Saturday, November 11, 2006

Israel Detonated Radioactive Bunker Buster Bomb in Lebanon

What kind of weapon leaves traces of radiation & produces such lethal and circumscribed consequences?

Global Research, November 11, 2006
RAI News (translated from the ItaIian) - 2006-11-09

Maurizio Torrealta presents a new documentary

By Flaviano Masella, Angelo Saso, Maurizio Torrealta

The special report was triggered by the radioactivity measurements reported on a crater probably created by an Israeli Bunker Buster bomb in the village of Khiam, in southern Lebanon. The measurements were carried out by two Lebanese professors of physics - Mohammad Ali Kubaissi and Ibrahim Rachidi. The data - 700 nanosieverts per hour – showed remarkably higher radiocativity then the average in the area (Beirut = 35 nSv/hr ). Successivamente, on September 17th, Ali Kubaissi took British researcher Dai Williams, from the environmentalist organization Green Audit, to the same site, to take samples that were then submitted to Chris Busby, technical adisor of the Supervisory Committee on Depleted Uranium, which reports to the British Ministry of Defense. The samples were tested by Harwell’s nuclear laboratory, one of the most authoritative research centers in the world. On October 17th, Harwell disclosed the testing results - two samples in 10 did contain radioactivity.

On November 2nd, another British lab, The School of Oceanographic Sciences, confirmed Harwell’s results – the Khiam crater contains slightly enriched uranium. Rainews24 also took a sample taken by Dai Williams for testing by the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Ferrara. The testing - which is still ongoing - found an anomalous structure: the sample’s surface includes alluminium and iron silicates, normal elements in a soil fragment. Yet, looking inside, estremely small bubbles can be found with high concentration of iron. Further testing will clarify the origin of these structures: what seems to be certain at the moment is that they are not caused by a natural process.

What kind of weapon is this? What weapon leaves traces of radiation and produces such lethal and circumscribed consequences?

Researcher Dai Williams believes this is a new class of weapons using enriched uranium, not through fission processes but through new physical processes kept secret for at least 20 years.

Physicist Emilio del Giudice form the National Institute of Nuclear Phisics came to the same conlcusion: “There are two ways to explain the origin of the enriched uranium found in Khiam:

About the origin of enriched Uranium there are two possibilities:

1) this material was present already in the structure of the bombs, but I am puzzled since one should explain the rationale of the use of a material which is both expensive and dangerous , because of its enhanced radioactivity, to people handling it , including military personnel of Israeli Army.

2) the enrichment has been the consequence of the use of the bomb; this possibility is hardly compatible with the known effects of conventional nuclear weapons and should imply that some newly discovered nuclear phenomenon could be at work.

The Israeli army denied the use of uranium-based weapons in Lebanon. So, how can people defend themselves from potential uranium-related harm? What precautions will the Unifil troops in the area take, and what kind of testing has been carried out to prevent the risks? The documentary directly covers those qestions.

Translation by Desiree Berlangieri and Maria Letizia Tesorini

The "Christian Terrorists" Who Aren't in the News By Jennifer L. Pozner

Anti-abortion fanatics spread fear by bombings, murders and assaults, but the media take little notice.

This piece was originally published by Newsday.

On Sept. 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks that devastated our nation, a man crashed his car into a building in Davenport, Iowa, hoping to blow it up and kill himself in the fire.

No national newspaper, magazine or network newscast reported this attempted suicide bombing, though an AP wire story was available. Cable news (save for MSNBC's Keith Olbermann) was silent about this latest act of terrorism in America.

Had the criminal, David McMenemy, been Arab or Muslim, this would have been headline news for weeks. But since his target was the Edgerton Women's Health Center, rather than, say, a bank or a police station, media have not called this terrorism -- even after three decades of extreme violence by anti-abortion fanatics, mostly fundamentalist Christians who believe they're fighting a holy war.

Since 1977, casualties from this war include seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, 152 assaults, 305 completed or attempted bombings and arsons, 375 invasions, 482 stalking incidents, 380 death threats, 618 bomb threats, 100 acid attacks, and 1,254 acts of vandalism, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Abortion providers and activists received 77 letters threatening anthrax attacks before 9/11, yet the media never considered anthrax threats as terrorism until after 9/11, when such letters were delivered to journalists and members of Congress.

After 9/11, Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups received 554 envelopes containing white powder and messages like: "You have been exposed to anthrax. ... We are going to kill all of you." They were signed by the Army of God, a group that hosts Scripture-filled web pages for "Anti-Abortion Heroes of the Faith," including minister Paul Hill, Michael Griffin and James Kopp, all convicted of murdering abortion providers, and a convicted clinic bomber, the Rev. Michael Bray. Another of their "martyrs," Clayton Waagner, mailed anthrax letters while a fugitive on the FBI's 10 most wanted list for anti-abortion related crimes.

"I am a terrorist," Waagner declared on the Army of God's web site. Boasting that God "freed me to make war on his enemy," he claimed he knew where 42 Planned Parenthood workers lived. "It doesn't matter to me if you're a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist, I'm going to kill you."

That's textbook terrorism, defined by the USA Patriot Act as dangerous criminal acts that "appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population" or "to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion."

Which brings us back to car bomber, McMenemy. According to the Detroit Free Press (the only newspaper in the Nexis news database that reported his crime), he targeted the women's health center because he thought it provided abortions. It doesn't. (oops!) It provides mostly low-income patients with pap smears, ob-gyn care, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, and nutrition and immunization programs for women and children.

The attack caused $170,000 in property damage and left poor families without health care for a week. But long after Edgerton's water-logged carpets are removed, scorched medical equipment replaced and new doors reopened to the public, a culture of fear will linger among doctors, nurses, advocates and patients across the country, who will worry they could be next. Some frightened workers will quit their jobs; some women will be too scared to get the health care they need.

Every fresh incident of anti-abortion terrorism is a reminder that women's health supporters are not safe in a country where abortion is legal but mobilized zealots believe Jesus has empowered them to kill to prevent women from choosing it.

Is McMenemy a lone nut case, or a member of that network of violent extremists? We don't know, because journalists haven't investigated.

Nor have they reported that just last year, nearly one in five abortion clinics experienced gunfire, arson, bombings, chemical attacks, assaults, stalking, death threats and blockades, according to the 2005 National Clinic Violence Survey. Additionally, 59 percent suffered intimidation tactics such as photo/video surveillance.

Federal efforts to hunt down these terrorists improved with the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994 and the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers, established by the Department of Justice in 1998. The feds have taken over McMenemy's case, charging him with arson against a business affecting interstate commerce. Yet as of Oct. 5, no news outlet on Nexis reported this, despite a second AP story.

As we continue national debates on how to keep America safe from terrorism, journalists do us -- and especially women -- no good pretending that the threats come only from radical Muslims outside our borders.

Jennifer L. Pozner is founder and executive director of Women In Media & News, a national media analysis, education and advocacy group. She lectures about women, media, politics and popular culture on college campuses across the country, and can be reached at

Saddam: Let's now charge the accomplices By John Pilger

11/09/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- In a show trial whose theatrical climax was clearly timed to promote George W Bush in the American midterm elections, Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to hang. Drivel about "end of an era" and "a new start for Iraq" was promoted by the usual false moral accountants, who uttered not a word about bringing the tyrant's accomplices to justice. Why are these accomplices not being charged with aiding and abetting crimes against humanity?

Why isn't George Bush Snr being charged? In 1992, a congressional inquiry found that Bush as president had ordered a cover-up to conceal his secret support for Saddam and the illegal arms shipments being sent to Iraq via third countries. Missile technology was shipped to South Africa and Chile, then "on sold" to Iraq, while US Commerce Department records were falsified. Congressman Henry Gonzalez, chairman of the House of Representatives Banking Com mittee, said: "[We found that] Bush and his advisers financed, equipped and succoured the monster . . ."

Why isn't Douglas Hurd being charged? In 1981, as Foreign Office minister, Hurd travelled to Baghdad to sell Saddam a British Aerospace missile system and to "celebrate" the anniversary of Saddam's blood-soaked ascent to power. Why isn't his former cabinet colleague, Tony Newton, being charged? As Thatcher's trade secretary, Newton, within a month of Saddam gassing 5,000 Kurds at Halabja (news of which the Foreign Office tried to suppress), offered the mass murderer £340m in export credits.

Why isn't Donald Rumsfeld being charged? In December 1983, Rumsfeld was in Baghdad to signal America's approval of Iraq's aggression against Iran. Rumsfeld was back in Baghdad on 24 March 1984, the day that the United Nations reported that Iraq had used mustard gas laced with a nerve agent against Iranian soldiers. Rumsfeld said nothing. A subsequent Senate report documented the transfer of the ingredients of biological weapons from a company in Maryland, licensed by the Commerce Department and approved by the State Department.

Why isn't Madeleine Albright being charged? As President Clinton's secretary of state, Albright enforced an unrelenting embargo on Iraq which caused half a million "excess deaths" of children under the age of five. When asked on television if the children's deaths were a price worth paying, she replied: "We think the price is worth it."

Why isn't Peter Hain being charged? In 2001, as Foreign Office minister, Hain described as "gratuitous" the suggestion that he, along with other British politicians outspoken in their support of the deadly siege of Iraq, might find themselves summoned before the International Criminal Court. A report for the UN secretary general by a world authority on international law describes the embargo on Iraq in the 1990s as "unequivocally illegal under existing human rights law", a crime that "could raise questions under the Genocide Convention". Indeed, two past heads of the UN humanitarian mission in Iraq, both of them assistant secretary generals, resigned because the embargo was indeed genocidal. As of July 2002, more than $5bn-worth of humanitarian supplies, approved by the UN Sanctions Committee and paid for by Iraq, were blocked by the Bush administration, backed by the Blair and Hain government. These included items related to food, health, water and sanitation.

