Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Lobby Like No Other Wants a War Like No Other

The Lobby Like No Other Wants a War Like No Other

By Michael Scheuer

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Having watched John McCain and Barack Obama resolutely pledge their allegiance – and their countrymen's lives and treasure – to the defense of Israel via AIPAC, the media, and personal meetings with Israeli leaders, it is worth asking what could possibly drive these men to so ardently commit America to participation in other people's religious wars. This question is particularly important today as the Bush administration and the Israel-firsters continue to push for an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iran.

Let me say that I harbor no resentment over the actions of Israel's leaders. For more than 60 years, they have knowingly made their country a pariah in the Arab and Islamic worlds, just as the Palestinians have made themselves pariahs in much of the West. This is, of course, the right of both parties, but neither seems to want to face the consequences of their decisions. With demographic realities and increasingly radical, well-armed Arabs making them panicky about Israel's security, Israel's leaders naturally to try to lock down as much U.S. support as possible. Having consciously – if unwisely – put all their eggs in the U.S. basket since the 1973 War, Israel's leaders must do everything possible to protect their relationship with Washington.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq, it seems, was not enough for the Israel-firsters. Now, according to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a U.S.-launched war on Iran is needed because "the threat that the U.S. and Israel face from the Islamic Republic of Iran is today greater than ever." Though based on the fantasy that Ahmedinejad's tin-pot regime is a threat to the world's only superpower, this is a perfectly commonsense position for Israel and its U.S.-citizen backers in AIPAC to champion. In their view, U.S. wars with Muslims are the ultimate good for Israel. Recall, if you will, the perfectly accurate April 2008, words of Benjamin Netanyahu, likely Israel's next prime minister: "We [Israel] are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq." These wars, Netanyahu said, have "swung American public opinion in our favor." How much more must Netanyahu and AIPAC believe that a U.S. war with Iran would add to this "swing" in Israel's favor?

My own anger falls not on Israel, then, or on Palestine, for that matter; as I have written elsewhere, America would do just fine and would be better off without either or both. It falls rather on the lobbying efforts of AIPAC, that organization's blatant purchasing of fealty from U.S. politicians in both parties, and the media's obsequious parroting of specious canards about "Israel's right to exist" and "the duty of Americans to support an island of democracy in the Middle East."

While few would question the right of AIPAC leaders to lobby U.S. politicians, legally bribe them with campaign contributions, or limit their right to speak as they please in public, not matter how scurrilous or libelous their words, I sometimes wonder if Americans have focused on what AIPAC lobbies for and what its acolytes in politics and the media support.

It is a commonplace to say that lobbying is a pervasive activity in U.S. politics at all levels of government, especially at the federal level. People lobby for tax advantages for business or tax breaks for individuals; for the right to own guns or laws to ban them; for subsidies for agriculture or vouchers for private schools; for universal health care or smaller government. Across this diverse array of lobbyists there are two common threads: (A) None are working to push the United States to participate in other peoples' wars; and (B) All are arguing for things that will – from their perspective – improve America, whether by making it richer, better protected, more competently educated, healthier, freer, etc. The anti-gun lobby, for example, is no less confident than the NRA and its affiliates that they are working for the best interests of Americans. One or the other is wrong, but their activities are shaped by their perception of what is best for America.

It is this last point that separates the lobbyists working for and with AIPAC – most of whom are U.S. citizens – from almost all other U.S.-based lobbyists. AIPAC does not lobby, bribe, and libel to make Americans and America better off. It lobbies solely, forthrightly, and cynically to make Israel richer, better protected, and able to do as it pleases in its relations with Muslim states. AIPAC makes no pretense of doing things meant to benefit America; rather, its members take pride in seeking a goal that runs directly counter to the economic welfare and physical security of almost all other U.S citizens by seeking to keep them involved in a religious war in which no U.S. national interest is at stake.

Now, there are a few other similar anti-American lobbies – those for Armenia, Lebanon, Greece, etc. – but AIPAC is clearly primus inter pares in this dastardly group. And given that every AIPAC success is a net loss for U.S. security and the U.S. Treasury, it seems odd that our so-called political leaders take orders and funds from this fundamentally anti-U.S. organization. Odd or not, however, that is the reality. Senators Obama and McCain have become AIPAC poster boys, each strengthening his support for Israel over the course of the current presidential campaign. Obama's position, in fact, has changed so drastically in a pro-Israel direction that the Illinois senator appears to have no mind of his own on this issue. He has simply and obsequiously adopted the Democrats' traditional abject subservience to their small but powerful pro-Israel constituency.

McCain is an Israel-firster of the deepest hue. Coached by Joe Lieberman – who argues there is a U.S. duty to ensure God's promise to Abraham about Israel is kept – McCain is now considering Republican Congressman Eric Cantor for his running mate. Rep. Cantor, needless to say, is eager to spend American blood and treasure to secure Israel. Speaking in Israel, Cantor pushed the same false assertion that is the staple of U.S. leaders in both parties. "What befalls Jerusalem," Cantor said, "threatens the security of the United States and its allies worldwide. That's because Jerusalem and Israel are Ground Zero in the global battle between tyranny and democracy, radicalism and moderation, terrorism and freedom."

This, of course, is nonsense of a high order, and Lieberman and Cantor know it. Both men are committed to Israel as a religious idea, not because it has anything to do with U.S. security. According to Lieberman, "The rabbis say in the Talmud that a lot of rabbinic law is to put a fence around the Torah so you don't get near to violating it. Well, McCain has a series of very clear-headed policies toward terrorism and Islamic extremism [that put] extra layers behind his support for Israel." He also told a conference of Christians United for Israel that he was pleased they recognized it was America's duty to defend Israel, blithely lying to them that "President Washington and the Founding Fathers" would support America fighting Israel's wars. Cantor, playing to both the Israel-firsters and their U.S. evangelical allies, also has made clear where his primary loyalty lies:

"Jerusalem is not merely the capital of Israel but the spiritual capital of Jews and Christians everywhere. It's the site of the First and Second Temples, which housed the Holy of Holies, and it's the direction in which we Jews face when we pray. This glorious City of David is bound to the Jewish people by an undeniable 3,000-year historical link."

My own view is that if God promised Palestine to the Israelis, God is perfectly capable of keeping that promise, and America is no way committed to expend the lives of its soldier-children in a war over conflicting interpretations of God's word. The Israelis and the Muslims should be perfectly free to fight over whether Yahweh and Abraham or Allah and Mohammed are right, and Americans should be perfectly free to draw the correct conclusion, that the United States does not have a dog in this fight. In addition, there is a genuine constitutional question of church-state separation on this issue. Why should American taxpayers have their earnings and children's lives spent to defend a theocracy in Israel or, for that matter, to protect an Islamic theocracy in Saudi Arabia.? (Imagine the howls of protest and torrents of church-state separation rhetoric from the media and both parties if a congressman introduced a bill calling for the U.S. to designate that an amount equivalent to what's spent to protect Israel and Saudi Arabia be sent to the Vatican – a nation-state like Israel and Saudi Arabia – to improve its defenses against the now well-articulated threat from al-Qaeda and other Islamists.)

Objectively, three realities are clear: (1) U.S. survival is not at stake in the Israeli-Muslim war; (2) the taxes of Americans should not be spent to defend theocratic states; and (3) holy books are insane tools to use as guides for U.S. foreign policy. In America, however, these realities lie unspoken because of the lobbying efforts of AIPAC and the pro-Israel mantras of the politicians it purchases with campaign contributions and promises of media exposure, including McCain and Obama. By their consistent anti-American actions, AIPAC and the U.S. politicians who do its bidding have fully validated the words of the real George Washington – not the figment of Washington painted by Joe Lieberman. "Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence," President Washington wrote in 1796, "the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government."

