Sunday, July 6, 2008

L.A., Miami Home Foreclosure Rates More Than Double

L.A., Miami Home Foreclosure Rates More Than Double

By Sharon L. Lynch

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New foreclosures almost quadrupled in Los Angeles and doubled in Miami in the second quarter, with as much as $5 billion worth of loans going bad in L.A. alone, the online real estate data company PropertyShark.com reported.

The number of homes scheduled for auction in Los Angeles rose 14,505 compared with 3,797 in the same period a year earlier, PropertyShark said in a report distributed by e-mail. In Miami-Dade County, the number climbed to 2,677 from 1,282.

``The foreclosure chart for Los Angeles is unfortunately starting to look like a ski jump,'' Adina Dumitru, a member of PropertyShark's foreclosure products team, said in the statement.

The percentage of U.S. homes in foreclosure more than doubled since December 2006 to about 2.5 percent this March, according to the Washington-based Mortgage Bankers Association. Defaults among subprime borrowers with poor or limited credit histories are driving the increase, along with the rising number of people unable to make payments on adjustable-rate mortgages that started out with low ``teaser'' interest rates that increase after two or three years.

PropertyShark didn't immediately have access to data on the total value of liens against properties being foreclosed on in Miami, spokesman Brian Scully said in response to an e-mailed question.

New York Foreclosures Rise

The company's report focused on four metropolitan areas, including New York City and Seattle.

New York's foreclosures climbed 49 percent, to include 961 properties with an average lien of $460,970 for a total of $424 million in outstanding debt. Los Angeles had about 15 times as many foreclosed properties set to be sold.

The $5 billion worth of outstanding liens against Los Angeles properties was four times as much as the same quarter of 2007, PropertyShark said.

The Palmdale Zip code of 93550 led Los Angeles County with the most trustee sales scheduled, followed by Zip code 93535 of Lancaster and 91342 for Los Angeles itself.

In Seattle, 493 new foreclosures were scheduled in the quarter, up nearly 48 percent from a year earlier.

PropertyShark counts properties scheduled for auction for the first time during the quarter as foreclosures and excludes homes that have been in and out of the foreclosure process or have been subject to auction delays. The data is collected from government records and legal notices.

All four of the areas surveyed showed increased foreclosures compared with the previous year and with the previous quarter.

The number of foreclosure sales slated in Los Angeles jumped 63 percent in the second quarter from the first quarter. The figure rose 28 percent in Seattle, 20 percent in Miami and 5 percent in New York.

The Ashes Have Been Passed To A New Generation

The Ashes Have Been Passed To A New Generation

By David Michael Green

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We live in the most astonishing of times, politically speaking.

And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

There is so much I would hate to try to have explain to an alien about our politics. Same with a human five centuries from now - it’s just that I’m not so sure there’ll be any.

In America, a regressive majority of one on the Supreme Court disappears a whole clause from the Second Amendment in order to interpret it favorably for an industry merchandizing mass quantities of small death machines. Thirty or forty thousand of us are swept away every year by these killers, but few find the coincidence of that fact with their ubiquitous presence - by some estimates, there is nearly one gun for every American nowadays - somehow noteworthy.

One president has oral sex in a private consensual relationship and lies about it, so right-wing freaks spend $40 million to investigate this most heinous of crimes and bring impeachment charges against a president for only the second time in American history. Meanwhile, one of their own admits to trashing the Constitution at every turn and isn’t even investigated, let alone impeached, let alone removed from office.

This same president plunges the world into war on the basis of non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but couldn’t be less concerned when North Korea actually goes nuclear on his watch. This president goes to war to bring democracy to the Arab world, but can’t even be bothered to pressure Egypt or Saudi Arabia to move a tad in that direction. This president uses an attack on the US to justify international belligerence and mass human rights violations, but doesn’t seem very interested in even attacking, let alone vanquishing, the supposed perpetrator.

The list of these political out-of-body experiences is as endless as it is absurd. I may not speak Martian very well, but even I can tell you what the look on the face of that little green feller with the antennae means. He’s thinking, “Wow, you humans are the strangest freaks in the galaxy, man!”

Well, actually, it’s not so much the entire species, but mostly just us especially twisted sisters manning the bridge over here in the, uh, world’s only superpower. Bad coincidence, eh? Even we wacky Gringos know that weapons and criminals make a bad combination, as do weapons and lunatics. So, what fool handed us the keys to this planetary oil tanker? Shouldn’t, like, um, the Swedes or the Norwegians be the world’s superpower? They seem harmless enough.

Yep, we could go on and on detailing the ludicrous inanities of American politics in the age of Bush (himself Exhibit A), but really my favorite has to be the case of global warming. In a society devoted like no other to the politics of fear, we have somehow managed to forget the one thing we should probably fear most.

Imagine if there was a meteor headed toward our one and only planet, with the potential to do devastating and possibly lethal damage to the planet. Imagine that we had the technological capability to divert the course of this weapon of the massiest mass destruction, and all we needed was the will to do so. And imagine that we chose to focus our society’s energies instead on … gay marriage. Or illegal immigration. Or premarital sex.

Not only would we screw up all of those policy areas, but we be toast anyhow, along with all our unmarried gays, undocumented workers and ‘virgin’ teenagers (who, have you seen, just become experts at anal and oral sex in order to avoid the forbidden standard kind?). Good lord, this is a society which desperately needs medication! Or maybe that’s the problem, and we desperately need to ditch all the brain-benders of every sort that we imbibe like candy.

Remember Dick Cheney’s ‘one percent doctrine’? He argued that if there’s even a one percent chance of a terrorist attack, you have to go on the offensive. Of course, reality external to the Vice President’s secret location tends to be a bit more nuanced than that, but that’s why everyone calls him Dick, I guess. Anyhow, there’s this little thing called cost-benefit analysis that seems to have gone sorely missing over the last, er, eight years or so. It was last seen flowing down the sewers of Baghdad. It would argue, for example, that yes, you should take threats seriously, but that if the solution to a one percent probability of danger that could threaten the lives of a thousand people is to adopt a policy which definitely kills 100 million of your own citizens, that’s probably a bad plan. Costs and benefits, you see. I mean, people can differ on this, of course, but I’d vote to take the one percent risk in such a case. At a minimum I’d certainly argue that we ought to weight the costs along with the benefits every once in a while. Admittedly, though, that’s not so helpful when you’re in the middle of trying to scare the hell out of people so they’ll vote for you, or acquiesce to your destructive policies.

But I digress. There is a monstrous catastrophe not only headed our way, but actually already here. I’m not a climatologist, but my sense from paying attention to media reporting on this issue over the last two decades is that there is not only a one percent chance that global warming is both real and anthropogenic, but rather a ninety-five percent chance. Perhaps ninety-nine. Yep, sure, there are a few scientists out there still making the opposite argument. Probably some of them even aren’t on oil company payrolls! But the vast majority of reputable climate scientists now agree that this is happening, that we are making it happen, and that the results will be catastrophic. This, after ten and twenty years of a (somewhat) healthy scientific skepticism about those claims, which only further underscores the validity of the findings.

So what will they say about us five centuries from now - those very few, very toasty, remaining humans, living on mountain tops, the only dry land to be found? What they’ll say is probably unprintable in any family newspaper, that’s for sure. But in-between the expletives I think you’d be likely to find words like … “unconscionable” … “breathtakingly stupid” … “astonishingly selfish” … and, “If you weren’t already dead I’d kill you!”

Last week we had James Hansen reminding Congress, twenty years after originally doing so, of the gravity of this situation. One of the top scientists from one of America’s premier science agencies - who was told, by the way, to shut the hell up by the Bush administration - was reminding us yet again that we are facing mass species extinctions and ecosystem collapse among the lovely perils awaiting us if we continue in the current direction. Assuming, that is, that it isn’t already far too late to turn it around now.

