Saturday, January 07, 2006

On the Road with the Zapatistas - The Sub Motorcycle Diaries By RAMOR RYAN


Like a cross between Mad Max and Zorro, Subcomandante Marcos zoomed out of the remote Zapatista stronghold of La Garrucha on a black motorbike with EZLN blazed across its handlebars and his cock hanging off the back. As the gathered scrum of media scrambled to capture this dramatic exit and beginning of the new Zapatista political initiative, all they were left with was a cloud of dust and the fading squawk of the unfortunate chicken - the campaign mascot called "Penguin" for its lopsided appearance - riding pillion.

The infamous guerrilla commander, a kind of postmodern Che Guevara with a flair for the theatrical, was on the road again. Somewhere outside San Cristobal, reporters caught up with him and asked was he really going to go on the campaign trail on this motorcycle. " All the way to Tijuana" he replied.

From Sub Commander to Delegate Zero

Under the moniker Delegate Zero, Marcos launches a six month tour of all Mexico, unarmed and apparently alone, not to speak or run for office but ¨to listen to the simple and humble people who struggle." This new political initiative, called the Other Campaign, is intended to influence Mexico's July presidential election. The Zapatistas will reach out to anti-capitalist and leftist organizations across the country, creating a nation wide movement that will turn the national political agenda "upside down".

Rejecting the suggestion that they were leaving the armed struggle and entering the political mainstream, the Zapatistas say they are conducting a campaign "from below, for below¨, focusing on "a radical transformation of the Mexican political system".

A Tumultuous Night in San Cristobal

Flight from the Zapatista lair in the Lacandon Jungle - the Desert of Solitude of colonial literature fame - was, for Marcos, brief. 80 miles away, some 15,000 Zapatistas and supporters, heralded Marcos´ arrival in San Cristobal. Amidst the ubiquitous frantic and impassioned welcome, Marcos -- now joined by the other Zapatista comandantes -- surfed through the multitude occupying a town center completely deserted of police and military.

From the stage, Comandante David explained the mission - "A new stage of the political struggle of the EZLN has arrived. Delegate Zero will blaze the trail and open new doors."

Rapturous applause greeted Marcos as he took to the platform. An unlikely hero, he bowed his masked head and characteristically mumbled his words.

"I have been chosen to go out across the country to test the road and to see what dangers lie there within, and to recognize who by their face and word is down with the struggle. So that we can unite the Zapatista struggle with the struggle of the farmers and the workers of the country called Mexico."

The Long Road of Struggle

It has been 12 years since the Zapatistas exploded onto the Mexican and world stage with the 1994 armed uprising, and 4 years since the unarmed "Zapatour" across the nation, which brought out millions of supporters, but no resolution to the conflict, as proposed legislation for indigenous autonomy failed to go through Congress. Frustrated by the lack of political progress, the Zapatistas fell into a silence and concentrated on building local autonomy in their zones of influence.

This led to the creation of 32 autonomous municipalities which refused to accept any state presence and set about organizing health and education services, as well as overseeing the implementation of justice and social welfare measures themselves, through a system of participatory democracy and assembly based council communalism.

Despite heavy repression from state and military forces, Zapatista guns remained silent during the low-intensity conflict as they undertook a path of non-violent resistance. This strategy led to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle - La Sexta ( the Sixth) -, which spelt out their political philosophy as distinctly anti-capitalist, against parliamentary democracy and in favour of direct or participatory democracy, as exemplified by their autonomous municipalities.

La Sexta was made public during the red alert of August 2005, when some analysts predicted an EZLN return to armed struggle. Instead they announced an unarmed strategy to critique and organize against the unequal, unjust and corrupt form of democracy permeating the Mexican political system.

In answer to the ever prevalent question posed by Lenin a hundred years ago - What is to be done?, the Zapatistas subtly rephrase it - What we want to do. And the answer is "the reorganize the nation from below and to the left".

Sinister Elements

The reaction of the political parties and establishment has been favourable, choosing to focus on the apparent abandoning of arms instead of the political issues raised by the Other Campaign.

"It's a good thing that they have left behind the armed struggle," said Cardinal Rivera Carrera, head of Mexico's conservative Catholic church.

The out-going ruling party PAN has also welcomed the new Zapatista initiative, but elements within the right wing, neo-liberal party, such as Congress leader Hector Larios, dismiss the campaign as "surreal and clown-like". The center-left PRD -- favourites in the poll to win the upcoming elections -- are adopting a conciliatory tone despite much of Marcos stringent criticisms directed at the neo-liberal drift of the party.

The PRI, who ruled the country un-interrupted for 70 years, is running a close second to the PRD in the polls. Sinister elements within the ex-dictatorship are the ones to be wary of. These are the intellectual authors of the Acteal massacre in 1997, and the assassination of the reforming Presidential candidate Luis Colosio, in 1994. Marcos has dwelt on the possibility of his own assassination as he goes about the country.

"We don't fear to die struggling. The good word has already been planted in fertile soil. This fertile soil is in the heart of all of you, and it is there that Zapatista dignity flourishes."

In a bizarre move, the PRI mayor's office turned off the lights of the Boulevard as the Zapatista caravan swept into San Cristobal on the night of the 1st.

Town Hall Meetings

Hundreds of delegates from some of the 443 social organizations and NGOs who subscribe to the Other Campaign packed out the first series of town hall meetings held in San Cristobal on January 2nd.

Marcos, masked and flanked by an unarmed civilian bodyguard, introduced the encounter. "Its necessary to hold public meetings but not the type of the old politics where one speaks and the rest applaud." In this sense, he proposed to differentiate the Other Campaign from the "electoral circus"

Speaking from the floor, Fr Miguel Concha Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Centre, explained how this new campaign was not a stunt to influence July elections, nor a parody of the official election campaigns but a renewal of nationwide grassroots political organizing.
"Its not an anti-campaign. This is another campaign that goes beyond the electoral consensus : its something focused on the medium or long term."

The tour continues to the state of Yucatan on January 9th.

The Dying of Ariel Sharon - What If He Was Reincarnated in the Womb of a Palestinian Woman?

sub-'junc-tive, adj. 1. The subjunctive mood, the form of a verb denoting an action or state not as fact, but only as a conception of the mind. It is therefore used to express a wish, a command, or a contingent or hypothetical event. 2. Characteristic of what is expressed by the subjunctive mood.
It was snowing lightly in Jerusalem (by which I really mean if it were to be snowing lightly in Jerusalem), a side-driven windy snow late in the day when Ariel Sharon left the Knesset with his bodyguard, if he were to do so, and traveled the short distance by armored car to his home, and after a light dinner with wine and television went to bed somewhat early in the darkness with snow still rushing outside, a snow so fine and spare it would be evaporated by morning. Yet Ariel Sharon was not to wake in the morning, for sometime during the night, doctors would say, the fat-streaked heart in his massive chest stopped ticking, clogged to a stop with one last difficult lurch.

Maybe he felt the heart lurching to a stop in his sleep, maybe he was dreaming of being on a train in a European country of flat and bare fields and the train suddenly stopped for no reason on the tracks with a lurch and a squeak of metal and the great engine ceased to throb through the metal plating and he, alone at a linen-covered table in the dining car, in the act of lifting a forkful of salmon to his mouth, froze and stared out over the bleak dark landscape like the one painted by the Dutch landscape painters in Holland, and as he stared out he noticed that his heart was no longer throbbing and he dropped the fork in alarm and heard it clatter on the plate and saw a waiter, a napkin folded carefully over his forearm, approach him with a questioning smile, and that was the last thing he saw because he died.

But what if Ariel Sharon were not to die--what does that word mean, die, it's imprecise and it yields no image and does not satisfy the yearning part of the mind, not to mention the body--but instead of dying were to leave the train in a surge of anxiety and a rush like the wings of a descending angel (I am thinking here of the angel that streaks down from Heaven like a flaming arrow towards the tent-sleeping Constantine in Piero della Francesca's fresco-cycle "The Legend of the True Cross") and if his soul, Ariel Sharon's pitying lost human scorched terror-faced soul, were to find itself translated, like a flash of wonderment, into the womb of a young woman in Bethlehem who happens to be (why not?) a Palestinian Arab.

And what if, about nine months later, this same young woman were to bleed to death in the agony of giving birth, because her taxi has not been permitted to pass through an Israeli checkpoint on the only road to the hospital--and what if the baby, a boy, were to survive his mother's death only to die himself, ironically but quite plausibly, at the age of ten-and-a-half rushing down a Bethlehem street away from soldiers firing from beside a tank into a crowd of stone-throwers?

This, I believe, is where Sharon's life really ends, or is at least where my subjunctive mood would end it: not on a train stopped in an obscure dream-landscape but on a light-drenched street where M-16 bullets are zipping and cracking against cement walls and Sharon, whose name is now Samir, whose face is dark, and whose fist holds a stone, is sprinting away from soldiers bulging in heavy equipment who are kneeling to take aim and then he feels a flash in his leg and goes sprawling and looks down to see his knee mangled by the spinning M-16 round and bits of flesh and a splash of arterial blood and he turns to face the soldiers who are still shooting and feels another flash, not of pain exactly but of amazement, as another bullet hits him in the chest and he is conscious of a high-pitched tone in his ears and his mouth tastes blood--nauseated, he spits a brilliant glob of it out onto the asphalt.