Above all, why aren't Blair and Bush Jnr being charged with "the paramount war crime", to quote the judges at Nuremberg and, recently, the chief American prosecutor - that is, unprovoked aggression against a defenceless country?

And why aren't those who spread and amplified propaganda that led to such epic suffering being charged? The New York Times reported as fact fabrications fed to its reporter by Iraqi exiles. These gave credibility to the White House's lies, and doubtless helped soften up public opinion to support an invasion. Over here, the BBC all but celebrated the invasion with its man in Downing Street congratulating Blair on being "conclusively right" on his assertion that he and Bush "would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath". The invasion, it is reliably estimated, has caused 655,000 "excess deaths", overwhelmingly civilians.

If none of these important people are called to account, there is clearly only justice for the victims of accredited "monsters".

Is that real or fake justice?


Bechtel Departure Removes More Illusions

Bechtel Departure Removes More Illusions

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

BAGHDAD, Nov 9 (IPS) - The decision of the giant engineering company Bechtel to withdraw from Iraq has left many Iraqis feeling betrayed. In its departure they see the end of remaining hopes for the reconstruction of Iraq.

"It is much worse than in the time of Saddam Hussein," Communist Party member Nayif Jassim told IPS. "Most Iraqis wish Saddam would be back in power now that they lived out the hardships of the occupation. The Americans did nothing but loot our oil and kill our people."

Bechtel, whose board members have close ties to the Bush administration, announced last week that it was done with trying to operate in the war-torn country. The company has received 2.3 billion dollars of Iraqi reconstruction funds and U.S. taxpayer money, but is leaving without completing most of the tasks it set out to.

On every level of infrastructure measurable, the situation in Iraq is worse now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. That includes the 12 years of economic sanctions since the first Gulf War in 1991, a period that former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Dennis Halliday described as "genocidal" for Iraqis.

The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. There is 70 percent unemployment, 68 percent of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water, and only 19 percent have sewage access. Not even oil production has matched pre-invasion levels.

The security situation is hellish, with a recent study published in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet estimating 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq as a result of the invasion and occupation.

The group Medact recently said that easily treatable conditions such as diarrhoea and respiratory illness are causing 70 percent of all child deaths, and that "of the 180 health clinics the U.S. hoped to build by the end of 2005, only four have been completed -- and none opened."

A proposed 200 million dollar project to build 142 primary care centres ran out of cash after building just 20 clinics, a performance that the World Health Organisation described as "shocking."

Iraqis are complaining louder now than under the sanctions. Lack of electricity has led to increasing demand for gasoline to run generators. And gasoline is among the most scarce commodities in this oil-rich country.

"We inherited an exhausted electricity system in generating stations and distributing nets, but we were able to supply 50 percent of consumer demand during heavy load periods, and more than that during ordinary days," an engineer with the Ministry of Electricity told IPS.

"The situation now is much worse and it seems not to be improving despite the huge contracts signed with American companies. It is strange how billions of dollars spent on electricity brought no improvement whatsoever, but in fact worsened the situation."

The engineer said "we in the ministry have not received any real equipment for our senior stations, and the small transformers for the distributing nets were of very low standard."

Bechtel's contract included reconstruction of water treatment systems, electricity plants, sewage systems, airports and roads.

Two former Iraqi ministers of electricity were charged with corruption by the Iraqi Commission of Integrity set up under the occupation. One of them, Ayham al-Samarraii, was sentenced to jail but was taken away by his U.S. security guards. He insisted that it was not he who looted the ministry's money.

Managers at water departments all over Iraq say that the only repairs they managed were through UN offices and humanitarian aid organisations. The ministry provided them with very little chlorine for water treatment. New projects were no more than simple maintenance moves that did little to halt collapsing infrastructure.

Bechtel was among the first companies, along with Halliburton, where U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney once worked, to have received fixed-fee contracts drawn to guarantee profit.

Ahmed al-Ani who works with a major Iraqi construction contracting company says the model Bechtel adopted was certain to fail.

"They charged huge sums of money for the contracts they signed, then they sold them to smaller companies who resold them again to small inexperienced Iraqi contractors," Ani told IPS. "These inexperienced contractors then had to execute the works badly because of the very low prices they get, and the lack of experience."

Some Iraqi political analysts, rather optimistically, look at Bechtel's departure from a different angle.

"I see the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq," Maki al-Nazzal told IPS. "It started with Bechtel and Haliburton's propaganda, and might end with their escape from the field. They came with Bremer and introduced themselves as heroes and saviours who would bring prosperity to Iraq, but all they did was market U.S. propaganda."

U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters on a visit to Iraq last June: "You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered. You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people."

By his standards, the position in Iraq is now much worse.

Posted by Dahr_Jamail at November 10, 2006 08:15 AM

The Secret World of Robert Gates By Robert Parry

Robert Gates, George W. Bush’s choice to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, is a trusted figure within the Bush Family’s inner circle, but there are lingering questions about whether Gates is a trustworthy public official.

The 63-year-old Gates has long faced accusations of collaborating with Islamic extremists in Iran, arming Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in Iraq, and politicizing U.S. intelligence to conform with the desires of policymakers – three key areas that relate to his future job.

Gates skated past some of these controversies during his 1991 confirmation hearings to be CIA director – and the current Bush administration is seeking to slip Gates through the congressional approval process again, this time by pressing for a quick confirmation by the end of the year, before the new Democratic-controlled Senate is seated.

If Bush’s timetable is met, there will be no time for a serious investigation into Gates’s past.

Fifteen years ago, Gates got a similar pass when leading Democrats agreed to put “bipartisanship” ahead of careful oversight when Gates was nominated for the CIA job by President George H.W. Bush.

In 1991, despite doubts about Gates’s honesty over Iran-Contra and other scandals, the career intelligence officer brushed aside accusations that he played secret roles in arming both sides of the Iran-Iraq War. Since then, however, documents have surfaced that raise new questions about Gates’s sweeping denials.

For instance, the Russian government sent an intelligence report to a House investigative task force in early 1993 stating that Gates participated in secret contacts with Iranian officials in 1980 to delay release of 52 U.S. hostages then held in Iran, a move to benefit the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

“R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George Bush also took part” in a meeting in Paris in October 1980, according to the Russian report, which meshed with information from witnesses who have alleged Gates’s involvement in the Iranian gambit.

Once in office, the Reagan administration did permit weapons to flow to Iran via Israel. One of the planes carrying an arms shipment was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981, after straying off course, but the incident drew little attention at the time.

The arms flow continued, on and off, until 1986 when the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal broke. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege. For text of the Russian report, click here. To view the actual U.S. embassy cable that includes the Russian report, click here.]

Iraqgate Scandal

Gates also was implicated in a secret operation to funnel military assistance to Iraq in the 1980s, as the Reagan administration played off the two countries battling each other in the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War.

Middle Eastern witnesses alleged that Gates worked on the secret Iraqi initiative, which included Saddam Hussein’s procurement of cluster bombs and chemicals used to produce chemical weapons for the war against Iran.

Gates denied those Iran-Iraq accusations in 1991 and the Senate Intelligence Committee – then headed by Gates’s personal friend, Sen. David Boren, D-Oklahoma – failed to fully check out the claims before recommending Gates for confirmation.

However, four years later – in early January 1995 – Howard Teicher, one of Reagan’s National Security Council officials, added more details about Gates’s alleged role in the Iraq shipments.

In a sworn affidavit submitted in a Florida criminal case, Teicher stated that the covert arming of Iraq dated back to spring 1982 when Iran had gained the upper hand in the war, leading President Reagan to authorize a U.S. tilt toward Saddam Hussein.

The effort to arm the Iraqis was “spearheaded” by CIA Director William Casey and involved his deputy, Robert Gates, according to Teicher’s affidavit. “The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq,” Teicher wrote.

Ironically, that same pro-Iraq initiative involved Donald Rumsfeld, then Reagan’s special emissary to the Middle East. An infamous photograph from 1983 shows a smiling Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.

Teicher described Gates’s role as far more substantive than Rumsfeld’s. “Under CIA Director [William] Casey and Deputy Director Gates, the CIA authorized, approved and assisted [Chilean arms dealer Carlos] Cardoen in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq,” Teicher wrote.

Like the Russian report, the Teicher affidavit has never been never seriously examined. After Teicher submitted it to a federal court in Miami, the affidavit was classified and then attacked by Clinton administration prosecutors. They saw Teicher’s account as disruptive to their prosecution of a private company, Teledyne Industries, and one of its salesmen, Ed Johnson.

But the questions about Gates’s participation in dubious schemes involving hotspots such as Iran and Iraq are relevant again today because they reflect on Gates’s judgment, his honesty and his relationship with two countries at the top of U.S. military concerns.

About 140,000 U.S. troops are now bogged down in Iraq, 3 ½ years after President George W. Bush ordered an invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power and eliminate his supposed WMD stockpiles. One reason the United States knew that Hussein once had those stockpiles was because the Reagan administration helped him procure the material needed for the WMD production in the 1980s.

The United States also is facing down Iran’s Islamic government over its nuclear ambitions. Though Bush has so far emphasized diplomatic pressure on Iran, he has pointedly left open the possibility of a military option.