The outrage in your credit card's fine print

The outrage in your credit card's fine print

Penalty fees make up nearly half of industry revenues.

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Would you sign a contract that says, "Any term can be changed at any time for any reason, including no reason"? Anyone who uses a credit card already has.

Such are the absurd terms of the consumer credit-card industry, which is poised to be the next big crisis (after housing) that banks have aided and abetted in US households.

Americans have now racked up nearly $1 trillion in credit-card debt. As housing equity shrinks and costs rise, agencies such as Moody's report swelling numbers of accounts with balances three or more payments past due. Reinforced by abusive industry practices, the plastic safety net is becoming a permanent cage.

But here's the good news: If you've ever been steamed by surprise fees on your credit-card statement or had your interest rate cranked up without warning, the Federal Reserve Board wants to help you. The Fed? That oracular secret society whose chairmen say Yoda-like things about interest rates? Well, actually, yes.

Ever since its remarkable "oversight" of junk lending led to the mortgage melt-down, the Fed seems determined not to let credit-card defaults drive the American banking system any closer to Third World standards.

There's plenty to reform. During the housing bubble, credit-card vendors inflated interest rates – even as the Fed slashed them – and found increasingly sneaky ways to usher their customers into perpetually indebted servitude. Such as:

•Raising rates as high as 32 percent on existing balances, with no notice, even when they've always been paid on time.

•Compressing the time between statement mailings and due dates.

•Charging interest on debt already repaid.

•Posting on-time payments after their due date – and then charging late fees.

•Neglecting to disclose how much interest and time it will take to pay off a balance with minimum payments (if ever).

Banks in the card game are raising rates and fees to limit their losses on mortgage loans they made. This is doubly ironic, since their delusional lending and exotic mortgage cocktails gave the housing bubble its irrational effervescence to begin with. So now millions of American households are being dragged under even further.

This year, card companies will break all records for late fees, over-limit charges, and other penalties, pulling in more than $19 billion. Not to mention extra charges for paying by mail or by phone (try $14.99). Credit card is the only industry where customers pay extra to be allowed to pay. Where agreements can be changed without notice. Where nearly half of industry revenues come from penalty fees.

You can't just dismiss these predatory practices as a tax on stupidity. Borrower beware? A quaint notion, when bankers play misleading and retroactively abusive games with other people's lives.

Competition? Five card vendors control nearly 80 percent of the market. State regulation? Enforcement has been rendered toothless. Recourse to the courts? This industry, given mandatory binding arbitration, is shielded from any class action. Meanwhile, the average mailbox is stuffed with 24 credit card offers each year. I'm looking at one from First Premier Bank, at an attractive 9.9 percent rate, whose fine print cost in first year fees and interest is $256. For a $250 credit line. Provided I pay on time.

Enter the Fed. Randall Kroszner, a Chicago economist hotly averse to regulation, is pushing to regulate the most misleading and predatory practices. The card vendors will tie this up in court, in an endless argument about jurisdiction. That's why legislation is needed, to make new rules stick – and why every e-mail or phone call to Congress will be another good reason to fix this.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) of New York recently got the House lined up for a floor vote. Similar bills have floated and died before. The Senate "may" hold hearings in September. Got debt? Before you get your next statement – or right now, if you're online – contact your senator at www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and share your own credit-card horror story. If you want the card companies to play fair, your senator needs to hear from you.

Banks should manage risk by reflecting it in their rates and credit limits up front – not through the back door, with sneaky fees and phantom interest rates. It's time for card vendors to let consumers work down debt, on terms that make it possible to do so.

Home foreclosure filings up 55 percent in July

Home foreclosure filings up 55 percent in July

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U.S. foreclosure activity in July rose 55 percent from a year earlier as a slump in once-sizzling housing markets forced yet more borrowers to default on their mortgages, according to a monthly report.

Foreclosure filings -- default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions -- rose 8 percent from June and 55 percent from July 2007 to 272,171, according to RealtyTrac, which records property in various stages of foreclosure.

That means one in every 464 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in July, the firm said. Bank repossessions (REOs) rose 184 percent year-over-year. Default notices were up 53 percent, and auction notices rose 11 percent.

"The sharp rise in REOs, combined with slow sales, has resulted in a bloated inventory of bank-owned properties for sale," James Saccacio, chief executive of Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

RealtyTrac now has more than 750,000 properties in its active REO database, or about 17 percent of the inventory of existing homes for sale reported in June by the National Association of Realtors, RealtyTrac said.

Among 230 metro areas tracked, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida, registered the highest foreclosure rate. One in every 64 households there received a foreclosure filing last month, more than seven times the national average.

By state, Nevada led the country with its foreclosure rate in July, as one in every 106 households received a foreclosure filing. Foreclosure activity in Nevada rose 15 percent from the previous month and 97 percent from July 2007, RealtyTrac said.

REOs in Nevada jumped 384 percent from a year ago, default notices surged 59 percent and auction notices rose 31 percent.

In California, one in every 182 properties received a foreclosure filing. Florida was third, with one in every 186, while Arizona's rate was one in every 195 properties.

Other states with foreclosure rates among the top 10 were Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, Colorado, Utah and Virginia.

California was first by number of foreclosures with 72,285 in July, up 5 percent from June and 85 percent on a year ago. REOs in California rose 427 percent from a year ago, while auction notices rose 67 percent and default notices were up 34 percent. But default notices declined 4 percent from June.

Foreclosures in Florida rose 14 percent from June and 139 percent from a year earlier to claim the second highest number of properties, at 45,884. REOs rose 678 percent, auction notices were up 180 percent, and default notices doubled.

Ohio was third with 13,457 filings, up 2 percent from June and 1 percent from July 2007. Texas, Georgia, Nevada, Illinois and New York also were in the top 10 for foreclosure filings.

Inflation Hits 17 Year High

Inflation Hits Annual Pace Not Seen Since 1991

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Inflation reached a 17-year high last month, fueled by high gasoline and food prices, all but assuring that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates at their current level for the time being.

Consumer prices were 5.6 percent higher last month than they were in July 2007, a brisker pace than economists had expected, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

That was the sharpest annual increase since January 1991, as Americans paid more for clothing, food, transportation and recreational products.

The news was distressing for investors and the stock markets initially fell on the report. The major exchanges recovered, however, and the Dow Jones industrials up more than 80 points in early afternoon trading. Investors returned to buying financial stocks, taking advantage of a sector that has fared poorly in recent sessions. The broader S.&P. 500-stock index was up 0.46 percent. Wal-Mart also reported a better-than-expected rise in quarterly profits, but the discount retail giant also issued a gloomy sales forecast for the rest of the year. In addition, crude oil prices continued to fall, dropping below $113 a barrel.

The overall Consumer Price Index, considered the benchmark gauge of domestic inflation, rose 0.8 percent in July. Economists had forecast a rise of half that rate. In June, prices rose 1.1 percent, the second highest monthly pace in 26 years.

The C.P.I. surveys prices of a basket of common consumer goods, measuring everything from toothpaste and prescription drugs to airline fares and restaurant menus.

Because food and energy prices can be highly volatile from month to month, the Labor Department also calculates a so-called “core” price index, which strips out those costs. In July, core C.P.I. rose 0.3 percent, reaching a 2.5 percent annual rate.

That is higher than the Federal Reserve and other economic policy makers would prefer. Central bankers use core C.P.I. to see whether price increases are becoming entrenched in the broader economy; Fed officials are said to prefer a ceiling of 2 percent annual increases.