And now Samir remembers, with wonder, what he'd forgotten at birth or slightly before, namely that he is Ariel Sharon. In the seizure of this memory, the boy utters a cry--of longing, of horror, or perhaps of disgust. Then he leaps from the sprawled Arab body, leaps across miles and perhaps even across a span of continents to surge like lightning into the joyous womb of yet another young woman engulfed in the throes of love just seconds before the IDF soldier approaches and, with a shouted curse, squeezes off an entire clip of ammunition into his chest.

Andrew L. Wilson holds a G.E.D. from Memphis Adult Education Center, a B.A. in English literature from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston College. He has worked as a busboy, dishwasher, waiter, cook, bartender, dogwalker, lottery ticket seller, consigliere, art mover and installer, house repairs contractor, bookstore clerk, office temp, book appraiser, office manager, teacher, proofreader, manuscript consultant, writer, journalist, and editor. His fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in small literary magazines in the United States, Europe, and Japan, most recently in Rosebud, where his story shares a cover billing with Stephen King. Last year he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His interview with poet Derek Walcott appears in the Bedford/St. Martin's anthology Stages of Drama. A story of his recently appeared in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 2, and was singled out for praise in press reviews. He can be reached at:

"The Death of Ariel Sharon" previously appeared in NEO [print] and on

What Hillary Clinton Doesn't Know About Palestine - Eyeless in Gilo - By KATHLEEN and BILL CHRISTISON

What Hillary Clinton Doesn't Know About Palestine

Eyeless in Gilo

Former CIA analysts

In mid-November, Hillary Clinton visited Israel and, following a meeting with Ariel Sharon, in remarks that presaged the praise being heaped on the now-comatose Sharon, began her campaign for president by praising the Israeli as a "courageous" man who had taken "an incredibly difficult" step by withdrawing from Gaza. The withdrawal, she claimed with remarkable disregard for reality, was intended as "a means of demonstrating that he is committed to trying to get back into a process" with the Palestinians. Clinton also stopped for a photo op during her trip, in what constituted an equally monumental lie. She stood on a hilltop inside the Israeli settlement of Gilo, an illegal subdivision populated by 28,000 Israelis on the southern edge of Jerusalem overlooking Bethlehem. Gilo is in occupied Palestinian territory. It was built three decades ago, illegally according to international law, on approximately 700 acres of land confiscated from Palestinian ownership. It is just inside the expanded municipal limits of Jerusalem -- boundaries that Israel redrew when it captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, then expropriated 25 square miles of Palestinian West Bank territory and annexed it, also illegally according to international law, to Israeli West Jerusalem.

Clinton stood on this spot and, striking an elaborate pose, gazing pensively off to the side, had her photo taken with the 26-foot-high concrete monstrosity that is Israel's separation wall in the near distance behind her. Where she stood, the wall, like Gilo itself, is built on confiscated Palestinian land. On the other side of the wall, in the middle distance, was the dying little town of Bethlehem, now partially encircled by the wall and cut off from Jerusalem, its religious and cultural twin.

New "Patriot" Act Creates American Gestapo

Hitler had the brownshirts- his Gestapo that went around the country taking out dissenters. The New "Patriot" Act creates a new American Gestapo: (Section 605)

There is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the `United States Secret Service Uniformed Division’. Subject to the supervision of the Secretary of Homeland Security...

The new USSSUD will be in DC, but also everywhere Bush travels, or former Presidents, or heads of state, or even at events labeled a “special event of national significance.” (#11)

Has America ever had a federal police force? No. Why do we need one now? To protect us, or to oppress us? It sure looks as if this new police force will be have the authority to arrest anyone that gets too close to a member of Congress. Bush says trust me, it’s for your own protection. Isn’t that exaclty what Hitler told Germany?

Section 602 states that Americans can be arrested for interfering with “National Special Security Events”. You can even be arrested for conspiring to interfere with an “NSSE”. In other words, an American citizen can be arrested for calling some friends and scheduling an unauthorized meeting with a CongressCritter.

Under this new draconian law, any event the DHS labels an NSSE opens the door to arresting citizens that dare to speak out. Free Speech, Freedom to Assemble? Not in Bush’s America.

They even changed the language from events “designated” NSSEs to “described” as an NSSE. Again, opening the door to abuse- anytime a protest gets too big, the fascists can describe it as an NSSE and arrest anyone they so desire.

For protesting the actions of our government, a citizen could get 1 year in jail, or up to 10 years if they are carrying a “dangerous weapon” like a sign, or even a video camera, as the cop declares in this video.

This is Fascism, America. What are you going to do about it?

Ariel Sharon... by Robert Fisk

Israel's Prime Minister was a ruthless military commander responsible for one of the most shocking war crimes of the 20th century, argues Robert Fisk. President George Bush acclaims Ariel Sharon as 'a man of peace', yet the blood that was shed at Sabra and Chatila remains a stain on the conscience of the Zionist nation. As Sharon lies stricken in his hospital bed, his political career over, how will history judge him?

I shook hands with him once, a brisk, no-nonsense soldier's grip from Sharon as he finished a review of the vicious Phalangist militiamen who stood in the barracks square at Karantina in Beirut. Who would have thought, I asked myself then, that this same bunch of murderers - the men who butchered their way through the Palestinian Sabra and Chatila refugee camps only a few weeks earlier - had their origins in the Nazi Olympics of 1936. That's when old Pierre Gemayel - still alive and standing stiffly to attention for Sharon - watched the "order" of Nazi Germany and proposed to bring some of this "order" to Lebanon. That's what Gemayel told me himself. Did Sharon not understand this. Of course, he must have done.

Back on 18 September that same year, Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post and Karsten Tveit of Norwegian television and I had clambered over the piled corpses of Chatila - of raped and eviscerated women and their husbands and children and brothers - and Jenkins, knowing that the Isrealis had sat around the camps for two nights watching this filth, shrieked "Sharon!" in anger and rage. He was right. Sharon it was who sent the Phalange into the camps on the night of 16 September - to hunt for "terrorists", so he claimed at the time.

How Did the U.S. Government Annihilate $1 Trillion of American Wealth?

How Did the U.S. Government Annihilate $1 Trillion of American Wealth?

Ask Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and William Kristol. Ask Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney and George Bush. Ask the American Congress. They not only know how to extinguish vast amounts of American wealth, they have done it by attacking Iraq. Of this there is little doubt. They get A+ in destruction of wealth. They are fully qualified to teach a course in any university on the annihilation of wealth.

Sad to say, they are not the only rulers and would-be rulers in many lands, past, present and future, who have been, are now, and will be summa cum laude at Terminator College. But we are Americans, and these are our homegrown leaders. They are ours, and we are theirs. They have pressed the buttons of war and can press them again. The bombs they have launched at our well-being deserve our immediate attention. Every American deserves to know what the price of terrorist reduction in Iraq is.

Ask not what your leaders can do for the country; ask what they can do to the country. Ask what they already have done to the country. Ask how many more Saddams they’d like to take out. Ask what removing one Saddam has cost.

Sad to say, I do not refer to the lives lost, the bodies wounded, and the minds scarred. As each day passes, these relentlessly add still more to the toll of damage done. I refer to the dollars and cents values that are reflected in markets for securities.

The extraordinary folly of Britain's new opium war

The decision to send thousands of troops to Afghanistan is the half-baked product of Tony Blair's global machismo

In the next few weeks, an army of 3,400 British troops expects to be deployed to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. This is nearly half the number deployed in Iraq. Everything I have heard and read about this expedition suggests that it makes no sense. British soldiers are being sent to a poor and dangerous place whose sole economic resource is opium. They will sit there as targets for probably the most intractable concentration of insurgents, Taliban, drug traffickers and suicide bombers in the world - until some minister has the guts to withdraw them.

Even the context of this expedition is obscure. The Afghan war was supposedly won and the Taliban defeated in 2001. It is fashionable, even in circles opposed to the Iraq war, to claim Afghanistan as a triumph. The Americans and British bombed the hell out of whatever was left of Kabul by the Russians, and the Afghans themselves. A ramshackle army of warlords and mercenaries was helped back into power and the status quo ante the Taliban was restored. That would have been the best time to leave.
As it was, neoimperialists in Washington and London couldn't resist attempting that Everest of nation-building, a new Afghanistan. Their engaging puppet, Hamid Karzai, rules an increasingly insecure landscape, wholly dependent on western aid and a booming narco economy. Outside Kabul, the country appears to be in the hands of a disparate federation of local rulers, tribal warlords and Taliban commanders, all afloat on a sea of opium - the basis of half Afghanistan's domestic output and virtually all its export and personal wealth.

The Americans are wisely treating this country as history. They are reducing their troops to some 10,000 based at Bagram, dedicated to pursuing George Bush's Scarlet Pimpernel, Osama bin Laden. The rest is being handed over to role-hungry Nato. But Nato has no clue what to do. The French, Germans and Spaniards want no part in the madcap venture. The Canadians and Dutch are nervous, so much so that the Dutch may pull out. That leaves the British, mostly with the turbulent province of Helmand, which is sliding under the control of drug warlords in alliance with a resurgent Taliban.

The defence secretary, John Reid, said last month that the expedition's mission is to promote security, which is "absolutely interlinked to countering narcotics". This is to be achieved "by helping growers with an alternative economic livelihood". This cannot make sense. There is no way 3,000 British troops can handle the Taliban now reinforced by drug profits. As for countering those profits, opium is to Helmand what oil is to Kuwait.