Political Intelligence

Beyond the secret schemes to aid Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, Gates also stands accused of playing a central role in politicizing the CIA intelligence product, tailoring it to fit the interests of his political superiors, a legacy that some Gates critics say contributed to the botched CIA’s analysis of Iraqi WMD in 2002.

Before Gates’s rapid rise through the CIA’s ranks in the 1980s, the CIA’s tradition was to zealously protect the objectivity and scholarship of the intelligence. However, during the Reagan administration, that ethos collapsed.

At Gates’s confirmation hearings in 1991, former CIA analysts, including renowned Kremlinologist Mel Goodman, took the extraordinary step of coming out of the shadows to accuse Gates of politicizing the intelligence while he was chief of the analytical division and then deputy director.

The former intelligence officers said the ambitious Gates pressured the CIA’s analytical division to exaggerate the Soviet menace to fit the ideological perspective of the Reagan administration. Analysts who took a more nuanced view of Soviet power and Moscow’s behavior in the world faced pressure and career reprisals.

In 1981, Carolyn McGiffert Ekedahl of the CIA’s Soviet office was the unfortunate analyst who was handed the assignment to prepare an analysis on the Soviet Union’s alleged support and direction of international terrorism.

Contrary to the desired White House take on Soviet-backed terrorism, Ekedahl said the consensus of the intelligence community was that the Soviets discouraged acts of terrorism by groups getting support from Moscow for practical, not moral, reasons.

“We agreed that the Soviets consistently stated, publicly and privately, that they considered international terrorist activities counterproductive and advised groups they supported not to use such tactics,” Ekedahl said. “We had hard evidence to support this conclusion.”

But Gates took the analysts to task, accusing them of trying to “stick our finger in the policy maker’s eye,” Ekedahl testified

Ekedahl said Gates, dissatisfied with the terrorism assessment, joined in rewriting the draft “to suggest greater Soviet support for terrorism and the text was altered by pulling up from the annex reports that overstated Soviet involvement.”

In his memoirs, From the Shadows, Gates denied politicizing the CIA’s intelligence product, though acknowledging that he was aware of Casey’s hostile reaction to the analysts’ disagreement with right-wing theories about Soviet-directed terrorism.

Soon, the hammer fell on the analysts who had prepared the Soviet-terrorism report. Ekedahl said many analysts were “replaced by people new to the subject who insisted on language emphasizing Soviet control of international terrorist activities.”

A donnybrook ensued inside the U.S. intelligence community. Some senior officials responsible for analysis pushed back against Casey’s dictates, warning that acts of politicization would undermine the integrity of the process and risk policy disasters in the future.

Working with Gates, Casey also undertook a series of institutional changes that gave him fuller control of the analytical process. Casey required that drafts needed clearance from his office before they could go out to other intelligence agencies.

Casey appointed Gates to be director of the Directorate of Intelligence [DI] and consolidated Gates’s control over analysis by also making him chairman of the National Intelligence Council, another key analytical body.

“Casey and Gates used various management tactics to get the line of intelligence they desired and to suppress unwanted intelligence,” Ekedahl said.

Career Reprisals

With Gates using top-down management techniques, CIA analysts sensitive to their career paths intuitively grasped that they could rarely go wrong by backing the “company line” and presenting the worst-case scenario about Soviet capabilities and intentions, Ekedahl and other CIA analysts said.

Largely outside public view, the CIA’s proud Soviet analytical office underwent a purge of its most senior people. “Nearly every senior analyst on Soviet foreign policy eventually left the Office of Soviet Analysis,” Goodman said.

Gates made clear he intended to shake up the DI’s culture, demanding greater responsiveness to the needs of the White House and other policymakers.

In a speech to the DI’s analysts and managers on Jan. 7, 1982, Gates berated the division for producing shoddy analysis that administration officials didn’t find helpful.

Gates unveiled an 11-point management plan to whip the DI into shape. His plan included rotating division chiefs through one-year stints in policy agencies and requiring CIA analysts to “refresh their substantive knowledge and broaden their perspective” by taking courses at Washington-area think tanks and universities.

Gates declared that a new Production Evaluation Staff would aggressively review their analytical products and serve as his “junkyard dog.”

Gates’s message was that the DI, which had long operated as an “ivory tower” for academically oriented analysts committed to an ethos of objectivity, would take on more of a corporate culture with a product designed to fit the needs of those up the ladder both inside and outside the CIA.

“It was a kind of chilling speech,” recalled Peter Dickson, an analyst who concentrated on proliferation issues. “One of the things he wanted to do, he was going to shake up the DI. He was going to read every paper that came out. What that did was that everybody between the analyst and him had to get involved in the paper to a greater extent because their careers were going to be at stake.”

A chief Casey-Gates tactic for exerting tighter control over the analysis was to express concern about “the editorial process,” Dickson said.

“You can jerk people around in the editorial process and hide behind your editorial mandate to intimidate people,” Dickson said.

Gates soon was salting the analytical division with his allies, a group of managers who became known as the “Gates clones.” Some of those who rose with Gates were David Cohen, David Carey, George Kolt, Jim Lynch, Winston Wiley, John Gannon and John McLaughlin.

Though Dickson’s area of expertise – nuclear proliferation – was on the fringes of the Reagan-Bush primary concerns, it ended up getting him into trouble anyway. In 1983, he clashed with his superiors over his conclusion that the Soviet Union was more committed to controlling proliferation of nuclear weapons than the administration wanted to hear.

When Dickson stood by his evidence, he soon found himself facing accusations about his psychological fitness and other pressures that eventually caused him to leave the CIA.

Dickson also was among the analysts who raised alarms about Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons, another sore point because the Reagan-Bush administration wanted Pakistan’s assistance in funneling weapons to Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

One of the effects from the exaggerated intelligence about Soviet power and intentions was to make other potential risks – such as allowing development of a nuclear bomb in the Islamic world or training Islamic fundamentalists in techniques of sabotage – pale in comparison.

While worst-case scenarios were in order for the Soviet Union and other communist enemies, best-case scenarios were the order of the day for Reagan-Bush allies, including Osama bin Laden and other Arab extremists rushing to Afghanistan to wage a holy war against European invaders, in this case, the Russians.

As for the Pakistani drive to get a nuclear bomb, the Reagan-Bush administration turned to word games to avoid triggering anti-proliferation penalties that otherwise would be imposed on Pakistan.

“There was a distinction made to say that the possession of the device is not the same as developing it,” Dickson told me. “They got into the argument that they don’t quite possess it yet because they haven’t turned the last screw into the warhead.”

Finally, the intelligence on the Pakistan Bomb grew too strong to continue denying the reality. But the delay in confronting Pakistan ultimately allowed the Muslim government in Islamabad to produce nuclear weapons. Pakistani scientists also shared their know-how with “rogue” states, such as North Korea and Libya.

“The politicization that took place during the Casey-Gates era is directly responsible for the CIA’s loss of its ethical compass and the erosion of its credibility,” Goodman told the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1991. “The fact that the CIA missed the most important historical development in its history – the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the Soviet Union itself – is due in large measure to the culture and process that Gates established in his directorate.”

Confirmation Battle

To push through Gates’s nomination to be CIA director in 1991, the elder George Bush lined up solid Republican backing for Gates and enough accommodating Democrats – particularly Sen. Boren, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman.

In his memoirs, Gates credited his friend, Boren, for clearing away any obstacles. “David took it as a personal challenge to get me confirmed,” Gates wrote.

Part of running interference for Gates included rejecting the testimony of witnesses who implicated Gates in scandals beginning with the alleged back-channel negotiations with Iran in 1980 through the arming of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the mid-1980s.

Boren’s Intelligence Committee brushed aside two witnesses connecting Gates to the alleged schemes, former Israeli intelligence official Ari Ben-Menashe and Iranian businessman Richard Babayan. Both offered detailed accounts about Gates’s alleged connections to the schemes.

Ben-Menashe, who worked for Israeli military intelligence from 1977-87, first fingered Gates as an operative in the secret Iraq arms pipeline in August 1990 during an interview that I conducted with him for PBS Frontline.

At the time, Ben-Menashe was in jail in New York on charges of trying to sell cargo planes to Iran (charges which were later dismissed). When the interview took place, Gates was in a relatively obscure position, as deputy national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush and not yet a candidate for the top CIA job.

In that interview and later under oath to Congress, Ben-Menashe said Gates joined in meetings between Republicans and senior Iranians in October 1980. Ben-Menashe said he also arranged Gates’s personal help in bringing a suitcase full of cash into Miami in early 1981 to pay off some of the participants in the hostage gambit.

Ben-Menashe also placed Gates in a 1986 meeting with Chilean arms manufacturer Cardoen, who allegedly was supplying cluster bombs and chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein’s army. Babayan, an Iranian exile working with Iraq, also connected Gates to the Iraqi supply lines and to Cardoen.

Gates has steadfastly denied involvement in either the Iran-hostage caper or the Iraqgate arms deals.

“I was accused on television and in the print media by people I had never spoken to or met of selling weapons to Iraq, or walking through Miami airport with suitcases full of cash, of being with Bush in Paris in October 1980 to meet with Iranians, and on and on,” Gates wrote in his memoirs. “The allegations of meetings with me around the world were easily disproved for the committee by my travel records, calendars, and countless witnesses.”

But none of Gates’s supposedly supportive evidence was ever made public by either the Senate Intelligence Committee or the later inquiries into either the Iran hostage initiative or Iraqgate.

Not one of Gates’s “countless witnesses” who could vouch for Gates’s whereabouts was identified. Though Boren pledged publicly to have his investigators question Babayan, they never did.