Think about that for a second: Mass extinction. Ecosystem collapse. Meteor. Ninety-five or better percent chance.

Gay marriage.

Takes your breath right away, doesn’t it? There are certainly few better ways to underscore the full scope of the regressive nightmare haunting a country that likes to think of itself as the last, best hope of humanity. Fat chance of that. Indeed, we - or at least some of us - half-deserve this fate for choosing the likes of Nixon, Reagan, Bush, DeLay, Scalia and the rest these last decades. It’s the rest of the world I feel especially sorry for. Last, best hope? Jeez, the mercury had already burst out squirting from the top of my irony thermometer seven years ago. Somehow I don’t think so. Well, maybe the ‘last’ part…

And what’s especially killer about this particular issue is the degree to which the multiple maladies and solutions all line up so neatly. Sometimes the cosmos sends you a message in very subtle ways. Other times it beats you over the head with a two-by-four. Occasionally, it detonates a small nuclear device in your backyard swimming pool to get your attention.

We’re very much in the latter category right now. You don’t exactly have to do a full and complete inventory to figure this one out. Here, just take this pop quiz. Quick, now: What factor do all of the following items have in common: massive environmental devastation, skyrocketing transportation and food prices, a declining middle-class with disappearing jobs, and a war-prone and constant calamity-threatening Middle East continually sucking in American military involvement and nightmarishly distorting our foreign policy? (If you’re somehow still struggling with this, you may want to consider spending a little more time catching up with current events. Meanwhile, though, here’s a bonus hint for you: Alan Greenspan described this as the real reason America went to war in Iraq.)

Did you get it?!?! Okay! A+ for you! Now flip it on it’s head. What would be a way in which our society could address the massive threats of global warming, a sinking middle class with lousy jobs, poverty-inducing energy costs and military nightmares in the Middle East, all at once? How about if we made it a giant national priority to wean ourselves off carbon-based energy sources through a variety of policies mixing incentives and regulations, and a huge national effort to develop alternative fuel sources, with all the industrial development and good-paying jobs associated with launching such industries? You know. What did Jimmy Carter call it, thirty freakin’ years ago? “The moral equivalent of war”, wasn’t it? Too bad he was a failed president, though. Hardly invaded any other countries. What could he possibly have known?

Seriously, though, here’s a chance to go from the all-wrong scenario of environmental destruction / energy dependence / Middle East war / horrific gas prices / recession / middle class decline, over to the all-right scenario of sustainability / energy independence / peace / reasonable energy costs / economic development / prosperity - all in one fell swoop. I mean, I know that regressives have a problem with any policies that actually make sense, and I know that Americans are just about the dumbest branch of the homo politicus family tree, but isn’t this a no-brainer so obvious that even people who actually have no brains could figure it out?

So, last week James Hansen reminded us that we are headed for such joyous ‘lifestyle changes’ as mass extinction and ecosystem collapse. Of course, most regressives continued to pooh-pooh such warnings as some sort of liberal conspiracy to undermine capitalism. I must say, these people blow me away with their unflinching and robotic dogmatism. I mean, I get why they insist on the Earth being only 6,000 years old and anything having to do with sex being a major sin. They’re incredibly frightened, and these beliefs bring the existential comfort of order to an otherwise messy and capricious universe. But what’s up with middle class fools ardently supporting tax cuts for the wealthy? Or any human being in the whole world denying the near unanimous testimony of scientific experts regarding a planetary threat, because oil companies told them to do so? Do climatologists seriously strike anybody as crypto-anarchists masquerading as scientists in order to destroy capitalism? (Listen to some regressive kooks talk about global warming and you could easily think so.) And, if that was really their goal, wouldn’t there be a lot easier ways to crash the system than to go spend years getting a PhD, do a bunch of boring research for low pay, and grade a million mind-numbing term papers written by a million grammatically-challenged college sophomores?

Then there’s that pesky little problem of evidence. Every week there’s more, though hardly any quite as egregious as what you could have seen on CNN.com just a few days ago: “North Pole Could Be Ice-Free This Summer, Scientists Say”. Woo-hoo. No worries there, eh? Now if Adam and Steve get married in California or Massachusetts, that’s something to get worked up about. But the destruction of the Arctic ice cap? We’ve already got polar bears in zoos, so what’s the big damn deal? Prolly it’ll be easier to get to the oil up there without all that ice in the way, anyhow.

What will they say - assuming there are any they left to be saying - in five centuries about us nice folks who managed to bequeath the solar system a second Mercury where a green and fertile planet once stood, just so we could party a little longer? I’m not sure, but I don’t think it will be pretty. And I don’t think it will be, “Well, sure, they weren’t perfect. And, true, they wrecked the whole planet. But at least they kept boys from marrying other boys.”

These regressive fools and their pre-/anti-scientific religious superstitions just kill me.

And that’s just the problem. They’re killing all of us.

Praise the lord.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles ( mailto:dmg@regressiveantidote.net ), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net .

Why I’m Not Patriotic

Why I’m Not Patriotic

By Matthew Rothschild
(In memory of George Carlin.)

It’s July 4th again, a day of near-compulsory flag-waving and nation-worshipping. Count me out.

Spare me the puerile parades.

Don’t play that martial music, white boy.

And don’t befoul nature’s sky with your F-16s.

You see, I don’t believe in patriotism.

It’s not that I’m anti-American, but I am anti-patriotic.

Love of country isn’t natural. It’s not something you’re born with. It’s an inculcated kind of love, something that is foisted upon you in the home, in the school, on TV, at church, during the football game.

Yet most people accept it without inspection.

Why?

For when you stop to think about it, patriotism (especially in its malignant morph, nationalism) has done more to stack the corpses millions high in the last 300 years than any other factor, including the prodigious slayer, religion.

The victims of colonialism, from the Congo to the Philippines, fell at nationalism’s bayonet point.

World War I filled the graves with the most foolish nationalism. And Hitler and Mussolini and Imperial Japan brought nationalism to new nadirs. The flags next to the tombstones are but signed confessions-notes left by the killer after the fact.

The millions of victims of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot have on their death certificates a dual diagnosis: yes communism, but also that other ism, nationalism.

The whole world almost got destroyed because of nationalism during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The bloody battles in Serbia and Bosnia and Croatia in the 1990s fed off the injured pride of competing patriotisms and all their nourished grievances.

In the last five years in Iraq, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died because the United States, the patriarch of patriotism, saw fit to impose itself, without just cause, on another country. But the excuse was patriotism, wrapped in Bush’s brand of messianic militarism: that we, the great Americans, have a duty to deliver “God’s gift of freedom” to every corner of the world.

And the Congress swallowed it, and much of the American public swallowed it, because they’ve been fed a steady diet of this swill.

What is patriotism but “the narcissism of petty differences”? That’s Freud’s term, describing the disorder that compels one group to feel superior to another.

Then there’s a little multiplication problem: Can every country be the greatest country in the world?

This belief system magically transforms an accident of birth into some kind of blue ribbon.

“It’s a great country,” said the old Quaker essayist Milton Mayer. “They’re all great countries.”

At times, the appeal to patriotism may be necessary, as when harnessing the group to protect against a larger threat (Hitler) or to overthrow an oppressor (as in the anti-colonial struggles in the Third World).

But it is always a dangerous toxin to play with, and it ought to be shelved with cross and bones on the label except in these most extreme circumstances.

In an article called “Patriot Games” in the current issue of Time magazine (July 7), Peter Beinart, late of The New Republic, inspects his navel for seven pages and then throws the lint all around.

“Conservatives are right,” he says. “To some degree, patriotism must mean loving your country for the same reason you love your family: simply because it is yours.”

And then he criticizes, incoherently, the conservative love-it-or-leave-it types.

