Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rude awakening to missile-defense dream

By Scott Ritter

DELMAR, N.Y. - On Christmas Eve 2004, the Russian Strategic Missile Force test fired an advanced SS-27 Topol-M road-mobile intercontinental ballistic Missile (ICBM). This test probably invalidated the entire premise and technology used in the National Missile Defense (NMD) system currently being developed and deployed by the Bush administration, and at the same time called into question the validity of the administration's entire approach to arms control and disarmament.

From 1988 to 1990, I served as one of the American weapons inspectors at the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant in Russia, where the SS-27 and its predecessor, the SS-25, were assembled. When I started my work in Votkinsk, the SS-25 missile was viewed by many in the US intelligence community as the primary ICBM threat facing the United States. A great deal of effort was placed on learning as much as possible about this missile and its capabilities.

Through the work of the inspectors at Votkinsk, as well as several related inspections where US experts were able to view the SS-25 missile system in its operating bases in Siberia, a great deal of data was collected that assisted the US intelligence community in refining its understanding of how the SS-25 operated. This understanding was translated into several countermissile strategies, including aerial interdiction operations and missile-defense concepts.

The abysmal performance of American counter-SCUD operations during the Gulf War in 1991 highlighted the deficiencies of the US military regarding the aerial interdiction of road-mobile missiles. Iraqi Al-Hussein mobile missiles were virtually impossible to detect and interdict, even with total American air supremacy. Despite all the effort put into counter-SCUD operations during that war, not a single Iraqi mobile missile launcher was destroyed by hostile fire, a fact I can certify not only as a participant in the counter-SCUD effort, but also as a chief inspector in Iraq, where I led the United Nations investigations into the Iraqi missile program.

The rapid collapse of the Soviet Union did not leave much time for reflection on the American counter-mobile missile launcher deficiencies. In mid-1993, the Department of Defense conducted a comprehensive review to select the strategy and force structure for the post-cold war era. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the threat to the US from a deliberate or accidental ballistic missile attack by former Soviet states or by China was judged highly unlikely. In Votkinsk, US inspectors observed a Soviet-era defense industry in decline. SS-25 missiles were produced at a greatly reduced rate, and the next generation missile, a joint Russian-Ukrainian design, was scrapped after a few prototypes were produced, but never launched.

After the resounding Republican victory in the midterm 1994 congressional elections, a new program for missile defense was proposed covering three distinct "threat" capabilities ranging from "unsophisticated threats" (an attack of five single-warhead missiles with simple decoys), to highly sophisticated threats (an attack of 20 single-warhead SS-25 type missiles, each with decoys or other defensive countermeasures). Funding for this program ran to some $10.8 billion from 1993 to 2000.

When President Bush came to power in 2001, there was a dramatic change in posture regarding ballistic missile defense. The administration announced it was withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, clearing away development and operational constraints. At the same time, the administration laid out a comprehensive plan that envisioned a layered missile-defense system. After studying the SS-25 missile for years, the US military believed it finally had a solution in the form of a multitiered antiballistic missile system that focused on boost-phase intercept (firing antimissile missiles that would home in on an ICBM shortly after launch), space-based laser systems designed to knock out a missile in flight, and terminal missile intercept systems, which would destroy a missile as it reentered the earth's atmosphere.

The NMD system being fielded to counter the SS-25, and any similar or less sophisticated threats that may emerge from China, Iran, North Korea, and elsewhere, will probably have cumulative costs between $800 billion and $1.2 trillion by the time it reaches completion in 2015.

However, the Bush administration's dream of a viable NMD has been rendered fantasy by the Russian test of the SS-27 Topol-M. According to the Russians, the Topol-M has high-speed solid-fuel boosters that rapidly lift the missile into the atmosphere, making boost-phase interception impossible unless one is located practically next door to the launcher. The SS-27 has been hardened against laser weapons and has a highly maneuverable post-boost vehicle that can defeat any intercept capability as it dispenses up to three warheads and four sophisticated decoys.

To counter the SS-27 threat, the US will need to start from scratch. And even if a viable defense could be mustered, by that time the Russians may have fielded an even more sophisticated missile, remaining one step ahead of any US countermeasures. The US cannot afford to spend billions of dollars on a missile-defense system that will never achieve the level of defense envisioned. The Bush administration's embrace of technology, and rejection of diplomacy, when it comes to arms control has failed.

If America continues down the current path of trying to field a viable missile-defense system, significant cuts will need to be made in other areas of the defense budget, or funds reallocated from other nonmilitary spending programs. With America already engaged in a costly war in Iraq, and with the possibility of additional conflict with Iran, Syria, or North Korea looming on the horizon, funding a missile-defense system that not only does not work as designed, but even if it did, would not be capable of defending America from threats such as the Topol-M missile, makes no sense.

The Bush administration would do well to reconsider its commitment to a national missile-defense system, and instead reengage in the kind of treaty-based diplomacy that in the past produced arms control results that were both real and lasting. This would not only save billions, it would make America, and the world, a safer place.

Scott Ritter is a former intelligence officer and weapons inspector in the Soviet Union (1988-1990) and Iraq (1991-1998). He is author of 'Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America.'


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cindy Sheehan speaks out on Democracy Now!

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan has announced she is stepping back from her role as a leading campaigner against the Iraq war. We take a look back at how she helped galvanize the antiwar movement over the past two-and-a-half years following the death of her son Casey in Iraq. Democracy Now! looks back at Cindy Sheehan's antiwar activism after her son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004

Cindy Sheehan has been the face of the US antiwar movement for the past two years. In August 2005, she set up Camp Casey outside President Bush's Crawford estate in memory of her son Casey, who was killed in Iraq. Now Cindy says she is stepping back from her role as a leading campaigner against the Iraq war. In this Democracy Now! special, Cindy Sheehan joins Amy Goodman on DemocracyNow! for the hour to talk about her decision.

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"Good Riddance Attention Whore"

By CindySheehan

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a "grateful" country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

Camp Casey has served its purpose. It’s for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford , Texas ? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too...which makes the property even more valuable.

This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement. This is not my "Checkers" moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

It’s up to you now.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An Open Letter to the Democratic Congress by Cindy Sheehan

Why I Am Leaving the Democratic Party

By Cindy Sheehan

Dublin, Ireland

Dear Democratic Congress,

Hello, my name is Cindy Sheehan and my son Casey Sheehan was killed on April 04, 2004 in Sadr City , Baghdad , Iraq . He was killed when the Republicans still were in control of Congress. Naively, I set off on my tireless campaign calling on Congress to rescind George's authority to wage his war of terror while asking him "for what noble cause" did Casey and thousands of other have to die. Now, with Democrats in control of Congress, I have lost my optimistic naiveté and have become cynically pessimistic as I see you all caving into "Mr. 28%"

There is absolutely no sane or defensible reason for you to hand Bloody King George more money to condemn more of our brave, tired, and damaged soldiers and the people of Iraq to more death and carnage. You think giving him more money is politically expedient, but it is a moral abomination and every second the occupation of Iraq endures, you all have more blood on your hands.

Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said after George signed the new weak as a newborn baby funding authorization bill: "Now, I think the president's policy will begin to unravel." Begin to unravel? How many more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has occurred? How many more crimes will BushCo be allowed to commit while their poll numbers are crumbling before you all gain the political "courage" to hold them accountable. If Iraq hasn't unraveled in Ms. Pelosi's mind, what will it take? With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and four million refugees (which the US refuses to admit) how could it get worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to your complicity.

Being cynically pessimistic, it seems to me that this new vote to extend the war until the end of September, (and let's face it, on October 1st, you will give him more money after some more theatrics, which you think are fooling the anti-war faction of your party) will feed right into the presidential primary season and you believe that if you just hang on until then, the Democrats will be able to re-take the White House. Didn't you see how "well" that worked for John Kerry in 2004 when he played the politics of careful fence sitting and pandering? The American electorate are getting disgusted with weaklings who blow where the wind takes them while frittering away our precious lifeblood and borrowing money from our new owners, the Chinese.

I knew having a Democratic Congress would make no difference in grassroots action. That's why we went to DC when you all were sworn in to tell you that we wanted the troops back from Iraq and BushCo held accountable while you pushed for ethics reform which is quite a hoot...don't' you think? We all know that it is affordable for you all to play this game of political mayhem because you have no children in harm's way...let me tell you what it is like:

You watch your reluctant soldier march off to a war that neither you nor he agrees with. Once your soldier leaves the country all you can do is worry. You lie awake at night staring at the moon wondering if today will be the day that you get that dreaded knock on your door. You can't concentrate, you can't eat, and your entire life becomes consumed with apprehension while you are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Then, when your worst fears are realized, you begin a life of constant pain, regret, and longing. Everyday is hard, but then you come up on "special" upcoming Memorial Day. Memorial Day holds double pain for me because, not only are we supposed to honor our fallen troops, but Casey was born on Memorial Day in 1979. It used to be a day of celebration for us and now it is a day of despair. Our needlessly killed soldiers of this war and the past conflict in Vietnam have all left an unnecessary trail of sorrow and deep holes of absence that will never be filled.

So, Democratic Congress, with the current daily death toll of 3.72 troops per day, you have condemned 473 more to these early graves. 473 more lives wasted for your political greed: Thousands of broken hearts because of your cowardice and avarice. How can you even go to sleep at night or look at yourselves in a mirror? How do you put behind you the screaming mothers on both sides of the conflict? How does the agony you have created escape you? It will never escape me...I can't run far enough or hide well enough to get away from it.

By the end of September, we will be about 80 troops short of another bloody milestone: 4000, and will hold nationwide candlelight vigils and you all will be busy passing legislation that will snuff the lights out of thousands more human beings.

Congratulations Congress, you have bought yourself a few more months of an illegal and immoral bloodbath. And you know you mean to continue it indefinitely so "other presidents" can solve the horrid problem BushCo forced our world into.

It used to be George Bush's war. You could have ended it honorably. Now it is yours and you all will descend into calumnious history with BushCo.

The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling all citizens who are as disgusted as we are with you all to join us in Philadelphia on July 4th to try and figure a way out of this "two" party system that is bought and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives. As for myself, I am leaving the Democratic Party. You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor.

We do not condone our government's violent meddling in sovereign countries and we condemn the continued murderous occupation of Iraq .

We gave you a chance, you betrayed us.

Cindy Sheehan
Founder and President of
Gold Star Families for Peace.

Founder and Director of
The Camp Casey Peace Institute

Eternally grieving mother of Casey Sheehan

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rudy Giuliani - the face of American Fascism?

An increasing amount of people in the USA are calling Guiliani a Fascist. Often, they refer to his own infamous words:

We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don’t see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

Does that really make him a Fascist? What is a Fascist to begin with?

Here is the wikipedia definition:

Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and other societal interests inferior to the needs of the state, and seeks to forge a type of national unity, usually based on ethnic, cultural, or racial attributes. Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, corporatism, collectivism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, and opposition to economic and political liberalism

Without entering into the endless debates about the nature of the various historical versions of Fascism, I think that any non-controversial wikipedia definition reflects the current usage of the word, and that this definition should be therefore accepted (some definition of Fascism by Benito Mussolini can be found here)

There can be little doubt that Giuliani-type Republicans are nationalists, that they favor a "unitary executive" (authoritarian presidential rule), that their policies are highly militaristic, that they are totally dedicated to the preservations of any and all corporate privileges in the USA and want to expand them. They are also collectivists (look at their record on civil rights), they have no issues with being allied with dictators (the house of Saud, Mubarak or Musharraf are just some current examples among many others) and they are not only anti-communist, but even virulently anti-socialist and anti-liberal. But do they really oppose economic liberalism? I would argue that yes, very much so.

The Guiliani type Republicans are always in favor of truly huge government spending on the military and on the bloated and inept US intelligence/security community, they also like multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts for the Carlyle Group, Bechtel, Halliburton, Lockheed, etc. and they are always the ones who make the US deficit skyrocket. None of that can be called "economic liberalism".

For all their rhetoric about freedom, market economy or democracy, it sure seems that Guiliani type Republicans are the real thing - Fascists in the exact definition of the word who match each and every criteria of the definition. But I think that it would be wrong to focus too much on the Guiliani type Republicans as pretty much the entire political elite in Washington shares their values. Guiliani is just cruder and more open about his views, but the rest of them read exactly from the same script.

The only place where this is openly discussed in the USA is the Internet which abounds in many articles on this issue, here are just some examples:

This small sampling of articles (with very different level of quality) only shows that the idea of a new American Fascism is being discusssed in the USA outside the coroprate media.

I would add a number of small personal observations I have made since returning to the USA six years ago:

1) Anywhere you go in the USA "patriotic" flags and bumper stickers can be seen. On cars (some up to 7-8 flags), buildings, commercial buildings and, of course, on advertisements (hey - "patriotism" sells). My wife's aunt had to live under Hitler's rule for a while during WWII and, according to her, there are far more US flags in the USA then swastikas in Nazi Germany
2) In Russia there the expression "siloviki" or "silovye ministerstva" have been coined. Loosely translated, they refer to any government entity with firepower. Well, the US corporate media constantly glorifies the "American siloviki" in special TV shows ("Cops"), commericals, movies, commentaries, etc. Since an average American spends something like 4-6 hours each day watching the telescreen, he/she is constantly bombarded with such propaganda.
3) Nationalism ("America - love it or leave it!") is rampant, as is xenophobia towards the AYErabs, Ragheads, Eurotrash, Gooks, etc.
4) Paranoia is all over the public discourse with endless mantras about all sorts of horrible people out there which the public needs to be protected from. The list includes, but is not limited to, the following: terrorists of course, but also narco-terrorists, pedophiles, communists, hippies, pot-smokers, anti-Semites, sexual predators, Internet pornographers, hackers, cyber-terrorists, Islamo-fascists, Chinese spies, etc.
5) The President has now aquired a truly monarchical stature and in the minds of many the President is the Commander-in-Chief, the leader. He is not seen as the servant of the public anymore but rather as the embodiment of the nation and the protector of the people (take a look at the billboard pictured here, and read about its origin here)
6) Congress has turned into what can only be called the US Imperial Senate. With very few exception, US Congressmen and Senators are so totally subservient to the Neocon agenda that they would have made Caligula proud.
7) With the exception of the free and independent media (almost exclusively Internet-based), the US media would have made Goebbles blue with envy.