Eradicating Afghanistan's poppy crop was assigned to Britain after the 2001 war. Before Clare Short arrived to oversee this task, poppies were grown in just six of the 32 provinces. By the time she finished, the UN recorded production in 28 provinces and a record export value of £2.3bn dollars. It was probably Britain's most successful agricultural policy of all time. Afghanistan now supplies 90% of Britain's heroin market. Output is being curbed this year only because traders are worried about lower prices.

Even the Americans, who have spent decades trying to wipe out South America's coca crops, are distancing themselves from Reid's policy. Opium is crucial to the power of the warlords on whom they and Karzai's regime depend. This is a repeat of the 19th-century invasion of China by Britain to maintain the illicit but convenient opium trade. But if the Americans are re-enacting the opium wars, Britain is inverting them. Trying to combat Britain's addiction to heroin by burning poppies and smashing opium "factories" is like combating London's traffic congestion by bombing oil wells.

If there is any answer to the opium trade, it lies in repealing Britain's 1971 Misuse of Drug Act and controlling demand. Two years ago, when opium output was low, there might have been some purchase in the so-called Senlis Council project, to legalise the Afghan crop for medical use, as has been done in Turkey and India. But profits are now so high that this is probably a fantasy, like such alternatives as hemp, wheat or coffee. Any form of eradication by destroying poppy crops merely devastates the income of the poor growers and, by restricting supply, increases profits to traffickers. It is a cruel policy, which Reid's troops will presumably enforce with their newly acquired Apache gunships.

In Chicago in 1999, Tony Blair set out five preconditions for British military intervention in the new century. They included legal certainty, military prudence and a clear national interest at stake. None is met in Helmand. Someone should make Blair read General Sir Rupert Smith's recent study, The Utility of Force. His view is that an exaggerated faith in hi-tech armies against insurgency is now leading the west to create one ruined nation after another.

Smith points out that operations like those in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq are not like the Falklands or Gulf wars, where the military aim was to eject an enemy army from occupied territories. They are rather "wars among the people", in which missiles, gunships, fortified bases and search-and-destroy missions are usually counterproductive. The enemy is not a state, vulnerable to "kinetic force projection". It is a miasma of conspiracies, hidden loyalties and lasting hostilities whose combatants know no boundaries. The influence of outside armies over the outcome of such conflict can only be informal and limited.

The Helmand expedition arises from Blair's obsession with global machismo and his addiction to abstract nouns. If I were its designated leader, General David Richards, I would not disobey orders but I would ask to see Reid before leaving. I would grab him by his lapels, ram his head against the ministry wall and scream in his face: "Tell me what the hell you really mean by sending my soldiers to that godawful place?" If the reply is yet more waffle about upholding democracy and combating terror, I would storm out with such a door slam as could be heard the length of Britain.

The Washington Post and the Coming Economic Crash

The Washington Post is one of the world’s "great" newspapers. But to the American-European financial establishment, it is much more than that. It is one of their house organs, with close ties to the U.S. government intelligence community. The Post's job is to shape the news the way the East Coast establishment wants it shaped. No one should think for an instant that rookie reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein would have been allowed to unmask President Richard Nixon if the intelligence/financier elite hadn't decided it was time for the cursing Californian to go. Nixon's crime? Probably not so much the dirty tricks and use of the IRS to hound those on his "enemy list" as much as his use of the Federal Reserve under Arthur Burns to radically ease credit in order to create a mini-economic boom in time for the 1972 presidential election. The Federal Reserve, you see, is an institution the establishment guards jealously as their own private preserve, one that not even presidents can tinker with.

After the Washington Post was founded in 1877, it became the first daily newspaper in the nation's capital. Eventually it went bankrupt and was purchased at auction by a California-born financier named Eugene Meyer in 1933. It is not generally recognized, but Meyer had played a key role in some of the most destructive economic events in U.S. history.

The Post's official history on its website tells nothing about Meyer's background before buying the newspaper. In fact, Meyer was one of the linchpins of the New York financier establishment from the time he graduated from Yale in 1895 and went to work for the New York banking house of Lazard Freres, where his father was a partner. By 1915, Meyer had amassed a personal fortune of $40 million, gigantic for the times.

Just two years before, in 1913, Congress had enacted the Federal Reserve Act. Contrary to its name, the Federal Reserve is not a government agency. Rather it is a privately-owned central banking institution to which Congress ceded its constitutional authority to issue currency and set its value. This came after 50 years of gradual concentration of American financial power in the hands of Wall Street and European bankers, eventually including J.P. Morgan, his Rockefeller allies, and the Rothschilds, following passage of the National Banking Acts of 1863-4 during the Civil War.

The United States government financed its role in World War I by borrowing through the Federal Reserve. The national debt was $1.191 billion in 1915. By 1919, it had soared to over $25 billion. It was Eugene Meyer, as head of the War Finance Corporation, who presided over the creation of this permanent mortgage of America’s future. Later, President Coolidge named Meyer chairman of the Federal Farm Loan Board, and President Hoover made him chairman of the Federal Reserve, where he served from September 16, 1930, to May 10, 1933.

It was at the Federal Reserve that Meyer carried out perhaps his worst mischief. Despite the crash of the stock market on October 29, 1929, by the spring of 1930 a recovery was underway. Unemployment that year was under nine percent. A return to prosperity, said the press, "was just around the corner."

When Sharon Meets His Maker

When Sharon Meets His Maker

by Gilad Atzmon

01/05/06 "ICH" -- --
"Laura and I share the concerns of the Israeli people about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's health, and we are praying for his recovery. Prime Minister Sharon is a man of courage and peace..."George W Bush (US President and man of courage and peace)
"He has surprised, I think, everyone with the courage and statesmanship he has shown in recent years to work towards a long term peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians." Jack Straw (UK Foreign Affairs Minister and man of courage and statesmanship)

A man of peace is dying. Let us all pray for his quick recovery. A man that was just about to rejuvenate the Israeli political world, redeem for us all the Zionist state and its racist agenda. The great man is gravely ill. Oh dear Lord, save our messiah, oh dear Lord may you now be able to create a donkey so upright that it can carry his load.

A peaceful man is on his way to meet his Creator. The Lord may ask him, just as he enters the gate of heaven, "Hey Grandpa Arik, why are your hands so red?" Sometimes the Dear Lord pretends to be ignorant, he loves to give his chosen followers a chance to repent. Somehow, they tend to forget to do so while they are still amongst the living. But Grandpa Arik is not that silly, the Dear Lord isn’t going to fool him that easily. "What red, what blood? This is me painting your land in my favourite colour, I thought you'd like it". Grandpa Arik winks to the Lord. The Lord is left cold, unaffected. For more than a while, he seems to have been perplexed by the conduct his chosen followers.

Meanwhile, down on earth, the Israelites are praying for a new saviour, a new man of peace, a merciless general with a long-term agenda. A term that is so long that no one can ever see where it leads. The Israelites do not like to see a light in the end of the tunnel because it means that they live in a tunnel.

No, it isn’t easy to find a replacement for Grandpa. Indeed, as far as filling his shoes goes, the task seems slightly easier, but as far as the waistcoat is concerned, the mission is almost impossible. The whole of the Israelites can fit in. The whole of the Hebraic nation wants to wrap itself up in Grandpa Arik’s flak jacket. It is warm in the winter and it provides shadow in the summer. Somehow, it worked for him for many years. Nothing really touched him, nothing really stacked against the man; not the Qibya massacre, not Sabra and Shatila, not the death toll of thousands of Palestinian and Israeli civilians that took place under his direct command. Not even the bizarre death of his first wife and his son.

Grandpa has managed to get away with everything. On Earth.

Grandpa was the last and the best of his kind. He was a devoted Jewish Nationalist. For him peace wasn’t an end but rather a tactic. Arik was the last Hebraic warrior, he was the very last Israelite knight. All his followers are merely professional soldiers. They can kill if needed but they do not prefer to bathe in blood. They are spoiled. Thank you peace loving old man for teaching us what the Israelites are all about. Thank you peace loving old man for taking leave of us. Thank you especially for teaching us what Israelis love to love. It is a slight shame it took you so long but considering your talent to resurrect yourself from the dead, I would just say that it is never too late.

Raised as a secular Israeli Jew in Jerusalem, Gilad Atzmon witnessed and empathised with the daily sufferings of Palestinians and spent 20 years trying to resolve for himself the tensions of his background. Finally disillusioned, he moved away from Israel and went to England to study - philosophy.

The Army of Good Americans Marching Forward

Festering in our midst like a toxic cloud of pollution the army of good Americans exists, living and working among us, inhabiting our neighborhoods and cities, co-existing peacefully with us, though perceiving an utterly different conception of reality than the rest of us. Their numbers, though dwindling more every day with the almost weekly revelations of corporatist lies built upon corporatist lies and government deceptions meshed with corporate criminality, remain high, thanks to those unable to escape the clouds of 9/11 and the manipulative propaganda of the corporatist media. The Kool-Aid drinking brigades remain strong, still ardent supporters of frivolous, fictitious and diminishing deceptions, still hypnotized to the dim-witted, slurred speech of their great Commander in Chief, still spewing the talking points they hear emanating from the corporatist media and still clinging to the ingrained and unenlightened selfishness that permeates their existence.