The moral folly of his argument he himself exposes: “If liberals love America purely because it embodies ideals like liberty, justice, and equality, why shouldn’t they love Canada-which from a liberal perspective often goes further toward realizing those principles-even more? And what do liberals do,” he asks, “when those universal ideals collide with America’s self-interest? Giving away the federal budget to Africa would probably increase the net sum of justice and equality on the planet, after all. But it would harm Americans and thus be unpatriotic.”

This is a straw man if I ever I saw one, but if the United States gave a lot more of its budget to eradicating poverty and disease in Africa and other parts of the developing world, it might actually make us all safer.

At bottom, note how readily Beinart disposes of “liberty, justice, and equality.”

He has stripped patriotism to its vacuous essence: Love your country because it’s yours.

If we stopped that arm from reflexively saluting and concerned ourselves more with “universal ideals” than with parochial ones, we’d be a lot better off.

We wouldn’t be in Iraq, we wouldn’t have besmirched ourselves at Guantanamo, we wouldn’t be acting like some Argentinean junta that wages illegal wars and tortures people and disappears them into secret dungeons.

Love of country is a form of idolatry.

Listen, if you would, to the wisdom of Milton Mayer, writing back in 1962 a rebuke to JFK for his much-celebrated line: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Mayer would have none of it. “When Mr. Kennedy spoke those words at his inaugural, I knew that I was at odds with a society which did not immediately rebel against them,” he wrote. “They are the words of totalitarianism pure; no Jefferson could have spoken them, and no Khrushchev could have spoken them better. Could a man say what Mr. Kennedy said and also say that the difference between us and them is that they believe that man exists for the State and we believe that the State exists for man? He couldn’t, but he did. And in doing so, he read me out of society.”

When Americans retort that this is still the greatest country in the world, I have to ask why.

Are we the greatest country because we have 10,000 nuclear weapons?

No, that just makes us enormously powerful, with the capacity to destroy the Earth itself.

Are we the greatest country because we have soldiers stationed in more than 120 countries?

No, that just makes us an empire, like the empires of old, only more so.

Are we the greatest country because we are one-twentieth of the world’s population but we consume one-quarter of its resources?

No, that just must makes us a greedy and wasteful nation.

Are we the greatest country because the top 1 percent of Americans hoards 34 percent of the nation’s wealth, more than everyone in the bottom 90 percent combined?

No, that just makes us a vastly unequal nation.

Are we the greatest country because corporations are treated as real, live human beings with rights?

No, that just enshrines a plutocracy in this country.

Are we the greatest country because we take the best care of our people’s basic needs?

No, actually we don’t. We’re far down the list on health care and infant mortality and parental leave and sick leave and quality of life.

So what exactly are we talking about here?

To the extent that we’re a great (not the greatest, mind you: that’s a fool’s game) country, we’re less of a great country today.

Because those things that truly made us great-the system of checks and balances, the enshrinement of our individual rights and liberties-have all been systematically assaulted by Bush and Cheney.

From the Patriot Act to the Military Commissions Act to the new FISA Act, and all the signing statements in between, we are less great today.

From Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Force Base and Guantanamo, we are less great today.

From National Security Presidential Directive 51 (giving the Executive responsibility for ensuring constitutional government in an emergency) to National Security Presidential Directive 59 (expanding the collection of our biometric data), we are less great today.

From the Joint Terrorism Task Forces to InfraGard and the Terrorist Liaison Officers, we are less great today.

Admit it. We don’t have a lot to brag about today.

It is time, it is long past time, to get over the American superiority complex.

It is time, it is long past time, to put patriotism back on the shelf-out of the reach of children and madmen.

Marching Toward Hell

Marching Toward Hell

By Jim Miles

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Michael Scheuer's new work "Marching Toward Hell" is very clear with its overall purpose of exposing where American interests have gone wrong in their interactions with the various peoples, beliefs, and religions of the Middle East. As an ex-CIA agent specifically working on gathering information on Osama bin Laden and al Queda, Scheuer appears to have a solid background of information on the message and intentions of bin Laden. He also has a solid perspective of putting ‘America first' that more often than not contradicts the neo-traditional view of American exceptionalism and unilateralism.

There are moments when his obvious pro-American rhetoric becomes too edgy, but given the nature of his career and his place within the American establishment, those moments can be seen as a natural part of his personal paradigm - America first, quit the stupidity of a foreign policy that only attracts more people of the world to dislike, hate, and attack us. There are several main ideas that run through the course of the work, each receiving slightly different emphasis as time and place changes through events.

Scheuer starts very strongly, stating that his goal is to "reconstruct how the United States found itself in an untenable set of foreign policies and national-security strategies" on 9/11; and secondly, to explain and "assess the costs of the U.S. government's stubborn and obviously losing rearguard action to maintain these catastrophically deficient policies and strategies." The latter idea he reinforces consistently and very simply by stating throughout the book that, yes, the U.S. has lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, always referring to the loss in past tense - not that it is a possibility but that it has already happened.

Associated with the maintenance of the catastrophic policies he argues effectively "policy makers from both parties...must stand guilty of wilful historical ignorance, a paucity of common sense, and...a disastrous degree of intellectual hubris." That statement is no news for many who have opposed war from a well-informed perspective, but to an American audience, coming from someone obviously proud of their country in many other respects, it is a clear stark statement of culpability in the disasters in the Middle East.


Ignorant elites


From that starting point the concept of ignorance is also tied in with the "elites", not well defined, but obviously intended to mean the foreign policy decision makers and power controllers in a fully bipartisan critique. The elites reveal a "staggering level of ignorance and dishonesty," "ignorant of history," hold "those who have made it in contempt," the seeming "permanent obtuseness of their [Americans] elite," and a "wilful blindness to this reality."

The reality that the elite are blinded to in the realm of foreign policy carries several facets. First he recognizes that "the energy resources upon which the U.S. economy depends are controlled by foreigners, among whom are Muslim leaders." Secondly he understands that "our immense and growing debt," which allows the continuation of the war effectively subsidized by possible economic/ strategic opponents, "is increasingly held by" foreigners who are either economic rivals or energy masters who "run directly counter to U.S. national security interests." Finally, and this is repeated at intervals throughout the book, the elite "has put the United States in the addle-brained position of backing both sides in a vicious religious war between Israelis and Arabs, thereby making us part of an endless war in which we have nothing at stake but the emotions, religious affiliation, and divided loyalties of two small segments of our population."


Israeli Firsters

Scheuer recognizes the power of one of those "small segments." It is not so much the Israeli lobby itself that he criticizes, but the "Israeli-firsters," those of the elite who whole-heartedly adopt the cause of Israel as the cause of America. He describes them as "dangerous men...seeking to place de facto limitations on the First Amendment to protect the nation of their primary attachment [Israel]." He vociferously denies that "to believe that relationship is not only a burden but a cancer on America's ability to protect its genuine national interests...equates to either anti-Semitism or a lack of American patriotism." He concludes that these elite Israeli-firsters "are either the most suspect in the realm of loyalty or simply resolute liars who champion the fantasy of identical U.S. and Israeli national interests."

Within his extensive and well referenced notes, a worthy read for further details and support, Scheuer says "it ought to be a source of pride for Israeli citizens" for the success of their intelligence services, but it also "speaks volumes abut the gullibility or cupidity of the U.S. governing elite." That note follows a text comment on "what can only be describes as superbly effective covert political action by Israel's intelligence services [remember the author's CIA experience for this perspective]." The issue of foreign policy with Israel is "perhaps the only one that is certainly immune to challenge or change." American policy towards Israel is "absolutely irrelevant and manifestly counterproductive to the national-security interest of the United States," and further "Americans and their future are put increasingly at risk," as Israel "contributes nothing to America's economic welfare or strategic security but is a drain on both."

