Tuesday, April 14, 2009

For Official Use Only: Department of Homeland Security Document Predicts Violence in Response to New Gun Restrictions

For Official Use Only: Department of Homeland Security Document Predicts Violence in Response to New Gun Restrictions

Go To Original

In the wake of the MIAC report and the Virginia Terrorism Threat Assessment, another document issued by the Department of Homeland Security “for official use only” covering so-called “rightwing extremism” has surfaced. The document warns federal and local officials to expect “terrorism” in response to planned firearm restrictions and other points covered below.

original PDF doc

featured stories Secret DHS Doc Predicts Violence in Response to Gun Laws

Greenspan



The DHS document cover page.


Alex Jones called the numbers listed on the document and validated its authenticity. He contacted the “watch captain” at the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Coordinating Center who confirmed the product number on the document as legitimate but would not comment further. A call to the FBI went unanswered.

The following points covered in the document are of particular concern:

Gun Sales

According to the DHS and FBI, local law enforcement’s primary concern should be the high volume of gun and ammunitions purchases over the last few months. The document equates Americans who stockpile ammunition to “rightwing terrorists.” Moreover, stockpiling (merely purchasing) ammunition is an indication of involvement in “paramilitary training exercises” and potential terrorist activity.

According to the Irish Times, the “stockpiling” of ammunition and increased firearm sales are due to the fear Obama will impose new gun laws and other restrictions. “Gun-shop owners and the National Rifle Association (NRA) say the surge is driven by worries that President Obama is planning to ban many types of firearms and that the deepening economic crisis will fuel a crime wave.”

If we are to believe the DHS and the FBI, these Americans, numbering in the millions, are violence prone terrorists and a threat to local law enforcement. In addition, as noted below, concerns about crime due to a worsening economy are paranoid fantasies exploited by terrorists

Job Losses and the Economy

The document states that job losses, home foreclosures, and the collapsing economy are “perceived” by rightwing terrorists and exploited by them to “draw in new recruits” and further radicalize “those already subscribing to extremist beliefs.” According to the document, the economic crisis is a perception without a foundation in reality, merely an exaggerated device used by terrorists.

In other words, if you complain about the faltering economy reported upon numerous times a day by the corporate media you are a rightwing extremist and a terrorist who may resort to violence and threaten local law enforcement, especially if you support the Second Amendment, own firearms, and “stockpile” (purchase) ammunition.

Illegal Immigration

Like the economic crisis, illegal immigration is at best a perception, not reality, and the rightwing terrorists have exploited this political issue as a racist “call to action” and recruitment tool. The DHS document claims the extremists have exploited the First Amendment on this issue in order to foment violence against illegal immigrants and those who support amnesty and other schemes to legalize illegal immigration. The DHS document cites several examples supposedly linked to anti-immigrant violence committed by “militia members” and mentions a “machinegun attack on Hispanics.”

Stated Purpose of the Document

Dated April 7, 2009, the “scope” of the document is as follows:

This product is one of a series of intelligence assessments published by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch to facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States. The information is provided to federal, state, local, and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States. Federal efforts to influence domestic public opinion must be conducted in an overt and transparent manner, clearly identifying United States Government sponsorship.

The DHS document — with the unwieldy title “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” — contains the following warning:

LAW ENFORCEMENT INFORMATION NOTICE: This product contains Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) information. No portion of the LES information should be released to the media, the general public, or over non-secure Internet servers. Release of this information could adversely affect or jeopardize investigative activities.

Warning: This document is UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY (U//FOUO). It contains information that may be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552). It is to be controlled, stored, handled, transmitted, distributed, and disposed of in accordance with DHS policy relating to FOUO information and is not to be released to the public, the media, or other personnel who do not have a valid need-to-know without prior approval of an authorized DHS official. State and local homeland security officials may share this document with authorized security personnel without further approval from DHS.

The DHS wanted the document to remain secret but it was leaked, probably by “authorized security personnel” in local law enforcement (as was the case with the MIAC document produced by the Missouri State Police). Information in the document was “provided to federal, state, local, and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States.”

The DHS document — produced in coordination with the FBI — begins by stating it is “one of a series of intelligence assessments published by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch to facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States” (it is interesting to note the phrase “violent radicalization” is the same one used in H.R. 1955, entitled the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007″).

Key Findings

In “Key Findings,” the DHS document states that the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no “no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues [specifically gun control]. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.”

The above text points to a footnote on the page dividing “rightwing terrorists” into two categories — “adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.”

It is significant the DHS (and FBI) categorize opposition to the government as terrorism. The FBI in particular has labeled various “rightwing” movements as extremist for more than a decade, so this is nothing new or revelatory.

The authors of the document drag out all of the old “rightwing” bugaboos, most notably the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In addition, they mention the “[p]roposed imposition of firearms restrictions and weapons bans” resulting in recruiting new members and culminating in the “planning and training for violence against the government.”

In order to underscore this assertion, the authors note the “high volume of purchases and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition by rightwing extremists in anticipation of restrictions and bans in some parts of the country continue to be a primary concern to law enforcement.” In fact, as noted above, the “high volume of purchases,” as the media has reported, is a reaction on the part of Americans in general regardless of ideological persuasion. It is a common sense reaction to the documented fact president Obama is opposed to firearms ownership, even though he claims to support the Second Amendment.

The DHS I&A attributes the purported “resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization activity” to economic factors and the election of Barack Obama. “Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s [a reference to the militia movement exaggerated by government and corporate media], the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years. In addition, the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes [i.e., gun registration leading to eventual confiscation] are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization.”

The tone of the document indicates that the government plans to impose restrictions on the ownership of firearms. In addition, the document warns local law enforcement that “rightwing terrorists” will violently resist any attempt to register or confiscate guns.

Link to Pittsburgh Cop Killer

In order to stress the point, the authors cite as an example the murder of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled “one world government.”

Following this event, the liberal noise machine, funded in large part by the Soros and Ford foundations, expended an extraordinary amount of energy attempting to link the murders to Fox News and Alex Jones. Jones was singled out by the Anti-Defamation League (Shooter In Pittsburgh Cop Killings Held Strongly Anti-Semitic And Racist Beliefs, April 6, 2009) as having influenced the alleged killer, Richard Poplawski, who frequented the white supremacist website hosted by Stormfront. “According to ADL, Poplawski also frequented ‘Infowars,’ the Web site of the right-wing conspiracy radio talk-show host Alex Jones, where he shared links to its stories with others and sometimes posted his own messages to the site,” the ADL wrote in the above linked press release.