Today they are harder to recognize than in previous years, their once proud bumper stickers and car magnets on pickup trucks and SUVs praising their Dear Leader now nowhere to be seen, evaporating like a morning fog, thrown into trash bins or stored inside closets, lest they be fingered as part of the ignorant legions of automatons that helped steer America directly towards its present predicament. Gone are the large W’s emblazoned on their vehicles, that blue “Wastika” showcasing blind loyalty to criminality and fascism, while advertising mental fragility and propensities to be the followers of incompetence. Missing from the giant trucks and monstrous SUV’s masking quite apparent deficiencies below the belt are the plethora of patriotism-laced and nationalism-filled slogans that reeked of machismo yet betrayed delicate insecurity, now conveniently hidden from view as their precious war for fictitious democracy and freedom continues its decent into quagmire and debacle.

Yet this vast army of sheeple lingers throughout the American landscape, for they have not quite surrendered to truth or reality, two concepts as unfamiliar to them as reason and logic. They have simply retreated back to the canopied forests where barbarians live, crawling under rocks and boulders, returning home only to await the beckoning calls of further war through the trumpets of fear and hatred. Like fair-weathered fans, hiding at the first sign of defeat, rising with the arrival of victory, wanting only to be seen with winners and associated with success, this army of followers abandons ship when trouble can be seen and defeat smelled, forgetting that a war and quagmire exists in Iraq, evading their complicity in furtherance of criminality, finding it easy to whitewash from their minds war crimes and the murder of over 120,000 Iraqi and American lives.

Add neo-confederates to the ranks of the right-wing neo-conservatives who have taken over the Federal government.


January 7, 2006 -- SPECIAL REPORT. Add neo-confederates to the ranks of the right-wing neo-conservatives who have taken over the Federal government. The Neo-Confederacy's very own foreign policy apparatus revealed.

The history books teach us that the Confederacy lost the Civil War to the United States of America. That is so. But when one looks at the people who have secured prime positions within the Bush administration, head scratching results about who actually surrendered to whom in 1865 at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Take Nancy P. Dorn, the Texas native who served as House Speaker Dennis Hastert's national security and foreign policy adviser and went on to serve as Vice President Dick Cheney's legislative affairs assistant after she worked from 1996 to 2000 as a lobbyist for Hooper, Owen, Gould, and Winburn, counting among her clients one of the People's Republic of China's richest men, Li Ka-shing, the owner of Hutchison Whampoa, Ltd., the Hong Kong mega shipping company. Dorn also represented the governments of Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan and Houston-based Coastal Corporation, owned by Oscar Wyatt.

Wyatt and Coastal were listed in UN Oil-for-Food documents as recipients of oil allocations from Saddam Hussein's government. Charles Duelfer's CIA report stated that Wyatt and Coastal reaped $23 million in profits during the seven-year Oil-for-Food program. In return, from 2000 to 2003, Coastal paid Saddam some $201,000 in secret surcharges on Iraqi oil exports. Wyatt broke with the senior Bush before Desert Storm when he personally flew to Baghdad to successfully arrange for the release of his oil workers who were being held as "human shields." In October 2005, George W. Bush struck back, indicting Wyatt and two of his Swiss colleagues for paying millions in secret surcharges to Saddam as part of the Oil-for-Food program via three of their companies.

Dorn lobbied the Clinton administration not to enact a trade embargo against Iran, a major source for Iranian crude. She threatened to move Coastal off-shore. Nevertheless, the Clinton administration imposed an embargo on Iran in 1995. As a lobbyist for Islamabad, Dorn also ensured that Pakistan was free of threatened U.S. sanctions over its weapons dealings with China.

Dorn worked with former Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson's public relations firm to ensure that Azerbaijan received favorable treatment by the Congress and Clinton administration. While serving in the House of Representatives in the 1980s, Wilson helped fund and arm the Afghan mujaheddin. Some of that funding was made through the Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK) (the Saudi-controlled Office of Services), which was controlled by a Saudi mercenary fighting in Afghanistan named Osama bin Laden.

From 1991-1993, under George H. W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Dorn was the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, which had responsibility for the Panama Canal Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Arlington National Cemetery. After her stint at the Army, Dorn helped Li Ka-shing obtain a lease for the port facilities at the Pacific and Atlantic termini of the Panama Canal. She also served Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Inter-American Affairs from 1990 to 1992.

In December 2002, George W. Bush nominated Dorn to serve as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget under then-Director Mitch Daniels. She was confirmed in February 2002. In 2005, Dorn left the Bush administration to become the government affairs director for General Electric, the owner of NBC.

But its Dorn's connection to the neo-confederate movement that is most interesting. While serving as Assistant Secretary of the Army, she signed off on funding for Confederate memorials, according to John Edward Hurley, President of the Confederate Memorial Association. House Speaker Hastert, Dorn's old boss, also arranges every January 19 for the Robert E. Lee ceremony to be held in the Capitol's Statuary Hall, the future home of the statue for the recently deceased civil right pioneer Rosa Parks. While Assistant Army Secretary, Dorn oversaw annual ceremonies at the Confederate memorial in Arlington Cemetery.

Hurley also said that Dorn has close links to Richard T. Hines, the neo-confederate GOP lobbyist and one-time assistant editor for the clearly racist Southern Partisan magazine, which routinely attacks Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. It was Hines who attacked Sen. John McCain in the GOP primary for McCain's failure to support the flying of the Confederate flag over the state capitol in Columbia.

Hines counts Gambia's dictator Yahya Jammeh as one of his clients. Hines is reportedly involved with Gambian aircraft contracts through Hondo, Texas-based World Air Leasing (Gambia) and Tri-Star Capital. Tri-Star Capital contracted with Hamilton Aerospace Technologies, a subsidiary of Renegade Venture Corp. of Tucson, Arizona to provide two L10100 aircraft to Northeast Airlines of Swaziland. Tri-Star Capital's managing partner is listed as a John Poindexter. It is not known if he is related to the indicted Reagan National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter, who was involved in using proprietary CIA airlines to secretly ship weapons to Iran and illegally arm Nicaraguan contras. Perhaps not coincidentally, notorious Russian arms smuggler for Jammeh, other African dictators, and the Taliban Viktor Bout, has also based some of his aircraft in Gambia and Swaziland. Hines has also been a lobbyist for the pro-Chinese Cambodian dictator Hun Sen.

Other links have been drawn between the network of neo-confederates and the Alexander Strategy Group (ASG), with offices in Washington and Hong Kong, founded by Tom DeLay's former Chief of Staff, Ed Buckham. The founding of ASG was a pillar of DeLay's "K Street Project," which was intended to purge liberals and Democrats from Washington's lobbying firms and non-profit entities [This editor can attest to that fact based on personal experience with one non-profit]. ASG's partner Tony Rudy, another former DeLay aide, is now being investigated as part of the Jack Abramoff probe as is DeLay's wife, Christine, a salaried employee of ASG and chief executive officer of Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), a PAC that laundered illegal contributions to over 60 Republican members of Congress. ASG represented Enron and Blackwater USA, the latter accused of being involved in human rights violations in Iraq.

ASG also represents Group W Advisers, owned by Brent Wilkes, who is being investigated for bribing former California Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Group W is an umbrella entity that includes a number of brass plate firms, including Acoustical Communications Systems (ACS) and ADCS, which shared the same address in San Diego. It was revealed yesterday that Cunningham wore an FBI wire during his meetings with companies like MZM and Group W Advisers.

There is an interesting footnote to this story. During the Reagan administration, Hines worked in the Department of Transportation, Interstate Commerce Commission, and the General Services Administration (GSA). While at GSA, Hines was in charge of business and industry relations, including acquisition policies for the agency that buys billions of dollars of goods and services for the government from private industry. Before he became the chief procurement official for OMB, indicted Abramoff key player David Safavian was the chief of staff for GSA. Safavian was charged with secretly helping Abramoff to obtain 40-acres of GSA-managed land in White Oak in Silver Spring, Maryland for a Hebrew school as well as leased office space at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, DC. Safavian also took a trip to St. Andrews golf course in Scotland, paid for by Abramoff's Capital Athletic Foundation, an entity for which TV "journalists" Tony Snow, Brit Hume, and Chris Matthews were listed as participants for a fundraiser held March 26, 2003 at the International Spy Museum in Washington.

When Hines worked at GSA, a source to whom WMR spoke confided that Hines enjoyed taking visitors to the GSA Building's conference room. Before 1937, the Interior Department was headquartered in the building. In 1921, the Interior Secretary, Albert B. Fall, a poker-playing buddy of President Warren G. Harding met in the Interior Department's conference room with Harry F. Sinclair, an oil tycoon from Wyoming. After the meeting, Fall pressured the Navy Department to transfer its oil reserve lands in Wyoming to the Interior Department. Fall then secretly leased the land to Sinclair in return for a few hundred thousand dollars and some prized cattle. The name of the Navy reserve is Teapot Dome. And now you know the "rest of the story."

'Ariel Sharon is a war criminal and he should die violently'

Riven by violence and factional infighting, Palestinians were united yesterday in their loathing of the ailing Ariel Sharon.

As Mr Sharon underwent further surgery yesterday, there was no sympathy from Palestinians for whom his legacy is anything but the peace, courage and leadership for which he has been feted since falling ill.

For them, the list of his achievements is more brutal and violent.

"Sharon is a war criminal, a killer," said Saaed Hamani, in his fifties, who was turned back by Israeli border guards as he tried to enter east Jerusalem to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

"Dogs can pass to Jerusalem but not us. How can we remember with anything but animosity and hatred?"