Scheuer also recognizes the contradiction in Israel demanding that the "fairly and democratically elected Hamas government...must renounce a large part of the basis for its election." Accordingly it seems clear that the "right to exist is based not on a right at all but on one side's ability to coerce abject surrender from the other." Americans themselves do not demand a right to exist, and "has no more right to exist than does Israel, Palestine, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia, Belgium or Russia."

All this on Israel is the first part of the "shackles" placed on American foreign policy.


Oil, Saudi Arabia, and bin Laden

The second shackle is oil. What common sense is there to a foreign policy that after the Saudi demonstration of intent with the oil embargo in 1973, continued to rely on that same country for its energy sources? In his usual bold strongly worded manner of criticism, Scheuer says "shortsightedness, negligence, and stupidity were and are blatant in Washington's decisions to tie U.S. national security to that of another nation-state, and to acquiesce in ceding to the anti-American Saudis control over U.S. access to the strategic commodity of oil," leaving American governments with "virtually no room to manoeuvre in the Muslim world," leading directly into "bin Laden's well-laid trap."

Unlike the popular media that echoes the mindless semi-theological name calling from the elite - use of the words such as "evil", "wickedness", "savages", "immoral" - Scheuer does not underestimate his opponent. Quite the opposite as he says of bin Laden that his "focus on the impact of U.S. foreign policies in the Muslim world suggest either genius or extraordinary good luck." Not having much belief in the significance of luck he continues, "I think it is best to give America's most dangerous enemy the benefit of the doubt and judge bin Laden to be a near political genius."

Scheuer's position arises from examining the consistent wording, demands, and actions from bin Laden himself. Well before 9/11 the CIA had information on the tactics and whereabouts of bin Laden, information not utilized to capture or kill him because, as Scheuer sees it, the leaders, the elite, always had other "nuances in international politics" that trumped any actual attack on bin Laden himself. It might need to be considered that the elite needed someone like bin Laden in order to push forward with their own designs, however misguided they might be. Bin Laden, unlike the Iranian Ayatollahs who have played the American game of labelling the other "evil" and "wicked", has consistently put forth several demands that are the ‘trap' into which the Americans have stepped.

Bin Laden's demands are quite explicit and clear, and unlike the projections from Bush and his coterie of neocons, it has nothing to do with "They hate us because of our freedoms." Scheuer lists them as "precise, limited, and consistent": U.S. presence on the Arab Peninsula; unqualified support of Israel; support for states oppressing Muslims (e.g. Russia); exploitation of oil resources; military presence throughout Islamic world; and U.S. support and funding of Arab police states. Each step the U.S. has taken with its foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia and Africa has only provided support for bin Laden's contentions and "have strengthened bin Laden's argument in the minds of hundreds of million of Muslims."

The focus on U.S. foreign policy produces a "glue of unity" for the "diversity of a highly fragmented Islamic civilization"; "those who argue that hatred of U.S. lifestyles and electoral process motivates our Islamist enemies....is either sadly stupid or a studied liar." Another additional fear factor dispelled is that of global jihad. None of bin Laden's focus as presented above has anything to do with Muslim global domination, and this as well fits into the recognition of his activities of a defensive jihad against transgressions on Muslim territory, not against American activities in other parts of the world.

Solutions explicit but undefined


The shackles of oil and Israel, the elitist ignorance of the American government, the antagonism of the Muslim world supported by the predictions and indictments of bin Laden have created a losing position for the Americans no matter what they attempt to do. The height of the hypocrisy and ignorance are Americans blaming the Iraqis and Afghanis for not being able to put together a decent democratic society in the American image. Scheuer works within the realm of American exceptionalism with one major qualification, "American democracy and republicanism are unique and largely unexportable.[italics added]" The theme of "arrogance...ignorance and naiveté" of the elite is reiterated for American leaders "trying to install America's system in devoutly Islamic lands."

His answers are not as well developed as his testament to the losing cause of the current foreign policy based on the six elements of bin Laden's basic demands listed above. However, he is quite explicit in saying America first (domestic policy trumps foreign policy, let's do something about our own class divisions first), forget about supporting Israel and being dragged into any war it wants; physically secure the U.S. (border fences, trenches, watch towers, minefields) - a bit of a paradox in his arguments here as means of separation are highly porous and expensive, and in this case, in my mind, only reinforce the militant insularity of the American elite; state control over militias; congressional control over declarations of war rather than the "tyranny...where the decision to go to war rests with one individual;" energy independence; and finally, a foreign policy toward the Islamic world that is "noninterventionist, commerce oriented, non-ideological, focussed on life and death national interests."

The latter statement is a weakness throughout the work, in that while advocating to leave the Muslim world alone, Scheuer does not define what his perceived "life and death interests" are, certainly not domestic policy of an American firster, one would hope. He does not indicate what the national security interests of the U.S. are. All U.S. presidents since Eisenhower have indicated that oil is of strategic interest to the U.S. How will that be handled, other than the vague reference to energy independence? What then are the U.S. national interests that would lead to American intervention abroad, if any? Commercial interests in the past as with Latin America? And what of the CIA's own role in undermining various governments and associations since the 1950s, will that continue?

A final note on Scheuer's position with the CIA. He admits that he is one to have initiated the rendition program but says that the way it was intended to be used is not how it actually was used - a valid idea, good intentions, with different outcomes. As one of his underlying themes throughout his book is that of "unintended but predictable consequences" regardless of intent, he loses his argument in this case, as he does not seem to have been able to predict or foresee that a rendition program, to states that do use torture and do not have the legal protections as provided by U.S. law, would have many negative consequences, both for the individual and for the reality and perceptions of American foreign policy as well.

There are moments of Scheuer's own America-centrism that are not easy to accept but do not detract validity from his arguments to any degree (as with Ronald Reagan being the unqualified conquering hero of the Soviet Union). Otherwise "Marching Toward Hell" is a readily accessible read and Scheuer has supported well his ideas on bin Laden and why America has lost the wars in the Middle East. He does not mince his words, and will probably make many enemies at home, but his arguments will not be defeated by rhetoric and hubris alone, the main weapons the elite would have against him.

- Marching Toward Hell - America and Islam after Iraq. Michael Scheuer. Free Press (Simon & Schuster), New York, 2008.

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.

Bush-Cheney Crony Got Iraq Oil Deal

Bush-Cheney Crony Got Iraq Oil Deal

By Jason Leopold

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Ray Hunt, the Texas oil man who landed a controversial oil production deal with Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government, has enjoyed close political and business ties with Vice President Dick Cheney dating back a decade – and to the Bush family since the 1970s.

Despite those longstanding connections – and Hunt’s work for George W. Bush as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board – the Bush administration expressed surprise when Hunt Oil signed the agreement last September.

At that time, administration officials said Hunt Oil’s deal with the Kurds jeopardized delicate negotiations among competing Iraqi sects and regions for sharing oil revenues, talks seen as vital for achieving national reconciliation.

“I know nothing about the deal,” President Bush said. “To the extent that it does undermine the ability for the government to come up with an oil revenue sharing plan that unifies the country, obviously if it undermines it I’m concerned.”

However, on July 2, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released documents showing that senior administration officials were aware that Hunt was negotiating with the Kurdistan government and even offered him encouragement.

Hunt also personally alerted Bush’s PFIAB about his oil company’s confidential contacts with Kurdish representatives.

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, committee chairman, complained that the administration’s comments last year were “misleading.”

“Documents obtained by the Committee indicate that contrary to the denials of Administration officials, advisors to the President and officials in the State and Commerce Departments knew about Hunt Oil’s interest in the Kurdish region months before the contract was executed,” Waxman wrote.

Waxman said the Hunt-Kurdish case also raised questions about the veracity of similar administration denials about its role in arranging more recent contracts between Iraq and major U.S. and multinational oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Chevron.

Plus, there’s the longstanding suspicion that oil was a principal, though unstated, motive behind the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, which sits on the world’s second-largest oil reserves.

