Monday, February 11, 2008

The Mother of All Rip-offs

The Mother of All Rip-offs“Get Ready For A Real Hosing”

By Mike Whitney

Go To Original

Low interest credit and “financial innovation” are a deadly-combo. They've knocked the banking system for a loop, clogged the credit markets with billions of dollars of subprime sludge, and left the real estate market sprawling on the canvas. Still---even though $2 trillion of capitalization has been wiped-out from falling home prices; and even though the financial system is in a terminal state of paralysis---no one has been held accountable. In fact, not one trader, mortgage lender, rating's-agency official, fund manager, or investment banker has been indicted or charged with criminal wrongdoing.

NOT ONE. The system operates without rules or guard rails. It's the Wild West!

The system is so thoroughly marinated in corruption, that every trace of regulatory-oversight has been removed. The SEC is little more than a public relations sham loaded with business-friendly sycophants who try to sustain the publics confidence while kow-towing to their corporate paymasters. It's a complete hoax. Last week, the Chairman of the SEC, Christopher Cox, gave a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building. He said:

"We’ve already launched an initiative in this area to investigate possible fraud or breaches of fiduciary duty involving collateralized debt obligations. Among the issues confronting us this year will be determining whether bank holding companies and securities firms made proper disclosure in their filings and public statements of what they knew about their CDO portfolios and their valuations. We’ll determine whether brokers carefully followed suitability requirements when they sold complex debt-related derivatives that shortly afterward went bad. And in this area, as elsewhere, we’ll be investigating whether unscrupulous insiders used non-public information to bail out of these securities or to sell them short, in violation of the securities laws.”

Huh? So, after 6 years of sitting on the sidelines watching the fat-cat investment banks and hedge funds sell dodgy securities, (comprised of mortgages from unemployed thrift-store workers with bad credit) Cox has finally decided to “to investigate possible fraud or breaches of fiduciary duty.”

What a joke. Trillions of dollars have been lost, the financial system is reeling, and the nation is headed into recession. We want scalps---not excuses!

Did Cox know that the CDOs, the MBSs, the ABCP and the rest of the alphabet soup of “structured investments” were unalloyed garbage?

Yes, of course, he did. Everyone knew. But they were making so much money selling snake oil to credulous investors they couldn't help themselves. They went ape. Two week's ago TV investment guru, Jim Cramer, even admitted that he and his business buddies used to call the investors who bought these sketchy “debt pools” “morons” and Bozos”. That says it all, doesn't it?

Does Cox expect us to believe that he and his Keystone Cops at the SEC didn't know what was going on?

Bullshoes!

Here's a video clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart with CNN's personal finance editor, Gerri Willis. Willis explains in simple terms how the subprime fiasco evolved. She acknowledges that the loans were made to “people who really couldn't afford to pay them off” and that when “Wall Street saw how successful they were, they decided to sell them as investments all around the world”. Good thinking, eh? She even admits that the sellers knew that the investments were rotten but duped their customers by saying “Trust us” . Unfortunately, the naive investors found out later that “they were sold swampland in Texas”. (Watch the whole video at: http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=148477&title=gerri-willis)

This is a great summary of a how millions of investors were ripped off in broad daylight by crafty junk-bond salesmen while the SEC looked the other way. It may turn out to be the biggest heist of the century. Trillions of dollars were raked in on complex investments that (apparently) everyone in the industry knew were worthless. This is fraud on an industrial-scale.

And that's just the beginning. The same gaggle of investment sharpies who cooked up the subprime swindle are putting the final touches on a plan to off-load hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgage-backed slop onto the American taxpayer. If they succeed, the country's biggest GSE's---Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac---will be crushed by the expanded debt-load and probably go belly-up within the year.

Don't believe me?

Bush's new “Stimulus Package will allow Fannie and Freddie to raise their loan limits from $417,000 to $729,750.The idea is to keep interest rates as low as possible on new mortgages in order to revive the moribund California and New York housing markets. Jumbo loans—mortgages that are over $417, 000—-are nearly impossible to get now that the market for mortgage-backed securities (MBS) has dried up and the banks have tightened up their lending standards. Sales in California have dropped 40% or more for the last 4 months. Price declines are in double digits. It is a housing Depression.

Still, there's no guarantee that the plan will work. After all, Fannie Mae requires a substantial down payment as well as documentation of earnings and a good credit record. The whole lending environment has changed dramatically in the last year. It's gotten a lot tougher and the pool of potential loan applicants has shrunk considerably. Besides, how many people are going to plunk down $700,000 for a home in a falling market? That same MacMansion might dip to $625,000 by the end of the year. No one wants to take a bath like that.

More importantly, why should taxpayers have to guarantee a $700,000 loan just so some brandy-swindling tycoon can get a better deal on his mortgage? That's nuts.


Here's how Sean Olender sums it up in an article in the SF Gate:

“Thanks to Congress, junk bond investors will be able to pawn off their bad debt to Fannie and Freddie, instead of suing the big investment houses for ripping them off. This shift will certainly doom Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so don't be surprised if we, the taxpayers, have to bail out poor Fannie and Freddie - to the tune of more than $1 trillion....Why more than $1 trillion? If Goldman Sachs is correct in its recent projections that home prices in California are going to drop 35 to 40 percent, the state's losses alone would top $2 trillion, because California has a disproportionate number of jumbo loans.”(”Stimulus Plan a Scam to Benefit the Rich”, Sean Olender)

Olender's right. It'll cost at least a trillion bucks; and for what? To lend a hand to the bond-hucksters who misrepresented themselves so they could pay off their vineyard in Provence? No way. This is all backwards. It was the investment bankers who created this mess with their mortgage-laundering” operation. They're the one's who should be cleaning it up. They don't need a bail out; they need to go to jail.

Besides, as Olender points out, Fannie is already in financial trouble and doesn't need more debt.

“Contrary to popular myth,” says Olender, “Fannie holds a lot of subprime debt, option ARM debt and other dodgy securities. Fannie and Freddie owned or guaranteed almost 45% of all mortgages in America last year. BusinessWeek noted in 2007 that Fannie and Freddie have "moved more prominently into low-documentation loans, which require little or no proof of the borrower's income."

Presently, Fannie has nearly $3 trillion mortgages guaranteed, but only $34 billion in capital reserves. If housing prices slide even 10%; Fannie's is under-water and will probably have to file for bankruptcy. So, why take the chance?

This week, CNNMoney.com reported:

"The increased share of housing debt taken on by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae during the housing slump has put the two government sponsored enterprises at risk.” By “buying up mortages on the secondary market that the banks are walking away from” Fannie and Freddie “are reducing risks in the market, but concentrating mortgage risks on themselves. These risks are beginning to take their toll," said James Lockhart, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) He spoke Thursday at a Senate Banking committee on regulatory reform.

Get the picture? If Fannie and Freddie take a swan dive the effects will be felt through the entire financial system for years to come.

Naturally, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) are jazzed about increasing the conforming loan limits to $729,000. They're even predicting that it will boost sales by 300,000 homes. But that's just more realator-hype. Look: the way we got into this mess was by "artificially stimulating" the market with low interest credit from the Fed. We're not going to get out of it by using the same strategy. The government needs to stop meddling in the markets and let home prices return to the mean. Then the buyers will reappear. The stimulus will only prolong an already-painful contraction.

Of course, Congress has already rubber-stamped the “stimulus travesty” and rushed off to the Senate where it will get a slight face-lift before it's plopped on Bush's desk. Next week, there'll be a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden, where Bush will be surrounded by a small army of smiling bankers, nodding approvingly and patting themselves on the back for sticking it to the American taxpayer one more time. What a triumph.

THE BANKER'S MASTERPLAN: "Dump the mortgage-backed junk on Uncle Sam"

Everyone should be aware of the massive fraud that is about to be perpetrated on the nation to save a few shifty bankers from default. The basic contours of the plan was laid out in an op-ed in the New York Times last week by Howard P. Milstein, chairman of New York Private Bank and Trust. Milstein made his pitch for a bailout in an article titled “Give The Banks Some Credit”.

Milstein says:

“The health of the American — and indeed the global — economy depends on having a financial system that is able to extend credit to businesses and consumers. The losses that have been incurred as a result of the excesses in subprime mortgage lending will take years to work their way through the worldwide financial system, as dozens of banks act to replenish their lost capital... Until the banks rebuild their capital, they will not have the wherewithal to lend money and support economic growth. If banks of all sizes could regain their capital immediately and easily, it would be a tremendous benefit to the American economy."

Milstein continues:

"The federal government could make this happen by entering into an arrangement with American banks that hold subprime mortgages, in which homeowners typically pay a low interest rate for two or three years then face much higher payments. Here’s how it would work: The government would guarantee the principal of the mortgages for 15 years. And in exchange the banks would agree to leave their “teaser” interest rates on those loans in effect for the entire 15 years. This would instantly give the lending banks new capital.”

Wait a minute. If “the government guarantees the principal of the mortgages” then there's no risk for the banks. If that's the case then why should they be paid anything, even the “teaser rates”. Investment is risk and risk is investment---Get used to it. What Comrade Milstein is requesting is “nationalizing” the banking system to protect his indolent friends from loss or default. This could have been written by Chairman Mao.


Milstein continues:

“As these mortgages would be guaranteed by the Treasury, they would suddenly be assessed, on bank balance sheets, at their original value — and a significant amount of the banks’ lost capital would be restored. Plus, the banks would receive, from most of the homeowners with subprime mortgages, up to 15 years of teaser-rate payments.”

Unbelievable! So the bank takes NO risk on the investment but---at the same time---is allowed to add the full value of the mortgage to its capital reserves? And, Milstein doesn't even want to reduce the value of the mortgage to current housing prices. He thinks it should be recorded at its "original value" so it can beef up the bank's dwindling capital.