The "separation barrier", which snakes through the West Bank and has choked Palestinians' freedom of movement, is a focus of hatred, and yesterday there was nothing but vitriol for the man who ordered it built.

"He mustn't die in hospital," said Feras Astoun, a resident of east Jerusalem.

"As he killed so many Palestinians, so must he be killed. He should die violently. It is the unfortunate truth but most people feel this way."

A minority of Palestinians have echoed the concerns of their president Mahmoud Abbas, however, and tempered their hatred of Mr Sharon with a pragmatic assessment of his ability to impose some kind of peace.

"Sharon is to blame for a lot of Palestinian misery," said Rajaee Abdul Hamid, 32, who lives in the shadow of the wall, and of the continually expanding Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim near Jerusalem.

"But despite the house demolitions, killings, arrests and the wall, his vision is more practical for reaching a peace settlement than other Israeli leaders."

Mr Hamid said a return to power by Benjamin Netanyahu would shatter the process.

Militants, such as Hamas, have greeted Mr Sharon's health problems with glee.

"The Middle East is a much more comfortable place without Sharon," said Hamas spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri. "He never added anything positive to the region."

In Ramallah, Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian minister, said: "Sharon achieved neither peace nor security for his people or ours. He simply managed to convince the world that avoiding negotiations by imposing a unilateral policy was fair."

Evo Morales in Spain: The New York Times Invents a Chill (Lies about his reception in Spain)

One of my favorite movies is Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. In it there is a funny scene in which Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are shown in a split screen, each talking to their New York shrinks. Each shrink asks, “How often do you have sex?” Allen replies, Hardly ever, maybe every two weeks. Keaton replies, Constantly, every two weeks.

Today’s news coverage of Evo Morales trip to Spain is equally schizophrenic. In the case of the New York Times, suspiciously so.

Today’s Cochabamba daily, Los Tiempos, has a big picture on the front page of Morales and Spain’s King Juan Carlos beaming at one another. On page three it has a similar photo of Morales sharing a beaming greeting with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. It also reports the announcement by the Spanish government that it will forgive Bolivia of $120 million in debt, to support new literacy efforts in the country.

Similarly the BBC led its coverage with the debt announcement, Spain to Write Off Bolivian Debt, and noted Morales’ meetings with the king, the prime minister and Spanish corporate leaders.

All this makes the New York Times’ coverage, from reporter Renwick McLean, all the more odd.

The Times headlines its article, Bolivian Receives a Chilly Reception in Spain. It then begins, “After receptions in Cuba and Venezuela this week and last that included marching bands, red carpets and praise for his stand against American "imperialism," Evo Morales, the president-elect of Bolivia, encountered a chillier welcome in Spain on Wednesday as he began a three-nation tour of Europe.”

The article makes no mention of Spain’s debt relief announcement and no mention of his Morales’ visit with the King. It also reports that Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero “refused to appear with Morales at a news conference” and that the main opposition leader in the Parliament declined to even visit with him.

Spanish officials explained the latter two points as a matter of protocol, given that Evo is still not formally the head of state. But the Times paints all this as a deliberate political snub.

The paper speculates, with no government sources, “But Mr. Zapatero also appeared determined on Wednesday to keep his distance from Mr. Morales, perhaps wary of the criticism that Spanish policies have drawn from the United States and some European officials for advocating more active engagement with Cuba and Venezuela, Mr. Morales's two chief allies.”

If all you read about the visit was the Times coverage you might really believe that Bolivia’s president-elect did get a chilly reception in Madrid. You would also have a very misleading picture. And maybe that is the Times intent.

Perhaps I don’t fully understand the subtleties of international diplomatic symbolism. But if I invite someone to my house, introduce them to all the important people in my family and then tell them, “Hey, that $120 million you owe me, don’t worry about it,” well I think that is one pretty darn warm reception.

You want chilly reception?

Sorry Evo, the King is really busy that day, I think he is playing golf.

Sorry Mr. Morales, the Prime Minister is all booked up, national shoe week you know. And about that $120 million you owe us…

That’s how you do chilly.

The Times coverage on this seems so off the mark that it, well, seems deliberate. Let us not forget the powerful role that the Times played in helping promote the Bush administration’s failed intelligence of about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The nation’s daily newspaper became a key element in the Bush propaganda machine, only to have to deliver a heavy mea culpa later.

All this leads to one question. What is behind this new episode of New York Times spin, this time against Morales?

Cost of Iraq War Could Top $2 Trillion

Thursday 05 January 2006

Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes plan to present this week a paper estimating the cost of the Iraq War at between $1-2 trillion. This is far higher than earlier estimates of $100-200 billion.

Here is their statement:
New Study Suggests Economic Cost of Iraq War Much Larger than Previously Recognized

A new study by two leading academic experts suggests that the costs of the Iraq war will be substantially higher than previously reckoned. In a paper presented to this week's Allied Social Sciences Association annual meeting in Boston MA., Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes and Columbia University Professor and Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz calculate that the war is likely to cost the United States a minimum of nearly one trillion dollars and potentially over $2 trillion.

The study expands on traditional budgetary estimates by including costs such as lifetime disability and health care for the over16,000 injured, one fifth of whom have serious brain or spinal injuries. It then goes on to analyze the costs to the economy, including the economic value of lives lost and the impact of factors such as higher oil prices that can be partly attributed to the conflict in Iraq. The paper also calculates the impact on the economy if a proportion of the money spent on the Iraq war were spent in other ways, including on investments in the United States

"Shortly before the war, when Administration economist Larry Lindsey suggested that the costs might range between $100 and $200 billion, Administration spokesmen quickly distanced themselves from those numbers," points out Professor Stiglitz. "But in retrospect, it appears that Lindsey's numbers represented a gross underestimate of the actual costs."

The Allied Social Sciences Association meeting is attended by the nation's leading economists and social scientists. It is sponsored jointly by the American Economic Association and the Economists for Peace and Security.

International Terrorist Posada Carriles May Soon Hit the Streets in the USA

Posada Carriles May Soon Hit the Streets
Everything Has Gone According to Script, Giving Appearance of Legality to Freeing U.S. Govt.'s Favorite Terrorist

By Jose Pertierra
January 6, 2006

It's now clear why the United States refused to charge Posada Carriles with terrorism. Not until now do we see exactly why the government charged him only with the single and timid charge of entering the country without proper papers. Instead of pursuing justice, the United States government simply scolded the terrorist.

According to an article published this Wednesday in the Miami Herald’s Spanish language newspaper, the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently informed Posada’s lawyers that his "status as a detainee would be reviewed on the 24th of January." This means that within a few weeks Posada Carriles, the man responsible for the blowing up of a passenger plane with 73 people on board in 1976, could soon be freed by the U.S. government under regulations that prohibit the indefinite detention of undocumented aliens whose deportation from the country cannot be carried out within a ninety-day period.

Everything has gone according to script so as to give the appearance of legality to actions whose intent is precisely to circumvent the law.

Immigration Judge William Abbott ordered Posada’s deportation to any country but Cuba or Venezuela on September 26, 2005. The law requires that once an order of deportation becomes final, it should be carried out within a ninety-day period or the person released, because the indefinite detention of undocumented aliens is illegal. In this case, the 90 days began running a month after the order became final when the government declined to appeal. That is to say, on the 26th of October.

In Zadvydas v. Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an undocumented alien has the right to conditional liberty if he cannot be removed from the country within a reasonable period. However, terrorists are exempt from this ruling. "Terrorist" is a word that the government has avoided associating with Luis Posada Carriles at all costs.

The Patriot Act authorizes the detention of someone who has not been deported, if he is a danger to the national security of the country or has been involved in terrorist acts. We don’t have to go far to find evidence that Luis Posada Carriles is a terrorist. It’s sufficient to read his own book, The Paths of the Warrior, in which he boasts about some of the terrorist acts he has organized, or we can go to the declassified intelligence cables from the CIA that report Posada’s boasting of his plans to down a Cuban passenger plane three months before he actually did it! We can also read the interview he gave the New York Times in 1998 in which he admits orchestrating the campaign of bombs that his paid Central American agents placed in various hotels and restaurants in Havana in 1997—bombs that killed an Italian tourist and wounded several others. We can also turn to the Panamanian Court decree that finds him guilty of trying to use the explosive C-4 to blow an auditorium full of students in 2000 during a speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro in Panama. In the interviews he gives and in his public statements, Posada Carriles advocates violence as the best way to defeat the government of Cuba: "It's the only way to create an uprising there," he told the New York Times.

There are enough laws in the United States to keep this terrorist in jail. What is lacking is the political will to do so. From the beginning of this drama, George W. Bush has wanted to shelter, rather than prosecute, the terrorist. Somewhere in a drawer in the Department of State are the pleadings filed by Venezuela, asking for his preventive detention as well as his extradition. The Bush Administration thus far ignores them and instead mocks U.S. law, as well as three separate extradition treaties signed, ratified and conveniently used by the government of the United States in other cases in its war on terror.

The family members of the victims of the passenger plane that Posada Carriles downed over the waters of Barbados on October 6, 1976, seek only minimal justice: that the man responsible for the cold blooded assassination of those 73 passengers be prosecuted for homicide and not treated as a humble undocumented worker in the United States.