Administration officials – and much of the mainstream U.S. media – have ridiculed the oil motive charge as a conspiracy theory.

Oil Deals

But many of the oil companies now stepping forward to benefit from Iraqi oil were instrumental in both supporting Bush’s political career and giving advice to Cheney’s secretive energy task force in 2001.

For instance, Ray Hunt’s personal relationship with the Bush family dates back to the 1970s as Hunt, the chief of Dallas-based Hunt Oil, helped build the Texas Republican Party as it served as a power base for the Bushes rise to national prominence.

The Hunt family donated more than $500,000 to Republican campaigns in Texas, while Hunt Oil employees and their spouses gave more than $1 million to Republican causes since 1995, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Ray Hunt also had strong ties to Dick Cheney during his years at the helm of Halliburton, the Houston-based oil-services giant. In 1998, Cheney tapped Hunt to serve on Halliburton’s board of directors, where Hunt became a compensation committee member setting Cheney’s salary and stock options.

In 1999, when Texas Gov. George W. Bush was running for the Republican presidential nomination, Bush turned to Hunt to help fund his presidential campaign efforts in Iowa, according to Robert Bryce’s book, Cronies: Oil, The Bushes, And The Rise Of Texas, America's Superstate.

“By the summer of 1999, Bush had already raised $37 million but he wanted to conserve his campaign cash so he turned to a Texas crony, Ray Hunt, to help fund the Iowa effort,” Bryce wrote. “In July of 1999, Hunt was among a handful of Bush supporters who each donated $10,000 to the Iowa Republican party.”

In May 2000, Bush appointed Hunt finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Hunt also donated $5,000 to the Florida recount battle and spent $100,000 on Bush’s inaugural party.

Bush Presidency

When Bush became President in 2001, Hunt emerged as an advisor to Cheney’s energy task force, according to highly placed executives at Hunt Oil whom I have been in contact with over the past seven years.

Bush also appointed Hunt to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and to the PFIAB, giving him access to highly classified information.

Hunt’s son, Hunter, a vice president at Hunt Oil, became another top energy advisor to the new administration, the company’s Web site said.

One of the topics before Cheney’s task force was the hoped-for opportunity for American oil companies to regain access to Iraq’s underdeveloped oil fields as a way to meet increasing U.S. energy demands.

That opportunity opened up after the U.S.-led invasion and conquest of Iraq in March and April of 2003, although a stubborn insurgency and political disarray slowed efforts to modernize the Iraqi oil industry.

Further bolstering Hunt Oil’s influence in the region in November 2003, Bush named James Oberwetter, a Hunt Oil vice president, to be U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Hunt Oil finally nailed down a major oil agreement with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Sept. 7, 2007. But the deal outraged many Iraqi officials because it was enacted before a national law could be adopted on the distribution of oil revenues. Bush administration officials also criticized the deal.

At the time, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, questioned whether Ray Hunt benefited from inside information from Bush, Cheney and/or other White House officials about Iraq’s stalled national oil law.

"As I have said for five years, this war is about oil,” Kucinich said. “The Bush administration desires private control of Iraqi oil, but we have no right to force Iraq to give up their oil. … The constitution of Iraq designates that the oil of Iraq is the property of all Iraqi people."

Amazon Pipeline

The production-sharing agreement Hunt Oil signed with the Kurds is not the company’s first controversial energy project. Nor is it the first time the company has received help from the Bush administration for its work overseas, as documents obtained by Waxman’s investigators show.

In August 2003, the Bush administration threw its support behind the Camisea gas-pipeline project in the Amazon jungle in Peru that drew international criticism because it threatened to destroy a pristine stretch of rainforest and jeopardized the lives of indigenous people.

The London Independent reported that the beneficiaries of the project “would be two Texas energy companies with close ties to the White House, Hunt Oil and Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton.” [Independent, Aug. 4, 2003]

When the pipeline deal went through, Hunt hired Halliburton to conduct the engineering work on the project as well as to build a $1 billion export terminal on the coast.

“Bush Pioneer Jose Fourquet played a pivotal role in the financing of a massive Peruvian natural gas project that benefited Hunt Oil Co., whose chairman, Ray L. Hunt, signed up to be a Pioneer and is a longtime ally of the president,” the Washington Post reported on May 17, 2004.

“Fourquet, the Treasury Department's U.S. representative to the Inter-American Development Bank, rebuffed the official written and oral recommendation from other U.S. officials to vote ‘no’ on the project.

“Instead, he abstained on $135 million in financing for the project, allowing it to proceed. Opposition from the United States, a primary funder of the IDB bank, would have jeopardized the deal,” the Washington Post reported.

Wink and Nod

Now, the new evidence suggests that Hunt Oil at least benefited from the administration’s wink and nod in striking the Kurdish oil deal.

In a July 12, 2007, letter to PFIAB, Hunt disclosed that Hunt Oil was “approached a month or so ago by representatives of a private group in Kurdistan as to the possibility of our becoming interested in that region.”

Hunt described a visit of a Hunt Oil survey team and stated, “we were encouraged by what we saw. We have a larger team going back to Kurdistan this week.”

In a second letter to PFIAB, dated Aug. 30, 2007, Hunt revealed that he would travel to Kurdistan in early September for meetings with the Kurdistan regional government, including its president, prime minister and oil minister.

Those meetings led to the oil agreement between Hunt Oil and the Kurdish leaders -- and now have raised questions about Bush’s denial that he had any advanced knowledge about the deal.

“State Department officials similarly disavowed involvement in the contract,” Waxman said in the letter to Rice. “Department officials claimed that to the extent they were aware of any negotiations, they actively warned Hunt Oil not to enter into a contract because it was contrary to U.S. national security interests.

“Documents obtained by the Committee indicate that contrary to the denials of Administration officials, advisors to the President and officials in the State and Commerce Departments knew about Hunt Oil’s interest in the Kurdish region months before the contract was executed.”

Waxman asked Rice to cooperate with the committee’s investigation. Hunt Oil declined to comment on Ray Hunt’s relationship with Bush or his administration.

Cause for Alarm

Cause for Alarm

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Beaches, barbecues and flags as big as baseball fields. Fireworks as loud as thunder lighting the nighttime sky. Hot fun, as Sly & the Family Stone would say, in the summertime.

Friday was the 232nd anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Celebrations were ubiquitous. HBO offered a marathon telecast of its John Adams series. Bands of wildly varying quality, from one coast to the other, let loose with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

It was a July Fourth like many others. There was nothing overt to signal anything was wrong. The Red Sox had traveled from Boston to play a weekend series against the Yankees in the Bronx. In Washington, the National Independence Day Parade made its way along Constitution Avenue.

And yet, there was an undercurrent of anxiety in the land. Vacations have been curtailed because of the price of fuel. Since the holiday fell on a Friday, the monthly unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics were released a day early, on Thursday. They weren’t good. The Times summed things up with a Page 1 headline:

“Outlook Darker as Jobs Are Lost and Wages Stall.”

The high and the low were being buffeted. The bad news bears were loose on Wall Street, and the prospects for the summer employment of teenagers were abysmal. The national employment rate for teens in June was the lowest in 60 years.

But the anxiety seems more intense than the usual concern for a cyclical economic downturn. Something fundamental seems to have gone haywire. David Boren, a former U.S. senator who is now president of the University of Oklahoma, has written a short book that he called, “A Letter to America.”

His sense of alarm in the opening paragraph could not have been clearer. “The country we love is in trouble,” he said. “In truth, we are in grave danger of declining as a nation. If we do not act quickly, that decline will become dramatic.”

I couldn’t agree more. The symbols of patriotism — bumper stickers and those flags the size of baseball fields — have taken the place of the hard work and sacrifice required to keep a great nation great.