What kind of rubbish is that? Real estate prices have plummeted in the last year and (and so have subprime "structured investments") the banks assets should reflect those losses. Tough luck, Milstein. Your buddies cooked up this scam. Now take your lumps like a man.

Milstein continues:

“By solving the bank capital crisis immediately, this strategy would ensure that fewer families would lose their homes”...blah, blah, blah. It would “be good for our economy.” Blah, blah, blah.

Then Milstein adds this tidbit:

"Under this arrangement, American banks would have an incentive to buy back the subprime debt now being held by foreign banks and other financial institutions. American banks could buy the securities at a discount to face value (reflecting the continued low teaser rates) and then, thanks to the government guarantee, hold them as capital assessed at their full value. That, in turn, would allow the other financial institutions to reinvest in other sectors of our economy.”

Ah-ha! So the foreign banks and investors are finally waking up to the fact that they were ripped-off and they want their money back. It's about time. They were defrauded and they deserve restitution. The first article about the impending tidal wave of subprime litigation appeared earlier in the week on FOX Business.com "Lawsuits Begin to Spill Out of Subprime Mess" http://www.foxbusiness.com/article/lawsuits-begin-spill-subprime-mess_460851_55.html The subprime boondoggle will play out in courts for years to come.

But, back to Milstein. What does he want? He wants to buy back the subprime debt that was sold to gullible foreign banks "at a discount" but then record it on the banks' balance sheets at full value.

Whoa. Now, there's a neat trick. In other words, he wants to pay a nickel for the "debt", but then record it as a dollar to meet his capital requirements.

Is this really how bankers think?

Oh---and by the way---he also wants the American taxpayer to guarantee the debt in case the nickel loses some of its value. Nice touch, eh? Milstein adheres to the old adage, "Privatize the profits, socialize the losses."

Finally, Milstein adds that his only interest is his “concern for the health of the global financial system.”

Can you feel the love?

The tragedy of the stimulus charade is that some variation of Milstein's proposal is sure to be enacted. Otherwise it wouldn't have shown up in the NY Times. The Times frequently uses the op-ed page to put up trial balloons for changes in policy. It's the same here. The banking establishment and the administration have finally settled on a 'bail out plan' and "We the People" are going to foot the bill. Congress is already on board and Bush is just a swipe-of-the-pen away from another trillion dollar giveaway to big business. The banks and money-lenders always get their pound of flesh while the rest of us get screwed. Some things never change.

Expect Fannie and Freddie to collapse within the year.

How the spooks took over the news

How the spooks took over the news

In his controversial new book, Nick Davies argues that shadowy intelligence agencies are pumping out black propaganda to manipulate public opinion – and that the media simply swallow it wholesale

By Nick Davies

Go To Original

O
n the morning of 9 February 2004, The New York Times carried an exclusive and alarming story. The paper's Baghdad correspondent, Dexter Filkins, reported that US officials had obtained a 17-page letter, believed to have been written by the notorious terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi to the "inner circle" of al-Qa'ida's leadership, urging them to accept that the best way to beat US forces in Iraq was effectively to start a civil war.

The letter argued that al-Qa'ida, which is a Sunni network, should attack the Shia population of Iraq: "It is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us. If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis."

Later that day, at a regular US press briefing in Baghdad, US General Mark Kimmitt dealt with a string of questions about The New York Times report: "We believe the report and the document is credible, and we take the report seriously... It is clearly a plan on the part of outsiders to come in to this country and spark civil war, create sectarian violence, try to expose fissures in this society." The story went on to news agency wires and, within 24 hours, it was running around the world.

There is very good reason to believe that that letter was a fake – and a significant one because there is equally good reason to believe that it was one product among many from a new machinery of propaganda which has been created by the United States and its allies since the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it.

The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news. I've spent the last two years researching a book about falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media.

The "Zarqawi letter" which made it on to the front page of The New York Times in February 2004 was one of a sequence of highly suspect documents which were said to have been written either by or to Zarqawi and which were fed into news media.

This material is being generated, in part, by intelligence agencies who continue to work without effective oversight; and also by a new and essentially benign structure of "strategic communications" which was originally designed by doves in the Pentagon and Nato who wanted to use subtle and non-violent tactics to deal with Islamist terrorism but whose efforts are poorly regulated and badly supervised with the result that some of its practitioners are breaking loose and engaging in the black arts of propaganda.

Like the new propaganda machine as a whole, the Zarqawi story was born in the high tension after the attacks of September 2001. At that time, he was a painful thorn in the side of the Jordanian authorities, an Islamist radical who was determined to overthrow the royal family. But he was nothing to do with al-Q'aida. Indeed, he had specifically rejected attempts by Bin Laden to recruit him, because he was not interested in targeting the West.

Nevertheless, when US intelligence battered on the doors of allied governments in search of information about al-Q'aida, the Jordanian authorities – anxious to please the Americans and perhaps keen to make life more difficult for their native enemy – threw up his name along with other suspects. Soon he started to show up as a minor figure in US news stories – stories which were factually weak, often contradictory and already using the Jordanians as a tool of political convenience.

Then, on 7 October 2002, for the first time, somebody referred to him on the record. In a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati, President George Bush spoke of "high-level contacts" between al-Q'aida and Iraq and said: "Some al-Q'aida leaders who fled Afghanistan, went to Iraq. These include one very senior al-Q'aida leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks."

This coincided with a crucial vote in Congress in which the president was seeking authority to use military force against Iraq. Bush never named the man he was referring to but, as the Los Angeles Times among many others soon reported: "In a speech [on] Monday, Bush referred to a senior member of al-Q'aida who received medical treatment in Iraq. US officials said yesterday that was Abu al Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian, who lost a leg during the US war in Afghanistan."

Even now, Zarqawi was a footnote, not a headline, but the flow of stories about him finally broke through and flooded the global media on 5 February 2003, when the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, addressed the UN Security Council, arguing that Iraq must be invaded: first, to stop its development of weapons of mass destruction; and second, to break its ties with al-Q'aida.

Powell claimed that "Iraq today harbours a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi"; that Zarqawi's base in Iraq was a camp for "poison and explosive training"; that he was "an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Q'aida lieutenants"; that he "fought in the Afghan war more than a decade ago"; that "Zarqawi and his network have plotted terrorist actions against countries, including France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia".

Courtesy of post-war Senate intelligence inquiries; evidence disclosed in several European trials; and the courageous work of a handful of journalists who broke away from the pack, we now know that every single one of those statements was entirely false. But that didn't matter: it was a big story. News organisations sucked it in and regurgitated it for their trusting consumers.

So, who exactly is producing fiction for the media? Who wrote the Zarqawi letters? Who created the fantasy story about Osama bin Laden using a network of subterranean bases in Afghanistan, complete with offices, dormitories, arms depots, electricity and ventilation systems? Who fed the media with tales of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, suffering brain seizures and sitting in stationery cars turning the wheel and making a noise like an engine? Who came up with the idea that Iranian ayatollahs have been encouraging sex with animals and girls of only nine?

Some of this comes from freelance political agitators. It was an Iranian opposition group, for example, which was behind the story that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was jailing people for texting each other jokes about him. And notoriously it was Iraqi exiles who supplied the global media with a dirty stream of disinformation about Saddam Hussein.

But clearly a great deal of this carries the fingerprints of officialdom. The Pentagon has now designated "information operations" as its fifth "core competency" alongside land, sea, air and special forces. Since October 2006, every brigade, division and corps in the US military has had its own "psyop" element producing output for local media. This military activity is linked to the State Department's campaign of "public diplomacy" which includes funding radio stations and news websites. In Britain, the Directorate of Targeting and Information Operations in the Ministry of Defence works with specialists from 15 UK psyops, based at the Defence Intelligence and Security School at Chicksands in Bedfordshire.

In the case of British intelligence, you can see this combination of reckless propaganda and failure of oversight at work in the case of Operation Mass Appeal. This was exposed by the former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter, who describes in his book, Iraq Confidential, how, in London in June 1998, he was introduced to two "black propaganda specialists" from MI6 who wanted him to give them material which they could spread through "editors and writers who work with us from time to time".

In interviews for Flat Earth News, Ritter described how, between December 1997 and June 1998, he had three meetings with MI6 officers who wanted him to give them raw intelligence reports on Iraqi arms procurement. The significance of these reports was that they were all unconfirmed and so none was being used in assessing Iraqi activity. Yet MI6 was happy to use them to plant stories in the media. Beyond that, there is worrying evidence that, when Lord Butler asked MI6 about this during his inquiry into intelligence around the invasion of Iraq, MI6 lied to him.

Ultimately, the US has run into trouble with its propaganda in Iraq, particularly with its use of the Zarqawi story. In May 2006, when yet another of his alleged letters was handed out to reporters in the Combined Press Information Centre in Baghdad, finally it was widely regarded as suspect and ignored by just about every single media outlet.

Arguably, even worse than this loss of credibility, according to British defence sources, the US campaign on Zarqawi eventually succeeded in creating its own reality. By elevating him from his position as one fighter among a mass of conflicting groups, the US campaign to "villainise Zarqawi" glamorised him with its enemy audience, making it easier for him to raise funds, to attract "unsponsored" foreign fighters, to make alliances with Sunni Iraqis and to score huge impact with his own media manoeuvres. Finally, in December 2004, Osama bin Laden gave in to this constructed reality, buried his differences with the Jordanian and declared him the leader of al-Q'aida's resistance to the American occupation.

JONATHAN GRUN, EDITOR,PRESS ASSOCIATION

The Press Association's wire service has a long-standing reputation for its integrity and fast, fair and accurate reporting. Much of his criticism is anonymously sourced – which is something we strive to avoid.

ANDREW MARR, BROADCASTER AND JOURNALIST

Thanks to the internet there's a constant source of news stories pumping into newsrooms. Stories are simply rewritten. It produces an airless cycle of information. Papers too rarely have news stories of their own.