With the possibility of Posada Carriles’ imminent release from detention in the next several days, it is more urgent than ever that the Department of Justice do what it should have done since May of last year: file the Venezuelan petition for an extradition detainer against Posada before a federal court. The Justice Department must file the request for a detainer right away. It need not wait until the immigration case is finished, because the extradition process has priority over immigration matters. The law here is quite clear and there is more than enough evidence to show that this man is a fugitive from justice in Venezuela with a resume filled to the brim with terrorist acts. As such, Posada has no right to conditional release and instead needs to be extradited for murder. As if this weren’t enough, two of his closest collaborators who presumably helped him enter the United States illegally, Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat, are now in jail in South Florida charged with illegal possession of a war chest loaded with weapons and false documents.

The only problem facing the American justice system in the case of Luis Posada Carriles is the false premise that the United States government uses to spin this case. From the beginning the Bush Administration has tried to bury this man’s bloody past and instead presents him before the law and public opinion not as the terrorist that he is but as a simple undocumented alien that entered the United States without being inspected by an immigration officer. If the government is allowed to operate with this false major premise, he will be free within a few days. If Posada Carriles hits the streets, mendacity will have triumphed as it did when the world was told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Jose Pertierra is a lawyer representing the government of Venezuela in the extradition case of Luis Posada Carriles. His office is in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared in Spanish in the online publication CubaDebate.

The Opposite of Good Is Apathy By Cindy Sheehan

The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and hasten the resurrection of the dead.
-- William Lloyd Garrison

The apathy of most of America is stunning and appalling to me. When I found this quote I was filled with wide-eyed wonder that there is one pedestal left in America complete with statue, or one grave or tomb still occupied.

Eavesdropping: High Tech, Low Legality By Ray McGovern

On December 19, while many of us were Christmas shopping, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Director of National Intelligence Gen. Mike Hayden held a press conference prompted by recent revelations about warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens. It was serendipitous that they picked one of the darkest days of the year, for their assertions and their spin cannot withstand the light of day.

This latest White House-orchestrated performance shows that, with the help of highly questionable legal advice and the suborning of senior generals to disregard their solemn oath to defend the Constitution, the administration is edging this country ever closer to being a police state. A report released yesterday by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service states that the decision to eavesdrop on US citizens was based on weak legal arguments, and conflicts with existing law.

Gonzales and Hayden answered questions about reports that the National Security Agency, which Hayden directed from 1999 to 2005, was eavesdropping on Americans via a special program approved by the president in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The implications for privacy - and our system of checks and balances - are immense.

As long as he read from his prepared statement, Attorney General Gonzales did just fine with the press. He conceded that FISA requires a court order to authorize the surveillance the president ordered NSA to undertake, and then hammered home the administration's "legal analysis:" the twin argument that Congress' post-9/11 authorization of force and the president's power as commander in chief trump the legal constraints of FISA.

Venezuela to Expand Fuel Discounts to US

Friday 06 January 206

Caracas, Venezuela - Venezuela said Friday it will expand a program to provide discounted home heating oil to low-income Americans, bringing savings to some Indian tribes in Maine.

Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp. has already begun selling cheaper fuel in some areas of Massachusetts and New York City as part of a plan by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to aid poor communities that he claims are neglected by Washington.

Chavez's opponents accuse him of using Venezuela's oil wealth to win friends while trying to one-up President Bush, a frequent focus of his verbal attacks. But Chavez's supporters defend the heating oil program as another example of a generous deed by a president leading a socialist revolution for the poor.

Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's ambassador to the US, said he will sign an agreement next week with the Penobscot, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to provide the cheaper heating oil.

"The Penobscot Nation is very grateful," tribal chief James Sappier said by phone from the reservation near Bangor, Maine. "This is probably one of the greatest decisions for our tribe in years."

Many in the tribe of 2,261 people are facing tough times economically as jobs have moved out of the area, and the discounted fuel could save a family $1,000 or more this winter, he said.

Sappier said heating oil prices have been hovering around $2.40 a gallon in the area recently, and Venezuela estimates participants in will save at least 60 cents a gallon.

Alvarez said Venezuela also will extend the deal next week to some parts of Vermont and Rhode Island.

Alvarez was accompanied by a group of American activists on a tour of a state-funded cooperative in Caracas where the poor receive free health care and hundreds work in textile and shoemaking shops.

The visitors included singer Harry Belafonte, actor Danny Glover, Princeton University scholar Cornel West and farm worker advocate Dolores Huerta.

"It was impressive for everyone to see that progress is being made," said Tavis Smiley, who joined the group and hosts a talk show on PBS television.

Noam Chomsky's views on War with Iran

Check out Chomsky's views on this subject (below)...If he's right, then we don't need to worry about a nuclear attack on Iran in the immediate future (hopefully)...But read his final 2 sentences!

At 01:22 PM 1/5/2006, you wrote:
Dear Prof. Chomsky,

I'm an antiwar activist in New York, and I was wondering: What are your thoughts about the likelihood of a US-led first-strike aerial attack on Iran using tactical nuclear weapons, to be
carried out as early as March, initially (perhaps largely) by Israel? In a recent talk here at Columbia, Robert Fisk opined that such a scenario was NOT likely, because he believes the US will need to use Iran as a sort of mediator for an end to the war in Iraq.
But here's a provocative new article by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky of Canada that suggests otherwise:

Seems fairly credible. I think popular resistance to the very notion of such a horrific attack must be vigorous and must build soon, even if it's a low-probability scenario. Any comments?



----- Forwarded message from Noam Chomsky -----
Date: Thu, 05 Jan 2006 22:49:51 -0500
From: Noam Chomsky
Subject: Re: War with Iran?
To: P

I think it's highly unlikely, for reasons I've discussed a number of times in print. In brief, if the US/Israel were planning an attack, they would not advertise it loudly for years in advance so that Iran could prepare for the attack and organize retaliation. Secondly, they know very well that Iran can cause plenty of trouble for the US in Iraq, where the astonishing failures of the US invasion has given Iran plenty of influence, and the US is up to its ears in problems there already which may be catastrophic for its ends. Also, they would be crazy to use tactical nuclear weapons.

I think there are better explanations for the saber-rattling of the past years, which I've discussed a number of times. In brief, intimidating Europe (which has succeeded: major corporations have withdrawn from Iran) and inciting the Iranian leadership to harsh
measures, expediting ongoing US efforts at subversion to weaken the society enough so that an attack might be contemplated.

That's assuming elementary rationality. However, a wounded beast may not behave rationally.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Money Grubbing Politicians Who Are Nerviously Giving Away (just some of) Corrupt Lobbyist Jack Abramoff's Money?

President Bush and several lawmakers have announced they are refunding or giving to charity some or all of the donations they or their political action committees received from once-powerful lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his associates or clients.

Abramoff pleaded guilty Tuesday to three federal charges as part of an agreement with prosecutors requiring him to cooperate in a broad corruption investigation into members of Congress.
  • President Bush, $6,000 from Abramoff, his wife and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan for the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign is being donated to the American Heart Association. Abramoff raised at least $100,000 for Bush's campaign.
  • House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. A spokesman would not say much money Hastert received or planned to donate.
  • House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., $8,500 to charity.
  • Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, $15,000 to local charities in suburban Houston.
  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., $2,000 will be returned to the Michigan Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
  • Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., $11,000 to the American Indian Center of Chicago and the American Indian Health Service of Chicago.
  • Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (Republican), $16,000.

Senate Republicans:
  • Kit Bond, R-Mo., $12,500 to the Salvation Army.
  • Jim Bunning, R-Ky., $1,000 to the St. Elizabeth Medical Center inpatient hospice program.
  • Thad Cochran, R-Miss., $8,000 to the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund.
  • Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., $1,000 to charity.
  • Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., $1,000 to charity.
  • Judd Gregg, R-N.H., $12,000 to Marguerites Place.
  • Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., refunding $4,000 to three Indian tribes.
  • Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., $18,500 to the Wayside Christian Mission.
  • Rick Santorum, R-Pa., $2,000 to charity.
  • Gordon Smith, R-Ore., $8,500 to be refunded or for charity.
  • John Sununu, R-N.H., $3,000 to charity.
  • Jim Talent, R-Mo., $2,000 to be refunded. Talent also refunded $3,000 in August 2005.
  • Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., $8,000 to victims of the 2005 tornado in Wright, Wyo.
  • John Thune, R-S.D., $2,000 to White Buffalo Calf Woman Society.
  • John W. Warner, R-Va., $1,000 to charity.
Senate Democrats:
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., $2,000 to charity.
  • Tim Johnson, D-S.D., $8,250 to Billy Mills Running Strong for American Indian Youth.
  • Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., $5,000, to the American Indian College Fund.

