’s speech, and forced him to escape for his safety.

Saakashvili declared a state of emergency, mobilized troops and police, met with Shevardnadze and Zurab Zhvania (the former parliament speaker and choice for new prime minister), and apparently convinced the Georgian president to resign. Celebrations erupted. A temporary president was installed. Georgia’s Supreme Court annulled the elections, and on January 4, 2004, Saakashvili was elected and inaugurated president on January 25. New parliamentary elections were held on March 28. Saakashvili’s supporters used heavy-handed tactics to gain full control, but behind the scenes Washington is fully in charge. It pulls the strings on its new man in Georgia and stepped up tensions with Russia for control of the strategically important southern Causasus region.

On January 5, 2008, Saakashvili won reelection for a second term in a process his opponents called rigged. Given how he first gained power and the CIA’s role in it, those accusations have considerable merit.

After the outbreak of the current crisis, Russia’s NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, accused the Alliance of “encourag(ing) Georgia to attack S. Ossetia and called it “an undisguised aggression accompanied by a mass propaganda war.” Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, called attention to Georgia’s “massive arms purchasing….during several years” and its use of “foreign specialists” to train “Georgian special troops.”

In his August 10 article titled – “War in the Causasus: Towards a Broader Russia-US Military Confrontation?” – Chossudovsky notes how “attacks were timed to coincide with the Olympics largely with a view to avoiding frontpage media coverage” and to let saturation Beijing reports serve as distraction.

Now after days of fighting, headlines cite 2000 or more deaths (largely civilians), huge amounts of destruction, Tskhinvali in ruins, and many thousands of refugees seeking safe havens. Accounts of Georgian atrocities have also surfaced, and according to Chossudovsky they’re part of a planned “humanitarian disaster (against civilian targets) rather than (an impossible to achieve) military victory” against a nation as powerful as Russia. Had Georgia sought control, a far different operation would have unfolded “with Special Forces occupying key public buildings, communications networks and provincial institutions.”

So why did this happen, and what can Washington hope to gain when it’s bogged down in two wars, threatening another against Iran, and thoroughly in disrepute as a result? It’s part of a broader “Great Game” strategy pitting the world’s two great powers against each other for control of this vital part of the world.

Bush administration plans may come down to this – portray Russia as another Serbia, isolate the country, and equate Putin and/or Medvedev with Milosevic and hope for all the political advantage it can gain. “The war on Southern Ossetia,” according to Chossudovsky, “was not meant to be won, leading to the restoration of Georgian sovereignty over (the province). It was intended to destabilize the region while triggering a US-NATO confrontation with Russia.”

Georgia is its proxy. Its attack on S. Ossetia is a made-in-Washington operation. But not according to George Bush (on August 10) who “strongly condemned (Russia’s) disproportionate response,” and Dick Cheney (on the same day) saying its military “aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States, as well as the broader international community.” An EU statement agreed. It expressed its “commitment to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia” and pretty much accused Russia of aggression.

Russia’s response and capabilities are unsurprising. It counterattacked in force, battered Georgian troops, inflicted damage at will, reportedly overran the Gori military base in Senaki, moved south into Georgia proper, and largely attacked military targets with great effect. It also wants an emergency meeting with NATO and issued an ultimatum for Georgian troops to disarm in the Zugdidi District along the Abkhazia – Georgia border. For its part, Georgian officials said Russia’s “wide-scale assault (is) aimed at overthrowing the government.”

On August 10, the London Guardian reported that the Caucasus conflict “spread to Georgia’s second breakaway province of Abkhazia, where separatist rebels and the Russian air force launched an all-out attack on Georgian forces.” Abkhazia’s leader, Sergei Bagapsh, said “around 1000 Abkhaz troops” engaged in a major “military operation” to force Georgian forces out of the strategic Kodori gorge. Russian army spokesman, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, told Interfax: “We do not intend to take the initiative in escalating the conflict in this region. We are primarily interested in” stabilizing Abkhazia.

On August 12, AP reported that “Russian President Dmitri Medvedev ordered a halt to military action in Georgia (today), saying it had punished (the country) and brought security for civilians and Russian peacekeepers.” Nonetheless, reports are that fighting continues, and Medvedev ordered his military to quell “any emerging hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions….” Foreign Minister Lavrov added that Moscow won’t talk to Saakashvili and said he’d “better go.”

The latest AP August 13 report is that Georgian officials claim Russian tanks “seized a (Georgian) military base (and) also held onto ground in western Georgia, maintaining control of the town of Zugdidi.” For its part, “Russia accused Georgia of killing more than 2000 people, mostly civilians, in South Ossetia.” Witnesses confirmed that hundreds had died there, and expectations are that the death toll will rise “because large areas of Georgia (are) too dangerous for journalists to enter (to assess) the true scope of the damage.”

On the Attack – The Corporate Media React

Despite the Olympic distraction, the dominant media jumped on this story and are unsurprisingly one-sided in their reports. On August 11, a New York Times editorial headlined “Russia’s War of Ambition” in which it lamented that Saakashvili “foolishly and tragically baited the Russians – or even more foolishly fell into Moscow’s trap….” It accused the Kremlin of “bull(ying) and blackmail(ing) its neighbors and its own people.” It stated “There is no imaginable excuse for (invading) Georgia” and defended “Saakashvili’s ‘democratically elected’ government.”

It accused Vladimir Putin of “shoulder(ing) aside (Medvedev) to run the war (and) appears determined to reimpose by force and intimidation as much of the old Soviet sphere of influence as he can get away with.” The US and its European allies “must tell Mr. Putin in the clearest possible terms that such aggression will not be tolerated.” They’ll also “need to take a hard look at their relationship with Russia going forward….Russia needs to behave responsibly. And the United States and Europe must make clear that anything less is unacceptable.”

The Los Angeles Times’ op-ed writer Max Boot (noted for his hard-right views) was just as one-sided in referring to the “Red Army” and saying the West must “Stand up to Russia.” It must protect Saakhashvili and prevent Moscow from “replac(ing) him with a pro-Kremlin stooge.” Its leaders must “stand together and make clear that this aggression will not stand.” He called Russia’s “excuses” for its “aggression…. particularly creepy” and said they mirrored Hitler’s when he “swallow(ed) Czechoslovakia and Poland.” He added that “the lesson” of the 1930s must be heeded because the “cost of inaction” is too high.

David Clark in the London Guardian was also hostile in his op-ed headlined “The west can no longer stand idle while the Russian bully wreaks havoc.” He described “Russian policy (as) uniquely destructive in generating instability and political division in the Caucasus” and excused Saakhashvili for his actions. He referred to “Georgia’s role in maintaining the only east-west pipeline route free of Russia’s monopolistic grip….” He called Georgia’s security concerns “real, and Russia is the cause.” David Clark is a former government adviser and now chairman of the pro-West Russia Foundation.

The Wall Street covers this story daily in news reports and commentaries. On August 11, it gave Saakashvili a half page for his op-ed headlined “The War in Georgia Is a War for the West,” and he didn’t mince words. He accused Russia of “waging (all-out) war on my country (that’s) not of Georgia’s making (nor its) choice. The Kremlin designed this war….(it’s) a war about (Georgia’s) independence and future (and) about the future of freedom in Europe.”

On August 12, writers Gary Schmitt and Mauro De Lorenzo headlined “How the West Can Stand up to Russia,” and they were just as hostile. They accused Moscow of “cutthroat politics….at home and abroad” and asked “What can the West do?” First they urge “rush(ing) military and medical supplies to Tbilisi (and) Washington should lead.” It should then tell Moscow that the West has a “greater capacity to sustain a new Cold War (and aim) to put Mr. Putin and Dmitry Medvedev on their back foot diplomatically.”

Then on to the larger issue of “break(ing) Russia’s “stranglehold on Europe’s energy supplies” and one other thing – building a “strong, prosperous and fully independent Georgia (heading for) NATO and EU membership” allied against Russia.

The Journal’s same day editorial headlined “Vladimir Bonaparte” after one day earlier accusing Moscow of “Kremlin (business) Capers” and admonishing investors against “putting money into Russia.” On the 12th, it warned that “Georgia is only the first stop for Eurasia’s new imperialist.” It referred to Putin “consolidat(ing) his authoritarian transition as Prime Minister with a figurehead president….Ukraine is in his sights, and even the Balkan states could be threatened if he’s allowed to get away with it. The West needs to draw a line at Georgia.”

It called on NATO to “respond forcefully….start today (and said) this is perhaps the last chance for President Bush to salvage any kind of positive legacy toward Russia (by) rally(ing) the West’s response.” Putin seeks to “dominat(e)….the world stage. Unless Russians see that there are costs for their Napoleon’s expansionism, Georgia isn’t likely to be his last stop.”

Welcome to the new Cold War and new Great Game, what a new administration will inherit next year, and the very worrisome thought that it will handle things no better than the current one no matter who’s elected or which party controls Congress.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9761

see

Ossetian refugees mourn their dead + Kosovo + misery continues

Background on Georgia by Bruce Gagnon

Civilians bear the brunt in Gori + Riz Khan: The South Ossetian conflict

The Reality Behind Western Propaganda Regarding War In Georgia

Georgia

Declaration of the Georgian Peace Committee, August 12th, 2008 h/t: InI

Meeting on GEORGIA, NATO & THE SPREAD OF WAR h/t: InI

War in Georgia: The Israeli Connection By Arie Egozi h/t: InI

Targeting Immigrants – The Largest Ever US ICE Raid

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 11, 2008

The 2002 Homeland Security Act established its largest investigative and enforcement arm in 2003: the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) created “as a law enforcement agency for the post-9/11 era, to integrate enforcement authorities against criminal and terrorist activities, including the fights against human trafficking and smuggling, violent transnational gangs and sexual predators on children” – “criminal” and “terrorist” threats to the nation.

Muslims are its principal targets. So are Latino immigrants, forced to seek work here because of NAFTA’s devastating effect on their lives and well-being. Turning logic, fairness and justice on its head in the current climate of fear, ICE calls them (and Muslims) “people….support(ing) terrorism and other criminal activities….against the United States” – 276,912 so-called “illegal aliens” removed from the country in FY2007 to justify its burgeoning budget to “keep America safe.”

ICE deters Latinos at the border and targets them at work sites and homes with $4.8 billion of DHS’ current FY 2008 $64.9 billion budget. Increasing to $5.4 billion in DHS’ FY 2009 $66.3 billion request.

Below is how some of the money was spent in July 2008 alone:

— on July 28, ICE arrested 13 Guatemalan and Mexican nationals in North Little Rock, Arkansas;

— on July 23, it seized 58 Mexican nationals in northern Ohio;

— on July 22, it reported 81 foreign national arrests in San Diego – 43 “criminal aliens” and 38 gang members or their associates;

— on July 21, it reported a record number of “illegal alien” deportations from Arizona from October 2007 through June 2008 – 38,799;

— on July 21, it arrested 43 aliens, employed by The Farms, on “administrative immigration violations;”

— on July 18, it made 49 arrests over four days in Chicago; under “Operation Community Shield” (in partnership with local law enforcement); it targeted “illegal aliens with ties to violent street gangs in (the city’s) northern and northwest suburbs;”

— on July 17, it arrested 45 “gang members, gang associates and immigration violators” over six days in Tulsa, OK;

— on July 16, it seized 18 “illegal aliens” at a Loveland, CO concrete plant;

— on July 11, it reported deporting a “record number of illegal aliens from (three) Pacific Northwest states” (Washington, Oregon and Alaska) – from October 2007 through June 2008; 7345 “illegal aliens (were returned) to their home countries” – a 39% increase over the previous fiscal year period;

— on July 9, it reported deporting 5889 “illegal immigrants” rounded up “in various cities throughout Florida” from January through June 2008;

— on July 9, it arrested 24 “immigration fugitives and immigration violators” over five days ending July 1 in Nashville, TN;

— on July 2, it arrested 22 “transnational gang members and their associates” in Wichita, KS;

ICE 2006 Terror Raid in Southeast Georgia – Preceding Its Largest One Ever in 2008

Over the course of two September 2006 weeks, ICE agents reigned terror on Latino residents of several southeast Georgia towns, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) November 1, 2006-filed suit in US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The case (Mancha v. ICE) remains ongoing.