Perhaps most galling for those of us who tried to assess Ben-Menashe’s credibility was the Intelligence Committee’s failure to test Ben-Menashe’s claim that he met with Gates in Paramus, New Jersey, on the afternoon of April 20, 1989.

The date was pinned down by the fact that Ben-Menashe had been under Customs surveillance in the morning. So it was a perfect test for whether Ben-Menashe – or Gates – was lying.

When I first asked about this claim, congressional investigators told me that Gates had a perfect alibi for that day. They said Gates had been with Senator Boren at a speech in Oklahoma. But when we checked that out, we discovered that Gates’s Oklahoma speech had been on April 19, a day earlier. Gates also had not been with Boren and had returned to Washington by that evening.

So where was Gates the next day? Could he have taken a quick trip to northern New Jersey? Since senior White House national security advisers keep detailed notes on their daily meetings, it should have been easy for Boren’s investigators to interview someone who could vouch for Gates’s whereabouts on the afternoon of April 20.

But the committee chose not to nail down an alibi for Gates. The committee said further investigation wasn’t needed because Gates denied going to New Jersey and his personal calendar made no reference to the trip.

But the investigators couldn’t tell me where Gates was that afternoon or with whom he may have met. Essentially, the alibi came down to Gates’s word.

Ironically, Boren’s key aide who helped limit the investigation of Gates was George Tenet, whose behind-the-scenes maneuvering on Gates’s behalf won the personal appreciation of the senior George Bush. Tenet later became President Bill Clinton’s last CIA director and was kept on in 2001 by the younger George Bush partly on his father’s advice.

Now, as the Bush Family grapples with the disaster in Iraq, it is turning to an even more trusted hand to run the Defense Department. The appointment of Robert Gates suggests that the Bush Family is circling the wagons to save the embattled presidency of George W. Bush.

To determine whether Gates can be counted on to do what’s in the interest of the larger American public is another question altogether.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Oaxaca (like the tlacuache) Fights Back

Laura Carlsen, IRC | November 8, 2006
Editor: John Feffer, IRC
Foreign Policy In Focus

In regional lore, Oaxacans have a reputation for being like the tlacuache. A recurring figure in Mexican mythology, the tlacuache plays dead when cornered. But woe to the enemy who thinks the battle is over. The small but fierce creature merely awaits a more propitious moment to fight back.

The Oaxacan protest movement burns slow, but deep. Oaxacan teachers, who mobilized for a pay raise last May, consciously built on years of protest against social inequality in their state. On June 14, the state government goaded the Oaxacan tlacuachewhen it attempted to evict protesting teachers from Oaxaca's central plaza. Oaxacans responded by forming the broad-based Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO). The federal government confronted the growing movement on October 28 when it sent thousands of federal police to occupy the city. The murders, wounding, and disappearance of the protestors have only deepened the resolve of the movement as a whole.

Although the stage was set for confrontation, the movement continued to insist on non-violence. They lay down in front of advancing tanks and distributed flowers to riot-geared cops. On November 2, a crucial battle took place when the police attempted to retake the university. Inside the university, the radio station that has been the backbone of the protest organizing over the past five months was under siege the entire day. Radio APPO did not cease to broadcast and the people did not cease to defend it, despite the grossly uneven odds against them.

“Our eyes are burning with tear gas, but at least now we can see the government for what it really is,” a young woman commented over the air in a voice filled with urgency and determination. “We're not budging.”

People all over the world heard her. Radio APPO streamed through the computers of listeners who followed the battle for the university in blow-by-blow accounts. They instantly activated networks to plan their own protests. Within days, demonstrators gathered in front of Mexican consulates and embassies in the United States and Europe, calling for an end to police repression of the movement. People whose names are well known throughout the world wrote and published letters, and people whose names have been printed only in phone books signed petitions. In a small town in Italy, hundreds of young people gathered to discuss North-South cooperation and declare their solidarity with Oaxaca, and in New York several protesters were arrested in front of the Mexican consulate. The Zapatista Other Campaign mobilized a binational roadblock on the Mexico-U.S. border. The list of actions worldwide goes on and on.

Both houses of the Mexican congress and the secretary of the interior, who is charged with domestic policy, have called for Oaxacan Governor Ulises Ruiz to step down. Despite the breakdown of governance in the state, he has refused saying it is his duty to hold on to his job. On November 5, the movement mobilized tens of thousands of people in a march through Oaxaca. In the pre-dawn hours of November 6, bombs exploded in the offices of the electoral tribunal, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and an international bank. No one was killed or injured, but the tension rose several notches. Several guerrilla groups claimed responsibility for the acts, demanding the resignation of the governor, freedom for political prisoners held following police repression in the town of Atenco, and investigation of the charges of electoral fraud.

The APPO immediately condemned the bombings and repeated that it has no relations with guerrilla groups. It has continued to try to negotiate a peaceful settlement of its demands. In the turbid political atmosphere following Mexico's presidential elections on July 2, Oaxaca's conflict has now catalyzed a series of events that threaten Mexico's stability.

Why Oaxaca?

The mountains of Oaxaca became the refuge of pre-Columbian civilizations that were never fully conquered. The history of resistance and persistence that developed there permitted the survival of cultures that bucked a colonizing mentality and rejected tacitly or explicitly the wholesale imposition of colonial political systems. At the same time, to subjugate the rebels required some of the nation's most brutal forms of repression. Many of these remain fundamentally intact to this day. The governor, whose resignation has become the principal demand of the current Oaxacan insurrection, has inherited the mantle of this centuries-old tradition of repression.

Oaxaca is a land of many peoples. The state encompasses 16 languages within its borders and has the nation's largest number of municipalities (570), in large part due to the determination to preserve and strengthen local self-government. Even in Oaxaca City, where fighting between police and protesters has transformed the urban landscape, diversity precludes any easy characterization. Mixtecos converge with Martians (the local name for the city's large population of foreign artists, writers, pensioners, and NGO workers), tourists with beggars, the rich with the poor.

This diversity, which in another context could fragment a social movement, has become the wealth and collective strength of Mexico's most important social justice rebellion in recent years. Oaxacan teachers have drawn on over 26 years of experience in the democratic teachers' movement. Section 22, the group of Oaxacan teachers organized in the National Education Workers Union (SNTE by its Spanish initials), has long been a stronghold of the democratic faction of the union. For years its leaders have been elected from this dissident faction and have become leaders in Oaxaca's social movements beyond the union as well.

Oaxaca's rebellion also has roots in the battles of the indigenous communities for autonomy and, since the 1970s, for the restoration of communitarian forms of self-government, collective work, and identity. Added to the mix has been the anger of a new generation of high school and university students sick of getting short shrift from governments impoverished by structural adjustment and corruption. And as a final ingredient in a recipe for rebellion, citizens sensitized to the injustice expressed in daily life rose up against a disputed gubernatorial election that seemed to doom their society to more of the same or worse.

Leading Edge

The significance of the Oaxacan movement to Mexico is obvious. It is the first challenge to a federal government with little legitimacy or credibility, elected amid charges of fraud last July. Although Felipe Calderon takes office on December 1, the rules of Mexican politics dictate that all major, and especially very visible, decisions like the repression of the Oaxacan movement must at least be approved by him. The government's decision to send in federal police is in part based on a desire not to pass on a problem to a weak president who lacks the political capacity to resolve it.

The frustrations that led to the formation of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) exist throughout the country. Elections that fail to reflect the popular will, inequalities that sunder communities, brutality and corruption that flourish with impunity—no region is immune from the kind of social unrest that gave birth to the Oaxacan movement. Many Mexicans openly celebrate each victory of the Oaxacans, and each day they maintain the resistance. Knowing this, the government seeks to repress the movement without conceding political ground, so as not to provide a dangerous precedent in a system that relies on the complacency of the political and economic have-nots.

But why do other people care? Does Oaxaca have a meaning beyond an inspirational tale for those who aspire to a more just world?

If the movement for global justice were a territorial battle, Oaxaca would be a tiny point on a very large map, of little consequence except to the people involved. But symbolic battles, although very real for the combatants themselves, are the true terrain of the movement for global justice. They offer an opportunity, even when lost, to defeat the myths that uphold the system.

Oaxaca is the South of the South. It is the truth to the lie that Mexico has joined the First World by grabbing onto the coattails of the United States through the North American Free Trade Agreement. The failure of this integration strategy in Oaxaca and other southern states in Mexico was so obvious that even a recent World Bank report felt obliged to address the issue. Its conclusion—“the southern states did not benefit from NAFTA because they were not prepared to reap the benefits of free trade”—was foregone and surprised no one who has studied the Bank's blame-the-victim logic. If forced to do an evaluation of globalization in general, defenders of neoliberalism would no doubt castigate the entire global South for this supposed failure. Needless to say, it is of little consolation to the hungry, the displaced, the disenfranchised, and the discarded.

The Oaxacan rebellion is proof that for many people, even physical preservation can become secondary to fighting for a conviction. With only the raw material of their own lives in their hands, they have set out to mold a different future. Although demands today center on the governor's resignation and fair pay for teachers, the new forms of organization and consciousness created will endure long after this movement and become the seeds of future movements.

They will also be the seeds of popular rebellions in other places. The Oaxacan rebellion is a reminder that an evaluation of the consequences of free trade and globalization is indeed overdue — and that the World Bank has no right to be the evaluator. The people who have suffered the consequences should evaluate the system. Too often in the North, the reports of protest and rebellion around the world are seen as disparate battles or isolated complaints and not as part of a growing consensus that something is gravely wrong. Those who live in countries that do “reap the benefits of free trade” — not through “preparation” but through the design of the system — have a responsibility to get the message.