Similarity to SPLC and ADL Talking Points

According to the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, the MIAC documents were heavily influenced by “faulty and politicized research issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Anti Defamation League (ADL).”

The Southern Poverty Law Center was cited as a research source for the ‘Missouri Documents’. Furthermore, the attempt of these documents to cast suspicion of violent and life threatening behavior on millions of Americans who are concerned about these issues [unemployment, taxes, illegal immigration, gangs, border security, abortion, high costs of living, gun restrictions, FEMA, the IRS, The Federal Reserve, and the North American Union/SPP/North American Community] is consistent with the regularly released political materials of both the SPLC and ADL.

The DHS’ “Extremism and Radicalization Branch” participated in the “Global Summit on Internet Hate Speech” organized by the International Network Against Cyber-Hate and the Anti-Defamation League and held November 17-18, 2008, in Washington, DC. Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, was a key speaker at the event.

The DHS document claims today’s “rightwing terrorists” present more of a threat than those of the earlier period:

Unlike the earlier period, the advent of the Internet and other informationage technologies since the 1990s has given domestic extremists greater access to information related to bomb-making, weapons training, and tactics, as well as targeting of individuals, organizations, and facilities, potentially making extremist individuals and groups more dangerous and the consequences of their violence more severe. New technologies also permit domestic extremists to send and receive encrypted communications and to network with other extremists throughout the country and abroad, making it much more difficult for law enforcement to deter, prevent, or preempt a violent extremist attack.

The document makes it clear the DHS and FBI consider websites such as Infowars and Prison Planet to be vehicles for “potentially making extremist individuals and groups more dangerous and the consequences of their violence more severe.” (Note: Alex Jones has repeatedly warned his listeners against violence.)

Recall a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on “Terrorism and the Internet” held in November, 2007, and broadcast on C-Span, that featured a panel of “experts,” including representatives formerly of the RAND Corporation and the Simon Wiesenthal Center who presented 9/11 truth websites sites alongside sites that celebrate the attacks and offer training in terrorist tactics. “The hearing was chaired by Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, and ranking Republican, Rep. Dave Reichert. It was supposed to focus on the use of the internet by ‘home grown terrorist recruiters’ yet in a shocking move it blatantly related the 9/11 truth movement with so called radical ‘jihadists,’” Paul Joseph and Steve Watson wrote at the time.

Alleged “falsehoods” and “conspiracy theories,” according to RAND corporation director Bruce Hoffman, “have now become so ubiquitous and so pervasive that they are believed, so you have almost a parallel truth, and it has become a very effective tool for recruiting people.”

Rep. Jane Harman sponsored the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.

As Alex Jones has noted numerous times on his radio show, the FBI and military intelligence have taken a keen interest in the comment sections on Infowars and Prison Planet. In the last week and a half the liberal noise machine and to a lesser degree the corporate media have kicked into overdrive in an attempt to link Jones and his websites to a deluded and violent individual. It should not be considered a coincidence the DHS document considers the murders in Pittsburgh an indication of emerging “rightwing terrorist” violence, specifically in response to “proposed” gun laws now in the works, as the document indicates.

Conclusion

The document is designed primarily to radicalize local law enforcement and convince individual police officers that citizens opposed to violations of the Second Amendment, draconian gun legislation (including registration and ammunition tracking schemes) and illegal immigration are terrorists capable of committing acts of violence against them. It is a cynical effort to increase the tension between police and the community at large, especially members of the community that exercise the Second Amendment and oppose open border policies.

In addition, the document equates opposition to the policies of Barack Obama to racism. Opposition to "a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use" is characterized as exploiting "racial and political prejudices."

Obviously, the document is part of a larger campaign by the government to circumvent legitimate political activism and characterize such activity as the behavior of a violent minority of terrorists. It is noteworthy that several issues of concern to our rulers — namely firearm possession and the effort to flood the country with lower paid workers and thus undermine the middle class — are highlighted in this until now secret and restricted document.

Homeland Security on guard for 'right-wing extremists'

Predator Drones are Due to Fly Over Detroit

In the movies, the Predator is usually the bad guy, for good reason. But the government announced recently that they plan to employ a good Predator to hover at about 19,000 feet over the Canadian - Michigan International Border area. Presumably this deployment is aimed at detecting, illegal aliens, drug cartels and terrorist attempting to illegally enter America at Detroit. However, the new technology probably won't help with terrorist, because they usually enter this country legally, such as at a port of entry.

April 1st, Free Press writer Bill McGraw wrote the story, "Unmanned spy plane to patrol Michigan - Ontario border." In it, the article referred to this deployment as a "crackdown on the northern border, federal authorities are planning to use a drone-like, unmanned aircraft to police the United States-Canada boundary between Michigan and Ontario." The $10.5 million Predator aircraft is weapon-less, yet it operates "an awesome camera" that can spot a person across the border "25 miles" away, this according to Juan Munoz-Torres, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The U.A.V's are to be deployed in addition to the installation of 11 video surveillance towers in metro Detroit. Agent Kurstan Rosberg (of The U.S. Border Patrol) indicates those towers will be located along the St. Clair River. This deployment, follows a Predator Drone deployment on the southern border with Mexico and north westerly at the Red River Valley area in North Dakota. It may be the same deployment but South Dakota has U.A.V.'s in the works too. Historically, the planes recently were used to facilitate search and rescue missione during recent flooding there.

Before that, they were field tested under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In 2004, in Negoles, Arizona, a Predator went down after the remote control operator, lost control of spy plane leading to a fuel tank shutdown. Though there is little debate about their surveillance-utility, its cold weather usefulness is still being judged.


In the Free Press article, McGraw notes that there appears to be more interest in the spy plane's activation in the skies, of public opinion on the Canadian side of the border than here in the U.S. One reason, could be because many seem to blame Canada for our problem with terrorism. Our northerly neighbors refute this allegation and the facts bear them out. But the McGraw article has generated 38 comments in the Detroit paper when it ran. The blog, "Detroityesforum" also contained comments of people who were pro and con on the drones usefulness. (http://www.DetroitYES Forums)

O-Dawg: said: "expectations are that missile strikes in the vicinity of Lake St. Clair may help curb tide of illegal immigrants." "Pretty cool if you ask me."