While Guiliani is no less Fascist than Mussolini was, he is no more Fascist than Hillary or Obama. In fact, only Ron Paul and Mike Gravel are, among the currently declared 2008 presidential candidates, the only ones which are not genuine Fascists. Since their chances of making it to the nomination of their parties are exactly zero, nevermind being elected President, I would say that US Fascism is alive and well, and it is here to stay for a while.

Nonetheless, and in the meanwhile,

Have a thoughtful Memorial Day!

Pentagon plans against Iran according to Scott Ritter (and the Saker)

I know, bragging is not good, but I simply cannot miss the opportunity, in particular that it turns out that I "beat" Scott Ritter by 32 week in predicting how the Pentagon plans the war on Iran. Listen to the interview that Charles Goyette made with Scott Ritter for Antiwar Radio and compare Scott's analysis with the one I published on the Debianhelp political forum (another version of the same post can be found elsewhere in the vineyard): Scott and I both deny the myth that the Empire can be deterred by the threat of any Iranian attempts to close the Strait of Hormuz and we think that the Marines have been sent to the region to prevent this from happening.

The Strait of Hormuz is indeed narrow, and Iran does have mines and missiles capable of striking tankers in the strait. Iran also has very good Kilo-class Russian submarines which, in many ways, are better suited to coastal and "green water" operations than American SSNs. The problem is targeting: in terms of weapons reach, the Strait of Hormuz is tiny, in terms of targeting it is huge.

To deploy mines Iran can use either small craft or submarines. The US Navy is, however, more than capable of finding and destroying such mine-laying craft. Missiles need to be fed targeting data, you cannot just shoot them down the strait and hope to hit a tanker, and this is exactly where the US Navy will lay down a huge electronic warfare blanket on the entire waterway combining both electronic countermeasures (such as jamming) and strikes (with anti-radiation missiles). Lastly, the Iranians could use coastal artillery (anything from MRL to dug-in artillery positions). This is were the 17000 Marines (correction: this should read 17'000 Navy personnel, not Marines) currently sitting off the Persian coast come in: by physically taking over key sections of the Iranian coast and a number of islands in the strait the US Navy hopes to make it much harder for the Iranians to close down the traffic. Once the strait is declared "safe", the Empire could then take its time to beat the Iranian "regime" (in US parlance all the governments not controlled by the White House are "regimes") into surrender or, as the Neocons always hope, to trigger a popular revolt against the "Mullahs" (again, US parlance for anybody inside the Iranian government).

Of course, cooler heads will say that the real risk of Iranian retaliation is not the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, but a Shia uprising against Imperial forces in Iraq and Lebanon (to this I would even add that an Iranian attack across the Iraqi-Iranian border is not something unthinkable, at least not in Teheran who has already fought a war over this land). One could also raise such minor issues as the sustainability (in terms of logistics) of US "boots" on the Iranian coast or the fact that in any such operation time would be on the Iranian side (how long would the US be capable of sustaining such an operation?).

But considering the Neocon "crazies" currently running the Empire, I do not think that such arguments will prevail.

I agree with Scott Ritter: the war is probably inevitable, and barring a miracle, it will happen this summer.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Major General John Batiste's thoughts on the national service

Major General John Batiste was offered a promotion to become a three-star general, the second-highest-ranking military officer in Iraq. Instead, he quit over the war. After he appeared in a commercial for, CBS News fired him as a paid news consultant. collected 230,000 signatures on a petition demanding he be rehired. He was interviewed by Amy Goodman on DemocracyNow on May 25th, 2007. Among other things, they spoke of the need of reinstituting the draft:

AMY GOODMAN: Do you agree with Congressman Rangel that there should be a draft? Do you think that would mobilize this country, if everyone's children were equally, well, possibly going to war?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: We have a problem right now. We’re facing a long-term threat in a military -- Army and Marine Corps, primarily, but Navy and Air Force, as well -- that is in serious trouble, in trouble with equipment, in trouble with troop strength. The Army, by some accounts that I’ve read, needs to be increased by 100,000 soldiers. The Marine Corps, by some accounts that I’ve read, needs to be increased by 50,000 soldiers to accomplish our national strategy. Where are those soldiers and Marines going to come from in our current recruiting scheme? They don't exist. We have two or three generations of Americans who have never served. This is not a good situation.

I think it’s time that we debate national service. National service can come in many flavors. The Peace Corps -- my daughter served two years in Malawi -- AmeriCorps -- think of the opportunities with Homeland Security for national service and, of course, the military. We need to have that debate, and we need to have it soon.

AMY GOODMAN: So do you think there should be a draft?

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: There needs to be some form of national service to get Americans back into the game, their heads into serving their country. We don't have that right now. Part of the problem is the military is under-resourced, and the current recruiting scheme is insufficient. It won't take us to where we need to go. So we need to debate the draft and form it the way it makes sense for us today to complement things like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other opportunities that we should be thinking about to support Homeland Security.

From this one can only conclude that:

a) the current volunteer army system is in a terminal crisis and that things will only get worse.
b) that the generals know that and that they are seriously looking at alternatives
c) that their search for an alternative is based on a "national strategy" which requiers an increase of troop stregth by up to 150'000 soldiers in the Army and Marine Corps (keep in mind here, just as a context, Kerry's promise to also double the size of the Special Operations Forces).
d) that nobody seems to consider that instead of troop increases the solution might be to review the aforementioned "national strategy"
e) that besides drafting Americans into the military, the generals are also discussing adding draftees to the Department of Homeland Security
f) besides equipping the extra 150'000 soldiers, the generals also want to address the alledged current lack of equipment for the existing armed forces

Call it the "warfare state" or the state of perpetual war - the reality is the same: the US will sink further into the swamp of endless militarization unless some truly dramatic event turns the tide.

Friday, May 25, 2007

More info on the Lebanease crisis: Who's Behind the Fighting in North Lebanon?

Inside Narh al-Bared and Bedawi Refugee Camps

By Franklin Lamb
Tripoli, Lebanon.

Wearing a beat-up ratty UNCHR tee-shirt left over from Bint Jbeil and the Israeli-Hezbollah July probably helped. As did, I suspect, the Red Cross jersey, my black and white checkered kaffieyh and the Palestinian flag taped to my lapel as I joined a group of Palestinian aid workers and slipped into Nahr el-Bared trying not to look conspicuous.

Our mission was to facilitate the delivery of food, blankets and mattresses, but I was also curious about the political situation. Who was behind the events that erupted so quickly and violently following a claimed 'bank robbery'? A heist that depending on who you talked to, netted the masked bandits $ 150,000, $ 1,500 or $ 150!

It seems that every Beirut media outlet has a different source of 'inside information' based on which Confession owns it and 'knows' the real culprits pulling the strings. But then, even we who are particularly obtuse have realized, as the late Rafic Hariri often counseled: "In Lebanon, believe nothing of what you are told and only half of what you see!"

My friends made we swear out loud that I would claim to be Canadian instead of American if Al Qaeda types stopped us inside the Camp. My impression was that they were not so worried about my safety but for their own if they got caught with me. It would not be the first time that I relied on my northern neighbors to get me out of a potential US nationality jam in the Middle East, so I ditched my American ID.