House Republicans:
  • Rodney Alexander, R-La., $2,000 to charity.
  • Dan Burton, R-Ind., $19,000 to charity.
  • Chris Cannon, R-Utah, $2,000.
  • Eric Cantor, R-Va., about $10,000 to the William Byrd Community House.
  • Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., $250 to charity.
  • Thomas M. Davis III, R-Va., amount uncertain.
  • Kay Granger, R-Texas, $2,000 to Boys and Girls Club of Greater Fort Worth.
  • J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., $1,000 to charity.
  • Melissa Hart, R-Pa., $2,000 to two women's shelters.
  • J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., $2,250 to the Salvation Army Katrina Disaster Fund.
  • Walter Jones, R-N.C., $1,000 to the Salvation Army.
  • Donald Manzullo, R-Ill., $2,000 to be returned to the Mississippi band of the Choctaw Indian tribe.
  • Jim McCrery, R-La., $35,000 to the Salvation Army.
  • Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., $1,000 to Crossroads Safehouse.
  • Bob Ney, R-Ohio, $9,000 to charity.
  • Chip Pickering, R-Miss., at least $2,500 to the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund.
  • Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, $8,000 to charity.
  • Hal Rogers, R-Ky., $32,000 to the UNITE Foundation.
  • Paul Ryan, R-Wis., $949 to USO Operation Phone Home.
  • Jim Saxton, R-N.J., $7,000 total refunded in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
  • Bill Shuster, R-Pa., $1,000 to charity.
  • John Sweeney, R-N.Y., $2,000 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
  • Curt Weldon, R-Pa., $2,000 to charity.
  • Jerry Weller, R-Ill., at least $500 to charity.
  • Roger Wicker, R-Miss., $250 to Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund.
  • Heather Wilson, R-N.M., $1,000 to the Great Southwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

House Democrats:
  • Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, $500 to be returned to the Tigua tribe of El Paso.
  • Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., $1,000 to be returned to the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe.
  • Lane Evans, D-Ill., $2,000 to Community Caring Conference.
  • Tim Holden, D-Pa., $1,000 to an animal shelter.
  • Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., $2,000 to be refunded.
  • Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., $6,950 to be refunded.
  • Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., $2,000 to charity.

December 2005:
  • Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., $18,892 to seven tribal colleges.
  • Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., $42,000 to charity.
  • Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., about $150,000 donated to Native American charities and refunded.
  • Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., $3,750 to North Dakota's tribal colleges.
  • Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., $67,000 refunded.
  • Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., $6,000 to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
  • Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., $19,900 refunded and given to charity.
August-November 2005
  • Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-N.J., $1,000 to the Children's Specialized Hospital Foundation.
  • Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., returned $1,000.
  • Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, $1,000 to the American Indian College Fund.
  • Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., $1,250 to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

February 2002
  • Sen. David Vitter, R-La., $6,000 refunded.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Venezuela: As the River Flows

If you navigate far enough down the Orinoco river in Venezuela to no-man's-land, between cotton fields, wide river banks, dancing dolphins, piranhas and the vast unknown, you’ll find Capuchino. Founded some time ago, named after some guy, last-name "Capuchino", (not the frothy coffee), this little pueblo is truly the land of the forgotten. Almost four hundred people reside here, most born and raised in this riverside community, with no paved roads or drinking water, just the broad Orinoco river with its succulent fish to feed from. A partially constructed "Bolivarian" school shadows dimly in the distance from the river – some private contractor shafted the government and never finished the job. The tiny medical clinic is locked shut because the nurse – not a doctor around – left for the mainland and never returned. Electricity comes and goes with the tide and the only music jets from an eighties boom-box that is used for all local celebrations. Capuchino is the epitome of misery, the land of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables".

We landed there by chance. I had the fortunate opportunity to accompany the Venezuelan Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Antonio Albarrán, and his team, during an inspection of cotton fields and fishing production all along the River Orinoco – where the states of Bolivar, Guarico, Apure and Barinas join together. We started in the fishing village of Cabruta, a strategic point that unites the states of Bolivar and Guarico and initiates the trail of "aquaculture" that reigns throughout the region. In Cabruta, we discovered a fish processing and freezing center abandoned seven years ago. Its deactivation made the lives of the local fishermen even more difficult and desolate. With nowhere to process and store fish locally, the fishermen were forced to sell fresh produce at cheap prices, or run the risk of losing their product to the intense heat of the Orinoco sun. But with Minister Albarran, the Bolivarian Revolution arrived in Cabruta, and the fish processing center, Alpesca, will soon be reactivated by the government and handed over to local fishing cooperatives to operate in the interests of the community. Cabruta will become once again a flourishing and prosperous fishing zone, with just pricing and marketing. At least that is the hope of the "pueblo."

We left Cabruta on a small boat, operated by the National Guard, intent on checking out the status of local cotton growers throughout the region. We banked spontaneously at the site of a small community, barely visible from the glistening Orinoco. The homes were all made of earth, mud, "barro". No concrete, no bricks, just dirt, sand, water and man. "Ranchos", they call them, some with aluminum roofs, in the luckiest of cases. In Capuchino, there are no mattresses, just hammocks, made by the sweat and labor of the local women. A tiny little girl, hair discolored from malnutrition, peered out the door of one shack, and more followed. A young man, Jose Orlando Blanco, peeked from behind a tin door plastered with magazine advertisements, embarrassed to show his face to the newcomers. His right eye was inflamed, deformed from birth. I returned days later with the rest of the crew, at the orders of Minister Albarran, to transport Jose Orlando to Caracas for medical treatment. Soon, he will return to Capuchino with two perfect eyes instead of one. A token contribution that will change the life of that young man forever. That is the essence of Chavez's Revolution, the Bolivarian Revolution that has captivated the world.

The river Orinoco and its native villages, like Capuchino, is full of contradictions. We continued down the open waters to Apure State, to the fishing village of Arichuna, encountering more forgotten souls, severe medical situations, shut down hospitals, dysfunctional schools and cracking mud homes. But the spirits of the locals remained strong. "We are with Chávez," most cried, out of the depths of their misery, "but we need help, we are forgotten." It’s true. These lands are centuries behind. No running water, sparse electricity, no cellular telephone connections, no paved roads – just the river flowing by.

Minister Albarrán asked me, after three days on the river, stopping in various pueblos and villages, consulting communities and witnessing life in its most dire straights, “what do you think now of all this?” I refrained from answering at that moment, and my response came days later. Venezuela is a land of contradictions. An immense beauty circles an unbearable misery. Impoverished fisherman fish exotic, internationally desired species of fish that are shipped around the world as delicacies, savored by the wealthy, while the desolate producers tap holes on their shacks with clay. “What do you think?” I think the revolution is long overdue. I think the hard work is to come. “What do you think?” I think Venezuelans are a strong-willed, tough people, and I feel deep pride to have their blood run through me like the Orinoco river. I think as we awaken our consciousness we will step aboard this boat gliding down the infinite river. River of hope, river of change, river that flows through the heart of Venezuela, bringing the revolution to the forgotten, the miserable, the wretched. When both eyes are given sight again, we will embark upon the true revolution that will change Venezuela, and the world, forever.

Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American attorney and the author of "The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela."

A new year’s message from Ramsey Clark

Dear friends,

The year 2005 brought new hardships but also new hope to the people of the world. Hope because the Bush administration has shown itself before the world to be lawless, cruel and brutal but also inept and incompetent. In Iraq the Pentagon has shown it is incapable of repressing a growing resistance from the Iraqi people. Meanwhile the government has been caught running torture camps inside Iraq and outsourcing torture around the world.

The people of the U.S. have decided the war is unjust and not worth the price in Iraqi lives or the sacrifice of our youth. Young people are refusing to enlist in the military in sufficient numbers to carry on the illegal occupation and continuing assault on the Iraqi people. In New Orleans the government did nothing for a week while the city drowned. Now more than four months later tens of thousands remain homeless. More and more of the population is outraged by the crimes emanating from the White House and are enlisting in the campaign to stop those crimes.

Under these conditions the International Action (IAC) has been a major organizing force. The IAC has persevered in mobilizing opposition to these policies, not only in their work this past year, but for the last 15 years it has consistently worked to oppose criminal and immoral U.S. military adventures.

Be involved! Support this vital work in 2006! Donate here...

In August 1990 when the murderous sanctions against the Iraqi people were adopted, those now active in the IAC, still resisting the U.S. assault on Panama, mobilized to stop the anticipated U.S. aggression. This work accelerated during the 1991 U.S.-led war against Iraq, and led to the IAC’s founding.

Since that time, the IAC has mobilized, held meetings, and educated millions, produced videos and books—translated to many languages--and helped to organize massive demonstrations in coalition with others to oppose U.S. aggressive actions against Iraq. It has organized international campaigns against the use of illegal radioactive depleted uranium weapons and rallied broad campaigns against the death penalty.

The IAC is a unique organization of activists and educators. It has developed a worldwide reputation for its brave opposition to U.S. war, militarism and interventions from Venezuela to Haiti and Cuba, from Palestine to Yugoslavia and now Iran and Korea. It has stood up when others were afraid of being demonized and isolated by the most powerful propaganda machine the world has ever known.

Now we must do more. Our plans for 2006 are bold and challenging. An initial focus is March 18-19, 2006 which will mark the third anniversary of the start of the Bush administration’s criminal war and occupation of Iraq, which has taken the lives of over 100,000 defenseless women, men, and children, and continues to bring devastation of untold magnitude. The IAC is committed to peace actions in New York City, and in cities across the country, coordinated with movements and countries around the globe. All in concert on March 18-19 will call for all U.S. troops to be brought home from Iraq immediately.

We must stop the Bush Administration from stealing Iraqi oil through oil production-sharing agreements with the U.S. puppet regime-- giving the lion’s share of oil profits to U.S. oil companies; this is the real reason for the U.S. occupation and regime change.

To preserve our Constitution, we must impeach President Bush and his principal cohorts in crime. This is a big agenda on which the peaceful and humane future of our country depends.

Working together to end this criminal war must be our New Year’s Resolution for 2006--our challenge and our commitment. The IAC will continue this work tirelessly in the coming year.

We depend on your help. Together we shall overcome.