Chitaku: disagreed: "pretty lame if you ask me, hello police state!"

Lowell: more polemic: "Absolute insanity. Negotiate a European Union-style treaty with Canada now and allow free flow commerce and people across our borders. Spend that money where real security is needed, on our ocean borders and our airports and other international ports of entry. We have been a(t) peace with each other for almost two centuries and allies in war both in the past and today in Afghanistan. This S*** is just killing our border cities' economies and wasting millions for nothing.

What a hostile waste. Mr. Obama, Mr. Harper. Tear that Wall Down!"

Lowell alludes to former President Ronald Reagan's demand of former Soviet ruler, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" a reference to the Berlin Wall, which was later torn down by a mob.

His comments, touch upon a sore point with our Canadian neighbors, who resent the idea that the accusation is broadcasted that numerous terrorists have entered the U.S. from up north. They may have a point, when you stop and consider not a single terrorist or Al Qaeda member has ever been apprehended entering the country, from a Canadian port, into the Great Lakes area.
The 9-11 hijackers entered this country legally. They all entered through normal ports. The one exception would be, the would be terrorist who did enter the country, off a ferry but was apprehended by the border patrol at Port Angeles, Washington, before he could strike Los Angeles, California.


Ahmed Ressam, was the lone Afghanistan trained terrorist, who entered the U.S. prior to his mission to bomb, the Los Angeles International Airport, before the pre-millennial year of 2000; he came here in December 1999. He would later become a government informant and provided information which might have prevented the 9-11 tragedy from happening, according his handler, FBI agent, Fred Humphries.

The Seattle Times featured a series on Ahmed Ressam's capture and subsequent cooperation with the FBI. In the series, Ressam is reported to have known none of the 19 hijackers who died on 9-11 in America; but he did identify Zacarias Moussaoui. Who is controversial for attempting to obtain flight training, with the following caveat: he only wanted to know how to fly the plane, but not to land it or take off; as a fellow Al Qaeda, Afghanistan camp trainee. Moussaoui is important here because he obtained training in 1998 at the Khalden camp with Ressam. (Despite later reports, Moussaoui did not skip the training for takeoff and landing) Moussaoui is said to be the 20th hijacker, who was captured prior to the September 2001 attacks. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20th-hijacker) That claim is of some contention, with Osama Bin Laden quoted as saying he was not a part of the group on 9-11, he was considered not to be dependable. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zacarias-Moussaoui)

Time wise, FBI agents in Minneapolis questioned Moussaoui on Aug. 15, 2001 and asked to read files on his computer, which he refused to let them do. Agent's went to Algeria in pursuit of evidence on Moussaoui and they were lectured by authorities there about the U.S. not knowing anything about dealing with terrorist. As they were meeting with the Algerian's Attorney General and other high-level officials, 9-11 attacks unfolded on their T.V. Enrique Ghimenti, was a legal attaché in the FBI's Paris office. While Humphries had been tracking terrorists for four years, Ghimenti, former chief of an FBI counterterrorism unit, had been doing it for more than two decades. Information is from the Seattle Times special report: (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/nation-world/terroristwithin)

On that very day, "Ghimenti found himself thinking again about Zacarias Moussaoui and his bizarre flight training." Meanwhile back in the states, "the agents in Minneapolis were having the same thoughts. Ghimenti was called and asked again for help on the search warrant. Later that day, the FBI seized Moussaoui's laptop."

What was on that laptop and in Moussaoui's room when he was arrested? "On August 16, 2001, Moussaoui was arrested by Harry Samit of the FBI and INS agents in Minnesota and charged with an immigration violation. Materials itemized when he was arrested included a laptop computer, two knives, flight manuals pertaining to Boeing's 747 aircraft, a flight simulator computer program, fighting gloves and shin guards, and a computer disk with information about crop dusting."

Some agents worried that his flight training had violent intentions, so the Minnesota bureau tried to get permission (sending over 70 emails in a week) to search his laptop, but they were turned down. FBI agent Coleen Rowley made an explicit request for permission to search Moussaoui's personal rooms. This request was first denied by her superior, Deputy General Counsel Marion "Spike" Bowman, and later rejected based upon Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act regulations (amended after 9/11 by the USA Patriot Act). Several further search attempts similarly failed." For his inaction on the Moussaoui action, Bowman was awarded a bonus by his bosses.

"Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, described as "shocking" Mr. Mueller's decision to give the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Service award to Marion "Spike" Bowman, head of the FBI's national security law unit." This was in January 2003, that the senator wrote the then FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, about the award given Bowman, who also received a nice monetary bonus which came with it. "The awards included cash bonuses of between 20 percent or 35 percent of each recipient's base salary." This information is from the site Prisonplanet. (http://www.prisonplanet.com)

"Mr. Grassley said in a 26-page electronic communication, from the Minneapolis agents, contained information that "a reasonable person would have concluded" was sufficient to obtain a FISA warrant." (http://www.washtimes.com/national/20030111-10797061.htm)

He said the application should have gone forward to the Justice Department and the FISA court.

Instead, he said, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Michael Maltbie concluded there was not enough information and that Mr. Bowman agreed, although he was aware Mr. Maltbie had "removed certain information before making a presentation of questionable accuracy and length to the national security law unit."

In a Star Tribune article: "FAA security took no action against Moussaoui" Published on Jan 13, 2002, Greg Gordon, reports that the inactivity on the part of the FBI in Washington was based on available information. "The special court that reviews FISA requests -- a federal panel that since 1999 has included U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Minnesota -- has approved more than 12,000 Justice Department applications for covert search warrants and wiretaps and rejected only one since the act was passed in 1978," according to government reports. With the only one being the Moussaoui case. Mary Schiavo, a former Transportation Department inspector general, gave one reason why the Minnesota request for warrants might have been denied: "They probably assumed there's nothing going on in Minnesota." We would not be too far off by saying that the thinking there probably reflects similar sentiments in the country at that time. But the first World Trade Center Bombing had already occurred, had it not?