It cites ICE agents illegally detained, searched and harassed Latino Americans, in violation of their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, while carrying out massive southeast Georgia raids. Five Mexican Americans are plaintiffs along with a landlord who suffered damage to his rental properties when ICE agents broke into Latino-rented trailers. SPLC’s founder, Morris Dees, expressed outraged “that this could occur in America today. These ICE agents swooped into town, armed with everything but search warrants, and started rounding up people – citizens and non-citizens alike – merely because they had brown skin. Imagine the fallout if this had happened to white people.”

Raids began September 1 in at least three counties and lasted several weeks. They involved dozens of agents allegedly to round up undocumented workers of a Stillmore, Georgia poultry plant. But instead of raiding the work site, agents terrorized communities – breaking into homes, stopping motorists, and threatening Latinos with tear gas and guns.

Hundreds of residents were traumatized and their constitutional rights violated. Some were children like Marie Justeen Mancha (age 15), named in the suit – a US citizen and resident of Reidsville in Tattnall County. She was alone in her bedroom preparing for school when she heard men in another room yelling: “Police! Illegals!” Two dozen armed agents surrounded her home and were intimidating. They had no search warrant, yet they detained and interrogated her anyway.

Ranulfo Perez is another plaintiff. He was outside his Adrian Emanuel County home when 15 armed men appeared suddenly and surrounded him. One grabbed his shirt, jammed a gun in his side, and threw him against his truck. He then twisted his arm behind his back, held him that way for 10 minutes, while other agents searched his home and property – illegally without a warrant. Perez was then advised to leave the area with his family for two weeks to avoid further such incidents.

SPLC’s suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and a court order enjoining ICE from using similar future tactics. The Center also asked the Court to approve the claim as a class action on behalf of all affected Latinos, many US citizens targeted as illegals because of their skin color and ethnicity.

The Largest Ever ICE Terror Raid

On May 12, 2008, ICE agents conducted their largest ever terror raid against workers in Postville, IA. In an early report that day, the Des Moines Register called it the “largest workplace raid in Iowa history (resulting) in the arrest of more than 300 people (in fact, 389).”

“As two law enforcement helicopters hovered overhead, dozens (in fact, around 900) federal (ICE) agents descended on Agriprocessors Inc., the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse” employing 968 workers. The number arrested was more than three times higher than those seized “18 months ago at the Swift (Marshalltown) plant.”

On July 13, The New York Times editorialized on “The Shame of Postville, Iowa” in a rare show of outrage against abusive police state tactics. It referred to “abusing and terrorizing undocumented workers,” described their shameful treatment, and deplored the the sending of “desperate breadwinners to prison” and driving their families into deeper poverty and despair. It cited Spanish-language court interpreter and Florida International University professor Erik Camayd-Freizas’ “Personal Account” titled: “Interpreting after the Largest ICE Raid in US History.”

Below is his account in which he said nothing could have prepared him for the prospect of helping government officials imprison hundreds of “innocent people.” He went public to expose it and began with the 10AM May 12 raid involving 900 agents at the Postville, Iowa plant. At the same time, 26 federally certified interpreters headed to neighboring Waterloo with no idea why they were sent. Camayd-Freizas was one of them.

He was taken to the National Cattle Congress (NCC) and arrived early for work. It’s a 60-acre “cattle fairground” that was transformed into a “concentration camp or detention center.” Echoing his own thoughts, another interpreter said: “When I saw what (this) was, my heart sank.” Then began “the saddest procession (he ever) witnessed,” suppressed from public view, because “cameras were not allowed past the perimeter of the compound,” and only a few journalists came to court the next day.

Camayd-Freizas explained: “Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the (plant) workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different country jails, only to make room for the next row of 10.”

They were mostly “illiterate Guatemalan (Spanish-speaking) peasants with Mayan last names….some in tears, others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment.” They stood out “in stark racial contrast (to) the rest of us as they started their slow penguin march across the makeshift court.” They all “waived their right to be indicted….hoping to be quickly deported since they had families to support back home.” Instead, they were “criminally charged with ‘aggravated identity theft’ and Social Security fraud – charges they did not understand” and neither did Camayd-Freizas.

He sought more information, and here’s what he learned. Of Agriprocessor’s 968 employees, about 75% were apparently undocumented. Nearly 700 warrants were issued but only about 400 were arrested, including 76 women. Some were released on humanitarian grounds – 56 mothers with unattended children, a few for medical reasons, and 12 juveniles temporarily with ankle monitors or directly turned over for deportation. Over 300 were held for prosecution. Five alone had prior criminal records, and 270, in fact, were charged.

The raid devastated Postville (population 2273). Businesses were empty, and concerns grew that it might shutter the town. Besides those arrested, many fled in fear. It affected American parents as well who complained that “their children were traumatized by the sudden disappearance of so many of their friends.” The school principal reported the same reaction in classrooms saying that “for children it was as if ten of their classmates suddenly died.” Counselors were enlisted because they had nightmares that their parents might be seized like the workers. Even the school superintendent reacted saying “This literally blew our town away,” and its future is unclear.

As for workers, here’s what happened. In some cases, husbands and wives were arrested leaving small children unattended for up to 72 hours. Some mothers were then released on humanitarian grounds with ankle GPS monitors, pending prosecution and deportation, while husbands were swiftly imprisoned. The situation was desperate. Mothers had no incomes and no means of support. Sometimes one parent was documented, the other wasn’t, and in many cases children were US citizens. In all cases, hundreds of families were torn apart, and the Postville economic impact was devastating.

There was more. Scattered news reports and blogs contained bigotry and racial epithets – “poorly disguised beneath an empty rhetoric of misguided patriotism (as well as) insults to anyone (showing) compassion…safely (hidden) behind cowardly nickname(s). One could feel the moral fabric of society coming apart” as a result.

Camayd-Freizas expressed disgust saying he felt “blindsided into an assignment (he) wanted no part of. In all (his) years as a court interpreter, (he) was assigned to criminal cases involving rape, murder, mayhem, narcotics, human trafficking, and terrorism.” Yet nothing could have prepared him for this spectacle of injustice “put(ting) hundreds of innocent people in jail,” terrorizing them, and devastating their small community.

He recounted day two in court, much like the first and ones to follow. “Throughout the day, the procession continued, ten by ten, hour after hour, the same charges, the same recitation from the magistrates, the same faces, chains and shackles, on the defendants.” The whole process was an exercise of injustice “where the meat packers were massed processed” like beef. It then got more personal as he prepared to interpret for individual lawyer-client consultations.

Proceedings were rushed to comply with a 72 hour habeas writ – charge prisoners in that time or release them for deportation. It increased his angst, but it was just the beginning and he “was about to bear the brunt of (his) conflict of interest.”

It came in his first interview – to let lawyers explain the government’s “uniform Plea Agreement” offering three choices:

— plead guilty to “knowingly using a false Social Security number,” and the government will withdraw the more serious “aggravated identity theft” charge; the sentence will then be five months in jail, deportation without a hearing, and supervised release for three years;

— plead not guilty, wait six to eight months for trial without bail and be imprisoned for two years if convicted; or

— win at trial, be deported anyway, and spend longer in jail than by pleading guilty – three no-win choices.

Camayd-Freizas’ first interview typified others. It was with a Guatemalan peasant, afraid for his family, who spent most of the session weeping. How did he get here, he was asked? “I walked….for a month and ten days until I crossed the river.” He was desperate like many others. He came alone, met other immigrants, hitched a ride to Dallas, then Postville, when he heard there was work there. He slept in an apartment hallway with other immigrants until employed and was only working two months when he was arrested. Why did he come: “I just wanted to work a year or two, save, and then go back to my family, but it was not to be.”

A simple work permit would have solved his problem and Camayd-Freizas said he, like many others are “not guilty.” Most immigrants don’t know about Social Security numbers, what purpose they serve, yet they were charged with illegally having them. In fact, they’re illiterate in Spanish and English, and simply had plant personnel fill out their papers to be hired. In most cases, the men are the sole support of their families but don’t know how they’ll survive while they’re in jail.

Case after case was the same, and all of them challenged Camayd-Freizas’ ability to be impartial. The entire process was unjust and corrupted. Proceedings were rushed. Defendants didn’t understand them. Lawyers got little chance to explain, and, when with clients, agents were always present. In addition:

— plea agreements were for seven days;

— ICE appointed attorneys had no immigration work expertise;

— ones who did “were denied access” to the proceedings; and

— prosecutors offered a Plea Agreement with no changes; take it or leave it with little time to understand or reflect – classic gross injustice against near-defenseless, traumatized victims.

Everything was “fast-tracked” and mass-processed 10 cases at a time with no possibility for due process, judicial fairness, or any compassion for desperate, innocent victims. Instead they were pressured with tactics like: “If you want to see your children or don’t want your family to starve, sign here.” Camayd-Freizas called it “coercion.”

He and other interpreters felt “tremendous solidarity with these people.” Had they lost their impartiality? “Not at all: that was our impartial and probably unanimous judgment. We (saw) attorneys hold back tears and weep alongside their clients. We (saw) judges, prosecutors, clerks, and marshals do their duty, sometimes with a heavy heart….but always with a particular solemnity not accorded to the common criminals (they’re) used to encountering….”

In a private conversation with one judge, Camayd-Freizas expressed outrage: “Your honor, I am concerned from my attorney-client interviews that many of these people are clearly not guilty, yet they have no choice but to plead out.” The judge concurred and responded: “You know, I don’t agree with any of this or with the way it is being done. In fact, I ruled in a previous case that to charge somebody with identity theft, the person had to at least know of the real owner of the Social Security number.” These people don’t even know what Social Security is or what it’s for.

The judge “hit the nail on the head – the “last piece of the puzzle” giving judges no discretion or decision-making power. It was a setup, a Hobson’s choice, a catch-22 to force victims to plead guilty to a lesser charge, accept five months in jail and deportation, or end up worse off otherwise. Under different circumstances, workers would have received only probation and swift deportation – a far less harsh disposition.

Camayd-Freizas reacted this way: “As a citizen, I want our judges to administer justice, not a federal agency. When the executive branch forces the hand of the judiciary, the result is abuse of power and arbitrariness, unworthy of a democracy founded upon the constitutional principle of checks and balances.” The final 270 charged went to jail, yet here’s what Camayd-Freizas learned.

Before the raid, ICE agents found “no match” Social Security information for 737 employees – 147 numbers were invalid and never issued; the other 590 were valid but didn’t match worker names. But it’s not uncommon for aliens to purchase identity documents (including Social Security numbers) that match names assigned to the numbers. Yet ICE agents found only one Agriprocessor employee with a reported stolen SSN yet charged all 697 workers with:

— unlawfully using SSNs in violation of Title 42 USC No.408(a)(7)(B);

“aggravated identity theft” in violation of 18 USC No. 1028A(a)(1); and/or

— possession or use of false identity documents for purposes of employment in violation of 18 USC No.1546.

The charges contravened the 1998 US federal “Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act.” It refers to persons “knowingly(ly) us(ing) a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit any unlawful activity or felony” – willful, harmful, felonious acts like theft or fraud. Securing work isn’t an “unlawful activity” under this law. Yet ICE agents bullied workers into taking a no-win plea bargain or face much harsher penalties. The system was rigged for injustice, and that’s what happened.