IAN MONK, PR

The media has ceded a lot of the power of setting the agenda; the definition of news has broadened to include celebrities and new products (the iPhone is a big story). But I don't join in the hand-wringing or say it's desperate that people outside newspapers have got a say.

JOHN KAMPFNER, EDITOR, NEW STATESMAN

Davies is right to point to the lack of investigative rigour: the primary purpose of journalism is to rattle cages. I was always struck at the extent to which political journalists yearned to be spoon fed. Having said that, I think he uses too broad a brush.

DOMINIC LAWSON, FORMER EDITOR SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

I'm not saying this is a golden age, but there's a strong investigative drive in the British press. A lot of papers put a strong value on such stories. I suspect we're about the most invigilated establishment in Europe.

CHRIS BLACKHURST, CITY EDITOR, EVENING STANDARD

I'm disappointed that a book which has as its premise the dictation of the news agenda by PRs should contain in it an anonymous quote from a PR criticising theStandard's coverage of the Natwest Three.

HEATHER BROOKE, JOURNALIST

It's not entirely true what Davies is saying. In the past, we just got scrutiny from newspapers and now think tanks publish results of investigations. But there's an assumption that the public aren't interested in government, just Amy Winehouse.

FRANCIS WHEEN, JOURNALIST/ AUTHOR

Davies is spot on. It's reasonable that newspapers carry PA accounts of court hearings, but he's right that there's more "churn" now. Reporters don't get out of the office the way they did once – partly a reflection of reduced budgets.

Trigger a Middle East Nuclear Holocaust to Defend "The Western Way of Life"

Trigger a Middle East Nuclear Holocaust to Defend "The Western Way of Life"

By Michel Chossudovsky

Go To Original

What the Western allies face is a long, sustained and proactive defence of their societies and way of life. To that end, they must keep risks at a distance, while at the same time protecting their homelands.

International terrorism today aims to disrupt and destroy our societies, our economies and our way of life. ...

These different sources of [Islamist] propaganda and/or violence vary in their intellectual underpinnings, sectarian and political aims, ... . But what they have in common is an assault on the values of the West – on its democratic processes and its freedom of religion...

Notwithstanding the common perception in the West, the origin of Islamist terrorism is not victimhood, nor an inferiority complex, but a well-financed superiority complex grounded in a violent political ideology.

If the irrational and fanatical [Islamist organizations] get out of hand, there is a risk that, ... the rise of fundamentalisms and despotisms will usher in a new, illiberal age, in which the liberties that Western societies enjoy are seriously jeopardized.

The threats that the West and its partners face today are a combination of violent terrorism against civilians and institutions, wars fought by proxy by states that sponsor terrorism, the behaviour of rogue states, the actions of organised international crime, and the coordination of hostile action through abuse of non-military means.

Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership".

Group report by former chiefs of staff General John Shalikashvili, (US), General Klaus Naumann (Germany), Field Marshal Lord Inge (UK), Admiral Jacques Lanxade (France) and Henk van den Breemen (The Netherlands), published by the Netherlands based Noaber Foundation, December 2007, (emphasis added)


The controversial NATO sponsored report entitled Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership". calls for a first strike use of nuclear weapons. The preemptive use of nukes would also be used to undermine an "increasingly brutal World" as a means to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction:

"They [the authors of the report] consider that nuclear war might soon become possible in an increasingly brutal world. They propose the first use of nuclear weapons must remain "in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction". (Paul Dibb, Sidney Morning Herald, 11 February 2008)

The group, insists that the option of first strike of nuclear weapons is "indispensable, since there is simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world." (Report, p. 97, emphasis added):

Nuclear weapons are the ultimate instrument of an asymmetric response – and at the same time the ultimate tool of escalation. Yet they are also more than an instrument, since they transform the nature of any conflict and widen its scope from the regional to the global. ...

...Nuclear weapons remain indispensable, and nuclear escalation continues to remain an element of any modern strategy.

Nuclear escalation is the ultimate step in responding asymmetrically, and at the same time the most powerful way of inducing uncertainty in an opponent’s mind. (Ibid, emphasis added)

The Group's Report identifies six key "challenges", which may often result as potential threats to global security:

Demography. Population growth and change across the globe will swiftly change the world we knew. The challenge this poses for welfare, good governance and energy security (among other things) is vast.

Climate change. This greatly threatens physical certainty, and is leading to a whole new type of politics – one predicated, perhaps more than ever, on our collective future.

Energy security continues to absorb us. The supply and demand of individual nations and the weakening of the international market infrastructure for energy distribution make the situation more precarious than ever.

There is also the more philosophic problem of the rise of the irrational – the discounting of the rational. Though seemingly abstract, this problem is demonstrated in deeply practical ways. [These include] the decline of respect for logical argument and evidence, a drift away from science in a civilization that is deeply technological. The ultimate example is the rise of religious fundamentalism, which, as political fanaticism, presents itself as the only source of certainty.

The weakening of the nation state. This coincides with the weakening of world institutions, including the United Nations and regional organizations such as the European Union, NATO and others.

The dark side of globalization ... These include internationalized terrorism, organized crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but also asymmetric threats from proxy actors or the abuse of financial and energy leverage. (Ibid)

Deterrence and Pre-emption

According to the Report, a new concept of deterrence is required directed against both State and non-state actors, This "new deterrence" is based on pre-emption as well as on the ability to "restore deterrence through [military] escalation". In this context, the Report contemplates, what it describes as:

escalation dominance, the use of a full bag of both carrots and sticks—and indeed all instruments of soft and hard power, ranging from the diplomatic protest to nuclear weapons.” (Report, op city, emphasis added).

Iran

In much the same terms as the Bush administration, the NATO sponsored report states, without evidence, that Iran constitutes "a major strategic threat":

"An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would pose a major strategic threat – not only to Israel, which it has threatened to destroy, but also to the region as a whole, to Europe and to the United States. Secondly, it could be the beginning of a new multi-polar nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world." (Report, op. cit., p. 45)

Careful timing? The controversial NATO sponsored report calling for a preemptive nuclear attack on Iran was released shortly after the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report entitled Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities. The latter denies Iran's nuclear capabilities. The NIE report, based on the assessments of sixteen US intelligence agencies, refutes the Bush administration's main justification for waging a preemptive nuclear war on Iran. The NIE report confirms that Iran “halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.”

"These findings constitute a damning indictment of the Bush administration’s relentless fear-mongering in relation to an alleged nuclear threat from Iran. They demonstrate that just as in the buildup to the war against Iraq five years ago, the White House has been engaged in a systematic campaign to drag the American people into another war based on lies." (See Bill van Auken, 24 January 2008)

It should be noted that this recently declassified intelligence ( pertaining to Iran contained in the 2007 NIE report) was known by the White House, the Pentagon and most probably NATO since September 2003. Ironically, US military documents confirm that the Bush Administration initiated its war preparations against Iran in July 2003, two months prior to the confirmation by US intelligence that Iran did not constitute a nuclear threat.

The July 2003 war scenarios were launched under TIRANNT: Theater Iran Near Term.

The justification for TIRANNT as well as for subsequent US war plans directed against Iran ( which as of 2004 included the active participation of NATO and Israel), has always been that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and plans to use them against us.

Following the publication of the 2007 NIE in early December, there has been an avalanche of media propaganda directed against Tehran, essentially with a view to invalidating the statements of the NIE concerning Tehran's nuclear program.

Moreover, a third sanctions resolution by the UN Security Council, was initiated with a view to forcing Iran to halt uranium enrichment. The proposed UNSC resolution, which is opposed by China and Russia includes a travel ban on Iranian officials involved in the country's nuclear programs, and inspections of shipments to and from Iran "if there are suspicions of prohibited goods" (AFP, 11 February 2008). Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy together with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have been calling for a unified EU sanctions regime against Iran.

Contradicting the US national intelligence estimate (NIE), Bush's most recent speeches continue to portray Iran as a nuclear threat:

"I feel pretty good about making sure that we keep the pressure on Iran to pressure them so they understand they're isolated, to pressure them to affect their economy, to pressure them to the point that we hope somebody rational shows up and says, okay, it's not worth it anymore," Bush said.

Threat to "The Western Way of Life"

The Western media is involved in a diabolical disinformation campaign, the purpose of which is to persuade public opinion that the only way to "create a nuclear free World" is to use nuclear weapons on a preemptive basis, against countries which "threaten our Western Way of Life."

The Western world is threatened. The NATO sponsored report, according to Paul Dibb: "paint(s) an alarming picture of the threats confronting the West, arguing that its values and way of life are under threat and that we are struggling to summon the will to defend them."(Dibb, op cit)

A preemptive nuclear attack -- geographically confined to Middle East (minus Israel?)-- is the proposed end-game. The attack would use US tactical nuclear weapons, which, according to "scientific opinion" (on contract to the Pentagon) are "harmless to the surrounding civilian population because the explosion is underground". (See Michel Chossudovsky The Dangers of a Middle East Nuclear Holocaust, Global Research, 17 February 2006)

B61-11 bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads Made in America, with an explosive capacity between one third to six times a Hiroshima bomb, are presented as bona fide humanitarian bombs, which minimize the dangers of "collateral damage".

These in-house "scientific" Pentagon assessments regarding the mini-nukes are refuted by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS):

Any attempt to use a [B61-11 bunker buster nuclear bomb] in an urban environment would result in massive civilian casualties. Even at the low end of its 0.3-300 kiloton yield range, the nuclear blast will simply blow out a huge crater of radioactive material, creating a lethal gamma-radiation field over a large area " (Low-Yield Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons by Robert W. Nelson, Federation of American Scientists, 2001 ).

Professor Paul Dibb is a former Australian Deputy Secretary of Defense, who has over the years also occupied key positions in Australia's defense and intelligence establishment. Dibb carefully overlooks the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons in a conventional war theater. According to Dibb, NATO's preemptive nuclear doctrine, which replicates that of the Pentagon, constitutes a significant and positive initiative to "halt the imminent spread of nuclear weapons". .