In the investigation under the title: "Follow the FISA; Ashcroft's Justice fell asleep over Moussaoui case, pt. 1" we learn why there might have been a breakdown in communications in this situation: "Eleanor Hill's (Staff Director, Joint Inquiry Staff) 24 Sept. 2002 testimony on Moussaoui case places the blame on a "misunderstanding" of what constitutes a "foreign power" i.e., FBI headquarters mistakenly believed–and conveyed to Minneapolis office–that an FISA request had to link the individual under investigation to a foreign power."

"Jean-Louis Bruguiere is a French judge and one of the world's top terror investigators. The law prevents him from talking about classified intelligence related to Moussaoui, but he did tell 60 Minutes that French agents were closely watching French citizens in Afghanistan."

"We know that people were training in Afghanistan to come back in Europe and be able to set up, organize and run terrorist networks," he says.

Was Moussaoui placed on a watch list of terrorist suspects in 1999? "If by a watch list you mean everyone who could be of interest to the security services, well then probably Mr. Moussaoui is on that list," Bruguiere says.

"Bruguiere is famous for being a step ahead of most other terror investigators—including one case similar to the Moussaoui investigation. In 1999 Bruguiere wanted to question Al Qaeda's Ahmed Ressam, who was living in Canada. The Canadians refused and Ressam was next seen in Washington state with a trunk load of explosives meant to bomb the Los Angeles airport. Ressam was convicted last year. Bruguiere says that when the FBI asked about Moussaoui, French intelligence was eager to help." This is the same informant that FBI Agent Humphries had turned into a source of reliable information and he had identified Moussaoui as having been in training camps with him in Afghanistan. If that information makes it way to Washington then perhaps the FISA warrants might have been obtained? Could 9-11 have been detected before it would be too late, because Moussaoui's was arrested as were Ressam before the attacks occurred?

"For this particular case, I can't discuss the specific details. But overall all the information we had, we handed it over," he says. "We gave them everything we had," says Bruguiere. "Or what we knew when these requests were made."

What kind of information did the French have on Moussaoui prior to 9-11, they had some important links: "To get the search warrant, the FBI needed evidence to link Moussaoui to a specific terrorist group. A computer search at the National Security Agency and at the FBI and CIA found nothing. Moussaoui is a French citizen of Moroccan descent, so the FBI asked French intelligence what they had.

The French had reason to link Moussaoui to Osama bin Laden's organization. 60 Minutes talked with several sources in French intelligence and they all agree on three points. First, back as early as 1995 French agents traced Moussaoui to Afghanistan on what they believe was a trip to an Al Qaeda camp. Second, in 1999, the French put Moussaoui on a watch list of potential terror suspects. Third, in 2000, French intelligence followed Moussaoui to Pakistan. They believe he went to see a man named Abu Jaffa—a top lieutenant to Osama bin Laden."

Still over Detroit, the Predator Drone Spy Planes will probably fly, because we love technology. But the real issue might not be addressed, do we understand why those 9-11 terrorist attacks succeeded? Could it have been because key people in the intelligence community simply did not share critical information soon enough, even though they had anything but the usual clues.

War, Oil and Gas Pipelines: Turkey is Washington’s Geopolitical Pivot

War, Oil and Gas Pipelines: Turkey is Washington’s Geopolitical Pivot

by F. William Engdahl

Go To Original

The recent visit of US President Obama to Turkey was far more significant than the President’s speech would suggest. For Washington Turkey today has become a geopolitical “pivot state” which is in the position to tilt the Eurasian power equation towards Washington or significantly away from it depending on how Turkey develops its ties with Moscow and its role regarding key energy pipelines.

If Ankara decides to collaborate more closely with Russia, Georgia's position is precarious and Azerbaijan's natural gas pipeline route to Europe, the so-called Nabucco Pipeline, is blocked. If it cooperates with the United States and manages to reach a stable treaty with Armenia under US auspices, the Russian position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe opens up, decreasing Russian leverage against Europe.

For Washington the key to bringing Germany into closer cooperation with the US is to weaken German dependence on Russian energy flows. Twice in the past three winters Washington has covertly incited its hand-picked President in Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko to arrange an arbitrary cut off of Russian gas flows to Germany and other EU destinations. The only purpose of the actions was to convince EU governments that Russia was not a reliable energy partner. Now, with the Obama visit to Ankara, Washington is attempting to win Turkish support for its troubled Nabucco alternative gas pipeline through Turkey from Azerbaijan which would theoretically at least lessen EU dependence on Russian gas.

The Turkish-EU problem

However willing Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan might be to accommodate Obama, the question of Turkish relations with the EU is inextricably linked with the troublesome issue of Turkish membership to the EU, a move vehemently opposed by France and also less openly by Germany.

Turkey is one of the only routes energy from new sources can cross to Europe from the Middle East, Central Asia or the Caucasus. If Turkey — which has considerable influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, the Middle East and the Balkans — is prepared to ally with the United States, Russia is on the defensive and German ties to Russia weaken considerably. If Turkey decides to cooperate with Russia instead, Russia retains the initiative and Germany is dependent on Russian energy. Since it became clear in Moscow that US strategy was to extend NATO to Russia’s front door via Ukraine and Georgia, Russia has moved to use its economic “carrot” its vast natural gas resources, to at the very least neutralize Western Europe, especially Germany, towards Russia. It is notable in that regard that the man chosen as Russia’s President in December 1999 had spent a significant part of his KGB career in Germany.

Turkey and the US Game

It is becoming clear that Obama and Washington are playing a deeper game. A few weeks before the meetings, when it had become obvious that the Europeans were not going to bend on the issues such as troops for Afghanistan or more economic stimulus that concerned the United States, Obama scheduled the trip to Turkey.


During the recent EU meetings in Prague Obama actively backed Turkey’s application for EU membership knowing well that that put especially France and Germany in a difficult position as EU membership would allow free migration which many EU countries fear. Obama deliberately confronted EU states with this knowing he was playing with geopolitical fire, especially as the US is no member of the EU. It was a deliberate and cheap way to score points with the Erdogan government of Turkey.


During the NATO meeting, a key item on the agenda was the selection of a new alliance secretary-general. The favorite was former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Turkey opposed him because of his defense of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish magazine. NATO operates on consensus, so any one member can block Rasmussen. The Turks backed off the veto, and in return won two key positions in NATO, including that of deputy secretary-general.