Camayd-Freizas called Postville a “pilot operation, to be replicated elsewhere, with kinks ironed out after lessons learned. Next time, ‘fast-tracking’ will be even more relentless. Never before has illegal immigration been criminalized in this fashion. It is no longer enough to deport them: we first have to (terrorize them and) put them in chains.”

The scheme also absolves corporations from prosecution and at most administers penalties amounting to fines. “Criminal aliens” are the targets of choice because they’re “easy pickings (and) a cheap way (for ICE to boost its) arrest statistics (and cite) meatier” numbers in its reports stating: “These incarcerated aliens have been involved in dangerous criminal activity such as murder, predatory sexual offenses, narcotics trafficking, alien smuggling and a host of other crimes.” In fact, they’re just desperate Latino workers trying to support their impoverished families back home. ICE uses them for:

— political advantage;

— larger budgets;

— a way to increase its size and power;

— its “Long War” against undocumented workers, mostly Latinos; and

— to give the executive concentrated power to dilute the legislative and judicial branches.

In a climate of fear and weak checks and balances, DHS and ICE exceed their legal authority. They get multi-billions for it and brush aside criticism saying terrorism will increase without their “vigilance.” So who in the other two branches will challenge them.

Camayd-Friezas refers to “an undemocratic doctrine of expediency, at the core of a police state, (where) power hinges on its ability to capitalize on public fear.” Sadly, the “specter of 9/11….haunt(s undocumented) workers and their local communities across the USA” – but “A line was crossed at Postville.” This isn’t humane, said a Des Moines mother as part of a citizen protest on May 13. “There has to be a better way.” Abolishing DHS and ICE would be a good start.

Another Bad Start – “Operation Scheduled Departure”

The National Immigration Forum (NIF) calls itself “the nation’s premier immigrant rights organization – dedicated (since 1982) to embracing and upholding America’s tradition as a nation of immigrants.”

It responded to the latest DHS/ICE plan to encourage immigrant workers to come forward voluntarily for deportation and called the idea “another harebrained scheme that can’t have been carefully thought out.” It’s the administration “resorting to the theater of the absurd….another gimmick (for) having failed to achieve systematic immigration reform in Congress,” and a PR stunt to get immigrants “to sign away the few rights they have,” smooth over systematic ICE terror, hide “reports of deaths (and abuse) in detention, limited (or no) access to health care and prescribed medications, and the hodge-podge of for-profit and government run state and local prisons (where) ICE detainees are assigned….”

According to an ICE July 31 press release, the idea is a pilot program to be tested in Santa Ana, CA, San Diego, Phoenix, Chicago and Charlotte from August 5 – 22 and may be expanded after subsequent evaluation. It offers undocumented immigrants no inducements except for 90 days to settle their affairs and avoid the possibility of arrest and detention in return for going home.

According to NIF Executive Director, Ali Noorani: “We are not going to deport our way our of our immigration mess, nor is it likely (most or many) of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants” will leave voluntarily. “…all the raids,” new schemes, “press conferences, new toys and buzzers at the border…(amount to) just throwing good….money after bad. This is nothing more than a modern day (forced removal) ‘Trail of Tears’ ” forcing immigrants into “permanent exile” and the latest example of Bush administration injustice.

Postville’s Aftermath

On May 12, ICE agents arrested 389 Agriprocessor workers; 297 couldn’t prove their legal status of which 270 are now serving five months in federal prison after which they’ll be deported to their home countries, mostly to Guatemala. Some to Mexico.

New American Media (NAM – founded 1996) is the country’s “first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations.” It’s been on the Postville story since it broke, and here’s what it reported weeks later.

Its June 12 account highlighted a “Rush to Prosecute Leaves Immigrant Victims of Crimes Without Protection.” It showed up in an ICE warrant with a “source #7 saying he or she “observed a Jewish floor supervisor duct-tape the eyes of an undocumented Guatemalan worker shut and hit (him) with a meat hook.” The Des Moines Register also reported sexual abuse allegations against female workers but no redress or criminal prosecution follow-ups.

More as well from Polk County attorney Sonia Parras Konrad after interviewing 50 workers. They said Agriprocessors:

— gave employees “false identification(s);”

— underpaid them on the pretext of defraying “immigration fees,” from $6.25 – $7.25 an hour for some of the most dangerous work anywhere under notoriously unsafe conditions;

— “didn’t allow (them) to use restrooms during 10-hour shifts;”

— didn’t pay overtime; and

— “physically abused” them.

NAM’s June 19 report headlined: “Immigration Raids Lead US to a Moral, Legal Crisis.” It called Postville “a ghost town” after nearly a third of its residents were in jail following the May 12 raid. “Hundreds more hide in fear.” Their children are also “too scared to go to school,” so classrooms are empty.

Workers are victimized, while “few employers face civil and criminal sanctions for violating immigration and labor laws.” No one at Agriprocessors has been charged despite “overwhelming evidence” that the company procured false worker documents, underpaid employees, violated labor laws, and “seriously mistreated its workers.”

For its part, “ICE and federal prosecutors overstepped their powers (by) criminally charg(ing) workers” despite Congress exempting ones who use false SSNs “to engage in otherwise lawful conduct, such as to procure jobs.” Overall, constitutional protections were grievously violated:

— Fourth Amendment search and seizure provisions;

— Fifth Amendment due process rights;

— Sixth Amendment guarantees to a fair, speedy and public trial before an impartial jury; and

— Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights.

Undocumented workers (and legal Latino citizens) are vulnerable in the current climate – victims of police state tactics and justice.

A follow-up June 20 report headlined: “After Iowa Raid, Families in Limbo” with hundreds “unable to work or feed their families (as they’re in jail or awaiting) deportation orders that could take months.” Released workers “live in fear that immigration agents will return, crash into their homes with drawn guns, yell obscenities at them, call them dogs, and drag them away amidst screams and tears” – sheer police state terror against innocent victims.

They wear electronic ankle bracelets with attached GPS devices even to bathe and can’t sleep out of fear agents will break in and terrorize them. They can’t pay rent or bills and rely on charity as long as it lasts. “Their lives are on hold and loved ones are gone” – husbands, brothers, relatives, friends imprisoned throughout the Midwest. Countless stories about lives uprooted, separated families, and people desperate to survive and not knowing how.

“Raw Nerves Remain After New ICE Arrest in Iowa” was NAM’s June 26 report about a single post-May 12 arrest – of an undocumented worker on the morning of June 23. Once again, the “town was turned on its head” out of fear of further ICE terror. “The June 23 action, though small, underscores how raw nerves remain….and also punctuates the fragility of the town’s transition to normalcy.” For Postville, there is none.

ICE agents were back for a specific target – Eduardo Ixen, “a Guatemalan handyman who worked for a local property owner.” He was seized, cuffed, and taken away. Others feared they were next, and some believed they were being followed by unmarked vehicles. All Postville Latinos are uprooted, in limbo, and terrified about what’s next. The community is in disarray, and its fallout affected Agriprocessors. It lost a third of its workforce, but compensated by hiring Texas homeless shelter workers and others to replace ones they lost.

According to the company, they’re recruited by an Amarillo firm and sent to Postville. They’re then processed by Jacobson Staffing, a Des Moines company that screens them to assure they’re legally allowed in the country to work.

But a local radio station, KPVL, has a different take. Several Postville officials say new arrivals are causing problems for the town. Amarillo’s homeless problem is now Postville’s. Four disorderly conduct arrests were made straightaway, and a woman bussed in said she was expected to live with 10 men in a four-bedroom house with no electricity or hot water.

On July 27, AP reported that “About a thousand protesters descended on (Postville today), decrying (the May 12 raid) and calling for a change in federal immigration policies.” They arrived by bus from Minneapolis, Chicago, Wisconsin, New York and New Jersey – “circled the streets (and) clutched banners and signs” like “United for immigrant and worker rights.” Speakers denounced “the criminalization of people who come to the US simply to make a living.”

Agriprocessors is the nation’s largest kosher meat processor, owned and run by the Rubashkin family. They deny any responsibility for what happened, the legitimacy of worker complaints, and the plant’s notoriously unsafe conditions. So far, no family members have been criminally charged. All remain free even after the latest New York Times August 5 report headlined “Inquiry Finds Under-Age Workers at Meat Plant.”

It said: “State labor investigators have identified 57 under-age workers” at Agriprocessors, “and have asked the attorney general to bring criminal charges against the company for child labor violations….(for) egregious violations of virtually every aspect of Iowa’s child labor laws.” Findings show minors worked in “prohibited occupations, exposing them to hazardous chemicals, making them work with prohibited tools like knives and saws,” and forcing them to work night shifts and as long as 17 hour days with no overtime pay or not all of it.

“A federal investigation is (now) under way.” However, no action so far has been taken, and based on the industry’s history of abusive practices and how Washington responds, any punishment levied is likely to be minor at best.

Postville, Iowa mid-summer 2008. It’s now a poster child for ICE victimization – ravaged by its terror heading throughout the country unless stopped – against defenseless Latino workers. Many undocumented, others US citizens. And don’t forget how innocent Muslims and others are targeted, persecuted, unjustly charged and imprisoned at a time when we’re all potential victims of police state terror.

Still, NAM reports a hopeful sign in its July 22 article headlined: “Opposition builds to immigration raids.” Across the country, “immigrants and activists are beginning to organize protests and high-visibility responses.” Immigration activists plan to protest at the Denver August National Democratic Convention, and four members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plan visits with Postville-impacted families and will report back to Congress and the press.

Now if others in Congress would address Muslim issues, act to free those unjustly imprisoned, and coalesce to end harsh police state terror against victims of religious and ethnic persecution. Not so far as no profiles in courage have stepped forward nor do many stand up for Latinos and other targets of choice.

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

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on www.RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9761

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9792

War with Iran – On, Off or Undecided? by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 7, 2008

There’s good news and bad, mostly the latter but don’t discount the good. On May 22, (non-binding) HR 362 was introduced in the House – with charges and proposals so outlandish that if passed and implemented will be a blockade and act of war. It accused Iran of:

— pursuing “nuclear weapons and regional hegemony” that threatens international peace and America’s national security interests;

— overtly sponsoring “several terrorist groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah;”

— having close ties to Syria;

— possibly sharing “its nuclear materials and technology with others;”

— developing “ballistic technology” and ICBMs exclusively to deliver nuclear weapons;

— calling for the “destruction of Israel;”

— refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program despite its legality;

— using its banking system to support proliferation and terrorist groups;

— supporting Hezbollah to dominate Lebanon and wage war on its government (of which Hezbollah is part);

— helping Hamas “illegally seize control of Gaza” (and) continuously bombard Israeli civilians with rockets and mortars;”

— financing Iraqi “Shia militant groups (and) Afghan warlords (to) attack American and allied forces;”

— destabilizing the Middle East “by underwriting a massive rearmament campaign by Syria;” and

— seeking regional hegemony to undermine “vital American national security interests.”

While stopping short of overtly declaring war, it proposes Congress:

— prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons “through all appropriate economic, political and diplomatic means;”

— urges the President to impose sanctions on:

(1) Iran’s Central Bank and all others supporting proliferation and terrorist groups;

(2) international banks that do business with proscribed Iranian banks;

(3) energy companies with $20 million or more investments in Iran’s oil or natural gas sectors since the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act; and

(4) all companies doing business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

It further:

— demands that the President prohibit export of all refined oil products to Iran; impose “stringent inspection requirements” on everything entering and departing the country, including international movement of its officials;

— aims to deny foreign investors greater access to Iran’s economy and give US companies preferential treatment if and when sanctions are lifted; and

— enlists regional support against Iran and makes clear that America will protect its “vital national security interests in the Middle East,” implying by war if necessary.