What could have been a local conflict has detonated a national confrontation and contributed to the revival of violent factions. The government's lack of political will has blocked real negotiations. It has failed to respond to Oaxaca's valid demands and open up talks on the reforms needed to assure Mexico's peace and stability. Instead, the country is now perilously close to the opposite.

Laura Carlsen is director of the IRC Americas Program in Mexico City, where she has worked as a writer and political analyst for the past two decades. The Americas Program is online at

The Dick Cheney-Robert Gates Cabal by Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990, is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Full disclosure: he is indebted to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld for TV notoriety on May 4, when McGovern’s impromptu questioning after a Rumsfeld speech in Atlanta elicited denials later shown to be false after fact-checks by the TV networks. McGovern’s acquaintance with Robert Gates, whom the president has picked to succeed Rumsfeld, goes back 36 years to when Gates was a journeyman analyst in the CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy branch led by McGovern.

As the Iraq war goes from bad to worse, President George W. Bush jettisoned “stay the course” in favor of “necessary adjustments.” Yesterday he showed how quickly he can adjust to the mid-term election results, when he jettisoned Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, barely a week after telling reporters Rumsfeld was doing a “fantastic job” and that he wanted him to stay on for the next two years.

It had been clear for weeks that the election would be a referendum on the war in Iraq and that Republican losses would be substantial. And Rumsfeld and Bush had every intention of avoiding the embarrassment likely to come of the grilling of Rumsfeld by congressional committees chaired by Democrats. Besides, who better to try to blame for the “long, hard slog” in Iraq than the fellow who coined the expression, and then implemented it with dubious distinction?

I have the sense that Rumsfeld offered himself as scapegoat for Iraq, not only to avoid another acrimonious tangle with Sen. Hillary Clinton , but also to help Bush project an image of flexibility and decisiveness to cope with the imminent sea change in Congress.

Neoconservatives Eat Their Own

Former allies are among those now denouncing him. The abandonment is enough to pin down even an old wrestler like Rumsfeld, but perhaps the most unkindest cut of all came from longstanding supporter “Cakewalk Ken” Adelman who, like other neoconservatives, have turned mercilessly on their old, now discredited friend. In an interview for David Rose’s “Neo Culpa” in Vanity Fair, Adelman came across as feeling jilted.

We’re losing in Iraq... I’ve worked with [Rumsfeld] three times in my life. I’ve been to each of his houses in Chicago, Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I’m very, very fond of him, but I’m crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don’t know. He certainly fooled me.

As the saying goes, with friends like that, who needs Hillary? ...Or a pummeling by the Army-Navy-Air Force-Marine Corps Times?

I almost feel sorry for Donald Rumsfeld (and I’m not just saying that because, with the “Military Commissions Act” now signed into law, he can declare me—or anyone—an unlawful enemy combatant and “disappear” me into some black hole for the rest of my days). What betrayal. What disingenuousness. Et tu , Cakewalk Ken? The neoconservatives are attempting to push the blame onto Rumsfeld for the debacle they authored. Parallel attempts by administration officials to scapegoat Rumsfeld will be equally transparent and unconvincing.

The “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal ” may now be down to one. But there is every sign that Cheney will continue to be the dominant force in the White House, and he recently asserted:

You cannot make national security policy on the basis of [elections]. It may not be popular with the public. It doesn’t matter, in the sense that we have to continue the mission [in Iraq].

Granted, Cheney made those comments before the election. But it is virtually certain that Bush vetted with Cheney the nomination of Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld and, if past experience is precedent, it is a virtual certainty that Gates will continue to earn an A+ for “loyalty.” Look for a “Cheney-Gates cabal.”

Gates has been getting unduly positive press treatment since the announcement of his nomination. This is in part due to his participation in the realist-led Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel tasked with devising plans to stabilize Iraq. There’s hope that Gates will help push through the group’s recommendations.

It is always possible that Gates really will bring, in the president’s words, “a fresh perspective and new ideas on how America can achieve our goals in Iraq,” but to those of us who have watched Gates parrot and implement White House policies—not create new ones—this seems a long shot. And as noted yesterday by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., who will probably chair the House International Affairs Committee:

You can’t unscramble the omelet and the tremendous mistakes that were made after major military operations; I don’t see any magical solutions.

It seems only fair at the outset to give Gates the benefit of the doubt. He can hardly match the disaster Rumsfeld wrought with his fancy language and fanciful ideas, but that is damning with faint praise. Unless Gates’ years outside the Beltway have wrought major behavioral change, Gates will bend to the wishes of Cheney and Bush and avoid taking stands on principle. While it is one thing to give him the benefit of the doubt; it is quite another to be oblivious to the considerable baggage he brings with him from past service.

An Intelligence 'Fixer'

Those of us who had a front-row seat to watch Gates’ handling of substantive intelligence can hardly forget the manner in which he cooked it to the recipe of whomever he reported to. A protégé of William Casey, President Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, Gates learned well from his mentor. In 1995, Gates told The Washington Post ’s Walter Pincus that he watched Casey on “issue after issue sit in meetings and present intelligence framed in terms of the policy he wanted pursued.” Gates followed suit, cooking the analysis to justify policies favored by Casey and the White House. And the cooking was consequential.

I was amused to read this morning in David Ignatius’ column in The Washington Post that Gates “was the brightest Soviet analyst in the [CIA] shop, so Casey soon appointed him deputy director overseeing his fellow analysts.” He wasn’t; and Casey had something other than expertise in mind. Talk to anyone who was there at the time—except the sycophants Gates co-opted to do his bidding—and they will explain that Gates’ meteoric career had most to do with his uncanny ability to see a Russian under every rock turned over by Casey. Those of Gates’ subordinates willing to see two Russians became branch chiefs; three won you a division. I exaggerate only a little.

To Casey, the Communists could never change; and Gorbachev was simply cleverer than his predecessors. With his earlier training in our branch, and with his doctorate in Soviet affairs, Gates clearly knew better. Yet he carried Casey’s water, and stifled all dissent. One result was that the CIA as an institution missed the implosion of the Soviet Union—no small oversight. Another result was a complete loss of confidence in CIA analysis on the part of then-Secretary of State George Shultz and others who smelled the cooking. In July 1987, in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair, he told Congress: “I had come to have grave doubts about the objectivity and reliability of some of the intelligence I was getting.”


And well he might. For example, in the fall of 1985 there was an abrupt departure from CIA’s analytical line that Iran was supporting terrorism. On November 22, 1985 the agency reported that Iranian-sponsored terrorism had “dropped off substantially” in 1985, but no evidence was adduced to support that key judgment. Oddly, a few months later CIA’s analysis reverted back to pre-November 1985 with no further mention of any drop-off in Iranian support for terrorism.

The U.S. illegally shipped Hawk missiles to Iran in late November 1985. When questions were raised about this in the summer of 1987, Stephen Engelberg of The New York Times quoted senior CIA official Clair George: “There was an example of a desperate attempt to try to sort of prove something was happening to make the policy [arms Iran for hostages] look good, and it wasn’t.”

Also in 1985 Gates commissioned and warped a National Intelligence Estimate suggesting that Soviet influence in Iran could soon grow and pose a danger to US interests. This also formed part of the backdrop for the illegal arms-for-hostages deal with Iran.

More serious still was Gates’ denial of awareness of Oliver North’s illegal activities in support of the Contra attacks in Nicaragua, despite the fact that senior CIA officials claimed they had informed Gates that North had diverted funds from the Iranian arms sales for the benefit of the Contras. The independent counsel for the Iran-Contra investigation (1986-93), Lawrence Walsh, later wrote in frustration that Gates “denied recollection of facts thirty-three times.”

In 1991, when President George H. W. Bush nominated Robert Gates for the post of Director of Central Intelligence, there was a virtual insurrection among CIA analysts who had suffered under his penchant for cooking intelligence. The stakes for integrity of analysis were so high that many still employed at the agency summoned the courage to testify against the nomination. But the fix was in, thanks to then-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, David Boren and his staff director, George Tenet. The issue was considered so important, however, that 31 senators voted against Gates when the committee forwarded his nomination. Never before or since has a CIA director nominee received so many nay votes.

Gates is the one most responsible for institutionalizing the politicization of intelligence analysis by setting the example and promoting malleable managers more interested in career advancement than the ethos of speaking truth to power. In 2002, it was those managers who then-CIA Director George Tenet ordered to prepare what has become known as the “Whore of Babylon”—the October 1 National Intelligence Mis-Estimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He instructed them to adhere to the guidelines set by Vice President Dick Cheney in his infamous, preemptive speech of August 26, 2002, and complete it in three weeks—in order to force a congressional vote before the mid-term election. To their discredit, the managers complied and issued the worst NIE in the history of American intelligence.

All those quoted in the press yesterday and this morning regarding the Gates nomination seem blissfully unaware of this history—all, that is, but Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Pointing out Gates’ reputation for putting pressure on analysts to shape their conclusions to fit administration policies, Holt told the press yesterday that the nomination is “deeply troubling,” and stressed that the confirmation hearings “should be thorough and probing.”

A sarcastic song about being bosnian muslim in Europe surrounded by christians neighbours. Here are the lyrics:


If I wasn't Muslim
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I wasn't born Mohammedan
Life for me would have been fun.

I could live and prosper
On my land and I could even build a bigger house
I wouldn't have to, every now and then,
Run and hide like a mouse.

If I wasn't Muslim
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
My neighbors wouldn't set my home on fire
And surround me with barbed wire

I wouldn't live in terror
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
Books wouldn't teach you that I was an error
In European history.