Turkey thereby boosted its standing in NATO, got Obama to vigorously defend the Turkish application for membership in the European Union, which of course the United States does not belong to. Obama then went to Turkey for a key international meeting that will allow him to further position the United States in relation to Islam.



Obama has a Grand Strategy to use Turkey to isolate Russia via Nabucco pipelines through Georgia and Armenia to the EU

The Obama Erdogan talks were perhaps the most strategic of the recent Obama tour


The Russian Dimension


During US-Russian talks there had been no fundamental shift by Obama from the earlier position of the Bush Administration. Russia rejects Washington’s idea of pressuring IUran on their nuclear program in return for a bargain of an undefined nature with Washington over US planned missile and radar bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. The US claimed it need not rely on Russia to bring military and other supplies into Afghanistan, claiming it had reached agreement with Ukraine to transship mililtary supplies, a move designed by Washington to increase friction between Moscow and Kiew. Moreover, the NATO communique did not abandon the idea of Ukraine and Georgia being admitted to NATO. The key geopolitical prize for Washington remains Moscow but clearly Turkey is being wooed by Obama to play a role in that game.


Germany will clearly not join Obama in blocking Russia. Not only does Germany depend on Russia for energy supplies. She has no desire to confront a Russia that Berlin sees as no real immediate threat to Germany. For Berlin, at least now, they are not going to address the Russian question.

At the same time, an extremely important event between Turkey and Armenia is shaping up. Armenians had long held Turkey responsible for the mass murder of Armenians during and after World War I, a charge the Turks have denied. The US Congress is considering a provocative resolution condeming “Turkish genocide” agianst Armenians. Turkey is highly sensitive to these charges, and Congressional passage of such a resolution would have meant a Turkish break in diplomatic relations with Washington. Now since the Obama visit Ankara has begun to discuss an agreement with Armenia including diplomatic relations which would eliminate the impact of any potential US Congress resolution.

A Turkish opening to Armenia would alter the balance of power in the entire region. Since the August 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict the Caucasus, a strategically vital area to Moscow has been unstable. Russian troops remain in South Ossetia. Russia also has troops in Armenia meaning Russia has Georgia surrounded.

Turkey is the key link in this complex game of geopolitical balance of power between Washington and Moscow. If Turkey decides to collaborate with Russia Georgia’s position becomes very insecure and Azerbaijan’s possible pipeline route to Europe is blocked. If Turkey decides to cooperate with Washington and at the same time reaches a stable agreement with Armenia under US guidance, Russia’s entire position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe becomes available, reducing Russian leverage against Western Europe.


Therefore, having sat through fruitless meetings with the Europeans, Obama chose not to cause a pointless confrontation with a Europe that is out of options. Instead, Obama completed his trip by going to Turkey to discuss what the treaty with Armenia means and to try to convince the Turks to play for high stakes by challenging Russia in the Caucasus, rather than playing Russia's junior partner.

The most important Obama speech in his European tour came after Turkey won key posts in the NATO political structure with US backing. In his speech Obama sided with Turkey against the EU and in effect showed Turkey Washington was behind her. Obama’s speech addressed Turkey as an emerging regional power, which was well received in Ankara. The sweet words will cost Turkey dearly if it acts on them.

Moscow is not sitting passively by as Washington woos Turkey. Turkish President Abdullah Gul paid a four-day visit to the Russian Federation this February, where he met with President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin, and also traveled to Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, where he discussed joint investments. Gul was accompanied by his minister for foreign trade and minister of energy, as well as a large delegation of Turkish businessmen. The stakes in this complex three-way Great Game for domination of Eurasia have been raised significantly following the Obama trip to Ankara. Turkey imports 65 percent of its natural gas and 25 percent of its oil from Russia. Therefore, Turkey is also developing a growing dependency on Russian energy resources, including coal.

On March 27, 2009, a memorandum was signed between the Azerbaijani oil company SOCAR and Russia's Gazprom. The memorandum includes a statement of deliveries, beginning in January 2010, of Azerbaijani natural gas to Russia.

Gazprom was particularly interested in signing such an agreement with Azerbaijan, not the least because Azerbaijan is the only state outside Iran or Turkmenistan, both of which are problematic, that could supply gas to the planned EU Nabucco pipeline, for transporting natural gas from Azerbaijan and the Central Asia states through Turkey to south-eastern Europe. In reality, gas may come only from Azerbaijan. Russia has proposed an alternative to Nabucco project, South Stream, also in need of Azerbaijani gas, so in effect Russia weakens the chances of realization of Nabucco. Obama strategy is clearly not less confrontational with Russia. It is merely playing with a slightly different deck of cards than did Cheney and Bush.

White House pushing GM toward bankruptcy

White House pushing GM toward bankruptcy

By Jerry White

Go To Original

The Obama administration is aggressively pushing General Motors into bankruptcy, the New York Times reported Monday. The White House wants to use bankruptcy courts, the newspaper said, to break up the century-old industrial icon and sell off its profitable parts to private investors. Meanwhile, the company’s undesirable assets, including health-care and pension obligations, would be liquidated in drawn-out bankruptcy proceedings.

“The Treasury Department is directing General Motors to lay the groundwork for a bankruptcy filing by a June 1 deadline,” the newspaper reported, “despite GM’s public contention that it could still reorganize outside court, people with knowledge of the plans said during the weekend.”

The announcement further undercut GM’s stock market value—which fell 16 percent Monday to $1.71 per share—making a bankruptcy even more likely.

Under a so-called “363 sale”—named after Section 363 of the US Bankruptcy Code—the administration would split GM into two companies. A new, “good” GM would include Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick, the latter of which has proven highly profitable in China. This company would enter and exit bankruptcy protection in as little as two weeks, using $5 billion to $7 billion in federal financing, the newspaper said, citing a person briefed on the plan last week.

“Less desirable assets, including brands, factories and health care obligations,” the newspaper said, “would be left in the old company, which could be liquidated over several years,” the Times reported.

Last month the White House forced out GM CEO Richard Wagoner—who reportedly was resistant to bankruptcy—and replaced him with Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson, who Wall Street analysts say was more amendable to the idea.

The threat of bankruptcy is being used to extort unprecedented concessions from GM’s 60,000 hourly workers and 800,000 retirees and their dependents. If the United Auto Workers union fails to impose drastic wage and benefit reductions by May 31, then a bankruptcy judge will be brought in to do it.