The Fed has signaled repeatedly that it has no plans to lower interest rates, given the threat inflation poses to the economy. Lowering rates could stimulate more economic activity, but such a move would risk inflating prices further. Thursday’s C.P.I. report cements that view, and suggests that a rate increase could come sooner rather than later.

Still, central bankers face a difficult set of possibilities. The American economy continues to deteriorate: consumer spending is bad and likely to get worse; home prices continue to fall; and Wall Street has been unable to shake a credit crisis that keeps hurting big institutions. Stock prices are down too, further eroding household wealth.

The C.P.I. provided further evidence about the price pressures facing Americans this summer. Energy prices were up 4 percent in July; transportation costs increased 1.7 percent on a sharp rise in airline fares; and the price of clothing soared 1.2 percent after falling or staying steady for most of the year.

Food and beverages also cost more, with prices rising 0.9 percent last month. Since July 2007, food prices have risen 5.8 percent.

Home Sales Declined in Quarter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The value of existing single-family homes in metro areas fell 7.6 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago with homes in the West tumbling 17.4 percent, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

The quarterly survey of metro region prices also showed that prices fell in 115 of 150 metropolitan areas with several California cities seeing deep, double-digit drops in prices.

A metro region including parts of Los Angeles and Long Beach saw home price declines of 29.5 percent while Riverside-San Bernadino measured a 32.7 percent drop from the year-ago quarter.

Several Florida regions that saw big price gains during the recent housing boom have fallen sharply with the Gulf Coast city of Fort Myers clocking a 33.1 percent drop in values. Tampa-St. Petersburg saw prices decline 18.8 percent in the second quarter.

In the guise of humanitarian aid Bush dispatches US military forces to Georgia

Bush dispatches US military forces to Georgia

By Barry Grey

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In a major escalation of the conflict with Russia over Georgia, President George W. Bush on Wednesday announced a “vigorous and ongoing” deployment of US military forces to its key ally in the Caucasus. Bush appeared in the White House Rose Garden for the second time in three days, this time flanked by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and announced the military buildup, casting it as a humanitarian relief operation.

Even as he spoke of a humanitarian mission, Bush made clear the military dimensions of the measures he was announcing. He said he was directing Pentagon chief Gates to lead the mission, which would be “headed by the United States military.” He announced that a C-17 military aircraft was already on its way to Georgia and that “in the days ahead we will use US aircraft, as well as naval forces, to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies.”

This is a formula for an injection of US military and naval forces into Georgia of indeterminate scope and duration. It will certainly involve the presence of hundreds if not thousands of uniformed US military personnel on the ground, and a substantial number of warships in the region. The US is introducing this military force into a situation that remains highly unstable and combustible, raising the possibility of a direct military clash between the United States and Russia.

Bush spoke less than a day after Russia and Georgia had agreed provisionally to a cease-fire in their five-day war. The agreement had been brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acting on behalf of the European Union.

Even as Bush spoke, Russia and Georgia were trading accusations of truce violations, and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was objecting to provisions of the agreement which, he claimed, failed to prevent the pro-Russian break-away republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from seceding from Georgia.

In his remarks, Bush issued an implicit threat against any attempt by Russia to interfere with Washington’s “humanitarian” operation. “We expect Russia to honor its commitment,” he said, “to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance. We expect Russia to ensure that all lines of communications and transport, including seaports, airports, roads and airspace, remain open for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for civilian transit.”

The US will pour military resources into Georgia to strengthen its hand against Russia, and denounce any objections by Moscow as an attack on humanitarian aid and a violation of the cease-fire agreement.

Within minutes of Bush’s Rose Garden statement, Saakashvili spelled out its essential meaning in a televised address from Tbilisi. “You have heard the statement by the US president that the United States is starting a military-humanitarian operation in Georgia,” he said. “It means that Georgian ports and airports will be taken under the control of the US defense ministry...”

He went on to call Bush’s “relief” mission a “turning point,” and characterized its import as “definitely an American military presence.”

Bush also announced that Rice would immediately travel to France to meet with Sarkozy and then go to Georgia. Employing the rhetoric of the Cold War, he said Rice would meet with Saakashvili and “continue our efforts to rally the free world in defense of a free Georgia.”

He further threatened Russia with diplomatic and political sanctions, suggesting it might be excluded from the G-8 group of industrialized nations and prevented from joining the World Trade Organization.

Hypocrisy

Bush’s remarks were drenched with hypocrisy. He reiterated Washington’s support for Georgian control of the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, invoking once again the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.” Neither he nor any other American spokesperson has explained why Georgia’s use of murderous violence against South Ossetia in its indiscriminate shelling of the region’s capital city was a legitimate defense of “territorial integrity,” while Serbia’s use of force against Kosovan secessionists was a war crime.

The US seized on Serbia’s moves against CIA-backed separatists in Kosovo to carry out a ten-week air war, under the auspices of NATO, in 1999. While Washington decries Russia’s “disproportionate” use of force against Georgian troops which attacked South Ossetia and condemns Moscow for military action beyond the borders of the breakaway republic, the US and NATO rained bombs and missiles on virtually all parts of Serbia, demolishing bridges, water pumping stations, electricity grids, government buildings, housing developments, schools and hospitals in the capital city of Belgrade. The US and NATO killed far more civilians in its campaign to crush Serbia, a traditional ally of Russia, than have been killed by both sides in the current fighting in the Caucasus.

The US has absolutely no political or moral standing to denounce Russia or anyone else for deploying military force. Washington asserts an unlimited and unilateral right to mobilize its massive apparatus of military violence wherever and whenever it wishes, spreading death and destruction from the Persian Gulf to Central Asia and threatening even more bloody conflagrations.

In the current conflict, the US government and media have cast Russia as the aggressor. There is no progressive content to Moscow’s actions in Georgia. They are motivated by the predatory aims of the Russian ruling elite, which is intent on reasserting Russian control over territories on its border that it dominated for centuries. However, the eruption of war in the Caucasus is the outcome of a policy pursued by US imperialism since the breakup of the Soviet Union whose ultimate aim is the reduction of Russia to a semi-colonial status.

It is inconceivable that Washington was not intimately involved in the preparations for Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia. US military advisers virtually run the military of what Washington considers its key ally in the Cacausus, a strategically critical bridgehead between the oil-rich Caspian Basin and Western Europe.

Just one month ago Secretary of State Rice visited Tbilisi and reaffirmed US support for Georgia’s admission to NATO, a development which Russia considers an intolerable threat to its security. Rice’s visit was followed by a massive three-week military training exercise, in which 1,000 US troops participated.

The incendiary measures announced by Bush on Wednesday represent the response of American imperialism to the major setback it has suffered as a result of Russia’s military intervention in Georgia. There is great concern within the US ruling elite that Russia’s routing of Georgia will undermine Washington’s drive to displace Russia from Moscow’s former spheres of influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and establish American hegemony over the Eurasian land mass.

US policy makers worry that the example of Georgia will weaken US control over right-wing client regimes it has established in a whole number of countries that were either part of the Soviet Union, such as Georgia and Ukraine, or allied to the Soviet Union through the Warsaw Pact.

A pattern of provocation

From the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 to the present, the United States has carried out a policy of militarily encircling Russia and surrounding it with hostile states dependent upon and subservient to Washington.

As the USSR was disintegrating, the United States launched its first war against Iraq, a key ally of the Soviet Union in the Middle East. During the 1990s, the US and Western Europe sponsored the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in order to isolate and weaken the Russian ally Serbia.

In 1998, the US spearheaded the incorporation into NATO, the US-dominated military alliance, of a whole number of newly independent states that had been either part of the Soviet Union or allied to it through the Warsaw Pact, including Estonia, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria.