We were advised as we approached the Fatah al Islam stronghold that we would be in the cross-hairs of Lebanese army snipers from outside of Nahr el-Bared Camp as well as Fatah al-Islam snipers from the inside, and that any false move or bad luck could prove fatal.

After three days of shelling and more than 100 dead and with no electricity or water, Nahr el-Baled reeks of burned and rotting flesh, charred houses with smoldering contents, raw sewage and the acrid smell of exploded mortars and tank rounds.

Press figures of 30,000-32,000 are not accurate. 45,000 live in Bared! Contrary to some reports food and water still not being allowed in.

15 to 70 percent of some areas destroyed. Some light shooting this morning and afternoon. Army shelling at rate of 10-18 shells per minute from 4:30 am to 10 am on Tuesday. Army will not allow Palestinian Red Crescent to move out civilians because they don't trust them. Only the Lebanese Red Cross is allowed. It is possible to enter Bared from the back (east side). The Army taking cameras of journalists they catch. The Lebanese government is controlling the information and don't want extent of damage known yet. Still unrecovered bodies. 40 per cent of the camp population have been evacuated. The rest don't want to leave out of fear of being shot or that they are losing their homes for the 5th time or more for some.

No electricity and cell phone batteries are dying. Relatives who fled are telling families to stay because there are not enough mattresses at Bedawi Camp. Bared evacuees are living up to 25 in one room in Badawi schools etc. 3,000 evacuees in one school in Bedawi. UN aid is starting to arrive at Badawi but workers not able so far to deliver it to Bared due to attack on relief convoy on Tuesday.

I met Abdul Rahman Hallab famous for Lebanese candy factory in Tripoli. Helped him unload 5,000 meals to evacuees from Bared staying in Badawi. He is Lebanese not Palestinian.

The camp population all say that Fatah Al-Islam came in September-October 2006 and have no relatives in the camp. They are from Saudi, Pakistan, Algeria, Iraq, and Tunisia and elsewhere. No Palestinians among them except some hanger ons. Most say they are paid by the Hariri group.

Reports that Fateh al-Islam helps people in Bared are denied. " All they do is pray, one woman told me..and do military training.. They are much more religious than the Shia" she said.

Population of Badawi camp was 15,000 and as of of this morning it is 28,000. Four bodies arrived this morning at Safad, the only Palestinian Red Crescent Hospitals in north Lebanon.

I was told the army will have to destroy every house in Bared to remove Fateh al Islam.

I expect to stay in Bared tonight with aid workers. Some say FAI with die fighting others than a settlement could be negotiated. I may try the latter with NGO from Norway here. Not sure if anyone in government is interested. One minute ago a member of Fateh at_Islam walked into the medical office I am using at Safed Hospital and said they want a permanent ceasefire and do not want more people killed or injured.

They claim to have no problem with the army

Now some background about Nahr el-Bared. Like the other Palestinian camps in Lebanon, it is inhabited by Palestinians who were forced from their homes, land, and personal property in 1947-48, in order to make room for Jews from Europe and elsewhere prior to the May 15, 1948 founding of Israel.

Of the original 16 Refugee camps, set up to settle the more than 100,000 refugees crossing the border into Lebanon from Palestine during the Nakba, 12 official ones remain. The camp at Tal El-Za`tar was ethnically cleansed by Christian Phalange forces at the beginning of the 1975-1990, Lebanese Civil War and the Nabatieh, Dikwaneh and Jisr el-Basha camps were destroyed by Israeli attacks and Lebanese militia and not rebuilt. Those remaining include the following which currently house more than half of Lebanon's 433,276 Palestinian refugees:

Al-Badawi, Burj El-Barajna, Jal El-Bahr, Sabra and Shatilla, Ain El-Helwa, Nahr El-Bared, Rashidieh, Burj El Shemali, El-Buss, Wavel, Mieh Mieh and Mar Elias.

Nahr el-Bared is 7 miles north of Tripoli near the stunning Mediterranean coast and is home to more than 32,000 refuges many of whom were expelled from the Lake Huleh area of Palestine, including Safed. Like all the official Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, plus several 'unofficial' ones, Nahr el-Bared suffers from serious problems including no proper infrastructure, overcrowding, poverty and unemployment.

Tabulated at more than 25%, Nahr el-Bared has the highest percentage of Palestinian refugees anywhere who are living in abject poverty and who are officially registered with the UN as "special hardship" cases.

Its residents, like all Palestinians in Lebanon are blatantly discriminated against and not even officially counted. They are denied citizenship and banned from working in the top 70 trades and professions (that includes McDonald's and KFC in downtown Beirut) and cannot own real estate. Palestinians in Lebanon have essentially no social or civil rights and only limited access to government educational facilities. They have no access to public social services. Consequently most rely entirely on the UNRWA as the sole provider for their families needs.

It is not surprising that al-Qaeda sympathies, if not formal affiliations, are found in the 12 official camps as well as 7 unofficial ones. Groups with names such as Fateh al-Islam, Jund al-Shams (Soldier of Damascus) , Ibns al-Shaheed" (sons of the martyrs) Issbat al-Anssar which morphed into Issbat al-Noor - "The Community of Illumination" and many others.

Given Bush administration debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan and its encouragement for Israel to continue its destruction of Lebanon this past summer, the situation in Lebanon mirrors, in some respects, the early 1980's when groups sprung up to resist the US green lighted Israeli invasion and occupation. But rather than being Shia and pro-Hezbollah, today's groups are largely Sunni and anti-Hezbollah. Hence they qualify for US aid, funneled by Sunni financial backers in league with the Bush administration which is committed to funding Islamist Sunni groups to weaken Hezbollah.

This project has become the White House obsession following Israel's July 2006 defeat.

To understand what is going on with Fatah al-Islam at Nahr el-Bared one would want a brief introduction to Lebanon's amazing, but shadowy 'Welch Club'.

The Club is named for its godfather, David Welch, assistant to Secretary of State Rice who is the point man for the Bush administration and is guided by Eliot Abrams.

Key Lebanese members of the Welch Club (aka: the 'Club') include:

The Lebanese civil war veteran, warlord, feudalist and mercurial Walid Jumblatt of the Druze party( the Progressive Socialist Party or PSP)

Another civil war veteran, warlord, terrorist (Served 11 years in prison for massacres committed against fellow Christians among others) Samir Geagea. Leader of the extremist Phalange party and its Lebanese Forces (LF) the group that conducted the Israel organized massacre at Sabra-Shatilla (although led by Elie Hobeika, once Geagea's mentor, Geagea did not take part in the Sept. 1982 slaughter of 1,700 Palestinian and Lebanese).

The billionaire, Saudi Sheikh and Club president Saad Hariri leader of the Sunni Future Movement (FM).

Over a year ago Hariri's Future Movement started setting up Sunni Islamist terrorist cells (the PSP and LF already had their own militia since the civil war and despite the Taif Accords requiring militia to disarm they are now rearmed and itching for action and trying hard to provoke Hezbollah).

The FM created Sunni Islamist 'terrorist' cells were to serve as a cover for (anti-Hezbollah) Welch Club projects. The plan was that actions of these cells, of which Fatah el-Islam is one, could be blamed on al Qaeda or Syria or anyone but the Club.