Last month the Obama administration rejected the restructurings plans submitted by GM that included the elimination of 47,000 jobs—21,000 in the US—14 plant closings in North America and Europe, and the reduction of wages and benefits to the level of non-union workers at Japanese-owned plants in the US by 2010.

The president said the plan had not gone far enough and insisted on more “painful concessions” from auto workers. The president’s auto task force said the company would only be judged “viable” if it assured an “adequate return on capital” to Wall Street, under all conditions, even a severe economic downturn.

While praising the UAW for its past concessions, auto task force member Jared Bernstein told WWJ Radio in Detroit that far deeper concessions, including wage and benefit cuts from current workers, were required. Previous givebacks, including reducing new-hires wages to $14 an hour, he said, were “deep, significant and important.” Nevertheless, he said, most of past concessions “apply to new workers, entry-level workers coming in. There are still lots of workers who are older, more experienced and still benefit from contracts that were signed a long time ago,” he said, indicating that these past gains would have to go.

In the face of this attack, the UAW has maintained complete silence. Behind the scenes, the UAW bureaucracy has been engaged in intense negotiations—not to protect the jobs and living standards of its members, but to secure for itself whatever it can from the wreckage of the auto industry.

According to reports, the UAW could emerge as one of the biggest shareholders in the “new” GM, giving the union bureaucracy a direct financial stake in boosting the profits and share value of the company through the destruction of members’ jobs, wages and benefits. [See “The UAW’s silence”]

Furthermore, there is reason to believe the UAW favors bankruptcy for GM. In this way it could avoid having to bring another concessions contract back to the membership, where it could be defeated by a rank-and-file vote. Moreover, the UAW leadership might believe it could dodge responsibility for the concessions by blaming a bankruptcy judge instead.

The UAW has reportedly already agreed to concessions on wages, benefits and working conditions. It has balked, however, on the government’s demands for a further reduction in payments to the union’s retiree health care trust fund.

In 2007, the UAW agreed to cut the wages of new-hires in half and free GM, Ford and Chrysler of tens of billions of dollars in retiree health care obligations in exchange for the setting up of a union-controlled trust fund, known as a Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association or VEBA. GM owes $20 billion to the UAW fund. Last month GM proposed the UAW accept $10 billion in preferred stock with a 9 percent interest rate and $10 billion in cash over 20 years.

According to a JPMorgan Chase report, GM is expected to present a much harsher offer to the UAW this week. The Treasury Department’s auto task force wants to see GM wipe away far more than half of the UAW liabilities, BusinessWeek reported. “That means GM needs the union to take much more than half the value of remaining union health-care liabilities in stock.”

Top UAW officials—who are being advised by Wall Street firm Lazard—were depending on the VEBA to provide a lucrative source of investment income, to offset the loss of dues revenue that has resulted from the downsizing of the auto industry.

Moreover, the financing of the VEBA with virtually worthless stock ensures that the trust—which the union claimed would be solvent for eighty years—will soon run out of money. This means the UAW, which will take over the provision of retiree benefits in January 2010, will be responsible for slashing the medical coverage of thousands of UAW retirees and their spouses.

In addition to gutting health care benefits, the government is also demanding a sharp reduction in pensions. Under a bankruptcy, a judge is likely to allow GM to terminate pensions and dump its obligations into the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is already facing a multi-billion deficit. Such a scenario would leave hundreds of thousands of retirees with drastically reduced benefits.

The Obama administration is acting on behalf of the most powerful sections of the financial elite who want to destroy the past gains of auto workers and use this to set a precedent for a sweeping attack on the living standards of every section of the working class.

The dismantling of the auto industry—which will provide another windfall for Wall Street—is undoubtedly part of the Obama’s administration economic “recovery” plan, which is designed to boost the fortunes of America’s financial aristocracy through the impoverishment of the working class.

Brian

Auto workers have bitterly opposed Obama’s demands. Brian and his brother, Dan, spoke to the World Socialist Web Site at the Pontiac Truck and Bus assembly plant, north of Detroit. Brian, 54, has been an autoworker for 36 years having hired in at the age of 18. His brother started four months later.

Brian said, “We haven’t being told anything about what's going to happen to this plant; there are rumors, but no word from the union. Obama wants more concessions. But we've been giving up concessions for the last 3-4 contracts, for the last 12 years. People don't know how much we've given up,” he continued.

Noting that former GM CEO Richard Wagoner had gotten rid of 147,000 jobs over seven years, he said, “But that wasn't good enough for the government. They want job cuts now. They're after the working class. The Bush Administration had been doing it for eight years, and now Obama's doing it.”

He continued, “They're telling us, ‘your contract will be null and void.’ That's hard to take. They feel like they can do anything they want with our contract. The average worker supported Obama. And now he's turned around and wants to lay off workers.

“The union people have nice cushy places downtown. They drive nice cars, and they want to protect their jobs. That's all they're after.”

A young worker named Jeff told the WSWS, “The UAW is going to get something out of this. They will sell us out in a second. It would be nice to try to organize a fight to stop this but the union says ‘don’t do that.’ They are not protecting our interests.

“Obama is bailing out on what he promised. They are targeting UAW workers not the top executives. Wall Street investors are still making their money; they robbed the country of so much, and they are set for life. They said you can’t touch the contracts for the AIG executives who got those bonuses, well what about our contracts?”

Obama moves to block court access for detainees in Afghanistan

Obama moves to block court access for detainees in Afghanistan

By Tom Eley

Go To Original

On Friday, the Obama administration announced it would appeal a federal district court ruling that would have granted three prisoners held in Afghanistan at the Bagram Air Base the right to sue for their release in US courts. The Justice Department also made a court filing requesting that District Judge John D. Bates halt the current habeas corpus cases of the men, pending the appeal.

The three men were abducted by, or at the behest of, the US in other parts of the world before being transported to Afghanistan, and have been held for more than six years without charges or access to any sort of judicial review. Fadi al Maqaleh and Amin al Bakri, both of Yemen, and Redha al-Najar, of Tunisia, have faced barbaric conditions during their imprisonment. The case of a fourth prisoner, Afghan citizen Haji Wazir who was seized in Dubai, is still pending.

On April 2, Bates ruled that the habeas corpus cases could go forward. His ruling was “quite narrow,” in his own words, affecting the status of about 5 percent of Bagram’s approximately 600 prisoners.