Sanctions As A Form of War

Under the UN Charter’s Article 41, the Security Council (SC) may impose economic sanctions to deter (as Article 39 states) “any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.” Specific measures “may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.” Prior to imposition, however, the SC should determine if they’re warranted, “call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures,” make appropriate recommendations, and decide which specific ones, if any, to use short of armed force.

Under appropriate circumstances, and if imposed responsibly, sanctions may be warranted and have greater impact than diplomatic protests or posturing. They’re also hugely less problematic and costly than conflict. However, when irresponsibly used, for imperial gain, or as acts of vengeance or political punishment, they become siege warfare and should be judged accordingly. Most often, US pressure is for these purposes in violation of the UN Charter’s intent and spirit. As a result, grievous harm is caused – nowhere more horrifically than in Iraq from 1990 – 2003 when around 1.5 million Iraqis died and millions more suffered tragically and needlessly.

In far less extreme form, a similar strategy is being used against Iran – with no justification whatever. Last March, after a year of deliberations, the Security Council approved SC 1803 – a third set of Iranian sanctions for refusing to suspend its legal right to enrich uranium as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allows. It followed two earlier rounds in July 2006 (SC 1696) demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment by August 31. When it refused, SC 1737 passed in December imposing limited sanctions. SC 1747 then tightened them in March 2007. It imposed a ban on arms sales and expanded a freeze on Iranian assets.

New sanctions extend the earlier ones but not as harshly as Washington wanted. Still they restrict dual-use technologies and authorize cargo inspections to and from the country suspected of carrying prohibited equipment and materials. They also tighten the monitoring of Iranian financial institutions and extend travel bans and asset freezes against persons and companies involved in Iran’s nuclear program.

On August 5, AP reported that Germany and the SC’s five permanent members (the so-called P5 + 1) “agreed yesterday to ‘seek’ new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program after the country failed to meet a weekend deadline to respond to an offer” discussed below. Its source is US State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos saying “we have no choice but to pursue further measures against Iran.”

Now the good news. By mid to late June, HR 362 had 169 co-sponsors. More were being added, and by August 1, 252 were on board. For a time it looked sure to pass quickly. Then anti-war groups reacted – with a tsunami of emails, phone calls, letters and visits to congressional members and their staffs. In spite of heavy AIPAC pressure for the resolution it wrote, they suspended action until the bill’s language is softened, so for now it’s stalled in committee (but not halted), and Congress is on recess until September 7 after both parties hold their conventions.

Talking Peace, Planning War

On July 16, the New York Times called Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns’ presence at the July 19 Geneva talks “the most significant diplomatic contact with Iran since” the 1979 revolution. It followed a June meeting (attended by no US representative) at which Germany and the Security Council’s five permanent members presented a package of “economic and diplomatic incentives” that failed to impress the Iranians. Predictably, neither did the July 19 meeting that ended in “deadlock” because America doesn’t “negotiate.” It demands.

In this case, the proposal offered a so-called “freeze-for-freeze” formula, with imprecise terms, under which Iran would stop enriching uranium in return for no additional sanctions for six weeks. At that point, formal negotiations would begin with no promises of concessions or compromise. Iran was given two weeks to reply. The US delegation said that Burns’ appearance was a one-time event, and by so doing revealed its deceit. For its part, Iran rejects deadlines, and its IAEA representative, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, expressed “grave concern” over America’s double standards on nuclear policy.

For the Bush administration, Iran’s nuclear program isn’t the issue. It’s mere subterfuge for what’s really at stake, but first a little background. Under Reza Shah Pahlevi, Iran undertook a nuclear program in 1957 and got a US research reactor in 1967. After the 1974 oil shock, and in spite of the country’s vast oil reserves, he established the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to use nuclear power generation for a modern energy infrastructure that would transform the entire Middle East’s power needs. He also wanted to reduce Iran’s dependence on oil, lessen its pressure to recycle petrodollars, and ally more closely with European companies through investments.

In the 1970s, W. Germany began Iran’s Bushehr civilian reactor complex. In 1978, Iran had the world’s fourth largest nuclear program, the largest in the developing world, and planned to build 20 new reactors by 1995. That year, it contracted with Russia to complete the Bushehr project, supply it with nuclear fuel, and transfer potentially dangerous technology, including a centrifuge plant for fissile material. Washington became alarmed. It got the Yeltsin government to back out, but Iran’s efforts continued with Russia supplying nuclear fuel, and it still does.

Earlier in 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI – the opposition parliament in exile) claimed the country was pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program – including a Natanz uranium enrichment facility and an Arak heavy water one. US – Iranian confrontation followed using Iran’s nuclear program as pretext. Here’s what’s really at issue:

— Iranian sovereignty;

— its independence from US control;

— its immense proved oil reserves – third or fourth largest in the world by most estimates; also its vast proved natural gas reserves – ranked second largest in the world after Russia;

— America’s resolve to control and have veto power over them;

— Big Oil’s desire to profit from them;

— Iran’s size and location in the strategically important Middle East; its chokehold over the Strait of Hormuz through which millions of barrels of oil flow daily – about 20% of world production of around 88 million barrels;

— its strategic ties to Russia and China on energy, other commercial, and weapons deals; both countries are Iran’s largest foreign investors; Iran has vital security ties with them as well;

— these relationships’ spillover for control of Eurasia and the Caspian region’s vast oil and gas reserves through two organizations – the Asian Security Grid and more important Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a counterweight to an encroaching US-dominated NATO;

— its power and influence in a region the US and Israel want to dominate; and

— the immense power of the Israeli Lobby to influence US policy, including a possible war on Iran or minimally the harshest measures just short of one.

Congress On Board with the Israeli Lobby

At AIPAC’s June 2008 annual conference, most congressional members (over 300 attended), the leadership, and both parties’ presidential candidates expressed uncompromising support for Israel. They also backed harsh sanctions against Iran and even war if they prove ineffective.

For its part, AIPAC’s action agenda urged:

— stopping Iran’s nuclear program; getting Congress to pass HR 362 and the Senate’s equivalent SR 580; “calling on the administration to focus on the urgency of the Iranian threat and to impose tougher sanctions on Tehran;”

— urging the Senate to pass the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 (S.970) – “to enhance United States diplomatic efforts with respect to Iran by imposing additional economic sanctions against Iran, and for other purposes;” on September 25, 2007, it passed the House overwhelmingly; the Senate Finance and Banking Committees passed key provisions of the Senate version in two Iran sanctions bills;

— supporting the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007 (HR 2347) that “authorize(s) State and local governments to direct divestiture from, and prevent investment in, companies with investments of $20,000,000 or more in Iran’s energy sector;” and

— urging additional aid for Israel as the president requested, “support(ing) Israel’s quest for peace, (and) press(ing) the Arab states to do more to support Israeli-Palestinian talks.”

An earlier August 14, 2007 AIPAC “Issue Brief” is titled “Iran’s Support for Terrorism.” It claims that:

— “the radical regime in Iran has sponsored terrorism against the United States, Israel and the West for decades;”

— the State Department designates Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, noting its support for groups such as Hamas, ‘Hizballah’ and Islamic Jihad;”

— Tehran also sponsors the “insurgency in Iraq, supplied arms to the Taliban and hosted al-Qaeda terrorists;”

— it also “relentlessly pursu(es) nuclear weapons (and thus is) a particularly implacable and lethal regime;” and

— “only a sustained, unified international effort to isolate and sanction Iran is likely to convince it to give up these dangerous activities.”

The Bush administration agrees. So do most members of Congress, the leadership, and both parties’ presumptive presidential candidates in speeches at the June AIPAC conference. Obama oozed obeisance – “speaking from the heart as a true friend of Israel….when I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends. Good friends….who share my strong commitment (that) the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever.” Though far less eloquent, McCain was equally supportive.

Obama assured attendees that he stands “by Israel in the face of all threats..speak(s) up when Israel’s security is at risk (and voices concern that) America’s recent foreign policy (hasn’t) made Israel more secure. Hamas now controls Gaza. Hizbollah has tightened its grip on southern Lebanon, and is flexing its muscles in Beirut. Because of the war in Iraq, Iran – which always posed a greater threat to Israel than Iraq – is emboldened and poses the greatest strategic challenge to the US and Israel in the Middle East in a generation….We must isolate Hamas….Syria continues its support for terror and meddling in Lebanon (and) pursu(es) weapons of mass destruction….There is no greater threat to Israel – or to the peace and stability of the region – than Iran. (It) supports violent extremists….pursues a nuclear capability….and threatens to wipe Israel off the map….my goal will be to eliminate this threat.”

AIPAC attendees loved it and his receptivity to attacking Iran. McCain’s comments no less plus his bad humor earlier in singing “bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of a popular song on a May campaign stop. At AIPAC, he was just as supportive as Obama, wants increased military aid for Israel in FY 2009, and “foremost in (his mind) is the threat posed by the regime in Tehran….The Iranian President calls Israel a stinking corpse….it uses violence to undermine Israel in the Middle East peace process….(it supports) extremists in Iraq (killing) American soldiers….remains the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism….(and its) pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable risk, a danger we cannot allow” with clear implications of what he means and what he may do as president.

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) on the “Iranian Threat”

Along with the Israeli Lobby, Bush neocons, and most Washington officials, Christian extremists from organizations like CUFI cite the “Iranian threat” as a recurrent theme, the country’s hostility to Israel and desire to “eliminate” the Jewish state, the danger it may do so if it acquires nuclear weapons, and the need to confront Iran preemptively – through sanctions, isolation and war if other measures fail.

Controversial Pastor and John McCain supporter John Hagee is its founder and national chairman, and his influence is considerable. He has 18,000 supporters in his San Antonio Cornerstone Church and far more through CUFI and his global television ministry. His ideology is chilling, and as the most powerful and influential American Christian Zionist, he’s a man to be reckoned with. He calls Muslims “Islamic fascists,” claims they’re at war with western civilization, and believes preemptive countermeasures, including belligerent ones against Iran, are a proper defense.

As keynote speaker at AIPAC’s 2007 conference, he called Iran “the most dangerous regime in the Middle East (characterized by its) cruel despotism (and) fanatic militancy. If this regime (acquires) nuclear weapons this would presage catastrophic consequences not only for my country, not only for the Middle East, but for all of mankind….The fact that Iran is building nuclear weapons is beyond question….and they may be the world’s first ‘un-deterable’ nuclear power….So the danger is clear and the question is what do we do about it…My message to you is….divest Iran,” impose sanctions, isolate the country, and if these measures fail choose a “second course,” the other two being “nothing” or “non-military action.” From his rhetoric at AIPAC and fundamentalist preaching to his followers, it’s clear which one Hagee prefers and may get if enough others in high places share his views.

Israeli Defense Minister and former Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak may one of them. On July 30, he told top US officials that Israel won’t rule out a military strike against Iraq, but there’s still time to pursue diplomacy. Like other Israeli officials (past and present), he stressed Iran’s global threat so that for Israel “no option would be removed from the table.”

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister (and possible next Prime Minister) Shaul Mofaz stated similar views. In an August 1 speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a pro-Israeli think tank), he called Iran an existential threat, recommended diplomacy first, then added “all options are on the table” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons – “as soon as 2010” as some in Israel claim.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (and Mofaz rival for Prime Minister) may be one of them. On CNN August 3, she called for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran and urged the world community to support them. “Iran doesn’t pay attention to talks,” she said, and “time is of the essence.” On the same day, US spokesperson for the US’s UN mission, Richard Grenell, (in a Reuters report) voiced the same view in saying “Iran has not complied with the international community’s demand to stop enriching uranium (so) the Security Council (has) no choice but to increase the sanctions….”