"They [the group] believe that the West must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the imminent spread of nuclear weapons."

Never mind the nuclear holocaust and resulting radioactive contamination, which would spread Worldwide and threaten, in a real sense, the "way of life".

There is no "way of life" in a World contaminated with deadly radioactive material. But this is something that is rarely discussed in the corridors of NATO or in strategic studies programs in Western universities.

What is frightening in Professor Dibb's article is that he is not expressing an opinion, nor is he analyzing the use of nuclear weapons from an academic research point of view.

In his article, there is neither research on nuclear weapons nor is there an understanding of the complex geopolitics of the Middle East war. Dibb is essentially repeating verbatim the statements contained in NATO/Pentagon military documents. His article is a "copy and paste" summary of Western nuclear doctrine, which in practice calls for the launching of a nuclear holocaust.

The stated objective of a Middle East nuclear holocaust is "to prevent the occurrence of a nuclear war". An insidious logic which certainly out- dwarfs the darkest period of the Spanish inquisition...

Neither NATO nor the Pentagon use the term nuclear holocaust. Moreover, they presume that the "collateral damage" of a nuclear war will in any event be confined geographically to the Middle East and that Westerners will be spared...

But since their in-house scientists have confirmed that tactical nuclear weapons are "safe for civilians", the labels on the bombs have been switched much in the same way as the label on a packet of cigarettes: "This nuclear bomb is safe for civilians"

Nukes: Just Another Tool in the Military Toolbox

The new definition of a nuclear warhead has blurred the distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons:

'It's a package (of nuclear and conventional weapons). The implication of this obviously is that nuclear weapons are being brought down from a special category of being a last resort, or sort of the ultimate weapon, to being just another tool in the toolbox," (Japan Economic News Wire, op cit)

This re-categorization has been carried out. The " green light" for the use of tactical nuclear weapons has been granted by the US Congress. . " Let's use them, they are part of the military toolbox."

We are a dangerous crossroads: military planners believe their own propaganda. The military manuals state that this new generation of nuclear weapons are "safe" for use in the battlefield. They are no longer a weapon of last resort. There are no impediments or political obstacles to their use. In this context, Senator Edward Kennedy has accused the Bush Administration for having developed "a generation of more useable nuclear weapons."

Russia and China

Who else constitutes a threat to " the Western way of life"?

Nukes are also slated to be used against Russia and China, former enemies of the Cold War era.

This post Cold War logic was first revealed, when the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was leaked to The Los Angeles Times in January 2002. The NPR includes China and Russia alongside the rogue states as potential targets for a first strike nuclear attack. According to William Arkin, the NPR "offers a chilling glimpse into the world of nuclear-war planners: With a Strangelovian genius, they cover every conceivable circumstance in which the president might wish to use nuclear weapons-planning in great detail." (Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2002)

"Decapitate Their Leadership and Destroy their Countries as Functioning Societies"

The use of nukes against "rogue states", including Iran and North Korea (which lost more than a quarter of its population in US bombings during the Korean war) is justified because these countries could act in an "irrational" way. It therefore makes sense to "take em out" before they do something irrational. The objective is: "decapitate their leadership and destroy their countries as functioning societies":

"One line of reasoning is that so-called rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea, are sufficiently irrational to risk a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the US or its allies, such as Israel and South Korea.

The supposition here is that deterrence - that is, threatening the other side with obliteration - no longer works. But even the nasty regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang must know that the US reserves the right to use its overwhelming nuclear force to decapitate the leadership and destroy their countries as modern functioning societies. (Dibb, op cit., emphasis added)

Use nuclear weapons to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.

But of course, lest we forget, America's nuclear arsenal as well as that of France, Britain and Israel are not categorized as "weapons of mass destruction", in comparison with Iran's deadly nonexistent nuclear weapons program.

Bin Laden's Nuclear Program

Now comes the authoritative part of the Pentagon-NATO preemptive doctrine: We need to use nukes against bin Laden, because Islamic "fanatics" can actually make a nuclear weapons or buy them from the Russians on the black market.

The Report calls for a first strike nuclear attack directed against Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, which has the ability, according to expert opinion, of actually producing small nuclear bombs, which could be used in a Second 9/11 attack on America: .

The second line of reasoning [contained in the NATO sponsored report] is more difficult to refute. It argues that extreme fanatical terrorists, such as al-Qaeda, cannot be deterred because (a) they do not represent a country and therefore cannot be targeted and (b) they welcome death by suicide. So, we have to shift the concept of nuclear deterrence to the country or regime supplying the terrorists with fissile material.

Nuclear weapons require materials that can be made only with difficulty. Once these materials are obtained by terrorists, however, the barriers to fabricating a weapon are much lower. In that sense the nuclear threat today is greater than it was in the Cold War and it seems the terrorists cannot be deterred.( Dibb, op cit, emphasis added)

The alleged nuclear threat by Al Qaeda is taken very seriously. The Bush administration has responded with overall defense spending (budget plus war theater) in excess of one trillion dollars. This massive amount of public money has been allocated to financing the "Global War on Terrorism" (GWOT).

Confirmed by Pentagon documents, this military hardware including aircraft carriers, fighter jets, cruise missiles and nuclear bunker buster bombs, is slated to be used as part of the "Global War on Terrorism". In military jargon the US is involved in asymmetric warfare against non-State enemies. ( The concept of Asymmetric Warfare was defined in The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (2005)

"The American Hiroshima"

The US media has the distinct ability to turn realities upside down. The lies are upheld as indelible truths. The "Islamic terrorists" have abandoned their AK 47 kalashnikov rifles and stinger missiles; they are not only developing deadly chemical and biological weapons, they also have nuclear capabilities.

The fact, amply documented, that Al Qaeda is supported by the CIA and Britain's MI6 is beside the point.

The nuclear threat is not directed against the Middle East but against the USA, the perpetrators and architects of nuclear war are bin Laden's Al Qaeda, which is planning to launch a nuclear attack on an American city:

"U.S. government officials are contemplating what they consider to be an inevitable and much bigger assault on America, one likely to kill millions, destroy the economy and fundamentally alter the course of history,...

According to captured al-Qaida leaders and documents, the plan is called the "American Hiroshima" and involves the multiple detonation of nuclear weapons already smuggled into the U.S. over the Mexican border with the help of the MS-13 street gang and other organized crime groups. (World Net Daily, 11 July 2005, emphasis added)

The New York Times confirms that an Al Qaeda sponsored "American Hiroshima" "could happen" .

"Experts believe that such an attack, somewhere, is likely." (NYT, 11 August 2004)

According to the Aspen Strategy Group which is integrated among others, by Madeleine Albright, Richard Armitage, Philip D. Zelikow, Robert B. Zoellick, "the danger of nuclear terrorism is much greater than the public believes, and our government hasn't done nearly enough to reduce it.":

If a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon, a midget even smaller than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, exploded in Times Square, the fireball would reach tens of millions of degrees Fahrenheit. It would vaporize or destroy the theater district, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal and Carnegie Hall (along with me and my building). The blast would partly destroy a much larger area, including the United Nations. On a weekday some 500,000 people would be killed. (NYT, 11 August 2004)

"Threaten them with a devastating [nuclear] attack"

According to professor Dibb, nuclear deterrence should also apply in relation to Al Qaeda, by holding responsible the governments which help the terrorists to develop their nuclear weapons capabilities:

"Ashton Carter, a former US assistant secretary for defense, has recently argued, the realistic response is to hold responsible, as appropriate, the government from which the terrorists obtained the weapon or fissile materials and threaten them with a devastating [nuclear] strike. In other words, deterrence would work again. (Dibb, op cit)

The real nuclear threat is coming from bin Laden. The objective is to "to do away with our way of life":

None of this is to underestimate the impact of a nuclear weapon being detonated in an American city. It could be catastrophic, but it is highly unlikely to threaten the very survival of the US. To believe otherwise risks surrendering to the fear and intimidation that is precisely the terrorists' stock in trade.

General Richard Myers, another former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has claimed that if [Islamic] terrorists were able to kill 10,000 Americans in a nuclear attack, they would "do away with our way of life". But Hiroshima and Nagasaki incurred well over 100,000 instant deaths and that did not mean the end of the Japanese way of life. (Ibid, emphasis added)

In an utterly twisted and convoluted argument, professor Dibb transforms the US-NATO threat to wage a nuclear war on Iran into an Al Qaeda operation to attack an American city with nuclear weapon.

Dibb presents the US-NATO menace to trigger what would result in a Middle East nuclear holocaust as a humanitarian operation to save American lives. By implication, the Al Qaeda sponsored "American Hiroshima" would be supported by Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. and this in turn would immediately provide a juste cause (casus belli) for retaliation against Iran

"What a nuclear attack on a US city would mean, however, is an understandable American retaliation in kind. So, those countries that have slack control over their fissile nuclear materials and cozy relations with terrorists need to watch out. A wounded America would be under enormous pressure to respond in a wholly disproportionate manner.

And then we would be in a completely changed strategic situation in which the use of nuclear weapons might become commonplace. Ibid, emphasis added).

Dick Cheney's Second 9/11

The insinuation that Al Qaeda is preparing an attack on America has been on the lips of Vice President Dick Cheney for several years now. Cheney has stated on several occasions since 2004, that Al Qaeda is preparing a "Second 9/11": .

In August 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney is reported to have instructed USSTRATCOM, based at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, to draw up a "Contingency Plan", "to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States". (Philip Giraldi, Attack on Iran: Pre-emptive Nuclear War, The American Conservative, 2 August 2005)

Dick Cheney's "Contingency Plan" was predicated on the preemptive war doctrine. Implied in the "Contingency Plan" was the presumption that Iran would be behind the attacks.