In 1999 the US launched the air war against Serbia. At the same time, the US organized the construction of a new pipeline to transport oil from the Caspian Basin, via Baku, through Georgia to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, bypassing Russian territory.

In 2002, the US set up military bases in the former Central Asian Soviet republics of Uzbekistan (since then closed at the insistence of the Uzbek government) and Kyrgyzstan. At the end of 2003, the US engineered the “Rose Revolution” that brought Saakashvili to power in Georgia. In 2004, NATO admitted a new group of states formerly aligned with Russia—Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. One year later Washington orchestrated the “Orange Revolution” that toppled a pro-Russian government in Ukraine and replaced it with a pro-American regime.

The final chapter in this assault on the strategic position of Russia was the recognition last February of Kosova’s bid for independence from Serbia.

Until now, the US has encountered no serious resistance. The events of the past week represent a major shift. For the first time, Russia, flush with oil money and able to exploit the overextended state of the US military, with its massive commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, pushed back.

This has evoked an apoplectic response in the American ruling elite, which has no intention of accepting a diminution of its influence in the regions formerly dominated by the Soviet Union. US imperialism will react by immensely escalating its confrontation with Russia, no matter what the cost.

There is also a domestic component to the US escalation of tensions with Russia. The Bush administration is consciously seeking to create an atmosphere of international crisis in the run-up to the November presidential election. It calculates that an election held in an environment of fear and insecurity will boost the electoral chances of the Republican candidate John McCain.

McCain has based his campaign on his military background and his supposed foreign policy experience. From early on, he has called for a more combative stance toward Russia, and has responded to the Georgia crisis by demanding Russia’s ejection from the G-8 and other punitive measures.

The Wall Street Journal in an editorial on Wednesday summed up the demand of sections of the ruling elite and elements within the Bush administration for a major and permanent shift to something like a new Cold War against Russia. The newspaper wrote: “Reshaping US policy toward Russia will take longer than the months between now and January 20, when a new president takes office. But Mr. Bush can at least atone for his earlier misjudgments about Mr. Putin and steer policy in a new direction that his successor would have to deal with.”

There are, in fact, only relatively minor tactical differences between McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama on US policy toward Russia. Both continue to demand the admission of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, which would put the US-led military alliance on the very doorstep of Russia. Had Georgia already been a member of NATO, the alliance would have been legally bound to intervene militarily in its defense following Russia’s incursion into South Ossetia.

The trajectory of the imperialist drive to carve up the world, spearheaded by US imperialism’s mad drive for global hegemony, is ominously clear. The American ruling elite will drag American workers and all of humanity into a catastrophe unless it is stopped. The only social force capable of achieving this is the international working class, united in the struggle to put an end to capitalism, the source of imperialist war, on the basis of a revolutionary socialist program.

U.S. army deserter ordered deported from Canada

U.S. army deserter ordered deported

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One of the first U.S. army deserters to seek refugee status in Canada rather than serve in Iraq was ordered deported Wednesday.

Jeremy Hinzman, along with his wife, son and a new baby, have been ordered by the Canada Border Services Agency to leave by Sept. 23.

“I'm tremendously disappointed, we've been here nearly five years, we have lots of friends and family,” said Mr. Hinzman. “But life goes on and we'll make the most of it wherever we go.”

A handful of friends gathered outside the border services office where the decision came down, along with supporters from the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Mr. Hinzman was handed the order after a Citizenship and Immigration officer decided his application, filed under the pre-removal risk assessment program, didn't qualify.

The 29-year old was stoic as he walked out with his son Liam and his wife, Nga Nguyen, who cradled a newborn daughter in her arms.

Mr. Hinzman said he still believes he and other deserters did the right thing by coming to Canada rather than fighting in Iraq, despite the potential for a court marshal, jail time and a felony conviction in the U.S.

“Iraq was an unjust war based on false pretences and every soldier who refused to fight probably saved a lot of lives,” said Mr. Hinzman.

The former paratrooper from Ft. Bragg, N.C., fled to Canada with his family in January 2004, shortly after learning that his unit was to be deployed to Iraq.

Mr. Hinzman and his family were seeking refugee status in Canada.

The Immigration and Refugee Board rejected his claim in 2005 and the Federal Court of Appeal held that he wouldn't face any serious punishment if returned to the United States.

Mr. Hinzman took his pleas to the Supreme Court of Canada, which refused to hear the case.

Michelle Robidoux of the War Resisters Support Campaign vowed the organization's support for Mr. Hinzman and an estimated 200 other resisters in Canada.

In light of a motion passed in Parliament in June calling for all deportations of war resisters to be halted, the government is contradicting public sentiment, she said.

“This government is not abiding by democratic norms,” said Ms. Robidoux.

Federal NDP Citizenship and Immigration Critic Olivia Chow, who put forward the June motion, called the decision “mean spirited.”

She called on Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley to halt the deportation of Mr. Hinzman and other resisters immediately.

Housing Rebound in Cleveland Signals Bad News for U.S. Market

Housing Rebound in Cleveland Signals Bad News for U.S. Market

By Brian Louis and Kathleen M. Howley

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The good news in the worst housing slump since the Great Depression is that the market in Cleveland is recovering. That's also the bad news.

The Cleveland area led the nation for home price gains in April and May with an 18 percent jump in the lowest price tier of the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index after values fell to levels last seen in 2000. Ohio had the third-fastest pace of price appreciation in the U.S. in the first quarter with a 0.97 percent gain, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said.

A housing revival in this city of 438,000 on the shore of Lake Erie may portend deeper drops in U.S. markets. Prices for entry level homes in Cleveland had to tumble 37 percent from a September 2005 peak to an almost 11-year low in March before enticing first-time buyers. That may be a sign that U.S. markets with the biggest price increases during the 2000 to 2005 boom have much further to fall before stabilizing, said David Blitzer, chairman of Standard & Poor's Index Committee.

‘‘The areas of the country that saw prices go through the roof and then fall into the basement won't be the first ones to see an upturn,'' Blitzer said in an interview. ‘‘It's more likely to come in a place like Cleveland or other Midwestern cities that largely missed the boom.''

Cleveland never experienced the big home-price gains of its coastal counterparts such as New York or San Francisco. Gains were more modest as Cleveland, like other cities in the Midwest, saw jobs in steel, automotive and manufacturing shipped overseas.

Foreclosure Crisis

Prices in the Cleveland area rose an average of 3 percent a year from 2000 to 2005, according to S&P/Case-Shiller data. Prices in the metropolitan New York and Los Angeles areas gained 15 percent and 23 percent, respectively, in that period.

Now that Cleveland is starting to recover, it may be leading other areas of the country on their way to finding a housing bottom, said Robin Dubin, an economics professor at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

‘‘Cleveland was hit first with the foreclosure crisis,'' Dubin said. ‘‘Other communities are just behind Cleveland and they will start to come out of it pretty soon.''

The May S&P/Case-Shiller index put Cleveland's highest priced homes, properties that sold for more than $182,000, back to 2003 prices, and the overall market back to 2002 levels. Minneapolis gained 0.6 percent in May from the prior month, its biggest gain in two years. The latest reading puts home prices in Minnesota's largest city back to 2003.

Price Rollback

‘‘If you look at Cleveland or Minneapolis, they're almost back to where they started,'' said Justin Walters, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group, a Harrison, New York-based firm that manages money for wealthy investors and provides financial research to institutions. ‘‘Most other parts of the country have a ways to go before they can say that.''

For Los Angeles home prices to reach their 2003 levels it would require another 14 percent decline, on top of the 28 percent tumble since peaking in September 2006, according to S&P data.