I would not have to prove that I am not stupid
A backward and primitive villain
An alien threat to your way of life
to be hunted down.

I wouldn't be so ashamed of
The names of my relatives and mine
Of the Semitic language I speak to my God
That no one here understands

My tradition wouldn't insult
My Christian neighbors and friends
My diet, my cap, the Ramadan fast
the crescent and the star.

Bayram, I know, will never be famous
like Christmas or Easter Sunday
so modern and cool, so western,
and - oh so "secular".

If I wasn't Muslim
If I had an ordinary Slavic Christian name
If I wasn't circumcised
If I could eat my eggs with ham

I would be accepted
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
I'd blend in to Europe and enjoy
I wouldn't be its whipping boy.

-- oh boy --

If I were a Christian
I wouldn't have to prove that I am human too.
'Cause when you're Christian you're always civilized
no matter what you wear or do.

But when you are a Muslim
It is really hard to find some sympathy for you
No one really likes you, no one really cares
No one wants to know your point of view.

If I wasn't Muslim
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I was a part of Christendom
Europe would be my sweet home.

I wouldn't have to worry
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
What will happen in a year or two
Will I have to leave or stay and die
Drop my pants to be identified and put aside
Just 'cause I'm a Mussulman?

Bipartisanship??? Bullshit, its a Bipartisan Ship

The Bipartisan Ship
Any time you hear the term bipartisan, check “your six” and check your wallet. It means the ruling class is united and on the move. Given the history of this term, I can’t imagine why it doesn’t send shudders down our collective spine. They call it bipartisanship; but it’s more like The Bipartisan Ship — the primary war vessel of the ultra-elite.

The Bipartisan Ship is why we don’t have universal health care. The Bipartisan Ship is why there is no meaningful right for workers to organize in most states. The Bipartisan Ship is why the two state-institutions that can openly engage in heterosexist discrimination are marriage and the military. The Bipartisan Ship is what gave us the “free trade” agreements that have gutted local enterprises, destroyed the trade union movement, savaged the economies of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and reinforced overpriced war materiel contracts as a surrogate export market during an apparently permanent trade deficit. The Bipartisan Ship gave us the largest prison population on earth (raw numbers… China with 1.3 billion people has 1.5 million in lockup… we have 2.1 million locked up in a population of a mere 300 million). The Bipartisan Ship is the Death Star dressed up like the Love Boat.

In this election, the average cost of a House seat (in campaign cash) was alm ost a million dollars ($960,000 to be more exact). The average cost of a Senate seat was $7.8 million. This pretty well consoidates the loyalty of anyone wanting to serve (and that is the right word) in Congress. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money, updates the figures frequently; and what is remarkable is not which top contributors give to which party, but how many of the top contributors (representing Wall Street and Big Business) give generously to both parties. You see, they are all on the same cruise, headed for the same destination.

That destination includes perserving American supremacy in the world, which allows us to live our profligate and completely unsustanable lifestyles here long enough to get through another business and election cycle… all at the direct expense of the poorer people in the world. Yes, I know this is an unpopular thing to say; but the manner to which we have become accustomed is paid for by a steady flow of value drained from the peripheral regions and sucked into this giant, wasteful, dangerous, and dirty technomass that will one day leave our children stranded on a toxic scrap heap wondering how we let this happen.

Right now, that means the mission of The Bipartisan Ship is to ensure the continued flow of the fuel (literally) for this massive parasitism. The Bipartisan Ship is committed to maintaining control, by hook or by crook, of the region whose residents live inconveniently atop more than half the world’s easily recoverable oil, and adjacent to most of the world’s natural gas. Let’s not forget that The Bipartisn Ship was all-aboard for the Energy War. Their reluctant change of heart is nothing but a dilemma. They are caught between the Scylla of growing domestic opposition ot the war and the Charybdis of the necessity of cheap oil to maintain this profligacy a little bit longer. Apres moi, as they say, le deluge.

So they blame the Republicans, and poor delusional Donny Rumsfeld (may his name be forgotten until the first subpoena), for mismanaging the war. How do they get out of this dilemma… for just a bit longer? I’ll tell you how. They claim they are waiting for a bipartisan commission.

Commissions… the last refuge of bipartisan scoundrels.

The Baker-Hamilton Commission that Democrats are now using as cover and concealment is led by two professional commission-leaders, James Baker and Lee Hamilton, both veterans of ruling class, pasty-faced, male mandarinism — one a Republican operative and the other a Democrat… respectively.

Opportunism and an unwavering committment to American imperialism led the Democrats to jump on the war wagon. Now that the war has proven unwinnable, and support for it is disappearing like Spring snow, they find themselves stranded. They can’t oppose the war (as a party) and call for immediate, unilateral withdrawal (the only sensible, legal, and moral option), even though opposition to the war just vaulted them over the finish line in an off-year protest election. They can’t investigate the war based on its illegality (an unequivocal violation of the UN Charter), because they committed the same exact violation of international law when they eagerly supported Bill Clinton’s 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia.

Bipartisans love bombs. They love the contracts to build them. They love the macho cache of talking about them and raining them on the heads of anonymous families abroad as a display of “resolve.”

The Baker-Hamilton Commission, if you’ll pardon my language, isn’t designed to do jack shit about the war, except figure out how to dampen down our opposition to it a little bit longer, and to give the Democratic Partysome breathing space, now trapped in its victory and the twin-realities of an unwinnable war and the beginnings of a permanent decline in American imperial power. Exposing this sham is the first step in retaining the power that we-the-people exercised two days ago.

The message was not, “We love Democrats.” The message was that we want this bloody, illegal, and immoral war to end. We don’t expect opportunistic Democrats to inaugurate a love-fest with battered Republicans. We are polarized, and we expect you to act like it. We don’t expect reconciliation. We will never be reconciled to this war, and the Baker-Hamilton Commission can go straight to hell.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Plebiscite on an Outlaw Empire - Outlaw Empire Meets the Wave

5 Questions for Our Future
By Tom Engelhardt

The wave -- and make no mistake, it's a global one -- has just crashed on our shores, soaking our imperial masters. It's a sight for sore eyes.

It's been a long time since we've seen an election like midterm 2006. After all, it's a truism of our politics that Americans are almost never driven to the polls by foreign-policy issues, no less by a single one that dominates everything else, no less by a catastrophic war (and the presidential approval ratings that go with it). This strange phenomenon has been building since the moment, in May 2003, that George W. Bush stood under that White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared "major combat operations have ended."

That "Top Gun" stunt -- when a cocky President helped pilot an S-3B Viking sub reconnaissance Naval jet onto a carrier deck and emerged into the golden glow of "magic hour light" (as his handlers then called it) -- was meant to give him the necessary victory photos to launch his 2004 presidential reelection campaign. As it turned out, that moment was but the first "milestone" on the path to Iraqi, and finally electoral, hell. Within mere months, those photos would prove useless for anyone but liberal bloggers. By now, they seem like artifacts from another age. On the way to the present "precipice" (or are we already over the edge?), there have been other memorable "milestones" -- from the President's July 2003 petulant "bring ‘em on" taunt to Iraq's then forming insurgency to the Vice President's June 2005 "last throes" gaffe. All such statements have, by now, turned to dust in American mouths.

In the context of the history of great imperial powers, how remarkably quickly this has happened. An American President, ruling the last superpower on this or any other planet, and his party have been driven willy-nilly into global and domestic retreat a mere three-plus years after launching the invasion of their dreams, the one that was meant to start them on the path to controlling the planet -- and by one of the more ragtag minority rebellions imaginable. I'm speaking here, of course, of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, of perhaps 15,000 relatively lightly armed rebels whose main weapons have been the roadside bomb and the sniper's bullet. What a grim, bizarre spectacle it's been.

The Fall of the New Rome

But let's back up a moment. After such an election, a bit of history, however quick and potted, is in order -- in this case of the post-Cold War era of U.S. supremacy, now seemingly winding down. In the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to be followed by the relatively violence-free collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a brief moment of conceptual paralysis among leadership elites in this country, none of whom had even imagined the loss of the "Evil Empire" (in President Ronald Reagan's famous Star Wars-ian phrase) until it suddenly, miraculously evaporated. In this forgotten moment, we even heard hopeful mutterings about a "peace dividend" that would take all the extra military money that obviously was no longer needed to defend against a missing superpower and use it to rebuild America.

A mighty country, soon to be termed a "hyperpower," straddling the globe alone and without obvious enemies -- that should have been a formula for declaring victory (as many Cold Warriors promptly did) and acting accordingly (which none of them did). It should have been the moment for the Long Peace.

But in an enemy-less world, there was a small problem called the Pentagon (and the vast military-industrial complex that had grown up around it). So, while the peace-dividend-that-never-was vanished in the post-Cold-War morning fog, some new, prefab enemies did make their appearances with startling speed. They essentially had to.

These new dangers to our country were termed "rogue states," an obvious step or two down from a single Evil Empire. They were, in fact, so relatively weak militarily that you needed to pile them up into a conceptual heap to get an enemy that would keep an empire and its global network of bases in military restocking mode. Not too many years down the line, the Bush administration would indeed pile three of them up in just this way into the gloriously labeled "axis of evil"; this was that old Evil Empire rejiggered for midget powers (or alternatively the Axis powers of World War II shrunk to Mini-Me standards).