The Pentagon in a parallel initiative has actually fine-tuned its military agenda to the point of actually envisaging a Second 9/11 scenario as a means to providing the US administration with a "credible" justification to attack Iran and Syria:

"Another [9/11 type terrorist] attack could create both a justification and an opportunity that is lacking today to retaliate against some known targets [Iran and Syria]" (Statement by Pentagon official, leaked to the Washington Post, 23 April 2006, emphasis added)

Meanwhile,. the US Congress is concerned that an "American Hiroshima" could potentially damage the US economy:

"What we do know is that our enemies want to inflict massive casualties and that terrorists have the expertise to invent a wide range of attacks, including those involving the use of chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons. ... [E]xploding a small nuclear weapon in a major city could do incalculable harm to hundreds of thousands of people, as well as to businesses and the economy,...(US Congress, House Financial Services Committee, June 21, 2007).

As far as sensitizing public opinion to the dangers of US sponsored nuclear war, there is, with a few exceptions, a scientific and intellectual vacuum: No research, no analysis, no comprehension of the meaning of a nuclear holocaust which in a real sense threatens the future of humanity. This detachment and lack of concern of prominent intellectuals characterizes an evolving trend in many universities and research institutes in the strategic studies, the sciences and social sciences.

Academics increasingly tow the line. They remain mum on the issue of a US sponsored nuclear war. There is a tacit acceptance of a diabolical and criminal military agenda, which in a very sense threatens life on this planet. The US-NATO doctrine to use nukes on a preemptive basis with a view to "saving the Western World's way of life" is not challenged in any meaningful way either by academics or media experts in strategic studies.

The Chicken Doves

The Chicken Doves

Elected to end the war, Democrats have surrendered to Bush on Iraq and betrayed the peace movement for their own political ends

By Matt Taibbi

Go To Original

Q
uietly, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been inspiring Democrats everywhere with their rolling bitchfest, congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.

Solidifying his reputation as one of the biggest pussies in U.S. political history, Reid explained his decision to refocus his party's energies on topics other than ending the war by saying he just couldn't fit Iraq into his busy schedule. "We have the presidential election," Reid said recently. "Our time is really squeezed."

There was much public shedding of tears among the Democratic leadership, as Reid, Pelosi and other congressional heavyweights expressed deep sadness that their valiant charge up the hill of change had been thwarted by circumstances beyond their control — that, as much as they would love to continue trying to end the catastrophic Iraq deal, they would now have to wait until, oh, 2009 to try again. "We'll have a new president," said Pelosi. "And I do think at that time we'll take a fresh look at it."

Pelosi seemed especially broken up about having to surrender on Iraq, sounding like an NFL coach in a postgame presser, trying with a straight face to explain why he punted on first-and-goal. "We just didn't have any plays we liked down there," said the coach of the 0-15 Dems. "Sometimes you just have to play the field-position game...."

In reality, though, Pelosi and the Democrats were actually engaged in some serious point-shaving. Working behind the scenes, the Democrats have systematically taken over the anti-war movement, packing the nation's leading group with party consultants more interested in attacking the GOP than ending the war. "Our focus is on the Republicans," one Democratic apparatchik in charge of the anti-war coalition declared. "How can we juice up attacks on them?"

The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House. And if we don't pay attention to this sorry tale now, while there's still time to change our minds about whom to nominate, we might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame.

The controversy over the Democratic "strategy" to end the war basically comes down to whom you believe. According to the Reid-Pelosi version of history, the Democrats tried hard to force President Bush's hand by repeatedly attempting to tie funding for the war to a scheduled withdrawal. Last spring they tried to get him to eat a timeline and failed to get the votes to override a presidential veto. Then they retreated and gave Bush his money, with the aim of trying again after the summer to convince a sufficient number of Republicans to cross the aisle in support of a timeline.

But in September, Gen. David Petraeus reported that Bush's "surge" in Iraq was working, giving Republicans who might otherwise have flipped sufficient cover to continue supporting the war. The Democrats had no choice, the legend goes, but to wait until 2009, in the hopes that things would be different under a Democratic president.

Democrats insist that the reason they can't cut off the money for the war, despite their majority in both houses, is purely political. "George Bush would be on TV every five minutes saying that the Democrats betrayed the troops," says Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Then he glumly adds another reason. "Also, it just wasn't going to happen."

Why it "just wasn't going to happen" is the controversy. In and around the halls of Congress, the notion that the Democrats made a sincere effort to end the war meets with, at best, derisive laughter. Though few congressional aides would think of saying so on the record, in private many dismiss their party's lame anti-war effort as an absurd dog-and-pony show, a calculated attempt to score political points without ever being serious about bringing the troops home.

"Yeah, the amount of expletives that flew in our office alone was unbelievable," says an aide to one staunchly anti-war House member. "It was all about the public show. Reid and Pelosi would say they were taking this tough stand against Bush, but if you actually looked at what they were sending to a vote, it was like Swiss cheese. Full of holes."

In the House, some seventy Democrats joined the Out of Iraq caucus and repeatedly butted heads with Reid and Pelosi, arguing passionately for tougher measures to end the war. The fight left some caucus members bitter about the party's failure. Rep. Barbara Lee of California was one of the first to submit an amendment to cut off funding unless it was tied to an immediate withdrawal. "I couldn't even get it through the Rules Committee in the spring," Lee says.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a fellow caucus member, says Democrats should have refused from the beginning to approve any funding that wasn't tied to a withdrawal. "If we'd been bold the minute we got control of the House — and that's why we got the majority, because the people of this country wanted us out of Iraq — if we'd been bold, even if we lost the votes, we would have gained our voice."

An honest attempt to end the war, say Democrats like Woolsey and Lee, would have involved forcing Bush to execute his veto and allowing the Republicans to filibuster all they wanted. Force a showdown, in other words, and use any means necessary to get the bloodshed ended.

"Can you imagine Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert taking no for an answer the way Reid and Pelosi did on Iraq?" asks the House aide in the expletive-filled office. "They'd find a way to get the votes. They'd get it done somehow."

But any suggestion that the Democrats had an obligation to fight this good fight infuriates the bund of hedging careerists in charge of the party. In fact, nothing sums up the current Democratic leadership better than its vitriolic criticisms of those recalcitrant party members who insist on interpreting their 2006 mandate as a command to actually end the war. Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee and a key Pelosi-Reid ally, lambasted anti-war Democrats who "didn't want to get specks on those white robes of theirs." Obey even berated a soldier's mother who begged him to cut off funds for the war, accusing her and her friends of "smoking something illegal."

Rather than use the vast power they had to end the war, Democrats devoted their energy to making sure that "anti-war activism" became synonymous with "electing Democrats." Capitalizing on America's desire to end the war, they hijacked the anti-war movement itself, filling the ranks of peace groups with loyal party hacks. Anti-war organizations essentially became a political tool for the Democrats — one operated from inside the Beltway and devoted primarily to targeting Republicans.

This supposedly grass-roots "anti-war coalition" met regularly on K Street, the very capital of top-down Beltway politics. At the forefront of the groups are Thomas Matzzie and Brad Woodhouse of Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq, the leader of the anti-war lobby. Along with other K Street crusaders, the two have received iconic treatment from The Washington Post and The New York Times, both of which depicted the anti-war warriors as young idealist-progressives in shirtsleeves, riding a mirthful spirit into political combat — changing the world is fun!

But what exactly are these young idealists campaigning for? At its most recent meeting, the group eerily echoed the Reid-Pelosi "squeezed for time" mantra: Retreat from any attempt to end the war and focus on electing Democrats. "There was a lot of agreement that we can draw distinctions between anti-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans," a spokeswoman for Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq announced.

What the Post and the Times failed to note is that much of the anti-war group's leadership hails from a consulting firm called Hildebrand Tewes — whose partners, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, served as staffers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In addition, these anti-war leaders continue to consult for many of the same U.S. senators whom they need to pressure in order to end the war. This is the kind of conflict of interest that would normally be an embarrassment in the activist community.

Worst of all is the case of Woodhouse, who came to Hildebrand Tewes after years of working as the chief mouthpiece for the DSCC, where he campaigned actively to re-elect Democratic senators who supported the Iraq War in the first place. Anyone bothering to look — and clearly the Post and the Times did not before penning their ardent bios of Woodhouse — would have found the youthful idealist bragging to newspapers before the Iraq invasion about the pro-war credentials of North Carolina candidate Erskine Bowles. "No one has been stronger in this race in supporting President Bush in the War on Terror and his efforts to effect a regime change in Iraq," boasted the future "anti-war" activist Woodhouse.

With guys like this in charge of the anti-war movement, much of what has passed for peace activism in the past year was little more than a thinly veiled scheme to use popular discontent over the war to unseat vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2008. David Sirota, a former congressional staffer whose new book, The Uprising, excoriates the Democrats for their failure to end the war, expresses disgust at the strategy of targeting only Republicans. "The whole idea is based on this insane fiction that there is no such thing as a pro-war Democrat," he says. "Their strategy allows Democrats to take credit for being against the war without doing anything to stop it. It's crazy."

Justin Raimondo, the uncompromising editorial director of Antiwar.com, regrets contributing twenty dollars to Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq. "Not only did they use it to target Republicans," he says, "they went after the ones who were on the fence about Iraq." The most notorious case involved Lincoln Chafee, a moderate from Rhode Island who lost his Senate seat in 2006. Since then, Chafee has taken shots at Democrats like Reid, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, all of whom campaigned against him despite having voted for the war themselves.

"Look, I understand partisan politics," says Chafee, who now concedes that voters were correct to punish him for his war vote. "I just find it amusing that those who helped get us into this mess now say we need to change the Senate — because we're in a mess."

The really tragic thing about the Democratic surrender on Iraq is that it's now all but guaranteed that the war will be off the table during the presidential campaign. Once again — it happened in 2002, 2004 and 2006 — the Democrats have essentially decided to rely on the voters to give them credit for being anti-war, despite the fact that, for all the noise they've made to the contrary, in the end they've done nothing but vote for war and cough up every dime they've been asked to give, every step of the way.