To staff the new militias, FM rounded up remnants of previous extremists in the Palestinian Refugee camps that had been subdued, marginalized and diminished during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Each fighter got $700 per month, not bad in today's Lebanon.

The first Welch Club funded militia, set up by FM, is known locally as Jund-al-Sham (Soldiers of Sham, where "Sham" in Arabic denotes Syria, Lebanon, Palestine & Jordan) created in Ain-el-Hilwa Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon. This group is also referred to in the Camps as Jund-el-Sitt (Soldiers of the Sitt, where "Sitt" in Sidon, Ain-el-Hilwa and the outskirts pertain to Bahia Hariri, the sister of Rafiq Hariri, aunt of Saad, and Member of Parliament).

The second was Fateh-al-Islam (The name cleverly put together, joining Fateh as in Palestinian and the word Islam as in Qaeda). FM set this Club cell up in Nahr-al-Bared refugee camp north of Tripoli for geographical balance.

Fatah el-Islam had about 400 well paid fighters until three days ago. Today they may have more or fewer plus volunteers. The leaders were provided with ocean view luxury apartments in Tripoli where they stored arms and chilled when not in Nahr-al-Bared. Guess who owns the apartments?

According to members of both Fatah el-Islam and Jund-al-Sham their groups acted on the directive of the Club president, Saad Hariri.
So what went wrong? "Why the bank robbery" and the slaughter at Nahr el-Baled?

According to operatives of Fatah el-Islam, the Bush administration got cold feet with people like Seymour Hirsh snooping around and with the White House post-Iraq discipline in free fall. Moreover, Hezbollah intelligence knew all about the Clubs activities and was in a position to flip the two groups who were supposed to ignite a Sunni ­Shia civil war which Hezbollah vows to prevent.

Things started to go very wrong quickly for the Club last week.
FM "stopped" the payroll of Fateh el-Islam's account at the Hariri family owned back.

Fateh-al-Islam, tried to negotiate at least 'severance pay' with no luck and they felt betrayed. (Remember many of their fighters are easily frustrated teenagers and their pay supports their families). Militia members knocked off the bank which issued their worthless checks. They were doubly angry when they learned FM is claiming in the media a loss much greater than they actually snatched and that the Club is going to stiff the insurance company and actually make a huge profit.

Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (newly recruited to serve the bidding of the Club and the Future Movement) assaulted the apartments of Fatah-al-Islam Tripoli. They didn't have much luck and were forced to call in the Lebanese army.

Within the hour, Fatah-al-Islam retaliated against Lebanese Army posts, checkpoints and unarmed, off-duty Lebanese soldiers in civilian clothing and committed outrageous killings including severing at four heads.

Up to this point Fatah-al-Islam did not retaliate against the Internal Security forces in Tripoli because the ISF is pro-Hariri and some are friends and Fatah al-Islam still hoped to get paid by Hariri. Instead Fatah al Islam went after the Army.

The Seniora cabinet convenes and asks the Lebanese Army to enter the refugee camp and silence (in more ways than one) Fatah-al-Islam. Since entrance into the Camps is forbidden by the 1969 Arab league agreement, the Army refuses after realizing the extent of the conspiracy against it by the Welch Club. The army knows that entering a refugee camp in force will open a front against the Army in all twelve Palestinian refugee camps and tear the army apart along sectarian cracks.

The army feels set up by the Club's Internal Security Forces which did not coordinate with the Lebanese Army, as required by Lebanese law and did not even make them aware of the "inter family operation" the ISF carried out against Fatah-al-Islam safe houses in Tripoli.

Today, tensions are high between the Lebanese army and the Welch Club. Some mention the phrase 'army coup'.

The Club is trying to run Parliament and is prepared to go all the way not to 'lose' Lebanon. It still holds 70 seats in the house of parliament while the Hezbollah led opposition holds 58 seats. It has a dutiful PM in Fouad Siniora.

The club tried to seize control of the presidency and when it failed it marginalized it. Last year it tried to control of the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee, which audits the government's policies, laws and watch dogs their actions. When the Club failed to control it they simply abolished the Constitutional Committee. This key committee no longer exists in Lebanon's government.

The Welch Club's major error was when it attempted to influence the Lebanese Army into disarming the Lebanese Resistance led by Hezbollah. When the Army wisely refused, the Club coordinated with the Bush Administration to pressure Israel to dramatically intensify its retaliation to the capture of the two soldiers by Hezbollah and 'break the rules' regarding the historically more limited response and try to destroy Hezbollah during the July 2006 war.

The Welch Club now considers the Lebanese Army a serious problem. The Bush administration is trying to undermine and marginalize it to eliminate one of the last two obstacles to implementing Israel's agenda in Lebanon.

If the army is weakened, it can not protect _over 70% of the Christians in Lebanon who support General Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement. The F.P.M. is mainly constituted of well educated, middle class and unarmed Lebanese civilians. The only protection they have is the Lebanese Army which aids in maintaining their presence in the political scene. The other type of Christians in Lebanon is the minority, about 15% of Christians associated with Geagea's Lebanese Forces who are purely militia. If the Club can weaken the Army even more than it is, then this Phalange minority will be the only relatively strong force on the Christian scene and become the "army" of the Club.

Another reason the Club wants to weaken the Lebanese Army is that the Army is nationalistic and is a safety valve for Lebanon to ensure the Palestinian right of return to Palestine, Lebanese nationhood and the resistance culture led by Hezbollah, with which is has excellent relations.

For their part, the Welch Club wants to keep some Palestinians in Lebanon for cheap labor, ship others to countries willing to take them (and be paid handsomely to do so by American taxpayers) and allow at most a few thousand to return to Palestine to settle the 'right of return' issue while at the same time signing a May 17th 1983 type treaty with Israel with enriches the Club members and gives Israel Lebanon's water and much of Lebanon's sovereignty.

Long story short, Fatah el-Islam must be silenced at all costs. Their tale, if told, is poison for the Club and its sponsors. We will likely see their attempted destruction in the coming days.

Hezbollah is watching and supporting the Lebanese army.

Franklin Lamb's recent book, The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel's use of American Weapon's against Lebanon (1978-2006) is available at Hezbollah: A Brief Guide for Beginners is expected in early summer.

Dr. Lamb can be reached at fplamb @


Thursday, May 24, 2007

French President Sarkozy's Jewish roots

(The fact that Sarkozy is Jewish really means nothing. The fact that he is a committed Zionist with "viceral attachment to Israel" means a lot. I am posting the article below because it gives a rare and fascinating insight into the ideological background of the new French President - "As a Minister of Interior, Sarkozy shared much common policy ground with former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (...) and it is easy to observe similarities not only in their ideology and politics " - and not because ethnicity in itself in any way determines a person's worldview)

France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost 57 members of his family to the Nazis and comes from a long line of Jewish and Zionist leaders and heroes, writes RAANAN ELIAZ.

IN an interview Nicolas Sarkozy gave in 2004, he expressed an extraordinary understanding of the plight of the Jewish people for a home: “Should I remind you the visceral attachment of every Jew to Israel, as a second mother homeland? There is nothing outrageous about it. Every Jew carries within him a fear passed down through generations, and he knows that if one day he will not feel safe in his country, there will always be a place that would welcome him. And this is Israel.”