Back in 1990, Saddam Hussein, our former ally in a Persian Gulf struggle with Iran for regional supremacy, invaded Kuwait and, voilà!, you had the first Gulf War. His military, already weakened by its eight-year bloodletting with Iran, was not exactly a goliath for a superpower to reckon with; but Americans took a tip from the dictator (who liked to see images of himself puffed to gigantic proportions everywhere in his land), blew his face was up to Hitlerian size, and stuck it on every magazine and in every TV news report in town ("Showdown with Saddam"). His genuinely evil-dictator face took the place of a whole nuclear-armed Evil Empire, while American troops slaughtered helpless Iraqi conscripts, burying them alive in their own trenches or wiping them out from the air on the aptly named "Highway of Death" out of Kuwait City.

Not so long after, in 1992, under the aegis of then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, a small group of unknown Defense Department staffers -- Paul Wolfowitz, I. Lewis Libby, and Zalmay Khalilzad – unveiled a new draft Defense Planning Guidance, a document for developing military strategy and planning Pentagon budgets. It was the first such since the Cold War ended and, leaked to the New York Times, it was denounced as an extremist vision and buried. As the website Right Web describes it, the document "called for massive increases in defense spending, the assertion of lone superpower status, the prevention of the emergence of any regional competitors, the use of preventive -- or preemptive -- force, and the idea of forsaking multilateralism if it didn't suit U.S. interests."

Sound familiar? No wonder. It was the very imperial program for eternal American dominance and endless war against the planet's rogue states that George W. Bush's administration would officially adopt. By then, Wolfowitz was the number two man at the Pentagon; Libby, the Vice President's good right hand; and Khalilzad was the new, post-invasion U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

In a post-9/11 atmosphere of belligerent fear, their program went mainstream. Having been attacked not by a rogue state but by a squad of 19 terrorists pledging allegiance to a stateless terrorist organization, we were "at war" with evil itself. By 2002, the administration had conducted a "successful" war in Afghanistan; the Taliban had been crushed; Osama bin Laden was MIA; and the neocons were riding high. The rest of us found ourselves in a Global War on Terror, or the Long War, or World War III, or even World War IV or whatever our rulers chose to call it that week. (As we would learn in Iraq, counting was not one of their skills.)

Dazzled beyond any reasonable imperial sense by the power to dominant that they believed American military superiority gave them, top Bush administration officials essentially proclaimed the U.S. an empire by fiat, a superduperpower the likes of which the world had never seen. In their infamous 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (essentially the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document recycled), they swore that we would remain so forever and feed the Pentagon so much money that it would be bulked up into the distant future to suppress any potential superpower or bloc of powers that might emerge.

They insisted that we would go our own way, strike whomever we pleased, torture anyone we wished, and jail without recourse anyone we cared to sweep up or kidnap anywhere on Earth. The rest of the world could either approve or be damned, but it would be full speed ahead for us. Their acolytes in right-wing think tanks and lobbying outfits around Washington, along with Washington's assembled punditry (and some liberal tag-alongs) declared the world on the verge of a Pax Americana and this nation the globe's New Rome.

In the meantime, domestically, Karl Rove and his pals were working to ensure that the Republican Party would be dominant against all challengers for a generation or more. This was to be a domestic version of "full spectrum dominance." The two -- the global Pax Americana and the Party's Pax Republicana seemed joined at the hip back then, each reinforcing the unilateral, don't-tread-on-me, I'll-do-anything-I-wish dominance of the other. It was Rovian Abramoffism at home and Cheney-izing Wolfowitzism abroad.

How deeply they misunderstood the nature of power in our world, and how thoroughly they miscalculated the limited nature of the power of the New Rome! If you want to take the measure of how far we've come since then, consider the spectacle of this last election season. Take Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Like the President, deep into this September he was still excoriating the Democrats not just for their positions on the Iraq War, but for their "surrender" policies in the war on terror. As he put it in a PBS interview with Jim Lehrer on September 14th:

"I'd say, ‘Wake up, Harry Reid. Wake up, Harry Reid…' I think that [the president] has got it right, that we're not going to do what Harry Reid wants to do, and that is surrender, to wave a white flag, to cut and run at a time when we're being threatened… as we all saw just three or four weeks ago, in a plot from Britain that was going to send 10 airplanes over here."
He then characterized the Democratic Party as a group "who basically belittle in many ways this war on terror, who do want to wave this white flag and surrender."

By late October, however, according to Washington Post reporters Peter Slevin and Michael Powell, Frist had fully grasped that the global and domestic programs of dominance no longer were working together. So he offered the following succinct advice -- a flip-flop of the first order -- to congressional candidates: "The challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue."

Just another "milestone" on the path to… well, that's the question, isn't it?

Oil Wars

After September 11, 2001, the President and his advisors were determined to run an invasion of, and war against, Iraq that would be the anti-Vietnam conflict of all time. From the draft to the body count, they were going to reverse all our Vietnam "mistakes." Above all, they were going to win quickly and decisively. The result? In no time at all, they had brought us deep into the Iraqi "big muddy" (as the Vietnam-era phrase went). Now, looming in the distance -- think of it as the dark at the end of this particular horror-fest of a tunnel -- is the worst Vietnam nightmare of all: defeat. Just check Juan Cole's Informed Comment website, for his "Top Ten Ways We Know We Have Lost in Iraq," if you don't believe me.

Unlike in Indochina, however, this time there's something essential at stake. Whatever we were doing in the largely peasant land of Vietnam, in terms of global wealth and resources, it was just what Henry Kissinger and other frustrated U.S. policy-makers of that era always called it, a third- or fourth-rate power of no real value to anyone (other, of course, than its own inhabitants).

In Iraq, where a continuing American presence only ensures a deeper plunge into chaos, mayhem, blood, and horror as well as fragmentation and potential dissolution, departure nonetheless remains largely inconceivable. After all, Iraq has something everyone desperately values: Oil. In quantity. A "sea" of oil in the words of former Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz. In a backhanded way, the President has finally acknowledged the obvious -- that his war in Iraq was, in significant part, an oil invasion, an oil occupation (remember it was only the Oil Ministry that we guarded in otherwise looted Baghdad), and so is also bound to be an oil defeat. As energy-obsessed Bush administration planners saw it, Iraq was to be the lynchpin -- hence those permanent bases that were on the drawing boards as American troops invaded -- of a Bush administration strategy for dominating the oil heartlands of the planet.

After Vietnam, the United States proved quite capable of putting itself back together (despite years of fierce culture wars). After Iraq -- and keep in mind that we undoubtedly have at least a couple of years of horror to go -- the question is whether the world will be similarly capable or whether the oil lands of the planet will lie in ruins along with the global economy.

Extremity on Display

So, just past the midterm election mark of 2006, what's left of the New Rome? You could say that George W. Bush's dark success story has involved bringing his version of the United States into line with the look of the "rogue" enemies and terrorist groups he set out to destroy. By the time Americans went to the polls on November 7th, 2006 to repudiate his policies, he had given our country the ultimate in makeovers, creating the look of an Outlaw Empire.

We now have our own killing fields in Iraq where, the latest casualty study tells us, somewhere between 400,000 and 900,000-plus "excess Iraqi deaths" have occurred since the 2003 invasion. And do you remember Saddam's "torture chambers" (which the President used to cite all the time)? Now, we are the possessors of our own global prison system, our own (rented, borrowed, or jerry-rigged) torture chambers, our own leased airline to transport kidnapped prisoners around the planet, and a Vice President who has openly lobbied Congress for a torture exemption for the CIA and spoke glibly on the radio about "dunking" people in water. And, thanks to a supine Congress, we have the laws to go with it all.

The administration went after the right to torture or treat captives any way its agents pleased in places not open to any kind of oversight remarkably quickly after the September 11th attacks. By late 2001, Donald Rumsfeld's office was instructing agents in the field in Afghanistan to "take the gloves off" with a captive. (Inside the CIA, as Ron Suskind has told us in his book The One Percent Doctrine, Director George Tenet was talking even more vividly about removing "the shackles" on the Agency.) Inside the White House Counsel's office and the Justice Department, administration lawyers were already hauling out their dictionaries to figure out how to redefine "torture" out of existence. But why such an emphasis on torture (which is largely useless in the field, as everyone knows)?

What administration officials grasped, I believe, is this: If you could manage to get the right to legally employ extreme (and normally repugnant) acts of torture, then you would have in your possession the right to do anything. Think of the urge to abuse as the initial extreme expression of this administration's secret obsession with the creation of a "wartime" commander-in-chief presidency which would leave Congress and the courts in the dust.

If you want to measure where this has taken Bush officialdom in five years, consider their latest legal defensive measure. According to the Washington Post, the administration has just gone to court to declare American "alternative interrogation techniques" -- which simply means "torture" -- as "among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets." It is trying to get a federal judge to bar "terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons" from even revealing to their own lawyers details about what was done to them by American interrogators. In other words, torture is now to be put in the secrecy vault like a national treasure. Next thing you know, we'll be sending it to the Smithsonian.

Reflected in this desperate maneuver, you can catch a glimpse of an administration driven to the extremity of going to courts it despised -- and thought it had cut out of the process of foreign imperial governance -- simply to bury its own extreme misdeeds. You can feel the fear of the docket (and perhaps of history) in such a stance.

Another example of the extremity into which this administration has driven itself and the rest of us lies in an editorial published in the four main (officially private) military magazines, the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times, and Marine Corps Times, on the very eve of the midterm elections. It called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation just after the President had given him his vote of confidence once again. Realistically speaking, this can only be seen as an extreme military intervention in the American electoral process.

In so many ways, the American Constitutional system has been shredded and this -- whether we are to be an outlaw empire (and a failing one at that) -- is what Americans were voting about this last Tuesday (though it was called "Iraq").