You know that matters have gotten out of hand when, as we learned this week, American instructors at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, gave classes on torture techniques used by the Communists to extract false testimony from American prisoners during the Korean War.

Talk about defining deviancy down! As Al Gore reminds us, this is the first time in American history that “the executive branch of the government has not only condoned but actively promoted the treatment of captives in wartime that clearly involves torture, thus overturning a prohibition established by Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War.”

There are signs galore of the nation’s turn for the worse. We are fighting a debilitating war in Iraq without any idea of how to pay for it — or how to end it. No one has any real idea about how to cope with the devastating energy crisis, or how to turn the economy around.

The airline industry is a first-class mess and the knees of the General Motors colossus have buckled. Locks are being changed on foreclosed homes across the country and working families lucky enough to meet their mortgages are watching the value of their homes decline.

We can build spectacular new stadiums for football and baseball teams (the Yanks, the Mets, the Giants and the Jets are all getting ready to move into staggeringly expensive new homes) but we can’t rebuild New Orleans or reconstruct the World Trade Center site destroyed almost seven years ago.

This year’s presidential election is the perfect opportunity to place the truth before the American public in the form of a realistic examination of the state of the nation, and an honest consideration of creative ideas for moving forward. Instead, we’re getting hour after hour and day after day of trivia: Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s patriotic? Who’s not?

Mr. Boren believes that the combination of unrestrained partisanship and the corrosive influence of big money have all but paralyzed the political process. He worries about the neglect of the nation’s infrastructure, about the growing divide between the very wealthy and everyone else, and about “the catastrophic drop in the way the rest of the world views us.”

The U.S., with its enormous economic and military power, is still better-positioned than any other country to set the standards for the 21st century. But that power and leadership potential were not granted by divine right and cannot be wasted indefinitely.

Patriotism has its place. But waving a flag is never a good substitute for serious thought and rolling up one’s sleeves.

Criticism of Israel Called ‘Unintentional Anti-Semitism’

Criticism of Israel Called ‘Unintentional Anti-Semitism’

By Rev. Ted Pike

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Are you an unintentional anti-Semite? The U.S. State Department’s “Office of Global Anti-Semitism” in its 2008 report to Congress warns not just of conscious, intentional anti-Semitism but of another lurking form of potential bigotry: unintentional anti-Semitism.

This consists of criticisms of Israel, which, though true, might be manipulated by others to Israel’s detriment. To avoid assisting Israel’s enemies, the State Department recommends that every comment about Israel (including its leaders and military) first be scrutinized for whether it could put Israel in a bad light. If so, it shouldn’t be said. Only then can we consider ourselves “free from anti-Semitism.”

What if you defy the government and go ahead and speak truthful criticisms of Israel, knowing that Israel’s detractors will probably use it against her? According to the Office of Global Anti-Semitism, one who assists anti-Semites is an anti-Semite.

However, people who don’t face reality hold back part of the truth. They consider too much truth to be potentially dangerous. Christian Evangelical leaders believe they protect Jews from possible persecution by censoring truth about Jewish supremacism and creation of Christian-persecuting hate laws. In reality, protection of Jewish anti-Christian activists empowers them to flourish and expand their corruption of society.

This, in turn, only increases criticism and resentment of all Jews—most of whom are innocent of such evil. Many bitterly resent the Anti-Defamation League, architect of hate laws, for the bad reputation it gives the Jewish people.

Evangelicals think that by only speaking well of Jews they are beyond the reproach of ever being labeled anti-Semitic. Wrong. The State Department says that if Christians believe the New Testament account that
Jewish leaders had Christ crucified they are the very worst kind of anti-Semites: “classical” anti-Semites. That’s what Hitler was.

To please both Jews and the government, evangelicals must now fulfill two criteria: Never say true but unflattering things about Israel and abandon belief in the New Testament.

Will evangelicals accommodate the State Department’s new requirement of philo-Semitic correctness? Countless followers of John Hagee already do. They agree with his book, In Defense of Israel, that the New Testament testimony that Jews killed Christ is an anti-Semitic lie that birthed the holocaust.

Yet, an increasing number of Americans are no longer content to be insulated from truth. Many visiting the Internet and www.truthtellers.org in particular are rediscovering an enormous reality: We don’t have to fear the
whole truth. Truth can be trusted entirely. Truth doesn’t beget error and evil; rather, it bears the good fruit of knowledge, wisdom, moderation, and guidance in a darkened, confused world.

This article has been shortened for space. The entirety of this article is available at www.truthtellers.org. Please visit the site.

SHOCKING REVELATION: U.S. POWS STILL IN LAOS

SHOCKING REVELATION: U.S. POWS STILL IN LAOS

AFP & others have said it for years; now proof emerges U.S. soldiers still held in Southeast Asian camps

By Christopher J. Petherick

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There is new evidence that American GIs are being held against their will in Southeast Asia more than three decades after the Vietnam War officially ended. A letter recently received by the father of a U.S. pilot, who went missing in action in 1971, could provide a key piece of information that proves American prisoners of war are alive and imprisoned in remote areas of South Vietnam.

Over the years, historians, researchers and independent journalists have made a compelling case that, during the Cold War, thousands of U.S. POWs were moved among Soviet, Chinese and North Korean labor camps, where they toiled and died under the worst conditions.

Families of POWs and MIAs say the U.S. government has turned a blind eye to the plight of these men, even going so far as to sabotage their efforts at finding out what exactly happened to their loved ones.*

But Joe Milliner’s incredible story of his son, told at the June 20 meeting of the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families in Crystal City, Va., could change all of that. Documentation compiled by Milliner could finally force the country to come to terms with the fact that thousands of Americans were abandoned by the U.S.

There is confusion over what happened to Milliner’s son, U.S. Army Warrant Officer William P. Milliner, when the helicopter he was co-piloting disappeared on March 6, 1971. What is known is that William, who was 20 years old at the time, was the co-pilot on an AH1G Cobra helicopter gunship. He was returning from a combat support mission over Laos when he disappeared in cloudy weather.

The military reportedly dispatched a search-and-rescue team to locate William and the pilot of the helicopter, John F. Hummel. Tragically, the two were never located, and the Army eventually gave up looking for them. Over the years, the Milliner family has never given up hope that their son would be found. As with many families of missing soldiers, the U.S. military has been unhelpful, some would even say willfully obstructing honest inquiries into what happened to lost loved ones.

However, recent events have renewed the Milliner’s faith that William is alive and is being held in Southeast Asia against his will, possibly as a slave laborer. The first occasion came as a result of a classified document, which was given to Milliner by a source inside the Pentagon who is sympathetic to MIA-POW families.

The official document was dated Oct. 4, 1989, and reports of a Thai businessman who said U.S. citizens, including a “William P. Milliner,” are being held in a dangerous “no-man’s land” controlled by thugs and warlords in a mountainous region in Laos.

A Thai businessman said he could secure William’s release if the U.S. government were willing to pay a ransom. According to Milliner, U.S. officials shot down any discussion of a reward, effectively killing off any hopes of freeing the American.

Were it not for his friend at the Pentagon, Milliner said the classified account of the exchange between U.S. officials in Thailand and the unnamed businessman was slated to be archived for 50 years and would not be released—even to family members—until 2039.

Since that time, Milliner says that there have been sporadic sightings of his son, including another U.S. document that claims warlords were seeking only $1,800 for the release of his son.

But the most compelling piece of evidence arrived just last year in the form of a letter from a doctor who had been working in Cambodia. According to Milliner, the physician’s account proves to him that his son is still alive somewhere in the jungle.

In September 2007, Milliner says, he received an unsigned letter from someone claiming to be a physician working in Cambodia and Laos.

The doctor wrote that, in early September 2007, he had treated an American man with certain tell-tale wounds. The doctor said that the patient was suffering from a poor amputation of his arm. He also described certain scars that matched other sightings of William that the Milliners have collected over the years.