Sarkozy’s sympathy and understanding is most probably a product of his upbringing it is well known that Sarkozy’s mother was born to the Mallah family, one of the oldest Jewish families of Salonika, Greece.

Additionally, many may be surprised to learn that his yet-to-be-revealed family history involves a true and fascinating story of leadership, heroism and survival.

It remains to be seen whether his personal history will affect his foreign policy and France’s role in the Middle East conflict.

In the 15th century, the Mallah family (in Hebrew: messenger or angel) escaped the Spanish Inquisition to Provence, France and moved about one hundred years later to Salonika.

In Greece, several family members became prominent Zionist leaders, active in the local and national political, economic, social and cultural life.

To this day many Mallahs are still active Zionists around the world.

Sarkozy’s grandfather, Aron Mallah, nicknamed Benkio, was born in 1890.

Beniko’s uncle Moshe was a well-known Rabbi and a devoted Zionist who, in 1898 published and edited “El Avenir”, the leading paper of the Zionist national movement in Greece at the time.

His cousin, Asher, was a Senator in the Greek Senate and in 1912 he helped guarantee the establishment of the Technion – the elite technological university in Haifa, Israel.

In 1919 he was elected as the first President of the Zionist Federation of Greece and he headed the Zionist Council for several years. In the 1930’s he helped Jews flee to Israel, to which he himself immigrated in 1934.

Another of Beniko’s cousins, Peppo Mallah, was a philanthropist for Jewish causes who served in the Greek Parliament, and in 1920 he was offered, but declined, the position of Greece’s Minister of Finance. After the establishment of the State of Israel he became the country’s first diplomatic envoy to Greece.

In 1917 a great fire destroyed parts of Salonika and damaged the family estate.

Many Jewish-owned properties, including the Mallah’s, were expropriated by the Greek government. Jewish population emigrated from Greece and much of the Mallah family left Salonika to France, America and Israel.

Sarkozy’s grandfather, Beniko, immigrated to France with his mother. When in France Beniko converted to Catholicism and changed his name to Benedict in order to marry a French Christian girl named Adèle Bouvier.

Adèle and Benedict had two daughters, Susanne and Andrée. Although Benedict integrated fully into French society, he remained close to his Jewish family, origin and culture.

Knowing he was still considered Jewish by blood, during World War II he and his family hid in Marcillac la Croisille in the Corrèze region, western France.

During the Holocaust, many of the Mallahs who stayed in Salonika or moved to France were deported to concentration and extermination camps.

In total, fifty-seven family members were murdered by the Nazis. Testimonies reveal that several revolted against the Nazis and one, Buena Mallah, was the subject of Nazis medical experiments in the Birkenau concentration camp.

In 1950 Benedict’s daughter, Andrée Mallah, married Pal Nagy Bosca y Sarkozy, a descendent of a Hungarian aristocratic family. The couple had three sons – Guillaume, Nicolas and François.

The marriage failed and they divorced in 1960, so Andrée raised her three boys close to their grandfather, Benedict.

Nicolas was especially close to Benedict, who was like a father to him. In his biography Sarkozy tells he admired his grandfather, and through hours spent of listening to his stories of the Nazi occupation, the “Maquis” (French resistance), De Gaulle and the D-day, Benedict bequeathed to Nicolas his political convictions.

Sarkozy’s family lived in Paris until Benedict’s death in 1972, at which point they moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine to be closer to the boys’ father, Pal (who changed his name to Paul) Sarkozy. Various memoirs accounted Paul as a father who did not spend much time with the kids or help the family monetarily.

Nicolas had to sell flowers and ice cream in order to pay for his studies. However, his fascination with politics led him to become the city’s youngest mayor and to rise to the top of French and world politics. The rest is history.

It may be a far leap to consider that Sarkozy’s Jewish ancestry may have any bearing on his policies vis-à-vis Israel.

However, many expect Sarkozy’s presidency to bring a dramatic change not only in France’s domestic affairs, but also in the country’s foreign policy in the Middle-East.

One cannot overestimate the magnitude of the election of the first French President born after World War II, whose politics seem to represent a new dynamic after decades of old-guard Chirac and Mitterrand.

There is even a reason to believe that Sarkozy, often mocked as “the American friend” and blamed for ‘ultra-liberal’ worldviews, will lean towards a more Atlanticist policy.

Nevertheless, there are several reasons that any expectations for a drastic change in the country’s Middle East policy, or foreign policy in general, should be downplayed.

First, one must bear in mind that France’s new president will spend the lion’s share of his time dealing with domestic issues such as the country’s stagnated economy, its social cohesiveness and the rising integration-related crime rate. When he finds time to deal with foreign affairs, Sarkozy will have to devote most of his energy to protecting France’s standing in an ever-involved European Union.

In his dealings with the US, Sarkozy will most likely prefer to engage on less explosive agenda-items than the Middle-East.

Second, France’s foreign policy stems from the nation’s interests, rooted in reality and influenced by a range of historic, political, strategic and economic considerations.

Since Sarkozy’s landing at the Elysée on May 16 will not change those, France’s foreign policy ship will not tilt so quickly under a new captain.

Third reason why expectations for a drastic change in France’s position in the Middle-East may be naïve is the significant weight the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs exerts over the country’s policies and agenda.

There, non-elected bureaucrats tend to retain an image of Israel as a destabilizing element in the Middle-East rather then the first line of defence of democracy.

Few civil servants in Quai d’Orsay would consider risking France’s interests or increasing chances for “a clash of civilizations” in order to help troubled Israel or Palestine to reach peace.

It is a fair to predict that France will stay consistent with its support in establishing a viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, existing side by side with a peaceful Israel.

How to get there, if at all, will not be set by Sarkozy’s flagship but rather he will follow the leadership of the US and the EU. Not much new policy is expected regarding Iran, on which Sarkozy has already voiced willingness to allow development of civilian nuclear capabilities, alongside tighter sanctions on any developments with military potency.

One significant policy modification that could actually come through under Sarkozy is on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts. The new French president is not as friendly to Lebanon as was his predecessor, furthermore, as the Minister of the Interior, Sarkozy even advocated closer ties between France and Syria.

Especially if the later plays the cards of talking-peace correctly, Sarkozy may increase pressure on Israel to evacuate the Golan Heights in return for a peace deal with Assad.

Despite the above, although Sarkozy’s family roots will not bring France closer to Israel, the presidents’ personal Israeli friends may. As a Minister of Interior, Sarkozy shared much common policy ground with former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The two started to develop a close friendship not long ago and it is easy to observe similarities not only in their ideology and politics, but also in their public image. If Netanyahu returns to Israel’s chief position it will be interesting to see whether their personal dynamic will lead to a fresh start for Israel and France, and a more constructive European role in the region.


Raanan Eliaz is a former Director at the Israeli National Security Council and the Hudson Institute, Washington D.C. He is currently a PhD candidate at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and a consultant on European-Israeli Affairs.

(source: Australian Jewish News)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Is the countdown to the attack against Iran resuming?