The Wave

The history of recent American politics at the polls might be seen this way: Not so long after he declared the successful completion of his Iraqi dreams, George W. Bush found himself, to the surprise of his top advisors and supporters, hounded by Iraq's Sunni insurgency. He essentially raced not John Kerry (who recently offered yet another example of his special lack of dexterity on the campaign trail) but that insurgency to the finish line in November 2004. With a little help from his friends in Ohio and the Rove smear-and-turnout operation, he managed to squeak by. Then, in another of those milestone moments on the way to disaster, he declared that he had "political capital" to spare and would spend it.

The next summer, two storms hit the endlessly vacationing President in Crawford, Texas -- Hurricanes Cindy and Katrina. Cindy Sheehan tore away the bloodless look of casualty-lessness in Iraq (where body counts, body bags, and the return of the dead to these shores was being hidden away from both cameras and attention). She gave a mother's face to a son's death and to a nation's increasing frustration. Katrina revealed to many Americans that the Bush administration had been creating Iraq-like conditions in the "homeland." And that was more or less that. The President's approval rating plunged under 40% and has (a few momentary blips aside) bounced around between there and the low 30s ever since. By election 2006, presidential "capital" was a concept long consigned to the dustbin of history.

Imagine where that "capital" will be by 2008. Our President has been wedded to his war of choice in a way unimaginable since Lyndon Baines Johnson quit the presidential race after the Tet Offensive in 1968. Based on what's happened so far, there's every reason to believe that, in 2008, he will still be wedded to it (as would potential Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain) and his approval ratings may be bouncing in the 20%-30% range by then.

So what part of the 2001 dream team and its "vision" of the world are we left with? To answer this, you first have to realize that yesterday's electoral "wave" of repudiation is hardly an American phenomenon. It's global and, if anything, we were way late into the water. All you have to do is look at the latest polling figures (which are but extensions of previous, similar polls) to see that wave in country after country. The most recent international survey of opinion -- in Britain, Canada, Israel, and Mexico -- found that Bush's America is viewed as "a threat to world peace by its closest neighbors and allies." In Britain, the land of the "special relationship," only Osama bin Laden outranks our President as a global "danger to peace." While he comes in a dozen points behind bin Laden, he does manage to best Kim Jong Il, North Korea's grim leader, as well as those shining stars of the diplomatic firmament, the President of Iran and the leader of Hezbollah. And these are the countries most likely to have positive views of the U.S.

As hectorer-in-chief, George W. Bush has, hands down, used the word "must" more than any combination of presidents in our history. Only recently, he repeatedly told the North Koreans that they must not develop (and then test) nuclear weapons; he told the Iranians that they must halt their nuclear program; and his minions told the Nicaraguans that they must not vote for former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. The results: The North Koreans tested a weapon; the Iranians went right on enriching uranium; and the Nicaraguans, poverty-stricken and threatened with nothing short of economic ruin if their democratic vote went into the wrong column, simply ignored him.

All these decisions were based on assessments of the limits of power that had been revealed by the desperate acts of a failing empire stretched to its military and economic limits. If these are the "rogue" parts of the global wave, all you have to do is look at Russia's reassertion of interest and power in its old energy-rich Central Asian bailiwick (much coveted by the Bush administration); or the expansion of Chinese economic power in Southeast Asia and energy power in Africa to see other aspects of the global wave of reassessment under way.

In fact, the global part of the election was long over by November 7, 2006. For vast majorities abroad, the vision of the U.S. as an Outlaw Empire is nothing new at all. The wave here has perhaps only begun to rise, but here too those presidential "musts" (along with the President's designation of the Democrats as little short of "enemy noncombatants") have begun to lose their effect. Hence the presidential plebiscite of yesterday. No matter what else flows from it, the fact that it happened is of real significance. A majority of the American people -- those who voted anyway -- did not ratify Bush's Outlaw Empire. They took a modest step toward sanity. But what will follow?

Here, briefly, are five "benchmark" questions to ask when considering the possibilities of the final two years of the Bush administration's wrecking-ball regime:

Will Iraq Go Away? The political maneuvering in Washington and Baghdad over the chaos in Iraq was only awaiting election results to intensify. Desperate call-ups of more Reserves and National Guards will go out soon. Negotiations with Sunni rebels, coup rumors against the Maliki government, various plans from James Baker's Iraq Study Group and Congressional others will undoubtedly be swirling. Yesterday's plebiscite (and exit polls) held an Iraqi message. It can't simply be ignored. But nothing will matter, when it comes to changing the situation for the better in that country, without a genuine commitment to American withdrawal, which is not likely to be forthcoming from this President and his advisors any time soon. So expect Iraq to remain a horrifying, bloody, devolving fixture of the final two years of the Bush administration. It will not go away. Bush (and Rove) will surely try to enmesh Congressional Democrats in their disaster of a war. Imagine how bad it could be if -- with, potentially, years to go -- the argument over who "lost" Iraq has already begun.

Is an Attack on Iran on the Agenda? Despite all the alarums on the political Internet about a pre-election air assault on Iran, this was never in the cards. Even the hint of an attack on Iranian "nuclear facilities" (which would certainly turn into an attempt to "decapitate" the Iranian regime from the air) would send oil prices soaring. The Republicans were never going to run an election on oil selling at $120-$150 a barrel. This will be no less true of election year 2008. If Iran is to be a target, 2007 will be the year. So watch for the pressures to ratchet up on this one early in the New Year. This is madness, of course. Such an attack would almost certainly throw the Middle East into utter chaos, send oil prices through the roof, possibly wreck the global economy, cause serious damage in Iran, not fell the Iranian government, and put U.S. troops in neighboring Iraq in perilous danger. Given the administration record, however, all this is practically an argument for launching such an attack. (And don't count on the military to stop it, either. They're unlikely to do so.) Failing empires have certainly been known to lash out or, as neocon writer Robert Kagan put the matter recently in a Washington Post op-ed, "Indeed, the preferred European scenario [of a Democratic Congressional victory] -- 'Bush hobbled' -- is less likely than the alternative: ‘Bush unbound.' Neither the president nor his vice president is running for office in 2008. That is what usually prevents high-stakes foreign policy moves in the last two years of a president's term." So when you think about Iran, think of Bush unbound.

Are the Democrats a Party? If Rovian plans for a Republican Party ensconced in Washington for eons to come now look to be in tatters, the Democrats have retaken the House (and possibly the Senate) largely as the not-GOP Party. The election may leave the Republicans with a dead presidency and a leading candidate for 2008 wedded to possibly the least popular war in our history; the Democrats may arrive victorious but without the genuine desire for a mandate to lead. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats in recent years were not, in any normal sense, a party at all. They were perhaps a coalition of four or five or six parties (some trailing hordes of pundits and consultants, but without a base). Now, with the recruitment of so many ex-Republicans and conservatives into their House and Senate ranks, they may be a coalition of six or seven parties. Who knows? They have a genuine mandate on Iraq and a mandate on oversight. What they will actually do -- what they are capable of doing (other than the normal money, career, and earmark-trading in Washington) -- remains to be seen. They will be weak, the surroundings fierce and strong.

Will We Be Ruled by the Facts on the Ground? In certain ways, it may hardly matter what happens to which party. By now -- and this perhaps represents another kind of triumph for the Bush administration -- the facts on the ground are so powerful that it would be hard for any party to know where to begin. Will we, for instance, ever be without a second Defense Department, the so-called Department of Homeland Security, now that a burgeoning $59 billion a year private "security" industry with all its interests and its herd of lobbyists in Washington has grown up around it? Not likely in any of our lifetimes. Will an ascendant Democratic Party dare put on a diet the ravenous Pentagon, which now feeds off two budgets -- its regular, near-half-trillion dollar Defense budget and a regularized series of multibillion dollar "emergency" supplemental appropriations, which are now part of life on the Hill. What this means is that the defense budget is not what we wage our wars on or pay for a variety of black operations (not to speak of earmarks galore) with. Don't bet your bottom dollar that this will get better any time soon either. In fact, I have my doubts that a Democratic Congress with a Democratic president in tow could even do something modestly small like shutting down Guantanamo, no less begin to deal with the empire of bases that undergirds our failing Outlaw Empire abroad. So, from time to time, take your eyes off what passes for politics and check out the facts on the ground. That way you'll have a better sense of where our world is actually heading.

What Will Happen When the Commander-in-Chief Presidency and the Unitary Executive Theory Meets What's Left of the Republic? The answer on this one is relatively uncomplicated and less than three months away from being in our faces; it's the Mother of All Constitutional Crises. But writing that now, and living with the reality then, are two quite different things. So when the new Congress arrives in January, buckle your seatbelts and wait for the first requests for oversight information from some investigative committee; wait for the first subpoenas to meet Cheney's men in some dark hallway. Wait for this crew to feel the "shackles" and react. Wait for this to hit the courts -- even a Supreme Court that, despite the President's best efforts, is probably still at least one justice short when it comes to unitary-executive-theory supporters. I wouldn't even want to offer a prediction on this one. But a year down the line, anything is possible.

So we've finally had our plebiscite, however covert, on the failing Outlaw Empire of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. But what about their autocratic inclinations at home. How will that play out?

Will it be: All hail, Caesar, we who are about to dive back into prime-time programming.

Or will it be: All the political hail is about to pelt our junior caesars as we dive back into prime-time programming? Stay tuned.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters (Nation Books), the first collection of Tomdispatch interviews.

Copyright 2006 Tom Engelhardt