Las Vegas prices would have to decline 13 percent to reach 2003 levels, on top of its 31 percent drop since peaking in August 2006. Miami would have to see home prices drop 16 percent to erase the gains of the last five years, in addition to the 31 percent decline since December 2006, the S&P data shows.

‘‘It's going to be like a long slow car crash to work through the housing situation, and we're still in the middle of it,'' said Joseph Veranth, chief investment officer at Dana Investment Advisors, which manages $2.8 billion. ‘‘We think it will go well into 2009.''

Foreclosure Sale

In the Cleveland area, the price declines are bringing buyers back into the real estate market.

Justin Taress, 33, and Ericka Conyer, 30, bought a four- bedroom house this month for $93,000 in Shaker Heights, east of the city. The home was foreclosed on five months ago after the previous owner defaulted on a subprime mortgage, according to real estate records.

Taress said they plan to raise their three children in the beige-colored Colonial-style home after spending about $10,000 on repairs to it.

Buyers like these are helping increase home values beyond Cleveland. Indiana had the fastest U.S. pace of price appreciation in the first quarter, at 1.31 percent, followed by Colorado, at 1 percent, according to the latest government figures available.

Small Cities Rebound

The small-city revival is continuing in the current quarter, according to the S&P/Case Shiller study. The index measured a 1 percent month-to-month gain in Denver home prices in May, on the heels of a 0.8 percent increase in April. The index of 20 U.S. cities doesn't include Indiana communities.

The government data shows Nevada tumbled 5 percent in the first quarter, California fell 4.4 percent, and Florida dropped 3.3 percent.

Now that prices have fallen so much in Cleveland, brokers are once again finding the market is busy.

‘‘The banks are motivated to unload now,'' said Linas Muliolis, a broker with Century 21 Homestar, who handled the Taress and Conyer home purchase. ‘‘They have to sell now.''

Cleveland's real estate revival may be tenuous. Foreclosures stemming from job losses and mortgage defaults by people with poor or limited credit histories remain high in a city once derided as ‘‘The Mistake on the Lake.''

Job Losses

The city's job losses, its financial troubles in the 1970s, and the oil-slicked Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1969 eroded its reputation around the country. The unemployment rate in the Cleveland area is 10.1 percent, compared with 5.7 percent for the U.S. The city is home to the second-largest private employer in the state, Cleveland Clinic Health System, according to a March report from the Ohio Department of Development. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, is the largest private employer in the state, according to the report.

Cleveland had 8,735 properties in some stage of foreclosure in the second quarter, or 1 in every 108 households, according to Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac Inc.

‘‘We have more auction sales than Realtor sales,'' said Jim Rokakis, the treasurer for Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located.

Still, the foreclosure rate was down 3.7 percent from a year ago in the second quarter, one of only five improvements in RealtyTrac's report of 100 U.S. metropolitan areas. Cleveland ranked No. 26 on the list in the recent quarter, better than the No. 6 position it held for all of 2007.

Pulling in Buyers

‘‘Ultimately what has to happen is you have to have prices reach a level that will pull buyers in,'' said Michelle Girard, senior economist at RBS Greenwich Capital Markets in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Cleveland was founded on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River by Moses Cleaveland, who led the first survey of the area that was finished in 1796, according to ‘‘Ohio History Central,'' a Web site operated by the Ohio Historical Society. An error on the area's first map led to the city being spelled Cleveland, according to the Web site.

Cleveland was close to natural resources such as oil, iron ore and coal, which gave rise to its industrial prominence in the first half of the 20th Century, according to Richard DeKaser, chief economist at National City Corp. in Cleveland.

The area lost jobs as those resources became depleted and manufacturers found it cheaper to make goods elsewhere, DeKaser said. Increased productivity also cut jobs as companies needed fewer workers to produce goods.

Population Flight

The loss of jobs has cut the population by more than half in the last five decades. The city had about 1 million residents in 1950, according to the historical society Web site. Cleveland had the largest numerical decline in population from 2006 to 2007, the Census Bureau said on July 10. It now has about 438,000 residents.

Starting in the 1990s, Cleveland began turning around its reputation with the opening of new sports stadiums and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum downtown. The area's financial services industry also grew and attained national prominence with firms such as National City, KeyCorp and insurer Progressive Corp. Manufacturing also rebounded as the weak dollar boosted demand for products produced in the area, DeKaser said.

Real Revival

George and Bridget Richard are first-time buyers who want to stay in the Cleveland area and are being enticed by newly affordable prices. After looking for more than a year, they're now considering placing an offer on a three-bedroom, three-bath house in North Ridgeville, a suburb of Cleveland.

A few months ago the asking price for the light-blue house, built in 1986, was $213,000. Now it's $189,000. The couple, who are high-school sweethearts, are expecting their first child.

‘‘I'd like to take advantage of the market while it's low, go in, buy a house and just watch the market rise over the next number of years,'' Bridget Richard, 34, a child psychotherapist, said in an interview in the couple's apartment in Strongsville, Ohio.

Home Foreclosures, Bank Seizures Surge as U.S. Housing Slump Intensifies

U.S. Foreclosures Rise 55%, Bank Seizures Reach High

By Dan Levy

Go To Original

Banks repossessed almost three times as many U.S. homes in July than a year earlier and the number of homes receiving a foreclosure notice jumped 55 percent as more homeowners defaulted on their mortgages in the face of falling prices.

IND' ))">Bank seizures rose 184 percent to 77,295, the steepest increase since reporting began in January 2005, RealtyTrac, an Irvine, California-based seller of foreclosure data, said today in a statement. More than 272,000 properties, or one in 464 U.S. households, got a default notice, was warned of a pending auction or were foreclosed on. Nevada, California and Florida had the highest rates.

‘‘It's getting worse,'' Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's executive vice president for marketing, said in an interview. ‘‘The number of properties that have been foreclosed on by the banks and still haven't sold is the highest we've ever seen.''

Total foreclosure filings rose 8 percent from the previous month to 272,171, just shy of the record 273,001 set in May, said RealtyTrac, which has a database of more than 1.5 million properties. Through July, 775,244 properties were owned by banks, compared with about 445,000 for all of 2007 and about 224,000 in 2006, Sharga said.

Foreclosures are depressing home prices, contributing to job losses and weakening consumption as fewer people borrow against the value of their home, New York-based analysts at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said Aug. 7.

IND' ))">U.S. home prices fell 15.8 percent in May, the most since at least 2001, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index. One-third of home sellers in the second quarter lost money, Zillow.com, a Seattle-based provider of home valuations, reported this week.

Seizures Increase

Bank seizures, known as real estate-owned or REO properties, are the ‘‘fastest growing segment of foreclosure activity,'' James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in the statement. The REO properties in the company's database represent about 17 percent of the inventory of existing homes reported in June by the National Association of Realtors, he said.

Default notices in July increased 53 percent from a year earlier and auction notices rose 11 percent, RealtyTrac said.

The June total of 252,363 reflected an ‘‘artificial depression'' due to new state laws designed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, Sharga said.

New York, California, Massachusetts, Colorado and Maryland are among the states that have imposed temporary foreclosure moratoriums or delayed proceedings by as many as 150 days. Those laws will ‘‘likely delay the inevitable that most of those properties go into foreclosure,'' Sharga said.

Mortgage Relief

National legislation is designed to help up to 400,000 homeowners refinance their IND' ))">adjustable-rate mortgages into fixed- rate loans. That bill, backed by the Federal Housing Administration, may help borrowers who take advantage of the state relief, Sharga said. Almost one-third of homeowners who bought in the last five years owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, Zillow reported.