According to the following sources, CENTCOM is stepping up its posture for a possible attack against Iran: Bush authorizes new covert action against Iran while nine US warships enter the Persian Gulf in show of force constituting largest naval force in the Middle-East since 2003.

An attack againt a country like Iran would have to go through several preparatory phases which, among others, would include the preparations outlined by the Truthout and Debka articles above.

The need of a "psychological preparation of the battlefield" will be taken care of by the United Nations report which will complain of the (predictable) "ongoing Iranian defiance", nevermind the fact that Iran is a member in good standing of the IAEA, that IAEA inspectors are on the groud in Iran, that the NPT not only obliges all nuclear countries to assist others in developing nuclear technologies for civil purposes (as the US helped the Shah before the Iranian Revolution), but that it also specifically recognizes that nothing in the NPT should be interpreted as limiting the right of any country to develop its civilian nuclear program. Nevermind that the Iranian enrichment program does not even come close to enriching to weapons grade specifications, and nevermind that Iran has never attacked a neighbor. When the Iranians simply claim their rights under the NPT their are in "defiance" of the UNSC. And since the UNSC members were dumb and immoral enough yield to US pressures to consider the Iranian nuclear program as a problem, now they will logically (if idiotically) have to take action and if they do not, the US will have to "shoulder its responsability as leader of the world". The Kosovo situation repeated all over again, except that unlike the Serbs, the Iranians do have the means to strike back at the Empire.

More to come soon, no doubt.

The Neocon regime in Washington starts yet another war

First there was Afghanistan, then Iraq, then Somalia (yes, this is a US started war), and now there is Lebanon/Palestine. Please follow me here step by step:

For a description of the US "redirection", i.e. using Al-Qaeda to fight Hezbollah and the Shia in Iraq, please read this.

Then for a description of what the effects on the groud are, read this.

For a confirmation that the US is, indeed, behind this attack see here.
Finally, here is an accout of what is going on written by a Lebanese blogger.

Clearly, what is taking place is yet another US war waged on Israel's behalf (what interest could the USA have in supporting Al-Qaeda anywhere?!).

Combine this with the current Israeli attack on Gaza (where the US and Israel train, finance and arms Mohammed Dahlan's thugs) and you have a clear picture of what is going on.

Sure - this is a war by proxy, but nobody in the Middle-East has any illusions as to who is behind this.

After Olmert & Cheney got their asses kicked in Lebanon by Hezbollah, they have come up with yet another brilliant plan: to use Sunni thugs (Fatah in Gaza) and Salafists (Fatah Al-Islam in Lebanon) to fight the next covert US Imperial war. This will become a textbook example of blowback originating action.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fmr. Chief of CIA Osama Unit’s Statement on Ron Paul and Why They Attack Us


In the dozen-plus years I have been active in matters relating to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, I have watched them go from a small Islamist organization to a worldwide insurgent movement, while bin Laden has established himself as the primary source of inspiration and leadership for tens of millions of Muslim Islamists. This process has been made possible by two things: (a) the skill, courage, patience, and ruthlessness of bin Laden and his ilk, and (b) the refusal of the U.S. government to understand the motivation of bin Laden and his allies.

Last week, Representative Paul did all Americans an immense service by simply pointing out the obvious: Our Islamist enemies do not give a damn about the way we vote, think, or live. Though any country they ruled would surely not look like ours, they are motivated by the belief that U.S. foreign policy is an attack on Islam, its lands, and its believers. This, of course, is not to say that America is to blame for the war it is now engaged in, but it is to say that it is foolish – and perhaps fatal – for Americans to believe that are we are being attacked for such ephemera as primary elections, R-rated movies, and gender equality. If our Islamist enemies were motivated by such things their numbers would be minuscule and they would be a sporadic lethal nuisance, not, as they are, the most serious national security threat we face today.

Of the eighteen presidential candidates now in the field from both parties, only Mr. Paul has had the courage to square with the average American voter. We are indeed hated and being warred against because we are “over there,” and not for what we are and how we live. Our failure to recognize the truth spoken by Mr. Paul – and spelled out for us in hundreds of pages of statements by Osama bin Laden since 1996 – is leading America toward military and economic disaster.

At day’s end, Mr. Paul has at least temporarily shaken the pillars of the bipartisan consensus on U.S. foreign policy. Neither party, and none of the candidates, want to discuss the Islamists’ motivation because they would have to deal with energy policy, support for Israel, and the 50-year record of U.S. support and protection for Arab tyrannies. These holy cows of U.S. politics have long been off limits to debate, but Mr. Paul has now accurately identified them as the source of motivation for our Islamist enemies, and implicitly has said that the obsessive interventionism of both parties has inspired al-Qaeda and its allies to kill 7,000-plus U.S. civilians and military personnel since 11 September 2001. The war we are engaged in with the Islamists is a long way from over, but it need end in America’s defeat only if Mr. Paul’s frank statements are ignored.

And no matter how you view Mr. Paul’s words, you can safely take one thing to the bank. The person most shaken by Mr. Paul’s frankness was Osama bin Laden, who knows that the current status quo in U.S. foreign policy toward the Islamic world is al-Qaeda’s one indispensable ally, and the only glue that provides cohesion between and among the diverse and often fractious Islamist groups that follow its banner.

Michael F. Scheuer
Falls Church, VA

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Have the crazies finally been sent back the the basement?

On January 26th of this year I sent out a rather alarmist email to my friends mentioning the very real risk of a US aggression against Iran. Among other things, I wrote " Unless the current campaign of leaks from various US officials to the independent media is successful and the public outrage tips the balance (which is still quite possible - as the anti-war rally in Washington, DC planned for this Monday shows) this new war should start fairly soon, probably within a couple of months". Well, a couple of months has passed and the reaction against the war plans has been far stronger than I have anticipated.

While the independent media and US anti-war movement should get a lot of the credit for their truly herculean efforts efforts to prevent yet another Imperial war, a very different group of people has played a crucial role in the efforts to prevent a war: the old Anglo-Saxon oil lobby.

There have been for many years already two very different groups at the helm of power in the US, the so-called "Neocons" and what I call the old Anglo guard, mostly oil people represented by the likes of James Baker or
Brzezinski. Under Bush the Older, these guys referred to the Neocons as "the crazies in the basement" and mostly used them to appease AIPAC and the Evangelical Right. Under Bush the Lesser, the "crazies in the basement" clearly took control from the Old guard at least until the compounded military defeats in Iraq, of course, but also in Afghanistan.

As early as in February there were indications that the US military was opposed to a new war and, according to some sources, US general even threatened to resign en masse should an order to attack Iran be given to them (see the very good article on this issue in The Sunday Times
). According to one usually very well informed reporter, Gareth Porter, the US CENCOM Commander, Adm. William Fallon, has now issued a similar threat (see article below and note the highlighted sentence referring to the Neocons).

Does that mean that the war in Iran is off the table now? Not at all.

First, there is little doubt that the US Congress is firmly in Neocon hands, as is the US corporate media. Second, of all the Presidential candidates only two, Ron Paul and Mike Gravel, oppose the war Party - all the rest of them are trying to out-compete each other in bellicose statements in particular Giuliani and the Democrats (the latter can only be described as clueless, brainless and, in particular, spineless)

It appears that the Neocons are running into a combination of problems right now, unexpected both in nature (lawsuits) and magnitude (Anglo campaign of leaks and anti-Neocon publications). Distasteful as it may otherwise be, it appears that only a clear Anglo political victory (say, a huge political scandal involving Cheney) can prevent a war. The scary thing is that for the Neocons, there would be no better way to counter any real political risk to their power than a war with Iran.