Bates ruled that non-Afghan citizens seized outside of Afghanistan have the same right to judicial review as that afforded Guantánamo prisoners last year by the US Supreme Court in the case of Boumediene v. Bush. (See “Court rules detainees in Afghanistan can challenge imprisonment”)

Though the ruling does not affect the American military’s practice of seizing Afghan men and boys, incarcerating them without charges and subjecting them to indefinite detention, it could present legal obstacles to the extraordinary rendition of suspects caught in the global dragnet known as “the war on terror,” including those kidnapped from neighboring Pakistan.

In its filing, the Obama administration argued that because Bagram is “in a theater of war where the nation’s troops are in harm’s way,” prisoners held there have no habeas corpus rights. Legal proceedings “would divert the military’s attention and resources at a critical time for operations in Afghanistan,” the administration added.

Aside from the absence of a congressional declaration of war against Afghanistan, the strategists of the “war on terror” claim that hostilities have no foreseeable end, meaning that this war’s prisoners may be held indefinitely. Moreover, while claiming that prisoners at Bagram have no right to US courts because they are jailed in a theater of war, Washington insists that their incarceration is not governed by the international laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.

What animated Judge Bates’ ruling pertained to the Justice Department’s claim that the Bagram prisoners lose constitutional protections because their jail happens to be in a war zone, when the prisoners in question had, in fact, been imported to Afghanistan. As the New York Times points out, “evidence suggests it was the prospect that Guantánamo detentions might be subject to judicial oversight that caused the military to divert captives to Bagram instead.”

Bates, a conservative Bush appointee, pointed to the obvious fallacy in the administration’s claims. “It is one thing to detain those captured on the surrounding battlefield at a place like Bagram,” he wrote. “It is quite another thing to apprehend people in foreign countries—far from any Afghan battlefield—and then bring them to a theater of war, where the Constitution arguably may not reach.”

In its filing, the Justice Department reiterated a no less absurd claim—that the US has neither de jure nor de facto sovereignty over Afghanistan, and therefore cases should not proceed in American courts. In fact, the Bagram prison camp is attached to a major US military base. The government of Afghanistan is a puppet regime installed by, and completely dependent upon, the US. Its sovereignty is a fiction. US and NATO forces control Kabul, the nation’s airspace and its major transportation routes, and operate at will throughout the country, except those parts that are controlled by anti-US insurgents and warlords.

The prison camp at Bagram has been overshadowed by Guantánamo Bay. Yet Bagram houses more inmates and there are known instances of extreme torture. The Bagram prisoners have never been accorded any rights—not even the military tribunals that the Bush administration created for the Guantánamo detainees.

In 2002, two Bagram inmates died as a result of beatings they sustained during US military “interrogations.” The two men had their wrists chained to ceilings above them, and US soldiers repeatedly beat them over periods lasting days, at the same time denying them medical treatment.

Other evidence has surfaced from Bagram of humiliations including forced nudity, denial of food and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. A recently leaked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report confirms that US interrogators continued to use such methods of torture between 2003 and 2006 at CIA prison “black sites” around the world.

Obama’s moves to maintain illegal detention without judicial review at Bagram expose the cynicism and hypocrisy of his much vaunted plan to shut down the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay. As he escalates the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continues to employ the criminal methods of the Bush administration, including rendition and indefinite detention, Obama wishes to reserve the right to continue to add prisoners to Bagram, the “larger, more secretive military detention facility,” according to the Times.

Obama’s plans for Bagram represent yet another example of “continuity” between his administration and that of his predecessor. In May, the Bush administration announced plans for a $60 million prison complex at Bagram, which would occupy 40 acres on the base and house up to 1,100 prisoners.

Tina Foster, the director of International Justice Network, which has been representing the three Bagram detainees involved in the federal case, denounced the Justice Department filing.

“Though he has made many promises regarding the need for our country to rejoin the world community of nations,” her statement declared, “by filing this appeal, President Obama has taken on the defense of one of the Bush administration’s unlawful policies ... President Obama today becomes complicit in the unjust and illegal detention of our clients.”

The court filing attempting to block the habeas corpus ruling is the third example in one week of the Obama administration’s efforts to maintain the extralegal military and intelligence apparatus built up in the Bush years.

On April 9, Leon Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, issued an internal memo declaring the Obama administration’s opposition to the investigation of intelligence personnel who carried out torture under the Bush administration.

On April 3, in court arguments, the Obama administration advanced a broader defense of “state secrets” than that advocated by the Bush administration. In Jewel v. National Security Agency, the Obama Justice Department not only defended the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, but urged that litigation challenging such programs be shut down on the blanket ground that it could imperil national security.

Biden And Nixon: A Tale Of Two Latin American Experiences

Biden And Nixon: A Tale Of Two Latin American Experiences

By Landau, Saul

Go To Original

On March 27, Vice President Joe Biden began a three-day tour to Latin America to attend a high level consultation session for the Summit of the Americas, scheduled for mid-April in Trinidad and Tobago. He met in Chile with President Michelle Bachelet and Presidents from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, and the Prime Ministers of Norway and the United Kingdom.

Biden then went to Costa Rica. Hosted by President Oscar Arias, and surrounded by other Central American leaders in San Jose, Biden listened, a trait not usually associated with the verbose former Senator ­ nor with other US officials ­ as they enunciated the pressing problems of the region. Then he ignored the words he heard about ending the US blockade of Cuba. So much for listening!

Biden returned, however, without getting Nixonized. In May 1958, Vice President Richard M. Nixon and his wife Pat began their eight-nation tour in Lima, Peru. Newsreel film showed Nixon greeting Peruvian crowds who answered with boos and hisses. Young Peruvians shoved the VP and his wife and then spat on him. The New York Times huffily described the hostility as simply "communist inspired."

A week later, the Nixons landed in Caracas. An official band played the "Star-Spangled Banner" and a 21-gun salute exploded. But the crowd greeted the Nixons with a white sheet: "Get out, Nixon!" The confused VP descended into the crowd, where he got spat on again.