High Level US Opposition to War on Iran

Key Obama foreign policy advisor and former Carter administration National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, is one of them. In a Washington Post March 2008 op-ed, he called the Iraq war a “national tragedy, (demagogically justified), an economic catastrophe, a regional disaster, and a global boomerang for the United States.” Earlier in February 2007, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said it was “a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy….tarnishing (our) moral credentials (and) intensifying regional instability.”

He then laid out a “plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran (based on) Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US blamed on Iran, culminating in a ‘defensive’ US military action” in response. This would plunge “a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Brzezinski’s remarks were an unmistakable warning that the Bush administration may try to stampede the country into a calamitous conflict it must avoid, and it’s up to Congress to stop it. He also practically called Bush neocons a cabal and warned Congress to be alert.

Later last September, Brzezinski repeated the same warning on CNN – that the Bush administration (Bush and Cheney mainly) is “hyp(ing) the atmosphere (and) “stampeding” the country to war with Iran. “When the president flatly asserts (Iran is) seeking nuclear weapons, he’s overstating the facts….we have very scant (supportive) evidence (and after the Iraq calamity he) should be very careful about the veracity of his public assertions.” Based on his own experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he’s also very leery about “running the (same) risk of unintentionally” falling into Russia’s trap – overreaching, paying “little regard for civilian casualties,” turning Afghans against us, and being defeated and forced out of the country.

Brzezinski supports a less confrontational occupation and had this to say about a McCain administration: “if his Secretary of State is Joe Lieberman and his Secretary of Defense is (Rudy) Giuliani, we will be moving towards the WW IV (counting the Cold War as WW III) that they have been both favoring and predicting….an appalling concept” he says must be avoided.

It will be if global intelligence company Stratfor founder and head George Friedman is right. In an August 4 Barrons interview (reported on Iran’s Press TV), he called Israeli war games and tough US talk geopolitical head-fake leading to an “amicable endgame in Iran.” Why? Because given today’s global economy, the alternative risks far outweigh potential benefits. Besides, Iran poses at most a “negligible nuclear threat” and nowhere near reason enough to go to war over.

Further, Iran has helped reduce sectarian violence in Iraq by reigning in Shia militias, and that’s a key reason for lower US casualties. Barrons noted that Stratfor has a record of making accurate assessments and gained a large client base as a result. Friedman believes the US and Israel are using psychological warfare to intimidate Iran to make it more accommodative to their policies. He also says a major attack would have grave repercussions for the global economy at a time when it’s most vulnerable. Iran’s potential retaliatory strength might cripple a sizable amount of world oil trade, cause prices to skyrocket, and exacerbate an already shaky situation at the worst time.

He says the Pentagon has war-gamed an attack, and believes it can make short work of Iran’s shore-based missile batteries and attack ships. De-mining operations would take much longer. In the meantime, oil prices could hit $300 a barrel, shipping insurance and tanker lease rates would soar, and economic stability would collapse. In the near-term, it would be “cataclysmic to the global economy and stock market.”

Up to now, two years of talks on Iran’s nuclear program have been more “Kabuki theater” than a real effort at serious negotiation. In addition, Friedman says Iran is “decades away” from developing a credible nuclear weapons capacity even if it intends to pursue one. At best, in his judgment, it may be able to come up with a crude device like the North Koreans managed and apparently tested in 2006. No reason to go to war over if he’s right and one among many more vital issues that influential American figures cite to oppose one.

Pentagon Crosscurrents on Iran

In late June, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Michael Mullen, visited Israel – his second trip there since his October 1 appointment, but this time with a clear (official US) message according to defense analyst and former Pentagon official Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). It was that “the US did not give the green light for an Israeli attack on Iran….George Bush made it clear to all parties that the first option is diplomacy,” and no attack should be undertaken without White House approval. Mullen further suggested that US policy likely will remain unchanged under George Bush, and that future plans will be up to the next incumbent – a strong hint that cooler high-level Washington figures know the folly of a wider Middle East war and want no part of one.

Nonetheless, there’s no assurance they’ll win out, and analyst Michael Oren of the Shalem Centre told CBS News that Bush administration officials assured Israelis that Iran wouldn’t be allowed to develop a nuclear weapons capacity with strong hints of an attack if one continues. Then on March 11, CENTCOM commander William Fallon was sacked following reports that he sharply disagreed with Bush administration Middle East policy. On April 24 Iraq commander, and noted super-hawk, David Petraeus was named to replace him, and following an easy Senate confirmation will take over in September.

In June 2007, another change of command occurred when George Bush replaced Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace because of his public disagreement over policy. On February 17, 2006 at a National Press Club luncheon, he responded to a question: “It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral.” He later added that commanders should “not obey illegal and immoral orders to use weapons of mass destruction….They cannot commit crimes against humanity.” Nor should they go along with wrong-headed illegal schemes of remaking the Middle East and other regions militarily, but until Admiral Mullen’s comments to Israelis it looked like a compliant Pentagon team was in place to pursue it.

Whatever’s ahead, it appears high-level opposition figures have surfaced with practical (past and present) trilateralists among them. Figures like Brzezinski, Jim Baker, Henry Kissinger, George Tenet, Paul Volker, Jimmy Carter, George Soros, David Rockefeller, many other top business executives, and even GHW Bush. Their concern over present policy is having an effect, but there’s no certainty about which side will prevail. However, with Congress out until September, things are on hold, and time is fast running out on a lamer-than-lame duck administration, according to some.

Even The New York Times is sending mixed messages it will have to clarify in coming weeks. In a June 10 editorial, it said: “If sanctions and incentives cannot be made to work, the voices for military action will only get louder. No matter what aides may be telling Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert – or what they may be telling each other – an attack on Iran would be a disaster,” implying it’s wrong, won’t work and will devastate the economy. Then on July 18, it then gave Israeli historian and apologist Benny Morris op-ed space for a vicious and Orwellian headlined diatribe: “Using Bombs to Stave Off War.”

In it, he states “Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months (conventionally).” Should that “assault fail to significantly harm or stall the Iranian program….a nuclear (attack) will most likely follow.” The world has “only one option if it wishes to halt Iran’s march toward nuclear weaponry: the military” one by “either the United States or Israel.” But America is bogged down in two wars, and “the American public has little enthusiasm” for more.

“Which leaves only Israel – the country threatened almost daily with destruction by Iran’s leaders….Iran’s leaders would do well to rethink their gamble and suspend their nuclear program.” Otherwise, an Israeli attack “will destroy their nuclear facilities (even though) this would mean thousands of Iranian casualties and international humiliation.”

It’s high time The New York Times (and other major media voices) took a stand. Is it opposed to further regional conflict, or in James Petras’ words: is it for “the nuclear incineration of 70 million Iranians and the contamination of the better part of a billion people in the Middle East, Asia and Europe” plus an unimaginable amount of retaliatory fallout with the entire Muslim world against the West and Israel.

Yet a June 2008 Presidential Task Force on the Future of US-Israeli Relations statement calls for “Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge” and to consider “coercive options” against it, including embargoing Iranian oil and “preventive military action.” It was at the time Haaretz reported that Israel conducted large-scale exercises (focusing on long-range strikes) “that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack” on Iran. Statfor’s George Friedman downplayed them, called them “psychological warfare” saber-rattling, not preparations for war, and why would Israel telegraph plans if that’s what it has in mind. In 1981, it gave no hint it intended to bomb Iraq’s Osirak reactor, and when it came it was a surprise.

Other Crosscurrents

For brief moments earlier, positive developments surfaced, only to be swept aside by a torrent of anti-Iranian hostility. The Baker Commission December 2006 report recommended engaging Iran and Syria “constructively” and called for a “New Diplomatic Offensive without preconditions,” all for naught. Then last December the National Intelligence Assessment (representing the consensus of all 16 US spy agencies) concluded that Iran “halted” its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and it remains frozen, again without effect.

At the same time, battle plans are in place under code name TIRRANT for Theater Iran Near Term. And under a top secret “Interim Global Strike Alert Order” and CONPLAN (contingency/concept plan) 8022, Washington may preemptively strike targets anywhere in the world using so-called low-yield extremely powerful nuclear bunker buster weapons. Iran is the apparent first target of choice, and US Naval carrier strike groups are strategically positioned in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean to proceed on command.

A recent May World Tribune report cited a second carrier group in the Gulf and secret (approved but not implemented) US naval and air plans for an Iran “counterstrike” in response to “escalating tensions that would peak with an Iranian-inspired insurgency strike against US” forces – that might easily be another Gulf of Tonkin-type incident. So the question remains, are we heading for war or is it just “head-fake” as George Friedman believes?

Sy Hersh On “Preparing the Battlefield”

On June 29 in the New Yorker magazine, Hersh reported more crosscurrents and added to what’s covered above. On the one hand, Congress will fund “a major escalation of covert operations against Iran,” according to his high-level sources. As much as $400 million will go to minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi dissident groups, to “destabilize the country’s religious leadership,” aim for regime change, and gain intelligence on Iran’s “suspected nuclear-weapons program.”

The plan apparently involves stepped up covert CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) operations authorized by a highly classified Presidential Finding about which some congressional leaders have little knowledge and have voiced concern. By law, party leaders and ranking intelligence committee members must be briefed, but apparently it’s been done selectively.

On the other hand, Hersh says Pentagon military and civilian leaders are concerned about “Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” but disagree “whether a military strike is the right solution.” Some oppose one, want diplomacy instead, and apparently Robert Gates is one of them – a former Iraq Study Group member until he became Secretary of Defense in December 2006. In late 2007, he apparently warned the Democrat Senate caucus of grave consequences if the Bush administration preemptively attacked Iran – saying it would create “generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling (them) in America.”

Admiral Mullen also is “pushing back very hard” against an attack along with “at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders” in charge of military operations around the world. One of them is Admiral Fallon who lost his CENTCOM job for opposing an attack even though he agrees on Iran’s possible threat.

Looking Ahead

More good news for what it’s worth. On August 2, tens of thousands across the US and Canada protested against a possible attack on Iran. On the bad side, unprecedented numbers, in vain, did as well ahead of the Iraq war, but this time influential Washington figures support them.

With Congress on recess, it’s too soon to know what’s ahead, but one thing’s for sure. Neocons still run things. Dick Cheney leads them, and he claims Iran intends to destroy Israel, is developing nuclear weapons, and is a “darkening cloud….right at the top of the list” of world trouble spots and needs to be addressed (along with Syria) as the next phase of “the road map to war.” With five months to go and heavy firepower to call on, he and George Bush have plenty of time left (as this writer said earlier) to incinerate Iran and end the republic if that’s what they have in mind. Better hope they don’t or that cooler heads win out for a different way.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9724

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9762

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A Vote For Military Force Against Iran? AIPAC’s House Resolution, H. Con. Res. 362

HR 362 and the Alarming Escalation of Hostility Towards Iran

Iran always ready for dialogue

Iran

Kucinich: Mindless threats imperil millions + Oil companies’ influence over govt

Preparing the Battlefield by Seymour M. Hersh

Mukasey to Congress: Defy the Rule of Law by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, July 23, 2008

Along with other past and present administration officials, Attorney General Michael Mukasey supports lawlessness and police state justice. Weeks after the Supreme Court’s landmark (June 12) Boumediene ruling, he addressed the conservative, pro-war American Enterprise Institute (on July 21) and asked Congress to overrule the High Court – for the third time. His proposal:

— subvert constitutional and international law;

— authorize indefinite detentions of Guantanamo and other “war on terror” prisoners (including US citizens designated “enemy combatants”); and

— deny them habeas rights, due process, and any hope for judicial fairness.

Since June 2004, the (conservative) High Court made three landmark rulings. Twice Congress intervened, and Mukasey wants a third time. In Rasul v. Bush (June 2004), the Court granted Guantanamo detainees habeas rights to challenge their detentions in civil court. Congress responded with the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) of 2005 subverting the ruling.