Foreclosures could put 8.4 percent of total U.S. homeowners, or 12.7 percent of homeowners with mortgages, out of their homes, according to New York-based analysts at Credit Suisse. About 53 percent of subprime borrowers, those with poor or incomplete credit histories, will have negative equity in their homes this year, and that percentage will rise to 63 percent next year, the analysts said in an April 23 report.

IND' ))">Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate for the 19th consecutive month. One in every 106 households was in some stage of foreclosure in July, and bank seizures rose almost fivefold from a year earlier. Filings rose 15 percent from June and 97 percent from July 2007, according to RealtyTrac.

California, Florida

IND' ))">California had the second-highest rate, with one filing for every 182 households. Bank repossessions rose more than fivefold from a year earlier. Filings increased 5 percent from June and rose 85 percent from July 2007, RealtyTrac said.

IND' ))">Florida had the third-highest rate, one filing for every 186 households, while bank repossessions rose almost eightfold. Filings rose 14 percent from June and 139 percent from July 2007.

Arizona had the fourth-highest rate, followed by Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, Colorado, Utah and Virginia, RealtyTrac said.

California led with the most total filings, followed by Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Texas, Georgia, Nevada, Illinois and New York.

New York had the 30th highest rate, one in 1,282 households. New Jersey had the 19th highest rate, one in every 751 households.

‘Saturation' Point?

For the first time since April, Stockton, California, didn't have the highest metropolitan area foreclosure rate, a sign that ‘‘it may have finally found its point of saturation,'' Sharga said.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida, had the highest rate of the 230 metro areas surveyed, one filing for every 64 households, more than seven times the national average. Three California cities followed: Merced, Stockton and Modesto. Las Vegas was fifth.

Three more California areas -- Riverside-San Bernardino, Bakersfield and Vallejo-Fairfield -- ranked sixth through eighth, Fort Lauderdale, Florida was ninth and Phoenix was 10th, RealtyTrac said.

Retail sales fall as tax stimulus wears off

Retail sales fall as tax stimulus wears off

By Andre Damon
Go To Original

Retail sales fell in July for the first time in five months as the effects of the US government’s $160 billion consumer tax stimulus began to fade.

The 0.1 percent fall in retail sales was due primarily to a 2.4 percent fall in auto sales. Sales of cars and auto parts are down by 10.5 percent over the last year, as rising gas prices, falling real wages, and tightening credit have reduced the number of Americans who can afford to drive.

Meanwhile, the price of imports rose by 1.7 percent in July as the dollar weakened and crude oil prices continued to increase. Import prices have risen by 21.6 percent in the past year, the highest increase since record keeping began in 1982, according to the Labor Department.

The fading of the tax stimulus will exacerbate the hardships already weighing down consumer demand—which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy—from rising unemployment and falling home values. By all indications, even the slow 1.9 percent growth of the second quarter is unlikely to last as the US economy heads into a “double-dip” recession in the second half of the year. A Bloomberg survey of economists predicted that the US economy would expand at an average annual rate of 0.7 percent in the last six months of the year, half the pace of January through June.

Amid skyrocketing default rates, banks have become reluctant to lend to consumers. Most US lenders “reported having tightened their lending standards and terms on all major loan categories over the previous three months,'' the Federal Reserve observed this week in a survey of loan officers.

Former San Francisco Fed Bank President Robert Parry said, “When the Fed started to cut rates [11 months ago], mortgage rates and other rates were actually lower than they are today.” He added: “To say that things are easier in many areas of credit would be mistaken.'' Higher credit costs have eaten into consumer spending, particularly in car sales, directly contributing to July’s sharp decline.

The rise in default rates has been driven by falling home values, which have plummeted by 15.8 percent in the past year, according to the S&P Case-Shiller index of 20 metropolitan areas. As a result, delinquencies on home loans to borrowers with poor credit histories have reached 18.8 percent, up from 13.8 percent a year ago.

No other country can help pull the US economy out of doldrums. The Japanese economy contracted at a 2.4 percent annualized rate in the second quarter, after expanding at a rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter. Government officials in Tokyo hinted Wednesday that the country’s longest post-war expansion, lasting six years, has come to an end. Underlining the world character of the downturn, the Japanese contraction was led by a sharp fall in exports, the biggest since 2001.

Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, said that Euro-area growth would be “particularly weak” in the third quarter. The Eurozone economy likely contracted for the first time since 1999, according to a survey of economists conducted by Bloomberg News. Industrial output in the 15 countries that make up the Eurozone stalled in July, after falling 1.8 percent in June, according to Wednesday’s announcement by the European Union’s statistic office.

Output in the 15 nations that share the currency was unchanged from the previous month, when it dropped 1.8 percent. From a year earlier, production fell 0.5 percent, the biggest decline since September 2003.

Finance

JPMorgan Chase, the second-largest US bank, reported a $1.5 billion write-down on mortgage-backed securities Monday, which triggered a sell-off of its stock. Its shares dropped by 9 percent Tuesday in the sharpest fall in six years, followed by a further 2.4 percent fall Wednesday.

Goldman Sachs, which had heretofore performed better than other investment banks, suffered a six percent fall in its share values after analysts warned that it would experience a severe slowdown. Shares in Morgan Stanley and Wachovia fell this week after similar downgrades. Stocks were down for the second day in a row on Wednesday

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating allegations of trading abuses at Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Lehman lost more than 75 percent of its share value this year, while Fannie and Freddie have lost 80 percent, leading to a multi-billion-dollar guarantee by the US Treasury.

The Federal Reserve Board kept its benchmark Federal Funds Rate steady at 2 percent at its August 5 meeting. It provided no signals that it would raise rates at its next meeting in September.

A recent survey of institutional investors—firms such as banks, pension and hedge funds—suggested the reason to the Fed’s hesitance to raise rates. Some 60 percent of the firms surveyed said they think another big financial firm will fail during the next six months. A further 15 percent think this will happen within six to twelve months.

In an article published last week in the Financial Times, Former Federal Reserve Chairman Allan Greenspan observed that financial conditions are only likely to get worse, and that “there may be numbers of banks and other financial institutions that, at the edge of defaulting, will end up being bailed out by governments.”

Why Russia’s Response to Georgia was Right

Why Russia’s Response to Georgia was Right

By Sergei Lavrov

Go To Original

For some of those witnessing the fighting in the Caucasus over the past few days, the narrative is straightforward and easy. The plucky republic of Georgia, with just a few million citizens, was attacked by its giant eastern neighbour, Russia. Add to this all the stereotypes of the cold war era, and you are presented with a truly David and Goliath interpretation – with all its accompanying connotations of good and evil. While this version of events is being written in much of the western media, the facts present a different picture.


Let me be absolutely clear. This is not a conflict of Russia’s making; this is not a conflict of Russia’s choosing. There are no winners from this conflict. Hours before the Georgian invasion, Russia had been working to secure a United Nations Security Council statement calling for a renunciation of force by both Georgia and South Ossetians. The statement that could have averted bloodshed was blocked by western countries.

Last Friday, after the world’s leaders had arrived at the Beijing Olympics, Georgian troops launched an all-out assault on the region of South Ossetia, which has enjoyed de facto independence for more than 16 years. The majority of the region’s population are Russian citizens. Under the terms of the 1992 agreement to which Georgia is a party, they are afforded protection by a small number of Russian peacekeeping soldiers. The ground and air attack resulted in the killing of peacekeepers and the death of an estimated 1,600 civilians, creating a humanitarian disaster and leading to an exodus of 30,000 refugees. The Georgian regime refused to allow a humanitarian corridor to be established and bombarded a humanitarian convoy. There is also clear evidence of atrocities having been committed – so serious and systematic that they constitute acts of genocide.