Even beyond the war, the Democrats have repeatedly gone limp-dick every time the Bush administration so much as raises its voice. Most recently, twelve Democrats crossed the aisle to grant immunity to phone companies who participated in Bush's notorious wiretapping program. Before that, Democrats caved in and confirmed Mike Mukasey as attorney general after he kept his middle finger extended and refused to condemn waterboarding as torture. Democrats fattened by Wall Street also got cold feet about upsetting the country's gazillionaires, refusing to close a tax loophole that rewarded hedge-fund managers with a tax rate less than half that paid by ordinary citizens.

But the war is where they showed their real mettle. Before the 2006 elections, Democrats told us we could expect more specifics on their war plans after Election Day. Nearly two years have passed since then, and now they are once again telling us to wait until after an election to see real action to stop the war. In the meantime, of course, we're to remember that they're the good guys, the Republicans are the real enemy, and, well, go Hillary! Semper fi! Yay, team!

How much of this bullshit are we going to take? How long are we supposed to give the Reids and Pelosis and Hillarys of the world credit for wanting, deep down in their moldy hearts, to do the right thing?

Look, fuck your hearts, OK? Just get it done. Because if you don't, sooner or later this con is going to run dry. It may not be in '08, but it'll be soon. Even Americans can't be fooled forever

Army Buried Study Faulting Iraq Planning

Army Buried Study Faulting Iraq Planning

By Michael R. Gordon

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Washington - The Army is accustomed to protecting classified information. But when it comes to the planning for the Iraq war, even an unclassified assessment can acquire the status of a state secret.

That is what happened to a detailed study of the planning for postwar Iraq prepared for the Army by the RAND Corporation, a federally financed center that conducts research for the military.

After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called "Rebuilding Iraq." RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.

But the study's wide-ranging critique of the White House, the Defense Department and other government agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key.

A review of the lengthy report - a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times - shows that it identified problems with nearly every organization that had a role in planning the war. That assessment parallels the verdicts of numerous former officials and independent analysts.

The study chided President Bush - and by implication Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who served as national security adviser when the war was planned - as having failed to resolve differences among rival agencies. "Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff," it said.

The Defense Department led by Donald H. Rumsfeld was given the lead in overseeing the postwar period in Iraq despite its "lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution."

The State Department led by Colin L. Powell produced a voluminous study on the future of Iraq that identified important issues but was of "uneven quality" and "did not constitute an actionable plan."

Gen. Tommy R. Franks, whose Central Command oversaw the military operation in Iraq, had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.

The regulations that govern the Army's relations with the Arroyo Center, the division of RAND that does research for the Army, stipulate that Army officials are to review reports in a timely fashion to ensure that classified information is not released. But the rules also note that the officials are not to "censor" analysis or prevent the dissemination of material critical of the Army.

The report on rebuilding Iraq was part of a seven-volume series by RAND on the lessons learned from the war. Asked why the report has not been published, Timothy Muchmore, a civilian Army official, said it had ventured too far from issues that directly involve the Army.

"After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army," Mr. Muchmore said in a statement. "Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities."

Warren Robak, a RAND spokesman, declined to talk about the contents of the study but said the organization favored publication as a matter of general policy.

"RAND always endeavors to publish as much of our research as possible, in either unclassified form or in classified form for those with the proper security clearances," Mr. Robak said in a statement. "The multivolume series on lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom is no exception. We also, however, have a longstanding practice of not discussing work that has not yet been published."

When RAND researchers began their work, nobody expected it to become a bone of contention with the Army. The idea was to review the lessons learned from the war, as RAND had done with previous conflicts.

The research was formally sponsored by Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, who was then the chief operations officer for the Army and now oversees Army forces in the Middle East, and Lt. Gen. David Melcher, who had responsibility for the Army's development and works now on budget issues.

A team of RAND researchers led by Nora Bensahel interviewed more than 50 civilian and military officials. As it became clear that decisions made by civilian officials had contributed to the Army's difficulties in Iraq, researchers delved into those policies as well.

The report was submitted at a time when the Bush administration was trying to rebut building criticism of the war in Iraq by stressing the progress Mr. Bush said was being made. The approach culminated in his announcement in November 2005 of his "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

One serious problem the study described was the Bush administration's assumption that the reconstruction requirements would be minimal. There was also little incentive to challenge that assumption, the report said.

"Building public support for any pre-emptive or preventative war is inherently challenging, since by definition, action is being taken before the threat has fully manifested itself," it said. "Any serious discussion of the costs and challenges of reconstruction might undermine efforts to build that support."

Another problem described was a general lack of coordination. "There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security," the study said.

One result was that "the U.S. government did not provide strategic policy guidance for postwar Iraq until shortly before major combat operations commenced." The study said that problem was compounded by General Franks, saying he took a narrow view of the military's responsibilities after Saddam Hussein was ousted and assumed that American civilian agencies would do much to rebuild the country.

General Franks's command, the study asserted, also assumed that Iraq's police and civil bureaucracy would stay on the job and had no fallback option in case that expectation proved wrong. When Baghdad fell, the study said, American forces there "were largely mechanized or armored forces, well suited to waging major battles but not to restoring civil order. That task would have been better carried out, ideally, by military police or, acceptably, by light infantry trained in urban combat."

A "shortfall" in American troops was exacerbated when General Franks and Mr. Rumsfeld decided to stop the deployment of the Army's First Cavalry Division when other American forces entered Baghdad, the study said, a move that reflected their assessment that the war had been won. Problems persisted during the occupation. In the months that followed, the report said, there were "significant tensions, most commonly between the civilian and military arms of the occupation."

The poor planning had "the inadvertent effort of strengthening the insurgency," as Iraqis experienced a lack of security and essential services and focused on "negative effects of the U.S. security presence." The American military's inability to seal Iraq's borders, a task the 2005 report warned was still not a priority, enabled foreign support for the insurgents to flow into Iraq.

In its recommendations, the study advocated an "inverted planning process" in which military planners would begin by deciding what resources were needed to maintain security after an adversary was defeated on the battlefield instead of treating the postwar phase as virtually an afterthought. More broadly, it suggested that there was a need to change the military's mind-set, which has long treated preparations to fight a major war as the top priority. The Army has recently moved to address this by drafting a new operations manual which casts the mission of stabilizing war-torn nations as equal in importance to winning a conventional war.

As the RAND study went through drafts, a chapter was written to emphasize the implications for the Army. An unclassified version was produced with numerous references to newspaper articles and books, an approach that was intended to facilitate publication.

Senior Army officials were not happy with the results, and questioned whether all of the information in the study was truly unclassified and its use of newspaper reports. RAND researchers sent a rebuttal. That failed to persuade the Army to allow publication of the unclassified report, and the classified version was not widely disseminated throughout the Pentagon.

Neither General Lovelace nor General Melcher agreed to be interviewed for this article, but General Lovelace provided a statement through a spokesman at his headquarters in Kuwait.

"The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army," he said.

A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. "The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld," said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.

The Army has asked that the entire RAND series be resubmitted and has said it will decide on its status thereafter.

Iraq's Tidal Wave of Misery: The First History of the Planet's Worst Refugee Crisis

Iraq's Tidal Wave of Misery: The First History of the Planet's Worst Refugee Crisis

By Michael Schwartz

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A tidal wave of misery is engulfing Iraq - and it isn't the usual violence that Americans are accustomed to hearing about and tuning out. To be sure, it's rooted in that violence, but this tsunami of misery is social and economic in nature. It dislodges people from their jobs, sweeps them from their homes, tears them from their material possessions, and carries them off from families and communities. It leaves them stranded in hostile towns or foreign countries, with no anchor to resist the moment when the next wave of displacement sweeps over them.

The victims of this human tsunami are called refugees if they wash ashore outside the country or IDPs ("internally displaced persons") if their landing place is within Iraq's borders. Either way, they are normally left with no permanent housing, no reliable livelihood, no community support, and no government aid. All the normal social props that support human lives are removed, replaced with nothing.

Overlapping Waves of the Dispossessed

In its first four years, the Iraq war created three overlapping waves of refugees and IDPs.

It all began with the Coalition Provisional Authority, which the Bush administration set up inside Baghdad's Green Zone and, in May 2003, placed under the control of L. Paul Bremer III. The CPA immediately began dismantling Iraq's state apparatus. Thousands of Baathist Party bureaucrats were purged from the government; tens of thousands of workers were laid off from shuttered, state-owned industries; hundreds of thousands of Iraqi military personnel were dismissed from Saddam's dismantled military. Their numbers soon multiplied as the ripple effect of their lost buying power rolled through the economy. Many of the displaced found other (less remunerative) jobs; some hunkered down to wait out bad times; still others left their homes and sought work elsewhere, with the most marketable going to nearby countries where their skills were still in demand. They were the leading edge of the first wave of Iraqi refugees.

As the post-war chaos continued, kidnapping became the country's growth industry, targeting any prosperous family with the means to pay ransom. This only accelerated the rate of departure, particularly among those who had already had their careers disrupted. A flood of professional, technical, and managerial workers fled their homes and Iraq in search of personal and job security.

The spirit of this initial exodus was eloquently expressed by an Iraqi blogger with the online handle of AnaRki13:

"Not so much a migration as a forced exodus. Scientists, engineers, doctors, architects, writers, poets, you name it - everybody is getting out of town. "Why? Simple: 1. There is no real job market in Iraq. 2. Even if you have a good job, chances are good you'll get kidnapped or killed. It's just not worth it staying here. Sunni, Shiite, or Christian - everybody, we're all leaving, or have already left. "One of my friends keeps berating me about how I should love this country, the land of my ancestors, where I was born and raised; how I should be grateful and return to the place that gave me everything. I always tell him the same thing: 'Iraq, as you and me once knew it, is lost. What's left of it, I don't want' "The most famous doctors and university professors have already left the country because many of them, including ones I knew personally, were assassinated or killed, and the rest got the message - and got themselves jobs in the west, where they were received warmly and given high positions. Other millions of Iraqis, just ordinary Iraqis, left and are leaving - without plans and with much hope."