So while an imminent aggression against Iran does appear to be less likely, it would take only one "Iranian Gulf of Tonkin" incident to trigger such a war and rally the US public opinion around the flag.

So it ain't over yet, but one can keep hoping that somebody - anybody - will beat back the 'crazies' to the basement from which they crawled out in 2001.


Commander's Veto Sank Threatening Gulf Buildup

by Gareth Porter

Adm. William Fallon, then President George W. Bush's nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM, according to sources with access to his thinking.

Fallon's resistance to the proposed deployment of a third aircraft carrier was followed by a shift in the Bush administration's Iran policy in February and March away from increased military threats and toward diplomatic engagement with Iran. That shift, for which no credible explanation has been offered by administration officials, suggests that Fallon's resistance to a crucial deployment was a major factor in the intra-administration struggle over policy toward Iran.

The plan to add a third carrier strike group in the Gulf had been a key element in a broader strategy discussed at high levels to intimidate Iran by a series of military moves suggesting preparations for a military strike.

Fallon's resistance to a further buildup of naval striking power in the Gulf apparently took the Bush administration by surprise. Fallon, then commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, had been associated with naval aviation throughout his career, and last January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly encouraged the idea that the appointment presaged greater emphasis on the military option in regard to the U.S. conflict with Iran.

Explaining why he recommended Fallon, Gates said, "As you look at the range of options available to the United States, the use of naval and air power, potentially, it made sense to me for all those reasons for Fallon to have the job."

Bush administration officials had just leaked to CBS News and the New York Times in December that the USS John C. Stennis and its associated warships would be sent to the Gulf in January six weeks earlier than originally planned in order to overlap with the USS Eisenhower and to "send a message to Tehran."

But that was not the end of the signaling to Iran by naval deployment planned by administration officials. The plan was for the USS Nimitz and its associated vessels, scheduled to sail into the Gulf in early April, to overlap with the other two carrier strike groups for a period of months, so that all three would be in the Gulf simultaneously.

Two well-informed sources say they heard about such a plan being pushed at high levels of the administration, and Newsweek's Michael Hirsh and Maziar Bahari reported Feb. 19 that the deployment of a third carrier group to the Gulf was "likely."

That would have brought the U.S. naval presence up to the same level as during the U.S. air campaign against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, when the Lincoln, Constellation, and Kitty Hawk carrier groups were all present. Two other carrier groups helped coordinate bombing sorties from the Mediterranean.

The deployment of three carrier groups simultaneously was not part of a plan for an actual attack on Iran, but was meant to convince Iran that the Bush administration was preparing for possible war if Tehran continued its uranium enrichment program.

At a mid-February meeting of top civilian officials over which Secretary of Defense Gates presided, there was an extensive discussion of a strategy of intimidating Tehran's leaders, according to an account by a Pentagon official who attended the meeting given to a source outside the Pentagon. The plan involved a series of steps that would appear to Tehran to be preparations for war, in a manner similar to the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But Fallon, who was scheduled to become the CENTCOM chief March 16, responded to the proposed plan by sending a strongly-worded message to the Defense Department in mid-February opposing any further U.S. naval buildup in the Persian Gulf as unwarranted.

"He asked why another aircraft carrier was needed in the Gulf and insisted there was no military requirement for it," says the source, who obtained the gist of Fallon's message from a Pentagon official who had read it.

Fallon's refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch."

Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, "You know what choices I have. I'm a professional." Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."

Fallon's opposition to adding a third carrier strike group to the two already in the Gulf represented a major obstacle to the plan. The decision to send a second carrier task group to the Gulf had been officially requested by Fallon's predecessor at CENTCOM, Gen. John Abizaid, according to a Dec. 20 report by the Washington Post's Peter Baker. But as Baker reported, the circumstances left little doubt that Abizaid was doing so because the White House wanted it as part of a strategy of sending "pointed messages" to Iran.

CENTCOM commander Fallon's refusal to request the deployment of a third carrier strike group meant that proceeding with that option would carry political risks. The administration chose not to go ahead with the plan. Two days before the Nimitz sailed out of San Diego for the Gulf on April 1, a Navy spokesman confirmed that it would replace the Eisenhower, adding, "There is no plan to overlap them at all."

The defeat of the plan for a third carrier task group in the Gulf appears to have weakened the position of Cheney and other hawks in the administration who had succeeded in selling Bush on the idea of a strategy of coercive threat against Iran.

Within two weeks, the administration's stance had already begun to shift dramatically. On Jan. 12, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had dismissed direct talks with Iran in the absence of Tehran's suspension of its uranium enrichment program as "extortion." But by the end of February, Rice had gotten authorization for high-level diplomatic contacts with Iran in the context of a regional meeting on Iraq in Baghdad.

The explanation for the shift offered by administration officials to the New York Times was that the administration now felt that it "had leverage" on Iran. But that now appears to have been a cover for a retreat from the more aggressive strategy previously planned.

Throughout March and April, the Bush administration avoided aggressive language and the State Department openly sought diplomatic engagement with Iran, culminating in the agreement confirmed by U.S. officials last weekend that bilateral talks will begin with Iran on Iraq.

Despite Vice President Dick Cheney's invocation of the military option from the deck of the USS John C. Stennis in the Persian Gulf last week, the strategy of escalating a threat of war to influence Iran has been put on the shelf, at least for now.

(Inter Press Service)

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

RFC - What makes these eight congresspeople different?

Of all the resolutions passed by the 109th US Congress, the two single most despicable must be the following ones: HR 6166, or the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which lifted the long-held Habeas Corpus rights from non-residents, and the HR 921 in support of Israel’s war crimes in Lebanon (it included the following language: “recognizes Israel’s longstanding commitment to minimizing civilian loss and welcomes Israel’s continued efforts to prevent civilian casualties“). To my great surprize, the presumably “progressive”, “socialist” and “anti-war” former congressman and now senator of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, supported this resolution. In fact, only eight congressman voted against it. The same eight also voted against the Military Commissions Act. Here are the names of the only representatives who showed the courage to vote against *both* of these resolutions:

Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii
John Conyers, D-Michigan
John Dugell, D-Michigan
Carolyn Kilpartrick, D-Michigan
James McDermott, D-Washington
Ronald Paul, R-Texas (the only Republican of this short list)
Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia
Fortney Stark, D-California

(for details see:

So what makes these eight different? Can anyone tell me more about these people? Why such a large number of representatives from Michigan? What happened to the so-called “liberals” from all the other states?

As far as I am concerned, this goes way beyond the left/right or liberal/conservative divide. Except for these eight, I consider all others as accomplices of war crimes and enemies of democracy. As far as I am concerned, they belong in jail and not in Congress.

With the exception of Ron Paul (which I discovered only recently), I don’t know much about these eight members of Congress. All I know is that they had the courage to refuse to put their names behind the two resolutions which will go down in history as among the most revolting and disgusting ever adopted by the US Congress.