Inside the limo, the Nixons wiped spittle from their faces. Other angry Venezuelans hurled rocks at their chauffeur-driven car. An hour later, the Nixon convoy slowed in the Caracas traffic. Hundreds of demonstrators attacked the VIP caravan ripping up US and Venezuelan flags draped on the limo. Infuriated men pounded the car doors with lead pipes; others threw stones. The safety-plated glass shattered. One shard hit Nixon in the face. It was quickly removed.

The Venezuelan escort police seemed reluctant to confront enraged civilians.
They had been victims of vengeful mobs earlier in the year when citizens rioted and overthrew pro-US dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez. Uniformed police dragged away a student lying in front of the car. But they didn't engage a group trying to overturn Nixon's auto. The driver sped up and escaped.

Nixon planned to lay a wreath at Simon Bolivar's tomb. But more protesters awaited him. Time (May 26, 1958) estimated that "3,000 rioters, mostly high school students," awaited him.

US Embassy officials phoned President Eisenhower to report the incidents.
Ike dispatched a military unit to rescue the Nixons. The ruling military junta in Caracas that replaced Pérez Jiménez sent soldiers to protect the American VIPs. The next day, military squads escorted Dick and Pat to the airport in a bulletproof limousine.

Provisional President Rear Admiral Wolfgang Larrazabal described the incidents as "very sad."

Sad? Currently, most Latin Americans feel relieved. In recent decades, they have gotten the proverbial US monkey off their backs. US officials continue to tell people "down there" how to run their governments and their economies, but they can't easily bring in troops or CIA destabilizers. Bolivia and Ecuador ousted several US "diplomats" and terminated Washington's costly and stupid "drug war" as well.

In 1958, however, Ivy Leaguers at State and CIA couldn't conceive of Latin Americans feeling outrage at imperial US behavior. In Washington, under the tutelage of General Hubris, few considered that installing brutal dictators throughout the lower hemisphere might have negative repercussions, even though clear signals should have prepared the foreign policy nomenklatura. Seven months later, in January 1959, official policy mavens gasped in surprise again when Cubans overthrew another US-backed dictator.

This event occurred while the apocryphal General Hubris had filled his chest, in the lecture words of my late professor, William Appleman Williams, with "visions of omnipotence." After all, the United States possessed a mammoth economy, super technology and nuclear pre-eminence.

For more than a century, Washington chose to intervene militarily and then behaved as if its aggressive acts showed concern for the welfare of those lesser peoples. In 1980, former Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency under Carter, Paul Warnke, described to me official attitudes after World War II. "Latin Americans should be grateful. We allowed them to have UN seats. The Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary became truisms. Nobody questioned them. It was assumed that we controlled the area forever."

Latin Americans learned, however, that the Washington policy brain had become frozen. In the name of "containing" Soviet expansion and protecting democracy, the United States backed dictators and their militaries ­ just as they did before the Cold War.

Kennedy's bright 1961 Alliance for Progress rhetoric paled before his and his successors' far larger counterinsurgency budget. Democracy got upstaged by military and the police, while the CIA resumed its destabilization of disobedient governments (Brazil in 1964, Dominican Republic in 1965, Chile from 1970-3) and tried hundreds of times to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In 1991, the Cold War ended. The "evil empire" imploded, showing, like the fabled Emperor, that it had no clothes. Latin Americans logically awaited Washington's policy changes ­ in vain. The US aura of supremacy continued to prevail. By 2001, Neocons began to impose with presidential blessing their short sighted vision of long term US interests. The invasion of Iraq, they convinced Bush, would begin the next phase of the American Century. As cruel facts demonstrated after US forces still occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, US policy around the world makes no sense.

Mythical General Hubris, still informally in charge of official thinking, clung to outdated strategies -- like anti-Castroism. The slippery slide of pro-US dictators receded under US-dominated free trade. However, the façade of Latin American democracy ­ political parties, elections, multiple sources of media ­ could not mask the depths of poverty and misery throughout the area.

By the late 1990s, voters responded to their conditions. Most of the region's nations elected governments critical of US policy, ranging from openly pro-Fidel Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia to Presidents who express admiration but don't take direct advice from Cuba's former President. (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Panama and El Salvador)

Biden reiterated a continuation of "punish Cuba" policy. All Latin Americans sneered. The United States has lost Latin America. In the post World War II era, critics of President Truman charged he had "lost China," referring to his refusal to intervene military in the civil war won by the Communists in 1949. In fact, the United States never had China to lose. But Washington did dominate Latin America for a century. And it lost control of most of its countries. In the 1960s, Washington pressured Latin American leaders to break with Cuba. In 2009, those links have been reestablished.

The new political generation in the region reasons with President Obama to drop the "destroy Cuba" policies. Instead, Latin American Presidents appeal to Obama for focus on issues that scream for solutions: poverty, crime and drug trafficking and immigration. Cuba did not cause these issues. US policy, however, facilitated a vast corporate rip off of Latin American wealth.

US free trade policy led to an increase in poverty. The drug war fostered more violent crime in several Latin American nations and poisoned good agricultural land under the pretext of ridding it of coca and opium poppies.

Drug demand comes mostly from the United States, which has done nothing to reduce the number of its addicts. Free trade formulas led Argentina to bankruptcy. Other nations stopped growing traditional crops that fed their people. Costa Rican farmers grow macadamia nuts and flowers, not corn. For five hundred years, Mexico was self sufficient in corn. Now, she imports more US corn than any other nation. Thank you, NAFTA!

Brazil has become a power, one that merits a seat at the world table ­ especially the areas of financial collapse and global warming. Obama and Biden could announce a new partnership and permanently retire General Hubris.

Obama faces a strange problem. In the midst of financial collapse, will he also concede the loss of US political power? In 1897, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrated an empire that spanned the world, including highly populated India and China (an informal colony). The grandfather of General Hubris lived in London. God, he believed, had blessed the Brits with a perpetual lease for the universe.

By 1948, that lease had dwindled to a few remaining minor colonies. In 1956, as British warships sailed for the Suez Canal intent on reestablishing their Middle Eastern power, President Eisenhower ordered them to stop. They obeyed. In 2001, Prime Minister Tony Blair's tried to kiss George W. Bush's ass, perhaps to reignite some fading visions of past imperial glories.

Hopefully, someone in Washington will scream as Ike did to the British:
"Wake Up! It's over." The American Century lasted 60 years. Biden could have helped redefine US relations ­ partnership, not domination -- with Latin America. What a relief that would have been ­ for almost everyone.