In June 2006, the Supreme Court reacted. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, it held that federal courts retain jurisdiction over habeas cases and that Guantanamo Bay military commissions lack “the power to proceed because (their) structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions (of) 1949.”

In October 2006, Congress responded a second time. It enacted the Military Commissions Act (MCA) – subverting the High Court ruling in more extreme form. In its menu of illegal provisions, it grants the administration extraordinary unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate, torture and prosecute alleged terrorist suspects, enemy combatants, or anyone claimed to support them. It lets the President designate anyone anywhere in the world (including US citizens) an “unlawful enemy combatant” and empowers him to arrest and detain them indefinitely in military prisons. The law states: “no (civil) court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause for action whatsoever….relating to the prosecution, trial or judgment of….military commission(s)….including challenges to (their) lawfulness….”

On June 12, 2008, the High Court again disagreed. In Boumediene v. Bush, it held that Guantanamo detainees retain habeas rights. MCA unconstitutionally subverts them, and the administration has no legal authority to deny them due process in civil courts or act as accuser, trial judge and executioner with no right of appeal or chance for judicial fairness.

On July 21, Mukasey responded, and immediately the ACLU reacted in a same day press release headlined: “Attorney General Wants New Declaration of War Allowing Indefinite Detention and Concealment of Torture.” It called Mukasey’s speech “an enormous executive branch power grab….authoriz(ing) indefinite detention(s) through a new declaration of armed conflict.” He asked Congress to redefine habeas through legislation “that will hide the Bush administration’s past wrongdoing – an action that would undermine the constitutional guarantee of due process and conceal systematic (lawless) torture and abuse of detainees.”

Like his two predecessors, Mukasey mocks the rule of law and supports harsh police state justice. He wants Congress to “expand and extend the ‘war on terror’ forever” and let the president detain anyone indefinitely without charge or trial. ACLU’s Washington Legislative Director, Caroline Fredrickson, called this “the last gasp of an administration desperate to rationalize what is a failed legal scheme” – that the Supreme Court thunderously rejected three times.

Mukasey proposes lawlessness and cover-up, “but there is no reason to think that Congress will assist him.” It “won’t fall for this latest (scheme) to (suppress) its wrongdoing.” Besides, the House Judiciary Committee is now investigating whether high-level administration officials authorized torture and abuse. Mukasey wants to hide it and is asking Congress to “bury the evidence.”

The ACLU is righteously outraged by this latest attempted power grab. It rejects Mukasey’s lawlessness and states there is “no need to invent yet another set of legal rules to govern the detention and trial of prisoners held on national security grounds, and the rules that (Mukasey) is proposing are fundamentally inconsistent with” constitutional and international law.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Responds

After Mukasey’s September 17, 2007 nomination for Attorney General, CCR issued the following November 1, 2007 statement:

“Michael Mukasey is not fit to be Attorney General because he supports torture, illegal spying on Americans, and limitless powers for the Executive Branch.” As the “country’s highest law enforcement official,” he’s obligated “to enforce the law” – not make excuses for the government when it’s in violation. CCR stands “firmly against Mukasey’s nomination….Our country cannot afford to make compromises to our laws, our morals, and our humanity any longer.” The Senate must reject Attorney General candidates who’ll “undermine American justice and shred the Constitution.”

CCR expressed equal outrage on July 21. Its Executive Director, Vincent Warren, denounced Mukasey’s proposal in the following excerpted statement:

“What Mukasey is doing is a shocking attempt to drag us into years of further legal challenges and delays. The Supreme Court has definitively spoken” in Boumediene v. Bush and its two prior rulings. “For six and a half years,” the administration and Congress “have done their best to (deny due process) and prevent the courts from reviewing the legality of the detention of the men in Guantanamo. Congress should be a part of the solution this time by letting the courts do their job.”

For the past six years, CCR litigated for Guantanamo detainee rights and continues to do it. It organized and coordinated over 500 pro bono lawyers for everyone held there illegally. Most recently, it represented plaintiffs in the landmark Boumediene v. Bush case – argued on December 5, 2007 and ruled on June 12, 2008.

The Wall Street Journal Reports and Editorializes

Its July 22 article states: “Mukasey Seeks Law on Detainees – Congress Is Urged to Limit Rights of Terror Suspects….in light of a rebuke by the Supreme Court.” It quotes Mukasey wanting:

— legislative “principles” for “practical” limits on the right of detainees to challenge their incarceration;

— Congress to give the administration freedom to detain combatants “for the duration of the (‘war on terror’) conflict;”

— a “reaffirmation of something that was enacted in legislation after September 11, 2001” (a menu of harsh repressive laws);

— no “enemy combatants” released in (or brought to) the US (even to appear in civil court);

— no intelligence (or harsh interrogation) methods revealed (so evidence of torture and abuse is suppressed), and

— military officers (and intelligence officials) to be excused from testifying (because what they know is damning).

On its editorial page, the Journal is supportive. It called Mukasey’s proposal “modest” on a “difficult” issue over which “different judges even on the same court will disagree.” Mukasey wants congressional “guidance” because there’s risk of “inconsistent rulings and considerable uncertainty.”

According to the Journal, Mukasey “was right in stepping forward to say that someone has to take responsibility for the consequences of the Supreme Court’s 5 – 4” Boumediene ruling. It wants “Congress (to) give one court jurisdiction over (all detainee) cases” and not let the process “bog down into a Babel of conflicting procedural and legal rulings.” Mukasey is “right” to ask Congress to settle the issue, (regardless of three landmark High Court rulings). In other words:

— constitutional and international laws don’t apply;

— judicial fairness is a dead letter;

— presidential power is supreme; and

— Congress must support the executive and overrule the highest court in the land….A “modest (police state) proposal” according to the Journal and one it clearly supports.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9609

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9650

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Al-Marri and the power to imprison U.S. citizens without charges

Gitmo ‘Justice’ for US Citizens? By Robert Parry

Police State

Homeland Security

Gitmo

Torture As Official US Policy by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, July 18, 2008

Post-9/11, torture has been official US policy under George Bush – authorized at the highest levels of government. Evidence of its systematic practice continues to surface. First some background.

On September 17, 2001, George Bush signed a secret finding empowering CIA to “Capture, Kill, or Interrogate Al-Queda Leaders.” It also authorized establishing a secret global network of facilities to detain and interrogate them without guidelines on proper treatment. Around the same time, Bush approved a secret “high-value target list” of about two dozen names. He also gave CIA free reign to capture, kill and interrogate terrorists not on the list. It was the beginning of events that followed.

On November 13, 2001, the White House issued a Military Order regarding the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism.” It “determined that an extraordinary emergency exists for national defense purposes, that this emergency constitutes an urgent and compelling government interest and that issuance of this order is necessary to meet the emergency.”

It defined targeted individuals as Al Queda and others for aiding or abetting acts of international terrorism or harboring them. These individuals shall be denied access to US or other courts and instead tried by “military commission” with the power to convict by “concurrence of two-thirds of the members.”

On December 28, 2001, Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals, Patrick Philbin and John Yoo, sent a Memorandum to General Counsel, Department of Defense, William Haynes II titled: “Possible Habeas Jurisdiction over Aliens Held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” It said federal courts have no jurisdiction and cannot review Guantanamo detainee mistreatment or mistaken arrest cases. It further stated that international laws don’t apply in the “war on terror.” This laid the groundwork for abuses in all US torture prisons.

On January 18, 2002, Bush issued a “finding” stating that prisoners suspected of being Al Queda or Taliban members are “enemy combatants” and unprotected by the Third Geneva Convention. They were to be denied all rights and treated “to the extent….consistent with military necessity.” Torture was thus authorized. The 2006 Military Commissions Act (aka the “torture authorization act”) later created the Geneva-superceded category of “unlawful enemy combatant” to deny them any chance for judicial fairness.

International law expert Francis Boyle spoke out about this lawless designation: “this quasi-category (created a) universe of legal nihilism where human beings (including US citizens) can be disappeared, detained incommunicado, denied access to attorneys and regular courts, tried by kangaroo courts, executed, tortured, assassinated and subjected to numerous other manifestations of State Terrorism” on the pretext of as protecting national security.

The January 18 memo was preceded by a January 9 one to William Haynes II – co-authored by John Yoo, and Special Council Robert Delahunty. It read in part:

Regarding “international treaties and federal laws on the treatment of individuals detained by the US Armed Forces (in) Afghanistan….the laws of armed conflict (don’t) apply to the conditions of detention and the procedures for trial of members of al Queda and the Taliban militia.” These treaties “do not protect members of the al Queda organization (or) the Taliban militia.”

On January 19, 2002 Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to the Joint Chiefs titled: “Status of Taliban and al Queda.” It stated that these detainees “are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.” It gave commanders enormous latitude to treat prisoners “to the extent appropriate with military necessity” or essentially as they saw fit.

On January 22, 2002, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee (now a federal judge), issued a Memorandum to Counsel to the President, Alberto Gonzales and William Haynes II. It was titled: “Application of Treaties and Laws to al Queda and Taliban Detainees.” It covered the same ground as the Yoo/Delahunty memo plus added misinterpretations of international law with regard to war.

On January 25, 2002, Alberto Gonzales, then issued a sweeping memo to George Bush. In it he called the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “obsolete” and said the administration could ignore Geneva law in interrogating prisoners henceforth. He also outlined plans to try prisoners in “military commissions” and deny them all protections under international law, including due process, habeas rights, and the right to appeal. In December 2002, Donald Rumsfeld concurred by approving a menu of banned interrogation practices allowing anything short of what would cause organ failure.

On February 7, 2002, the White House issued an Order “outlining treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban detainees.” It stated that “none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaida (or Taliban detainees) in Afghanistan ‘or elsewhere throughout the world…’ “It meant they’d be afforded no protection under international law and could be treated any way authorities wished, including use of torture as was later learned.

A virtual blizzard of similar memos followed covering much the same ground to allow all measures banned under international and US law (including the 1996 War Crimes Act, 1994 Torture Statute and the Torture Act of 2000). The War Crimes Act is especially harsh. It provides up to life in prison or the death penalty for persons convicted of committing war crimes within or outside the US. Torture is a high war crime, the highest after genocide.

Two other memos particularly deserve mention – written by John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee and David Addington (Cheney’s legal counsel). One was for the CIA on August 2, 2002. It argued for letting interrogators use harsh measures amounting to torture. It said federal laws prohibiting these practices don’t apply when dealing with Al Queda because of presidential authorization during wartime. It also denied US or international law applies in overseas interrogations. It essentially “legalized” anything in the “war on terror” and authorized lawlessness and supreme presidential power.

On March 14, 2003, the same quartet issued another memo – this one for the military titled: “Military Interrogation of Alien Unlawful Combatants Held Outside the United States.” It became known as “the Torture Memo” because it swept away all legal restraints and authorized military interrogators to use extreme measures amounting to torture. It also gave the President as Commander-in-Chief “the fullest range of power….to protect the nation.” It stated he “enjoys complete discretion in the exercise of his authority in conducting operations against hostile forces.”

Military law expert and Yale University lecturer, Eugene Fidell, called it “a monument to executive supremacy and the imperial presidency….(and) a road map for the Pentagon (to avoid) any prosecutions.” It denied due process is applicable and virtually all other constitutional protections. It argued against any prohibition banning “cruel and unusual treatment.” It was a document that would make any despot proud. So much so that in late 2004, Office of Legal Counsel head, Jack Goldsmith, rescinded the Memorandum saying it showed an “unusual lack of care and sobriety in (its) legal analysis (and it) seemed more an exercise of sheer power than reasoned analysis.”