Jack Abramoff - military supplier to terrorists

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff has pled guilty to various crimes, and the liberal blogosphere is agog with the hope that the scandal will further damage Tom DeLay and a host of other Republicans. The big "controversy" seems to be whether Abramoff also gave money to Democrats, or whether it "counts" if just Abramoff's clients gave money to Democrats, but not him personally, etc.

Amidst all the coverage that the scandal has received in both blogtopia and the corporate media, one aspect of it has been curiously underplayed. I was completely unaware of it until hearing about it on Flashpoints! tonight (mp3 download here, relevant section starts at 7:00 into the show) when host Dennis Bernstein interviewed Ali Abunimah from the Electronic Intifada.

And what is this hidden information? It's that more than $140,000 of the money Abramoff "took" (stole) from Indian tribes in the United States was given to radical right-wing Israeli settlers in the West Bank to fund their private war against the Palestinians. The story appears to have been broken by Michael Isikoff in Newsweek last May, and got a one-sentence mention in the Washington Post in June; outside of that, this aspect of the scandal has gone essentially unmentioned in the media.

And what was Abramoff funding? Isikoff says that the money went "to fight the Palestinian intifada," but that's just pro-Israeli out-and-out nonsense. The Israeli government, with its billions of dollars of financial and military support from the U.S. government, has no trouble fighting the intifada. Here's what the money really went for:

Among the expenditures: purchases of camouflage suits, sniper scopes, night-vision binoculars, a thermal imager and other material described in foundation records as "security" equipment.

Abramoff's paramilitary gear ended up in the town of Beitar Illit, a sprawling ultra-Orthodox outpost whose residents have occasionally tangled [How's that for a euphemism?] Palestinian neighbors. Yitzhak Pindrus, the settlement's mayor, says that several years ago the town was confronting mounting security problems. "They [the Palestinians] were throwing stones, they were throwing Molotov cocktails," Pindrus says.

"He used to bring in this equipment—night-vision goggles, telescopes," says Pindrus. At least some of the equipment appears to have come from Abramoff's law firm. An August 2002 invoice obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that $773 worth of paramilitary gear—including sniper shooting mats and "hydration tactical tubes"—was shipped to one of Abramoff's aides at the law firm where the lobbyist then worked.
The word "outpost" gives the game away. "Outpost" means that even under Israeli standards where other "settlements" are perfectly legitimate (they aren't), these particular settlements were illegal and conducting an illegal land grab, and harassing, terrorizing, and probably killing Palestinians with their Abramoff-provided sniper scopes. As Abunimah points out, the sick irony of taking money from one oppressed group to fund the oppression of another oppressed group is really too much to bear.

Abunimah also notes, which I haven't seen in the press but quite likely is there, that as the heat started coming down, two of Abramoff's associates skipped the country and found refuge in Israel, counting on tough extradition standards to keep them from being sent back to the U.S. to face the music along with their boss.

Also paraphrasing Abunimah, just imagine how much trouble Abramoff would be in if he sent $140,000 to Arab terrorists? Why, he'd probably be in the cell right next to Sami Al-Arian.

Update: Juan Cole has similar thoughts on the same subject (thanks to a tip in comments).


It's the financial threat of Iran introducing a euro-based energy exchange.

Iran is Cheney's next target ( note , I did not mention Bush who is the cheerleader for the Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal ) and the reason Iran is next has nothing to do with a nuclear threat and everything to do with the financial threat of Iran introducing a euro-based energy exchange.

Stay with me ~ this is high powered global gamesmanship and Ryan McGreal , Raise the Hammer, nails it in this short but most informative expose'.

Excerpt: " One of the major unstated reasons the United States invaded Iraq was to stop Saddam Hussein from trading oil for euros, which he had begun in 2000. Hussein actually made more money selling oil for euros, as the euro appreciated 17 percent against the dollar between 2000 and 2003. Other countries in the region, particulary Iran and Syria, began public musing about switching from dollars to euros around the same time.... All three countries were subject to a barrage of threats from the United States government, but only Iraq went through with the switch, and it was summarily invaded. One of the US government's first acts in Iraq was to switch oil sales back to dollars."

Allen L Roland

Iran in the Crosshairs

By Ryan McGreal

08/24/05 "RTH" -- -- Starting in 2006, Iran will start up an "oil bourse", or a stock exchange for trading energy, that will be based on the euro, not the US dollar. While this may seem innocuous, it will be a grave risk to continued American global hegemony.

Petrodollar Hegemony

Today, most oil trading takes place on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and the London-based International Petroleum Exchange (IPE). Since the 1970s, the OPEC countries have all agreed to sell oil for US dollars only. This means every country that wants to buy oil must first acquire enough US dollars to buy what it needs.

Year after year, America imports much more than it exports. It must pay out that difference (its current accounts deficit) in dollars. Last year, the US ran a current accounts deficit of over $600 billion USD; this year, it's expected to increase to $700 billion.

If there were no good reason for other countries to buy all those American dollars, then the dollar would decline in value until the US economy could no longer afford to import goods from abroad. This is what happens when other countries run large current accounts deficits over long periods.

However, the deal with OPEC means other countries have no choice but to buy all those excess American dollars, which props up the value of the dollar and allows the American "import economy" to go on year after year. Effectively, America's main export is US dollars, and it is absolutely imperative to preserve a captive market for those dollars among oil-consuming countries.

The continued viability of the US economy depends on it. Americans can still afford to consume because their economy is suffused with cheap imports; a falling dollar will raise the prices of imported goods. At the same time, Americans enjoy some of the lowest oil prices in the world, largely due to the petrodollar arrangement. This has skewed the American vehicle market toward gas-guzzling but profitable SUVs and light trucks.

Selling Oil for Euros

One of the major unstated reasons the United States invaded Iraq was to stop Saddam Hussein from trading oil for euros, which he had begun in 2000. Hussein actually made more money selling oil for euros, as the euro appreciated 17 percent against the dollar between 2000 and 2003. Other countries in the region, particulary Iran and Syria, began public musing about switching from dollars to euros around the same time.

All three countries were subject to a barrage of threats from the United States government, but only Iraq went through with the switch, and it was summarily invaded. One of the US government's first acts in Iraq was to switch oil sales back to dollars.

Now, Iran plans not just to sell oil for euros, but to create an exchange market for parties to trade oil for euros. The oil bourse will provide a euro-based price standard, the way West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) and North Sea Brent crude do today. To the extent that the balance of reserve holdings starts to shift from dollars to euros, that's very bad news for America's system of dollar hegemony.

Iran is taking a calculated risk that enough countries have an interest in a petro-euro market to contain American aggression. Many central banks are already quietly shedding their dollar reserves, nervous that America's economic fundamentals ($500 billion federal deficit, $700 billion current accounts deficit, $4.5 billion federal debt, record business and personal debts, zero savings) cannot be sustained for long, and hoping to insulate themselves from what they see as an inevitable recession. The US dollar has declined by a third against the euro since 2000, despite the petrodollar arrangement.

At the same time, Europe is eager to enjoy more of the "virtuous circle" that comes from supplying a major reserve currency: a ready market for its currency and guaranteed reinvestment as euro-holders plant their money in European markets. Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, has also expressed interest in switching from dollars to euros. Russia would benefit from getting paid in a stronger currency, and it would represent a political victory over America after fifteen years of watching its clients and assets in the oil-rich Caspian region co-opted by American expansion.

Nuclear Politics

Iran may, indeed, be attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. However, it also has a "legitimate" interest in developing nuclear power, since its own oil reserves are already post-peak and it aims to continue in its role as an energy exporter. Iran is a signatory in good standing to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has openly informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of its intentions as requried by the Treaty.

However, Iran's presumed attempt to acquire nuclear weapons is only the politically acceptable excuse for America's threats. The real danger is that Iran will lay down the foundation for a post-hegemonic international energy industry in which America is merely one of many players. If Iran is, in fact, developing nuclear weapons, it is doing so to acquire a deterrent against exactly this kind of American encroachment.

Indeed, recent world events have only enforced the notion that a nation's successful efforts to acquire nuclear weapons confer respect and status, not the opprobrium it deserves. India, a growing economic power that possesses a nuclear arsenal and refuses to sign either the NPT or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), has just been rewarded for its efforts by US President Bush, who has agreed to "work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India." This is a straightforward violation of the NPT, which forbids signatories from exchanging nuclear materials or support with non-signatories.

If Iran really is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, is it any wonder why? Look at the advantages that having nuclear arsenals have given to US allies India, Pakistan, and Israel, all of which have benefitted immensely from a playing field tilted in their favour by their ability to project devastating power. As official hysteria about Iran's intentions escalates in volume and intensity, remember the real force undermining the moral authority of the NPT: the big nuclear 'have' countries that still refuse either to apply the ban consistently or to take any meaningful steps of their own toward "general and complete disarmament" - ostensibly the NPT's ultimate goal.

Ironically, America originally invaded Iraq - a poor, defenseless country - partly to send a message to other oil producing countries not to rock the petrodollar system, but the real message for small countries is that they need to present a credible deterrent threat or risk being ignored and/or invaded.

Further Reading:
From Petrodollars to Petroeuros: Are the Dollar's Days as an International Reserve Currency Drawing to an End? Strategic Insights, Volume II, Issue 11 (November 2003)

Iraq, the Dollar and the Euro, Hazel Henderson, The Globalise, June 02, 2003

The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth William Clark, January 2003 (Revised March 2003, with Post-war Commentary January 2004)

US Dollar Hegemony Has to Go Henry Liu, Asian Times, April 11, 2002