There can be little surprise, therefore, that Russia responded to this unprovoked assault on its citizens by launching a military incursion into South Ossetia. No country in the world would idly stand by as its citizens are killed and driven from their homes. Russia repeatedly warned Tbilisi that it would protect its citizens by force if necessary, and its actions are entirely consistent with international law, including article 51 of the UN charter on the right of self-defence.

Russia has been entirely proportionate in its military response to Georgia’s attack on Russian citizens and peacekeepers. Russia’s tactical objective has been to force Georgian troops out of the region, which is off limits to them under international agreements. Despite Georgia’s assertion that it had imposed a unilateral ceasefire, Russian peacekeepers and supporting troops remained under continued attack – a fact confirmed by observers and journalists in the region. Russia had no choice but to target the military infrastructure outside the region being used to sustain the Georgian offensive. Russia’s response has been targeted, proportionate and legitimate.

Russia has been accused of using the conflict to try to topple the government and impose control over the country. This is palpable nonsense. Having established the safety of the region, the president has declared an end to military operations. Russia has no intention of annexing or occupying any part of Georgia and has again affirmed its respect for its sovereignty. Over the next few days, on the condition that Georgia refrains from military activity and keeps its forces out of the region, Russia will continue to take the diplomatic steps required to consolidate this temporary cessation of hostilities.

Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s president, has stated that “unless we stop Russia, unless the whole world stops it, Russian tanks will go to any European capital tomorrow”, adding on a separate occasion that “it’s not about Georgia any more. It’s about America”. It is clear that Georgia wants this dispute to become something more than a short if bloody conflict in the region. For decision-makers in the Nato countries of the west, it would be worth considering whether in future you want the men and women of your armed services to be answerable to Mr Saakashvili’s declarations of war in the Caucasus.

Russia is a member of the Security Council, of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations and partner with the west on issues as varied as the Middle East, Iran and North Korea. In keeping with its responsibilities as a world power and the guarantor of stability in the Caucasus, Russia will work to ensure a peaceful and lasting resolution to the situation in the region.

The writer is minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation

Bush & The Media Are Heading The World Toward Nuclear War

Will American Insouciance Destroy the World?

By Paul Craig Roberts

Go To Original

The neoconned Bush Regime and the Israeli-occupied American media http://www.antiwar.com/orig/giraldi.php?articleid=13288 are heading the innocent world toward nuclear war.

Back in the Reagan years, the National Endowment for Democracy was created as a cold war tool. Today the NED is a neocon-controlled agent for US world hegemony. Its main function is to pour US money and election-rigging into former constituent parts of the Soviet Union in order to ring Russia with American puppet states.

The neoconservative Bush Regime used the NED to intervene in Ukrainian and Georgian internal affairs in keeping with the neoconservative plan to establish US-friendly and Russia-hostile political regimes in these two former constituent parts of Russia and the Soviet Union.

The NED was also used to dismember the former Yugoslavia with its interventions in Slovakia, Serbia, and Montenegro.

According to Wikipedia, Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, told the Washington Post in 1991 that much of what the NED does “today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

The Bush Regime, having established a puppet, Mikhail Saakashvili, as president of Georgia, tried to bring Georgia into NATO.

[For readers too young to know, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was a military alliance between the US and Western European countries to resist any Soviet move into Western Europe. There has been no reason for NATO since the Soviet Union’s internal political collapse almost two decades ago. The neocons turned NATO into another tool, like the NED, for US world hegemony. Subsequent US administrations violated the understandings that President Reagan had reached with Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, and have incorporated former parts of the Soviet empire into NATO. The neocon goal of ringing Russia with a hostile military alliance has been proclaimed many times.]

Western European members of NATO balked at the admission of Georgia, as they understood it as a provocative affront to Russia, on whom Western Europe is dependent for natural gas. Western Europeans are also disturbed at the Bush Regime’s intentions to install ballistic missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic as the consequence will be Russian nuclear cruise missiles targeted on European capitals. Europeans don’t see the advantage of helping the US block Russian nuclear retaliation against the US at the expense of their own existence. Ballistic missile defenses are not useful against cruise missiles.

Every country is tired of war except for the US. War, including nuclear war, is the neoconservative strategy for world hegemony.

The entire world, except for Americans, knows that the outbreak of armed conflict between Russian and Georgian forces in South Ossetia was entirely due to the US and its Georgia puppet, Saakashvili. Americans, alone in the world, are unaware that the hostilities were initiated by Saakashvili, because Bush, Cheney and the Israeli-occupied American media have again lied to them.

Everyone else in the world knows that the unstable and corrupt Saakashvili, who proclaims democracy and runs a police state, would not have taken on Russia by attacking South Ossetia unless given the go-ahead by Washington.

The purpose of the Georgian attack on the Russian population of South Ossetia is twofold:

To convince Europeans that their action in delaying Georgia’s NATO membership is the cause of “the Russian aggression” and that to save Georgia from conquest Georgia must be given NATO membership.
To ethnically cleanse South Ossetia of its Russian population. Two thousand Russian civilians were targeted and killed by the US-equipped and trained Georgian Army, and tens of thousands fled into Russia. Having achieved this goal, Saakashvili and his puppet-masters in Washington quickly called for a cease fire and a halt to “the Russian invasion.” The hope is that the Russian population will be afraid to return or can be prevented from returning, thus removing the secessionist threat.

No doubt the Bush Regime can con the insouciant American population, just as it did with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Iranian nukes, and 9/11 itself, but the rest of the world is not buying it, least of all Moscow, the Asia Times, and not even America’s bought-and-paid-for European allies.

Writing in the Asia Times, Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar, a former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, notes the disinformation that is being peddled by the Bush Regime and the US media and reports that “at the outbreak of violence, Russia had tried to have the United Nations Security Council issue a statement calling on Georgia and South Ossetia to immediately lay down weapons. However, Washington was disinterested.” http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH13Ag02.html

Amb. Bhadrakumar notes that the American and Georgian resort to violence and propaganda has brought an end to the Russian government’s belief that diplomacy and good will can bring about a settlement of the South Ossetia issue. If Russia wished, Russia could terminate Georgia’s existence as a separate country at will, and there is nothing the US could do about it.

It is certain that the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia was a Bush Regime orchestrated event. The American media and the neocon think tanks were ready with their propaganda blitzes. Neocons had ready a Wall Street Journal editorial page article for Saakashvili that declares “the war in Georgia is a war for the West.”

Faced with the collapse of his army when Russia sent in troops to protect South Ossetians from the Georgian troops, Saakashvili declared: “This is not about Georgia any more. It is about America, its values.”

The neocon Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., quickly called a conference hosted by warmonger Ariel Cohen, “Urgent! Event: Russian-Georgian War: A Challenge for the U.S. and the World.”

The Washington Post lifted its skirts and spread wide its legs to neocon Robert Kagen’s war drums, “Putin Makes His Move.”

Only a fool like Kagen could think that if Putin intended to invade Georgia he would do so from Beijing, or that after sending the American-trained Georgian army in flight, he would not continue and conquer all of Georgia in order to put an end to American machinations on Russia’s most sensitive border, machinations that are likely to eventually end in nuclear war.

That despicable whore, the New York Times, spread her legs for Billy Kristol’s rant, “Will Russia Get Away With It?” Kristol thunders against “dictatorial and aggressive and fanatical regimes” that “seem happy to work together to weaken the influence of the United States and its democratic allies.” Kristol presents a new axis of evil--Russia, China, North Korea and Iran--and warns against “delay and irresolution” that “simply invite future threats and graver dangers.”

In other words, “attack Russia now.”