Nonetheless, other administration documents authorized continued use of practices generally reflecting John Yoo’s views. They may inflict “intense pain or suffering” short of what would cause “serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, (loss of significant body functions), or permanent damage” may result.

The President’s July 20, 2006 Executive Order (EO) was one such document, titled: “Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” It pertained to “a member or part of or supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated organizations (who might have) information that could assist in detecting, mitigating, or preventing terrorist attacks….within the United States or against its Armed Forces or other personnel, citizens, or facilities, or against allies or other countries cooperating in the war on terror….”

It authorized the Director of CIA to determine interrogation practices. Based on what’s now known, they include sleep deprivation, waterboarding or simulated drowning, stress positions (including painfully extreme ones), prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation and/or overload, beatings (at times severe and life-threatening), electric shocks, induced hypothermia, and other measures that can cause irreversible physical and psychological harm, including psychoses.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Bush Administration Use of Torture

In a secret 2007 report, the ICRC concluded that CIA interrogators tortured high-level Al Queda prisoners. Abu Zubaydah was one, a reputed close associate of Osama bin Laden and Guantanamo detainee. He was confined in a box “so small (that) he had to double up his limbs in the fetal position” and stay that way. He and others were also “slammed against the walls,” waterboarded to simulate drowning, and given other harsh and abusive treatment.

The report also said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the supposed chief 9/11 planner, was kept naked for over a month – “alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room.” Most excruciating was a practice of shackling prisoners to the ceiling and forcing them to stand for as long as eight hours. Other techniques included prolonged sleep deprivation, “bright lights and eardrum-shattering sounds 24 hours a day.”

ICRC’s Bernard Barrett declined to comment but confirmed that Red Cross personnel regularly visit Guantanamo detainees, including high-level ones. They also “have an ongoing confidential dialogue with members of the US intelligence community, and we would share any observations or recommendations with them.”

In her new book just out, “The Dark Side,” Jane Mayer went further using sources familiar with ICRC’s report. She wrote it “warned that the abuse (at torture prisons) constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the US government in jeopardy of being prosecuted.” She also explained that Red Cross investigators based their report largely on prisoner interviews. However, CIA officers she spoke to confirmed what ICRC disclosed. More on Mayer’s book below.

Presidential July 20, 2007 Executive Order (EO) 13440: Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency

The EO is noteworthy for what it doesn’t say, not what it does. Its language is reassuring but avoids stopping short of the administration’s official policy of torture. Or real compliance with Geneva’s Common Article 3 that states in part:

(1) Noncombatants, including “members of armed forces who laid down their arms….shall in all circumstances be treated humanely….”

….”the following acts are prohibited at any time and in any place….:

— violence to life and person (including) murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

— taking of hostages;

— ….humiliating and degrading treatment;”

— sentencing or executing detainees “without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees….recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples;” and

— assuring wounded and sick are cared for.

Various human rights organizations weighed in on the EO. Washington Director of Human Rights First, Elisa Massimino, said: The Order “fails to make clear whether (CIA authorized) interrogation techniques are still permitted.” If CIA interprets the Order “as authorization to (continue using) techniques such as waterboarding, stress positions, hypothermia, sensory deprivation (and overload), sleep deprivation and isolation, it sends a powerful – and dangerous – message” that these and other banned practices are permissible. Bush’s EO avoided clarity and left considerable leeway for abuse.

New Yorker Writer Jane Mayer’s New Book: “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals”

Mayer’s book reflects what the ICRC reported and is now common knowledge except for more grim details and personal accounts. Prior to its release, the publisher’s promotion commented:

“The Dark Side is a dramatic, riveting, and definitive narrative account of how the United States made terrible decisions in the pursuit of terrorists around the world – decisions that not only violated the Constitution to which White House officials took an oath to uphold, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Queda. In gripping detail…Jane Mayer relates the impact of these decisions – US-held prisoners, some of them completely innocent, were subjected to treatment more reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition than the twenty-first century.”

“The Dark Side” recounts the fallout from the above administration documents and more. It reveals high-level contempt for the law to advance an imperial project. The story is gripping and comprehensive. It’s about an American gulag throughout the world where mostly innocent detainees are held secretly outside the law and subjected to ritual abuse, humiliation and excruciating torture – day after day repeatedly. Some don’t survive. All who do remain scarred for life.

Mayer states that decisions were taken at the highest levels – to make “torture the official law of the land in all but name,” and it’s no longer secret. Her evidence is compelling and comes from military officers, intelligence professionals and other conservative Bush appointees – “hard-line law-and-order stalwarts in the criminal justice system” who came forward nonetheless, and apparently for good reason.

Unlike past lawless periods, this time is different given the menu of what occurred post-9/11: an array of

— illegal aggressive wars and the possibility of others;

— police state laws enacted;

— extremist Executive Orders;

— similar National and Homeland Security Presidential Directives; military orders and signing statements;

— “unitary executive” authority assumption granting unlimited presidential powers;

— lawless and pervasive spying on Americans;

— turning elections into shams;

— gutting the Constitution, article by article, including the Bill of Rights;

— ending any sense of checks and balances;

— ignoring international laws and norms;

— establishing an official policy of secrecy;

— silencing dissent and free speech;

— conducting massive sweeps against Muslims, Latino immigrants and other designated targets;

— convicting innocent people (mostly Muslim men) in US courts and holding them as political prisoners;

— constructing US-based concentration camps for declared enemies of the state to be used if martial law is declared;

— using NORTHCOM, DHS, CIA, FBI, NSA and private paramilitary security forces to militarize the continent; and

— ending the rule of law, crushing any sense of democracy, and heading the country for tyranny.

Instituting the above fell to a small group of lawyers known as the “War Council.” Also other select high-level officials reporting to Dick Cheney and George Bush as head co-conspirators. They seized on 9/11 to establish what David Addington called a “new paradigm” authorizing vast new executive powers in the “war on terror.” They believe the US legal system is “a burden” to be countered by “error-prone legal decisions whose preordained conclusions were dictated by Addington” as Dick Cheney’s legal counsel following Lewis Libby’s resignation.

Their view is hard-line and simple. On matters of national security (meaning anything), presidential authority isn’t “limited by any laws.” It’s empowered “to override existing laws that Congress had specifically designated to curb him” and thus render checks and balances and the Constitution null and void.

For these men, everything changed post-9/11. The gloves came off. Conventional law enforcement methods were inappropriate, and only global conflict without end can keep us safe. It sounds bizarre and like the ravings of madmen, and maybe to a degree they are. But very smart and cunning ones who’ve led us to the current brink.

In 2001, Max Waxman served as special assistant to then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. He told Mayer that the decision to go to war (post-9/11) was made with “little or no detailed deliberation about long-term consequences” because none were thought necessary. But it set us on “a course not only for our international response, but also in our domestic constitutional relations.”

It also worked for the executive as a wartime commander-in-chief with considerable help from Congress, the courts, and the media. It left him free from accountability after what Mayer calls “the worst intelligence failure in the nation’s history.” Others see it differently – in “deep state” terms as Peter Dale Scott defines it. He refers to facts in every society and culture “which tend to be suppressed because of the social and psychological costs of not doing so.” In other words, covert criminal policies, unaccountable, lawless and self-serving that hide disturbing truths like both Kennedy and King assassinations, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the more recent 9/11 event.

The War Council wasn’t concerned if extremist policies were banned. Only security matters and supreme presidential power. A discussion of policy was missing, according to Mayer, “not just (about) what was legal, but what was moral, ethical, right, and smart to do.” These were peripheral matters because “fundamentally, the drive for expanded presidential authority was about (unlimited) power” outside of the law.

Prior to her book’s release, she wrote articles for The New Yorker on torture, and her book is largely based on them. One on November 14, 2005 was titled “A Deadly Interrogation – Can the CIA legally kill a prisoner?” It was about CIA officer Mark Swanner who “performed interrogations and polygraph tests for the Agency….” In 2003, an Iraqi Abu Ghraib prisoner in his custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head was covered with a plastic bag. It inhibited his breathing, and according to forensic pathologists, he suffocated. Subsequently US authorities “classified Jamadi’s death as a ‘homocide.’ ” Yet Swanner wasn’t charged and continued to work for the Agency.

Post-9/11, the DOJ “fashioned secret legal guidelines that appear to indemnify CIA officials who perform aggressive, even violent interrogations outside the United States” – to win the “war on terror.” In 2001, Dick Cheney condoned it in a Meet the Press interview saying: We may have to go to “the dark side” in handling terrorist suspects. “It’s going to be vital….to use any means at our disposal.”

Subsequently, administration officials sought to turn the CIA loose and protect its “classified interrogation protocol.” The idea was to give the Agency “flexibility” to make “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment permissible. It means anything goes regardless of US and international laws and norms.

Another Mayer article appeared on August 13, 2007 titled: “The Black Sites – A rare look inside the CIA’s secret interrogation program.” In military terminology, such sites are locations where “black” projects are conducted. Post-9/11, they refer to secret CIA or military prisons outside the country with no oversight, accountability, detainee rights, and where torture and abuse are freely practiced.

Mayer discussed the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an Al Queda leader, supposed lead architect of the 9/11 attacks, and the CIA’s claim that he confessed to killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. No evidence supported it, and Mayer called his confession “perplexing.” He had no lawyer, was detained at black sites for over two years, and in 2006 was sent to Guantanamo. No one witnessed his confession, and it was certain he was tortured. It was also at the time of the US Attorney scandal when critics called for Gonzales’ resignation. Further, in 2002, a Pakistani named Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had already been convicted of Pearl’s abduction and murder, but that hardly mattered to US authorities.

They continued to interrogate Mohammed. It was part of a secret CIA program in which detainees were held in “black sites” outside the country – out of sight, out of mind, and subject to “unusually harsh treatment.” In 2006, the program was supposedly suspended when George Bush said CIA detainees were being sent to Guantanamo. It followed the June 2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Supreme Court ruling granting habeas rights to Guantanamo prisoners. It also acknowledged that Geneva’s Common Article 3 was violated. The October 2006 Military Commissions Act followed. It overrode the High Court to allow “alternative interrogations methods” to continue.

Secrecy and unlimited presidential authority are the hallmarks of this administration so everything in the “war on terror” is classified and permissible. Even few congressional members know much, and those who do won’t say, let alone act to uphold the law.

Mayer notes how since the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the ICRC “played a special role in safeguarding” prisoner rights. “For decades, governments allowed (their) officials (access to) detainees, to insure that (proper treatment was) being maintained.” However, Red Cross personnel were denied permission to interview US prisoners for five years. When they finally saw Mohammed, a spokesman declined to comment because ICRC’s work is confidential.

Nonetheless, information leaked out to confirm what’s now known. CIA interrogation methods are “tantamount to torture, and (responsible) American officials….could have committed serious crimes.” Other Geneva breaches also along with violations of US law. Mayer characterized ICRC’s revelations as having “potentially devastating legal ramifications.” She also mentions an unnamed CIA officer, supportive of current policy, but worried that “if the full story of the CIA program ever surfaced, Agency personnel could face criminal prosecution.” Within CIA, he said, there’s a “high level of anxiety about political retribution” regarding the interrogation program. Some CIA operatives even took out liability insurance to help defray potential legal bills. Others saw the operation as a “can of worms (that might) become an atrocious mess.”

Based on Mayer’s account, it’s far more than that – a systematic scheme to rewrite laws and norms; to make any practice permissible; to break and destroy human beings through intense coercion and psychological stress – without letup; and to avoid all accountability. Regarding torture: “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs ever,” one expert explained. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail….It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. (They) fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

Mohammed’s case is typical and shows what he was put through when accounts of his ordeal leaked out. Initially he was told: “We’re not going to kill you. But we’re going to take you to the brink of your death and back.” He was first taken to a secret Afghanistan prison near Kabul International Airport – distinctive for its absolute lack of light and known by detainees as the “Dark Prison.” Another one north of Kabul was called the “Salt Pit.” An infamous 2002 death occurred there when a detainee was stripped naked and left chained to the floor in freezing temperatures until he died.