In 2004, the Americans triggered a second wave of refugees when they began to attack and invade insurgent strongholds, as they did the Sunni city of Falluja in November 2004, using the full kinetic force of their military. Whether the Americans called for evacuation or not, large numbers of local residents were forced to flee battleground neighborhoods or cities. The process was summarized in a thorough review of the history of the war compiled by the Global Policy Forum and 35 other international non-governmental organizations:

"Among those who flee, the most fortunate are able to seek refuge with out-of-town relatives, but many flee into the countryside where they face extremely difficult conditions, including shortages of food and water. Eventually the Red Crescent, the UN or relief organizations set up camps. In Falluja, a city of about 300,000, over 216,000 displaced persons had to seek shelter in overcrowded camps during the winter months, inadequately supplied with food, water, and medical care. An estimated 100,000 fled al-Qaim, a city of 150,000, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS). In Ramadi, about 70 percent of the city's 400,000 people left in advance of the U.S. onslaught. "These moments mark the beginning of Iraq's massive displacement crisis."

While most of these refugees returned after the fighting, a significant minority did not, either because their homes (or livelihoods) had been destroyed, or because they were afraid of continuing violence. Like the economically displaced of the previous wave, these refugees sought out new areas that were less dangerous or more prosperous, including neighboring countries. And, as with that first wave, it was the professionals as well as the technical and managerial workers who were most likely to have the resources to leave Iraq.

In early 2005 the third wave began, developing by the next year into the veritable tsunami of ethnic cleansing and civil war that pushed vast numbers of Iraqis from their homes. The precipitating incidents, according to Ali Allawi - the Iraqi finance minister when this third wave began - were initially triggered by the second-wave-refugees pushed out of the Sunni city of Falluja in the winter of 2004:

"Refugees leaving Falluja had converged on the western Sunni suburbs of Baghdad, Amriya and Ghazaliya, which had come under the control of the insurgency. Insurgents, often backed by relatives of the Falluja refugees, turned on the Shi'a residents of these neighbourhoods. Hundreds of Shi'a families were driven from their homes, which were then seized by the refugees. Sunni Arab resentment against the Shi'a's 'collaboration' with the occupation's forces had been building up, exacerbated by the apparent indifference of the Shi'a to the assault on Falluja. "In turn, the Shi'a were becoming incensed by the daily attacks on policemen and soldiers, who were mostly poor Shi'a men. The targeting of Sunnis in majority Shi'a neighbourhoods began in early 2005. In the Shaab district of Baghdad, for instance, the assassination of a popular Sadrist cleric, Sheikh Haitham al-Ansari, led to the formation of one of the first Shi'a death squads The cycle of killings, assassinations, bombings and expulsions fed into each other, quickly turning to a full-scale ethnic cleansing of city neighbourhoods and towns."

The process only accelerated in early 2006, after the bombing of the Golden Dome in Samarra, a revered Shiite shrine, and crested in 2007 when the American military "surge" onto the streets of Baghdad loosened the hold of Sunni insurgents on many mixed as well as Sunni neighborhoods in the capital. During the year of the surge all but 25 or so of the approximately 200 mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad became ethnically homogenous. A similar process took place in the city's southern suburbs.

As minority groups in mixed neighborhoods and cities were driven out, they too joined the army of displaced persons, often settling into vacated homes in newly purified neighborhoods dominated by their own sect. But many, like those in the previous waves of refugees, found they had to move to new locales far away from the violence, including a large number who, once again, simply left Iraq. As with previous waves, the more prosperous were the most likely to depart, taking with them professional, technical, and managerial skills.

Among those who departed in this third wave was Riverbend, the pseudonymous "Girl Blogger from Baghdad," who had achieved international fame for her beautifully crafted reports on life in Iraq under the U.S. occupation. Her description of her journey into exile chronicled the emotional tragedy experienced by millions of Iraqis:

"The last few hours in the house were a blur. It was time to go and I went from room to room saying goodbye to everything. I said goodbye to my desk - the one I'd used all through high school and college. I said goodbye to the curtains and the bed and the couch. I said goodbye to the armchair E. and I broke when we were younger. I said goodbye to the big table over which we'd gathered for meals and to do homework. I said goodbye to the ghosts of the framed pictures that once hung on the walls, because the pictures have long since been taken down and stored away - but I knew just what hung where. I said goodbye to the silly board games we inevitably fought over - the Arabic Monopoly with the missing cards and money that no one had the heart to throw away "The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I've learned that the best technique is to avoid eye contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves... "How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and peace, safety? It's difficult to believe - even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can't hear the explosions..."

The Human Toll

The number of Iraqis who flooded neighboring lands, not to speak of even approximate estimates of the number of internal refugees, remains notoriously difficult to determine, but the most circumspect of observers have reported constantly accelerating rates of displacement since the Bush administration's March 2003 invasion. These numbers quickly outstripped the flood of expatriates who had fled the country during Saddam Hussein's brutal era.

By early 2006, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was already estimating that 1.7 million Iraqis had left the country and that perhaps an equal number of internal refugees had been created in the same three-year period. The rate rose dramatically yet again as sectarian violence and ethnic expulsions took hold; the International Organization for Migration estimated the displacement rate during 2006 and 2007 at about 60,000 per month. In mid 2007, Iraq was declared by Refugees International to be the "fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world," while the United Nations called the crisis "the worst human displacement in Iraq's modern history."

Syria, the only country that initially placed no restrictions on Iraqi immigration, had (according to UN statistics) taken in about 1.25 million displaced Iraqis by early 2007. In addition, the UN estimated that more than 500,000 Iraqi refugees were in Jordan, as many as 70,000 in Egypt, approaching 60,000 in Iran, about 30,000 in Lebanon, approximately 200,000 spread across the Gulf States, and another 100,000 in Europe, with a final 50,000 spread around the globe. The United States, which had accepted about 20,000 Iraqi refugees during Saddam Hussein's years, admitted 463 additional ones between the start of the war and mid-2007.

President Bush's "surge" strategy, begun in January 2007, amplified the flood, especially of the internally displaced, still further. According to James Glanz and Stephen Farrell of the New York Times, "American-led operations have brought new fighting, driving fearful Iraqis from their homes at much higher rates than before the tens of thousands of additional troops arrived." The combined effect of the American offensive and accelerated ethnic expulsions generated an estimated displacement rate of 100,000 per month in Baghdad alone during the first half of 2007, a figure that surprised even Said Hakki, the director of the Iraqi Red Crescent, who had been monitoring the refugee crisis since the beginning of the war.

During 2007, according to UN estimates, Syria admitted an additional 150,000 refugees. With Iraqis by then constituting almost 10% of the country's population, the Syrian government, feeling the strain on resources, began putting limits on the unending flood and attempted to launch a mass repatriation policy. Such repatriation efforts have, so far, been largely fruitless. Even when violence in Baghdad began to decline in late 2007, refugees attempting to return found that their abandoned homes had often either been badly damaged in American offensives or, more likely, appropriated by strangers (often of a different sect), or were in "cleansed" neighborhoods that were now inhospitable to them.

In the same years, the weight of displaced persons inside Iraq grew ever more quickly. Estimated by the UN at 2.25 million in September 2007, this tidal flow of internally displaced, often homeless, families began to weigh on the resources of the provinces receiving them. Najaf, the first large city south of Baghdad, where the most sacred Shiite shrines in Iraq are located, found that its population of 700,000 had increased by an estimated 400,000 displaced Shia. In three other southern Shia provinces, IDPs came by mid-2007 to constitute over half the population.

The burden was crushing. By 2007, Karbala, one of the most burdened provinces, was attempting to enforce a draconian measure passed the previous year: New residents would be expelled unless officially sponsored by two members of the provincial council. Other governates also tried in various ways, and largely without success, to staunch the flow of refugees.

Whether inside or outside the country, even prosperous families before the war faced grim conditions. In Syria, where a careful survey of conditions was undertaken in October 2007, only 24% of all Iraqi families were supported by salaries or wages. Most families were left to live as best they could on dwindling savings or remittances from relatives, and a third of those with funds on hand expected to run out within three months. Under this kind of pressure, increasing numbers were reduced to sex work or other exploitative (or black market) sources of income.

Food was a major issue for many families; according to the United Nations, nearly half needed "urgent food assistance." A substantial proportion of adults reported skipping at least one meal a day in order to feed their children. Many others endured foodless days "in order to keep up with rent and utilities." One refugee mother told McClatchy reporter Hannah Allam, "We buy just enough meat to flavor the food - we buy it with pennies... I can't even buy a kilo of sweets for Eid [a major annual celebration]."

According to a rigorous McClatchy Newspaper survey, most Iraqi refugees in Syria were housed in crowded conditions with more than one person per room (sometimes many more). Twenty-five percent of families lived in one-room apartments; about one in six refugees had been diagnosed with a (usually untreated) chronic disease; and one-fifth of the children had had diarrhea in the two weeks before being questioned. While Syrian officials had aided refugee parents in getting over two-thirds of school-aged children enrolled in schools, 46% had dropped out - due mainly to lack of appropriate immigration documents, insufficient funds to pay for school expenses, or a variety of emotional issues - and the drop-out rate was escalating. And keep in mind, the Iraqis who made it to Syria were generally the lucky ones, far more likely to have financial resources or employable skills.