Dick Cheney, the insane American Vice President telephoned Saakashvili to express US solidarity with Georgia in the conflict with Russia and declared: “Russian aggression must not go unanswered.” Cheney’s telephone call is like Great Britain’s “guarantee” to Poland against Nazi Germany. Only a complete idiot would tell Saakashvili anything other than “to cease immediately.”

What must be the effect on US Intelligence services and the US military of Cheney’s propagandistic and irresponsible statement of US support for Georgia’s war crimes? Does anyone really believe that the CIA or any US intelligence service told the vice president that Russia opened the conflict with an invasion? Russian troops arrived in South Ossetia after thousands of Ossetians had been killed by the Georgian attack and after tens of thousands of Ossetians had fled into Russia to escape the Georgian attack. According to news reports, Russian forces have captured Americans who were with the Georgian troops directing their attack on civilians.

The US military certainly has no resources for a war against Russia on top of lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a planned war with Iran.

With its Georgian venture, the Bush Regime is guilty of a new round of war crimes. What will be the consequence?

Many will reply that having got away with 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, and with its preparations for attacking Iran, the Bush Regime will get away with its Georgian venture as well.

Possibly, however, this time the Bush Regime has overreached.

Certainly Russia now recognizes that the US is determined to exert hegemony over Russia and is Russia’s worst enemy.

China realizes the US threat to its own energy supply and, thereby, economy.

Even America’s European allies, chafing under their role of supplying troops for America’s Empire, must now realize that being an American ally is dangerous and has no benefits. If Georgia becomes a NATO member and renews its attack on South Ossetia, it must drag Europe into a war with Russia, a main supplier of energy to Europe.

Moreover, if Russian troops are sent across European frontiers, there is nothing to stop them.

What does America offer Europe, aside from the millions of dollars it pays to buy off Europe’s political leaders to insure that they betray their own peoples? Nothing whatsoever.

The only military threat that Europe faces comes from being dragged into America’s wars for American hegemony.

The US is financially bankrupt, with budget and trade deficits that exceed the combined deficits of the rest of the world together. The dollar has wilted. The American consumer market is dying from the offshoring of American jobs and, thereby, incomes, and from the wealth effect of the real estate and derivatives collapses. The US has nothing to offer Europe. Indeed, American economic decline is killing European exports by driving up the value of the euro.

America long ago lost the moral high ground. Hypocrisy has become America’s best known hallmark. Bush, the invader of Afghanistan and Iraq on the basis of lies and deception, thunders at Russia for coming to the defense of its peacekeepers and Russian citizens in South Ossetia. Bush, the vampire who ripped Kosovo out of Serbia’s heart and handed it to the Muslims, has taken an adamant stand against other separatist movements, especially the South Ossetians who wish to be part of the Russian Federation.

The neoconned Bush Regime is furious that the Russian bear was not intimidated by the US supported aggression of the American puppet state, Georgia. Instead of accepting the act of American hegemony that the neocon script called for, Russia sent the Americanized Georgian army fleeing in fear.

Having failed with weapons, the Bush Regime now unleashes the rhetoric. The White House is warning Russia that failure to acquiesce to US hegemony could have a “significant, long-term impact on relations between Washington and Moscow.”

Do the morons who comprise the Bush Regime really not understand that short of a surprise nuclear attack on Russia there is nothing whatsoever the US can do to Moscow?

The Bush Regime owns no Russian currency that it can dump. The Russians own US dollars.

The Bush Regime owns no Russian bonds that it can dump. The Russians own US bonds.

The US can cut Russia off from no energy supplies. Russia can cut America’s European allies off from energy.

President Reagan negotiated the end of the cold war with Soviet President Gorbachev.,
The neoconservatives, whom Reagan fired and drove from his administration, were furious. The neocons had hoped to win the cold war, thereby establishing American hegemony.

The Republican Establishment reestablished its hegemony under Bush 1st that it had lost to Ronald Reagan. With this feat, intelligence was driven from the Republican Party.

The neocons engineered their comeback with the First Gulf War and their propaganda, pure lies, that Iraqi troops bayoneted Kuwait babies in hospitals.

The neocons made a further comeback with President Clinton, whom they convinced to bomb Serbia in order to permit separatist movements to become independent states dependent on America.

With Bush 2nd, the neocons took over. Their agenda, American world hegemony, includes Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

So far the schemes of these ignorant and dangerous ideologues have come a cropper. Iraq, formerly in the hands of secular Sunnis who were a check on Iran, is, after the American invasion and occupation, in the hands of religious Shi’ites allied with Iran.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are resurgent, and a large NATO/US army there is unable to control the situation.

One consequence of the neocons’ Afghan war has been the loss of power of the American puppet president of Pakistan, a Muslim country armed with nuclear weapons. The puppet president now faces impeachment, and the Pakistani military has informed the Americans to stop conducting military operations in Pakistani territory.

The American puppets in Egypt and Jordan might be next to fall.

In Iraq, the Shi’ites, having completed their ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from neighborhoods, have declared a cease fire in order to contradict the US propaganda that American withdrawal would lead to a blood bath. Negotiations on withdrawal dates are now underway between the Americans and the Iraqi government, which is no longer behaving like a puppet.

Last year Hugo Chavez ridiculed Bush before the UN. Russia’s Putin ridiculed Bush as Comrade Wolf.

On August 12, 2008, Pravda ridiculed Bush, “Bush: Why don’t you shut up.”

Americans may think they are a superpower before whose presence the world trembles. But not the Russians.

Those Americans stupid enough to think that America’s “superpower” insures its citizens from danger need to read the total contempt shown for President Bush in Pravada:

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? In your statement on Monday regarding the legitimate actions of the Russian Federation in Georgia, you failed to mention the war crimes perpetrated by Georgian military forces, which American advisors support, against Russian and Ossetian civilians

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Your faithful ally, Mikhail Saakashvili, was announcing a ceasefire deal while his troops, with your advisors, were massing on Ossetia’s border, which they crossed under cover of night and destroyed Tskhinvali, targeting civilian structures just like your forces did in Iraq.

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Your American transport aircraft gave a ride home to thousands of Georgian soldiers from Iraq directly into the combat zone.

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? How do you account for the fact that among the Georgian soldiers fleeing the fighting yesterday you could clearly hear officers using American English giving orders to “Get back inside” and how do you account for the fact that there are reports of American soldiers among the Georgian casualties?

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Do you really think anyone gives any importance whatsoever to your words after 8 years of your criminal and murderous regime and policies? Do you really believe you have any moral ground whatsoever and do you really imagine there is a single human being anywhere on this planet who does not stick up his middle finger every time you appear on a TV screen?

Do you really believe you have the right to give any opinion or advice after Abu Ghraib? After Guantanamo? After the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens? After the torture by CIA operatives?

Do you really believe you have any right to make a statement on any point of international law after your trumped-up charges against Iraq and the subsequent criminal invasion?

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Suppose Russia for instance declares that Georgia has weapons of mass destruction? And that Russia knows where these WMD are, namely in Tblisi and Poti and north, south, east and west of there? And that it must be true because there is “magnificent foreign intelligence” such as satellite photos of milk powder factories and baby cereals producing chemical weapons and which are currently being “driven around the country in vehicles”? Suppose Russia declares for instance that “Saakashvili stiffed the world” and it is “time for regime change”?

Nice and simple, isn’t it, President Bush?

“So, why don’t you shut up? Oh and by the way, send some more of your military advisors to Georgia, they are doing a sterling job. And they look all funny down the night sight, all green.”

The US is not a superpower. It is a bankrupt farce run by imbeciles who were installed by stolen elections arranged by Karl Rove and Diebold. It is a laughing stock, that ignorantly affronts and attempts to bully an enormous country equipped with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.

A population that tolerates the insane Bush Regime and its criminal neocon operatives has no claims to life on earth.