Mohammed endured some of these abusive practices. He was taken to Afghanistan by a team of “black-masked commandos attached to the CIA’s paramilitary Special Activities Division.” According to a report titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees,” he and others were “taken to their cells by strong people (in) black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces and dark visors over their eyes.” It was a carefully choreographed 20 minute routine during which detainees are “hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories (amounting to sodomy), placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.”

Stripping demonstrates the captors’ omnipotence and and debilitates detainees. Interrogators were advised to “tear clothing from (them) by firmly pulling downward against buttons and seams….pulling detainees off balance.” Techniques also include the “Shoulder Slap, Stomach Slap, Hooding, Manhandling, Walling,” and a variety of “Stress Positions.”

Mohammed said he was placed in his own cell, kept naked for several days, and questioned by female interrogators for added humiliation. He was also attached to a dog leash and yanked to propel him into walls in his cell. In addition, he was suspended from the ceiling by his arms so that his toes barely touched the ground and he was unable to sleep. It caused intense pain and swelling to his legs. He may have also been beaten with electric cables, commonly used against other detainees. Some also got repeated electric shocks.

Mohammed further described being chained naked to a metal ring in his cell in a painful crouch – for prolonged periods in alternating intense heat and extreme cold when he was doused with ice water, a banned practice that can cause hypothermia. Other detainees were bombarded with deafening sounds round the clock for weeks or even months. This and other practices went on endlessly, and its effect was shattering. Detainees “lost their minds.” You could “hear people knocking their heads against walls and doors, screaming their heads off.” Attempted suicides were common, and some succeeded.

Mohammed was later secretly taken to a “specially designated (Polish) prison for high-value detainees.” Up to a dozen others like him were there, but no first-hand accounts emerged of what happened. However, “well-informed sources” said it was far more high-tech than in Afghanistan – including hydraulic doors, video surveillance and more.

From what’s known from others who were there, Mohammed was kept in a prolonged state of sensory deprivation, perhaps as long as four months. He was also waterboarded multiple times. There was no exposure to natural light, and the only human contact was with silent masked guards. The ICRC report seemed to confirm that he was kept shackled and naked, except for a pair of goggles and earmuffs. Meals came sporadically to keep prisoners disoriented. It was largely tasteless and barely enough to sustain him.

Under this type treatment, virtually everyone breaks down, and Mohammed was no exception. He ended up confessing to so many crimes, he was barely credible. In addition to the Pearl murder, he said he planned to assassinate Presidents Clinton and Carter, Pope John Paul II and a great deal more, including plots to blow up New York suspension bridges and the Panama Canal – anything to end the pain. Later on, like many other detainees, he said he lied “to please his captors.”

As for taking blame for Daniel Pearl’s killing, one of Pearl’s friends said: “I’m not interested in unfair justice, even for bad people. Danny was such a person of conscience. I don’t think he would have wanted all of this dirty business. I don’t think he would have wanted someone being tortured. He would have been repulsed.” So are all people of conscience at a grim time in our history.

Mayer recounts Mohammed’s ordeal as well as Abu Zubaydah’s and others in her book. She also notes that Dick Cheney “saw to it that some of the sharpest and best-trained lawyers in the country, working in secret in the White House and US Department of Justice, came up with legal justifications for a vast expansion of the government’s power in waging war on terror. As part of the process, for the first time in history, the United States sanctioned government officials to physically and psychologically torment US-held captives, making torture the official law of the land in all but name.” This “extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained, and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.”

The Bush White House adopted a “doctrine of presidential prerogative.” It functions in secret and allows no challenge to its authority. In the “war on terror,” everything is permissible even against innocent victims. And Mayer found there are many. She revealed a classified 2002 CIA report stating that one-third of Guantanamo’s 600 prisoners (at the time) have no connection to terrorism. In fact, the number was far higher as most sent there were snatched randomly for bounty and victimized by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Major General Michael Dunlavey agreed and suggested up to half of Guantanamo detainees were innocent of any crime. A Seton Hall University Law School study put the number even higher.

CIA, however, later lowered their estimate to 50 unjustifiably detained. But either way it contradicted the administration’s claim that Guantanamo held “the worst of the worst” even though most never were charged with a crime and none so far have been tried. They continue being held at black holes sites, totally outside the law, and for most without any hope again for a normal life. After what they’ve endured, that’s impossible. It’s America’s darkest hour, and Mayer powerfully recounts it.

Late News on Torture Victims

Salim Hamdan was captured during the Afghanistan invasion, held at Guantanamo, and accused of being Osama bin Laden’s personal driver. After US District Court judge James Robertson’s July 17 ruling (that may be appealed in light of the Boumediene decision), he’ll be the first detainee tried by a military commission (possibly beginning July 21) in which he’ll receive no due process and no hope for judicial fairness. On July 15, he testified at a pretrial hearing and described everyday life at Guantanamo – a six year ordeal of interrogation, torture, isolation, sexual humiliation and more. A snapshot follows:

— his “confessions” were made under extreme duress – torture; his lawyer is trying to exclude them from trial; there’s practically no chance he’ll succeed;

— “Camp Echo,” where was held, “is like a graveyard where you place a dead person in a tomb;”

— according to prosecutors, he was disciplined 84 times; his counsel said 15 were for trying to speak to other detainees – “through walls, through vents and in the recreation yard;”

— he described an interrogation by a woman who touched his thigh and groin area; “She behaved in an improper way; She came very close with her whole body towards me. I couldn’t do anything;”

— he described months in isolation, multiple episodes of sleep deprivation, including Operation Sandman for 50 days in 2003, and being force-fed – by military personnel in white coats; they strapped him down and snaked a tube through his nose to his stomach; “Doctors, butchers, I couldn’t tell the difference;” it’s a very painful procedure;

— during one month of FBI interrogation, guards rapped on his cell door every five to ten minutes all night to wake him;

— a tape of his first interrogation was revealed; he said he was a Muslim charity worker, not a bin Laden employee; nonetheless he underwent harsh battlefield questioning with his arms and legs bound, a soldier’s boot on his shoulder to keep his head bowed, and a “bag over my head;”

— he described persistent back pain and no medical treatment;

— he’s charged with transporting weapons for Al Queda and helping bin Laden escape after 9/11; he calls himself a Muslim charity worker, not a terrorist; a judge in Washington will shortly rule on whether he should be tried in federal court; on July 14, several hundred current and former European officials asked the judge to block the military tribunal saying it was “clearly at odds with the most basic norms of fair trial and due process.”

In another July 15 development, the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals made two rulings, both 5 – 4. One (reversing a June 2007 three-judge panel decision) allows the Bush administration to order indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the US. A second held that Ali al-Marri, a Qatar citizen held at the Charleston, SC naval brig, may challenge his detention in federal court but will remain imprisoned without charge. The decision is disturbing because the court was vague about about what type new proceeding is allowed. The Bush administration may also appeal to the Supreme Court so al-Marri and others like him remain in limbo.

He’s the only known person in mainland custody held as an “unlawful enemy combatant.” Defense intelligence official, Jeffrey Rapp, calls him (without evidence) an Al Queda “sleeper agent” sent to America to commit mass murder and disrupt the banking system. He was arrested in Peoria, IL where he lived with his family.

His lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, called the court’s decision disturbing. It means “the president can pick up any person in the country – citizen or legal resident – and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a (fair and speedy) criminal trial.”

Final Comments

On February 17, 2008 in a New York Times Op-Ed, Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, former chief Guantanamo military commissions prosecutor, went public. He resigned last year because political operatives and military superiors pushed prosecutors to file charges before trial rules were written. He also called the tribunals tainted by political influence and by evidence obtained through torture. He further accused Pentagon general counsel, William Haynes II, of saying detainee acquittals would make the US look bad. “We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.” In 2004, three other prosecutors also quit, calling the process rigged.

Davis explained his prosecutorial standard – “that evidence derived through waterboarding was off limits. That should still be our policy. To do otherwise is not only an affront to American justice, it will potentially put prosecutors at risk for using illegally obtained evidence.”

“Unfortunately, I was overruled….and I resigned my position to call attention to the issue – efforts that were hampered by my being placed under a gag rule and ordered not to testify at a Senate hearing. While some high-level military and civilian officials have rightly expressed indignation on the issue, the current state can be described generally as indifference and inaction….Military justice has a proud history; this was not one of its finer moments.”

Guantanamo convictions are only justifiable “after trials we can truthfully call full, fair and open. In that service, we must declare that evidence obtained by waterboarding be banned in every American system of justice.” Hopefully he means all evidence gotten through torture and abuse.

On another matter following the Supreme Court’s important June 12 Boumediene v. Bush decision, the administration is reportedly preparing to transfer Guantanamo’s remaining 265 detainees to mainland locations. Boumediene overrode the 2006 Military Commissions Act by ruling Guantanamo prisoners have habeas rights and can challenge their detention in civil courts. The administration has several choices. It can stall, ignore the Court, act as reportedly rumored, or ask Congress to pass new supportive legislation.

Currently around 80 detainees are to be tried in military commissions. Another 65 can be repatriated home, leaving 120 others. According to Boumediene, they all have habeas rights unless Bush administration officials obstruct justice to prevent it. Given what they’ve done, a smooth road to justice is far from certain. George Bush was noncommittal about Boumediene saying only that the ruling was being analyzed. Both presidential candidates favor closing Guantanamo, then transferring prisoners to US military prisons. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is a likely possibility.

Another issues involves “prison ships,” and in 2005, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism took note. He spoke of “very, very serious” allegations that the US was secretly detaining terrorist suspects aboard special ships at various locations around the world, notably in the Indian Ocean.

The UK legal action charity, Reprieve, believes up to 17 floating prisons are involved where detainees are held under torturous conditions and subjected to harsh and brutal treatment, in some cases worse than Guantanamo. Details have emerged from US administration and military sources as well as the Council of Europe, various parliamentary bodies, journalists, and former prisoner testimonies.

The USS Bataan is one ship mentioned, and a former Guantanamo detainee described his treatment on board. About 50 in total were there. They were closed off in the ship’s bottom area and beaten more severely than at Camp X-Ray. Reprieve’s Director, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “The US administration chooses ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their human rights.”

“By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.” The Bush administration’s response so far: silence.

Leaving aside other countries, America, to some degree, has practiced torture for many decades, and especially since the CIA’s establishment in 1947. During the Vietnam War, Paul Blackstock wrote an essay titled the “Moral Implications of Torture and Exemplary Assassination” for the Carnegie Council On Ethics and International Affairs. He described widespread CIA and special forces torture saying this policy created a situation wherein “for the majority of private individuals (the) intolerable (became) tolerable.” That’s the situation today in the Middle East, Central Asia, Guantanamo, on prison ships, and at all secret US black sites worldwide.

Unless exposed, denounced and stopped, it’s heading to mainland America and maybe a neighborhood near you. It’s no idle threat given that, on July 14, the ACLU revealed that the nation’s terrorist watch list hit one million names – based on the government’s own reported numbers. It’s also symbolic of what’s wrong with “this administration’s approach to security – unfair, out-of-control, a waste of resources, (treating) the rights of the innocent as an afterthought,” and recklessly endangering what little freedom remains. Even worse, by Bush administration standards, there is none.

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

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on WWW.RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9569

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9610

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Little War Criminals Get Punished, Big Ones Don’t By Paul Craig Roberts

The Real-Life ‘24’ of Summer 2008 By Frank Rich

Terror, Torture, and the Dark Side + Bush officials could be charged with war crimes