Like the expatriate refugees, internally displaced Iraqis faced severe and constantly declining conditions. The almost powerless Iraqi central government, largely trapped inside Baghdad's Green Zone, requires that people who move from one place to another register in person in Baghdad; if they fail to do so, they lose eligibility for the national program that subsidizes the purchase of small amounts of a few staple foods. Such registration was mostly impossible for families driven from their homes in the country's vicious civil war. With no way to "register," families displaced outside of Baghdad entered their new residences without even the increasingly meager safety net offered by guaranteed subsidies of basic food supplies.

To make matters worse, almost three-quarters of the displaced were women or children and very few of the intact families had working fathers. Unemployment rates in most cities to which they were forced to move were already at or above 50%, so prostitution and child labor increasingly became necessary options. UNICEF reported that a large proportion of children in such families were hungry, clinically underweight, and short for their age. "In some areas, up to 90 per cent of the [displaced] children are not in school," the UN agency reported.

Losing Precious Resources

The job backgrounds of an extraordinary proportion of Iraqi refugees in Syria were professional, managerial, or administrative. In other words, they were collectively the repository of the precious human capital that would otherwise have been needed to sustain, repair, and eventually rebuild their country's ravaged infrastructure. In Iraq, approximately 10% of adults had attended college; more than one-third of the refugees in Syria were university educated. Whereas less than 1% of Iraqis had a postgraduate education, nearly 10% of refugees in Syria had advanced degrees, including 4.5% with doctorates. At the opposite end of the economic spectrum, fully 20% of all Iraqis had no schooling, but only a relative handful of the refugees arriving in Syria (3%) had no education. These proportions were probably even more striking in other more distant receiving lands, where entry was more difficult.

The reasons for this remarkable brain drain are not hard to find. Even the desperate process of fleeing your home turns out to require resources, and so refugees from most disasters who travel great distances tend to be disproportionately prosperous, as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans so painfully illustrated.

In Iraq, this tendency was enhanced by American policy. The mass privatization and de-Baathification policies of the Bush administration ensured that large numbers of professional, technical, and managerial workers, in particular, would be cast out of their former lives. This tendency was only exacerbated by the development of the kidnapping industry, focusing its attentions as it did on families with sufficient resources to pay handsome ransoms. It was amplified when some insurgent groups began assassinating remaining government officials, university professors, and other professionals.

The exodus into the Iraqi Diaspora has severely depleted the country's human capital. In early 2006, the United States Committee on Refugees and Immigrants estimated that a full 40% of Iraqi's professional class had left the country, taking with them their irreplaceable expertise. Universities and medical facilities were particularly hard hit, with some reporting less than 20% of needed staff on hand. The oil industry suffered from what the Wall Street Journal called a "petroleum exodus" that included the departure of two-thirds of its top 100 managers, as well as significant numbers of managerial and professional workers.

Even before the huge 2007 exodus from Baghdad, the United Nations Commissioner of Refugees warned that "the skills required to provide basic services are becoming more and more scarce," pointing particularly to doctors, teachers, computer technicians, and even skilled craftsmen like bakers.

By mid-2007, the loss of these resources was visible in the everyday functioning of Iraqi society. By then, medical facilities commonly required patients' families to act as nurses and technicians and were still unable to perform many services. Schools were often closed, or opened only sporadically, because of an absence of qualified teachers. Universities postponed or canceled required courses or qualifying examinations because of inadequate staff. At the height of an incipient cholera epidemic in the summer of 2007, water purification plants were idled because needed technicians could not be found.

The most devastating impact of the Iraqi refugee crisis, however, has probably been on the very capacity of the national government (which de-Baathification and privatization had already left in a fragile state) to administer anything. In every area that such a government might touch, the missing managerial, technical, and professional talent and expertise has had a devastating effect, with post-war "reconstruction" particularly hard hit. Even the ability of the government to disperse its income (mostly from oil revenues) has been crippled by what cabinet ministers have termed "a shortage of employees trained to write contracts" and "the flight of scientific and engineering expertise from the country."

The depths of the problem (as well as the massive levels of corruption that went with it) could be measured by the fact that the electrical ministry spent only 26% of its capital budget in 2006; the remaining three-quarters went unspent. Yet, at that level of disbursement, it still outperformed most government agencies and ministries in a major way. Under pressure from American occupation officials to improve its performance in 2007, the government made concerted efforts to increase both its budget and its disbursements for reconstruction. Despite initially optimistic reports, the news was grim by year's end. Actual expenditures on electrical infrastructure might, for example, have slipped to as low as 1% of the budgeted amount.

Even more symptomatic were the few successes in infrastructural rebuilding found by New York Times reporter James Glanz in a survey of capital construction throughout the country. Most of the successful programs he reviewed were initiated and managed by officials connected to local and provincial governments. They discovered that success actually depended on avoiding any interaction with the ineffective and corrupt central government. The provincial governor of Babil Province, Sallem S. al-Mesamawe, described the key to his province's success: "We jumped over the routine, the bureaucracy, and we depend on new blood - a new team." They had learned this lesson after using provincial money and local contractors to build a school, only to have it remain closed because the national government was unable to provide the necessary furniture.

The government's staggering institutional incapacity is, in fact, a complex phenomenon with many sources beyond the drain of human capital. The flood of managers, professionals, and technicians out of the country, however, has been a critical obstacle to any productive reconstruction. Worse yet, the departure of so many crucial figures is probably to a considerable extent irreversible, ensuring a grim near-future for the country. After all, this has been a "brain drain" on a scale seldom seen in our era.

Many exiles still intend to, even long to, return when (or if) the situation improves, but time is always the enemy of such intentions. The moment an individual arrives in a new country, he or she begins creating social ties that become ever more significant as a new life takes hold - and this is even truer for those who leave with their families, as so many Iraqis have done. Unless this network-building process is disrupted, for many the probability of return fades with each passing month.

Those with marketable skills, even in the dire circumstances facing most Iraqi refugees, have little choice but to keep seeking work that exploits their training. The most marketable are the most likely to succeed and so to begin building new careers. As time slips by, the best, the brightest, and the most important carriers of precious human capital are lost.

The Displacement Tsunami

The degradation of Iraq under the American occupation regime was what initially set in motion the forces that led to the exile of much of the country's most precious human resources - absolutely crucial capital, even if of a kind not usually considered when talk turns to investing in "nation building." How, after all, can you "reconstruct" the ravaged foundations of a bombed-out nation without the necessary professional, technical, and managerial personnel? Without them, Iraq must continue its downward spiral toward a nation of slum cities.

The orgy of failure and corruption in 2007 was an unmitigated disaster for Iraqi society, as well as an embarrassment for the American occupation. From the point of view of long-term American goals in Iraq, however, this storm cloud, like so many others, had a silver lining. The Iraqi government's incapacity to perform at almost any level became but further justification for the claims first made by L. Paul Bremer at the very beginning of the occupation: that the country's reconstruction would be best handled by private enterprise. Moreover, the mass flight of Iraqi professionals, managers, and technicians has meant that expertise for reconstruction has simply been unavailable inside the country. This has, in turn, validated a second set of claims made by Bremer: that reconstruction could only be managed by large outside contractors.

This neoliberal reality was brought into focus in late 2007, as the last of the money allocated by the U.S. Congress for Iraqi reconstruction was being spent. A "petroleum exodus" (first identified by the Wall Street Journal) had long ago meant that most of the engineers needed for maintaining the decrepit oil business were already foreigners, mostly "imported from Texas and Oklahoma." The foreign presence had, in fact, become so pervasive that the main headquarters for the maintenance and development of the Rumaila oil field in southern Iraq (the source of more than two-thirds of the country's oil at present) runs on both Iraqi and Houston time. The American firms in charge of the field's maintenance and development, KBR and PIJV, have been utilizing a large number of subcontractors, most of them American or British, very few of them Iraqi.

These American-funded projects, though, have been merely "stopgaps." When the money runs out, vast new moneys will be needed just to sustain Rumaila's production at its present level.

According to Harpers Magazine Senior Editor Luke Mitchell, who visited the field in the summer of 2007, Iraqi engineers and technicians are "smart enough and ambitious enough" to sustain and "upgrade" the system once the American contracts expire, but such a project would take upwards of two decades because of the compromised condition of the government and the lack of skilled local engineers and technicians. The likely outcome, when the American money departs, therefore is either an inadequate effort in which work proceeds "only in fits and starts;" or, more likely, new contracts in which the foreign companies would "continue their work," paid for by the Iraqi government.

With regard to the petroleum industry, therefore, what the refugee crisis guaranteed was long-term Iraqi dependence on outsiders. In every other key infrastructural area, a similar dependence was developing: electrical power, the water system, medicine, and food were, de facto, being "integrated" into the global system, leaving oil-rich Iraq dependent on outside investment and largesse for the foreseeable future. Now, that's a twenty-year plan for you, one that at least 4.5 million Iraqis, out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country as well, will be in no position to participate in.

Most horror stories come to an end, but the most horrible part of this horror story is its never-ending quality. Those refugees who have left Iraq now face a miserable limbo life, as Syria and other receiving countries exhaust their meager resources and seek to expel many of them. Those seeking shelter within Iraq face the depletion of already minimal support systems in degrading host communities whose residents may themselves be threatened with displacement.

From the vast out-migration and internal migrations of its desperate citizens comes damage to society as a whole that is almost impossible to estimate. The displacement of people carries with it the destruction of human capital. The destruction of human capital deprives Iraq of its most precious resource for repairing the damage of war and occupation, condemning it to further infrastructural decline. This tide of infrastructural decline is the surest guarantee of another wave of displacement, of future floods of refugees.

As long as the United States keeps trying to pacify Iraq, it will create wave after wave of misery.

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Michael Schwartz, professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency. This report on the Iraqi refugee crisis is from his forthcoming Tomdispatch book, War Without End: The Iraq Debacle in Context (Haymarket Books, June 2007). His work on Iraq has appeared on numerous Internet sites, including Tomdispatch, Asia Times, Mother Jones, and ZNET. His email address is Ms42@optonline.net.