The doctor said he was unnerved by the extent of secrecy surrounding this patient. He had been driven through the jungle for what he described as a long time, and he was allowed to bring just a few medical instruments and medicine—but no assistants.

The doctor wrote that the guards kept a close watch over this patient. However, in a free moment, the man said in perfect English, punctuated by some Vietnamese, that he is an American being held against his will.

Milliner received that letter in September of last year. Since then, Milliner says he believes the doctor now fears for his life and has gone into hiding. Over the years, he says, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) have both undermined efforts to help Americans who are still being held against their will. McCain and Kerry have both weighed in against offering reward money for the release of U.S. citizens who may still be in captivity in Laos, Vietnam, China and North Korea, said Milliner.
——
*For more read Perfidy: The Government Cabal That Knowingly Abandoned Our POWs and Left Them to Die by Sgt. John Top Holland and Fr. Patrick Bascio. Softcover 225 pages. Price: $25 for one copy. $19 per copy for active and retired U.S. military. Order from AFP, 645 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Suite 100, Washington, D.C. 20003. Call 1-888-699-NEWS toll free to charge. No S&H inside the U.S.

Christopher J. Petherick is AFP’s founding editor. He now runs BRANDYWINE HOUSE BOOKS & MEDIA, P.O. Box 638, Cheltenham, MD 20623. Toll free: 1-866-656-7583. www.BrandywineHouse.us.

Dean if New Englan law school : BUSH MUST BE PROSECUTED

BUSH MUST BE PROSECUTED

Law School Dean Says War Criminals Have to Be Punished

By Mark Anderson

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THE DEAN OF A NEW ENGLAND law school announced that the departure of President Bush next January may not provide him and his cronies with a sanctuary from justice. The message from Lawrence Velvel, dean and co-founder of the Massachusetts School of Law, is:

Where impeachment ends, an independent tribunal begins. Punishment of the guilty is being openly discussed by conference planners—including capital punishment.

As announced on the website After Downing Street.org, and confirmed for AFP by Dean Velvel, his assistant, Jeff Demers, and longtime publicist Sherwood Ross, a conference [see conference agenda on page 5—Ed.] is being called for by Velvel “to plan the prosecution of President Bush and other high administration officials for war crimes.” It will be held Sept. 13-14 at the school, a small, respected institution in Andover founded in 1988 that resisted the regulations and standards of the American Bar Association and instead sought accreditation through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Specifying what may shock readers of independent media—but which will never appear in the prostitute press—Velvel said the program “is not intended to be a mere discussion of violations of law that have occurred. It is, rather, intended to be a conference at which plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth” as stated in his column posted online June 24, on his “Velvel on National Affairs” blog.

“We must try to hold the Bush administration leaders accountable in courts of justice,” Velvel said. “And we must insist on appropriate punishments, including, if guilt is found, the hangings visited upon top German and Japanese war criminals in the 1940s. America’s chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Justice Robert Jackson, said we were invoking principles that would govern our nation as well as our defeated enemies. We must attempt to make a truth teller of Jackson, instead of allowing our leaders to make a liar of him.”

Velvel said this conference is intended to do away with the past practice of allowing U.S. officials responsible for war crimes (in Vietnam and elsewhere) to enjoy immunity from prosecution upon leaving office.

“President [Lyndon] Johnson retired to his Texas ranch, and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (a longtime Council on Foreign Relations fixture who also served in that position under JFK) was named to head the
World Bank; Richard Nixon retired to San Clemente, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger [a Bilderberg luminary] was allowed to grow richer and richer,” Velvel said, while citing former Kennedy/Johnson Secretary of State Dean Rusk as another unpunished wrong-doer.

“For Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and [torture advocate and Bush advisor] John Yoo to spend years in jail or go to the gallows for their crimes would be a powerful lesson to future U.S. leaders,” Velvel said.

The issues to be handled at the conference include the nature of domestic and international crimes committed; which high-level Bush officials, members of Congress and federal judges are chargeable with war crimes; and which foreign and domestic tribunals can be used to prosecute them.

“It is for all these reasons that I have called [the] conference . . . entitled Planning for the Prosecution of High-Level American War Criminals. . . . The underlying law and facts will be discussed in the context of laying plans to pursue the guilty in courtrooms so that in the future there may be no more Vietnams, no more Iraqs,” Velvel said. AFP interviewed Velvel June 24.

An “umbrella coordinating committee” also will be put together consisting of those from noted legal groups concerned about war crimes, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Constitutional Rights.

New York attorney Carl Person questioned if this conference will lead to real results. He wondered if subpoena power will be achieved. “There is no convening authority. Nobody has to come to testify,” he said, though he agrees justice should be sought.

Iran: War or Privatization: All Out War or "Economic Conquest"?

Iran: War or Privatization: All Out War or "Economic Conquest"?

By Michel Chossudovsky

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Is the war against Iran on hold?

Tehran is to allow foreign investors, in what might be interpreted as an overture to the West, to acquire full ownership of Iran's State enterprises in the context of a far-reaching "free market" style privatization program.

With the price of crude oil at 140 dollars a barrel, the Iranian State is not in a financial straightjacket as in the case of most indebted developing countries, which are obliged by their creditors to sell their State assets to pay off a mounting external debt. What are the political motivations behind this measure? And why Now?

Several Western companies have already been approached. Tehran will allow foreign capital "to purchase unlimited shares of state-run enterprises which are in the process of being sold off".

While Iran's privatization program was launched during the government of Mohammed Khatami in the late 1990s, the recent sell-off of shares in key state enterprises points to a new economic design. The underlying measure is far-reaching. It goes beyond the prevailing privatization framework applied in several developing countries within America's sphere of influence:

"The move is designed to attract greater foreign investment and is part of the country's sweeping economic liberalization program.

Iran will no longer make a distinction between domestic and foreign firms that wish to purchase state-run companies as long as the combined foreign ownership in any particular industry does not exceed 35%. ... As an example, a foreign firm may purchase an Iranian steel company but it would not be allowed to buy every business enterprise in Iran's steel industry.

Among the new incentive measures announced, foreign firms may also transfer their annual profit from their Iranian company out of the country in any currency they wish."

It is important to carefully analyze this decision. The timing of the announcement by Iran's Privatization Organization (IPO) coincides with mounting US-Israeli threats to wage an all out war against Iran.

Moreover, the divestment program is compliant with the demands of the "Washington Consensus". The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed, with some reservations, that Tehran is committed to a "continued transition toward a viable and efficient market economy" while also implying .that the building of "investor confidence" requires an acceleration of the privatization program.

In its May 2008 Review (Art. 4 Consultations), the IMF praised Tehran for its divestment program, which essentially transfers the ownership of State assets into private hands, while also underscoring that the program was being carried out in a speedily and efficient fashion.

Under the threat of war, is this renewed initiative by Tehran to privatize key industries intended to meet the demands of the Bush Administration?

The Bretton Woods institutions are known to directly serve US interests. They are not only in liaison with Wall Street and the US Treasury, they are also in contact with the US State Department, the Pentagon and NATO. The IMF-World Bank are often consulted prior to the onslaught of a major war. In the war's aftermath, they are involved in providing "post conflict reconstruction" loans. In this regard, the World Bank is a key player in channelling "foreign aid" to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The privatization measures suggest that Iran is prepared to allow foreign capital to gain control over important key sectors of the Iranian economy.

According to the chairman of the Iranian Privatization Organization (IPO) Gholamreza Kord-Zanganeh some 230 state-run companies are slated to be privatized by end of the Iranian year (March 2009). The shares of some 177 State companies were offered in Tehran Stock Exchange in the last Iranian year (ending March 2008).

Already the state-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) has indicated that "a number of foreign telcos have expressed an interest in acquiring its shares when the government sells off part of its interest in a month’s time. Local press reports did not name the potential investors. TCI has a monopoly in Iran’s fixed line market and is also the country’s largest cellular operator via its subsidiary MCI." France's Alcatel, the MTN Group of South Africa and Germany's Siemens already have sizeable interests in Iran's telecom industry.

Other key sectors of the economy including aluminum, copper, the iron and steel industry have recently been put up for privatization, with the shares of State companies floated on the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE)

More than Meets the Eye

Is this decision by Tehran to implement a far-reaching privatization program, in any way connected with continuous US saber rattling and diplomatic arm twisting?

At first sight it appears that Tehran is caving into Washington's demands so as to avoid an all war.

Iran's assets would be handed over on a silver platter to Western foreign investors, without the need for America to conquer new economic frontiers through military means?

But there is more than meets the eye.

Washington has no interest in the imposition of a privatization program on Iran, as an "alternative" to an all out war. In fact quite the opposite. There are indications that the Bush adminstration's main objective is to stall the privatization program.

Rather than being applauded by Washington as a move in the right direction, Tehran's privatization program coincides with the launching (May 2008) of a far-reaching resolution in the US Congress (H.CON. RES 362), calling for the imposition of Worldwide financial sanctions directed against Iran:

"[H. CON. RES. 362] urges the President, in the strongest of terms, to immediately use his existing authority to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, ... international banks which continue to conduct financial transactions with proscribed Iranian banks; ... energy companies that have invested $20,000,000 or more in the Iranian petroleum or natural gas sector in any given year since the enactment of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996; and all companies which continue to do business with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps."(See full text of H.CON RES 362) (emphasis added)

The resolution further demands that "the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran .... prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program."(emphasis added)

Were these economic sanctions to be carried out and enforced, they would paralyze trade and monetary transactions. Needless to say they would also undermine Iran's privatization program and foreclose the transfer of Iranian State assets into foreign hands.

Economic Warfare

Now why on earth would the Bush administration be opposed to the adoption of a neoliberal-style divestment program, which would strip the Islamic Republic of some of its most profitable assets?

If "economic conquest" is the ultimate objective of a profit driven military agenda, what then is the purpose of bombing Iran, when Iran actually accepts to hand over its assets at rock-bottom prices to foreign investors, in much the same way as in other compliant developing countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, etc?

The largest foreign investors in Iran are China and Russia.

While US companies are notoriously absent from the list of foreign direct investors, Germany, Italy and Japan have significant investment interests in oil and gas, the petrochemical industry, power generation and construction as well as in banking. Together with China and Russia, they are the main beneficiaries of the privatization program.

One of the main objectives of the proposed economic sanctions under H. RES CON 362 is to prevent foreign companies (including those from the European Union and Japan) , from acquiring a greater stake in the Iranian economy under Tehran's divestment program.

Other countries with major foreign investment interests in Iran include France, India, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland. Sweden's Svedala Industri has major interests in Iran’s copper mines.

France, Japan and Korea have interests in the automobile industry, in the form of licensing agreements with Iranian auto manufacturers.

Italy's ENI Oil Company is involved in the development of phases 4 and 5 of the South Pars oil field amounting to 3.8 billion dollars.(See Iranian Privatisation Organization, 2008 report) Total and the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Shell are involved in natural gas.

While the privatization process does not allow for the divestment of Iran's State oil company, it creates an environment which favors foreign investment by a number of countries including China, Russia, Italy, Malaysia, etc. in oil refinery, the petrochemical industry, the oil services economy as well as oil and gas infrastructure including exploration and oil-gas pipelines.

While several US corporations are (unofficially) conducting business in Iran, the US trade sanctions regime (renewed under the Bush adminstration) outlaws US citizens and companies from doing business in Iran. In other words, US corporations would not be allowed to acquire Iranian State assets under the privatisation program unless the US trade sanctions regime were to be lifted.

Moreover, all foreign firms are treated on an equal footing. There is no preferential treatment for US companies, no corrupt colonial style arrangement as in war-torn Iraq, which favors the outright transfer of ownership and control of entire sectors of the national economy to a handful of US corporations.

In other words, Tehran's privatization program does not serve US economic and strategic interests. It tends to favor countries which have longstanding trade and investment relations with the Islamic Republic.

It favors Chinese, Russian, European and Japanese investors at the expense of the USA.

It undermines and weakens American hegemony. It goes against Washington's design to foster a "unipolar" New World Order through both economic and military means.

And that is why Washington wants to shunt this program through a Worldwide economic sanctions regime which would, if implemented, paralyze trade, investment and monetary flows with Iran.

The proposed economic sanctions' regime under H. CON 362 is intended to isolate Iran and prevent the transfer of Iranian assets into the hands of competing economic powers including China, Russia, the European Union and Japan. It is tantamount to a declaration of war.

In a bitter irony, H CON 362 serves to undermine the economic interests of several of America's allies. The Resolution would prevent them from positioning themselves in the Middle East, despite the fact that these allies (e.g. France and Germany) are also involved through NATO in the planning of the war on Iran.

War and Financial Manipulation

The Bush administration has opted for an all out war on Iran in alliance with Israel, with a view to establishing an exclusive American sphere of influence in the Middle East.

A US-Israel sponsored military operation directed against Iran, would largely backlash on the economic and financial interests of several of America's allies, including Germany, Italy, France, and Japan.

More generally, a war on Iran would hit corporate interests involved in the civilian economy as opposed to those more directly linked to the military industrial complex and the war economy. It would undermine local and regional economies, the consumer manufacturing and services economy, the automobile industry, the airlines, the tourist and leisure economy, etc.

Moreover, an all out war feeds the profit driven agenda of global banking, including the institutional speculators in the energy market, the powerful Anglo-American oil giants and America's weapons producers, the big five defense contractors plus British Aerospace Systems Corporation, which play a major role in the formulation of US foreign policy and the Pentagon's military agenda, not to mention the gamut of mercenary companies and military contractors.

A small number of global corporations and financial institutions feed on war and destruction to the detriment of important sectors of economic activity, Broadly speaking, the bulk of the civilian economy is threatened.

What we are dealing with are conflicts and rivalries within the upper echelons of the global capitalist system, largely opposing those corporate players which have a direct interest in the war to the broader capitalist economy which ultimately depends on the continued development of civilian consumer and investment demand.

These vested interests in a profit driven war also feed on economic recession and financial dislocation. The process of economic collapse which results, for instance, from the speculative hikes in oil and food prices, triggers bankruptcies on a large scale, which ultimately enable a handful of global corporations and financial institutions to "pick up the pieces" and consolidate their global control over the real economy as well as over the international monetary system.

Financial manipulation is intimately related to military decision-making. Major banks and financial institutions have links to the military and intelligence apparatus. Advanced knowledge or inside information by these institutional speculators regarding specific "false flag" terrorist attacks, or military operations in the Middle East is the source of tremendous speculative gains.

Both the war agenda and the proposed economic sanctions regime trigger, quite deliberately, a global atmosphere of insecurity and economic chaos.

In turn, the institutional speculators in London, Chicago and New York not only feed on economic chaos and uncertainty, their manipulative actions in the energy and commodity markets contribute to spearheading large sectors of the civilian economy into bankruptcy.

The economic and financial dislocations resulting from the hikes in the prices of crude oil and food staples are the source of financial gains by a handful of global actors. Speculators are not concerned with the far-reaching consequences of a broader Middle East war, which could evolve into a World War Three scenario.

The pro-Israeli lobby in the US indirectly serves these powerful financial interests. In the current context, Israel is an ally with significant military capabilities which serves America's broader objective in the Middle East. Washington, however, has little concern for the security of Israel, which in the case of a war on Iran would be the first target of retaliatory military action by Tehran.

The broader US objective consists in establishing, through military and economic means, an exclusive US sphere of influence throughout the Middle East.