Friday, January 26, 2007

In Venezuela, Socialism Makes A Comeback

By: Calvin Tucker - Guardian Comment Is Free

Nobody can quite believe their eyes and ears. More than 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the president of Venezuela has made it abundantly clear that his country is embarked on a socialist revolution.

On its own, the announcement that the strategic sectors of industry and the country's central bank will be brought under state control - like Venezuela's existing policies of income re-distribution in favour of the poor and expanding free health and education provision - is only astonishing because of the neo-liberal context of recent decades.

Clement Atlee's British government took similar measures in the aftermath of the second world war, as did many other capitalist countries during the early-to-mid Cold War, while remaining loyal anti-communist allies of the USA. Even the USA itself, during the New Deal through which it survived the 1930s depression and the Great Society policies of the 1950s and 1960s, showed that it could prioritise welfare and the economy as a whole over the drive for profits at any cost.

But the revolution in Venezuela is not just about economics and welfare. The structures of popular participation which are developing, and the united socialist party which is being formed, are designed to secure a transfer of power from the rich to the working class and the poor.

If Chavez is successful in constructing socialism, the question arises: does it have a viable future? If it does, there is a prospect that the nature of politics around the globe may change again as people see the possibility in practice of a system which consciously manages natural resources and production in the service of the majority of human beings rather than placing them at the mercy of the market and the corporations. This is the real threat posed by Venezuelan socialism.

The Washington Post in its editorial on January 10 reassured its readers that socialism cannot work: "[Venezuelans] can look forward to steadily diminishing freedom - and if the history of socialism is any guide - national impoverishment." Yet it was the neo-liberal reforms in the 1980s, not socialism, which led to Venezuela's national impoverishment and repression, from which it is now emerging.

A crucial requirement for economic growth in less developed countries is the ability to use and integrate world class technology. This is the challenge for every less developed country: either to try to buy in the technology and in the process amass unpayable debt, or to allow foreign investment - thus risking the bulk of the revenues generated flowing abroad, and the loss of economic and political control at home.

The widespread perception that the USSR collapsed because its economic system was intrinsically flawed needs to be reassessed. During the periods when it had unrestricted access to cutting edge production-related knowledge and machinery, in the 1930s (mainly from the USA) and from 1945 to the late 1950s (from defeated Germany), the Soviet Union developed at a stunning rate. And contrary to what was promised, the reintroduction of capitalism in the former Soviet Union led to a smaller economic cake, shared out more unequally.

In a move that dismayed some on the left, Venezuela has announced its intention to pay compensation to the owners of the firms earmarked for nationalisation. This is not out of respect for the moral rights of foreign capitalists, but for a very sound practical reason: the need to continue to attract the inward investment necessary for economic growth.

Bill Clinton's famous election dictum, "it's the economy, stupid", needs to be revised. It's also about what you can do with the economy. And neither is it just about democracy - it's about what you can do with your democracy.

It was under conditions of liberal democracy that 2,000 civilian protesters were massacred by the army in the 1989 Caracazo riots. The population's loss of confidence in the ability of liberal democracy and the corrupt two party system to represent their interests against the self-serving elites who controlled the media, state institutions and the economy, is what led Chavez, then an unknown army officer, to organise a failed military-civilian rebellion in 1992. Chavez's overwhelming victory in the 1998 presidential election was the electoral ratification of this insurrection.

Chavez has already begun to replace liberal democracy with a participatory democracy that is responsive to people's needs, not to the interests of capitalist elites. It is this, together with Chavez's economic programme and anti-imperialist foreign policy, which has led the US and the corporate media to portray him as a dictator in the making. However, the people who are directly experiencing this transformation take the opposite view. A 2005 opinion poll by Latinobarometro found that more people in Venezuela consider their country "totally democratic" than any other nation in Latin America.

In order to understand what is meant by participatory democracy, it is necessary to explain that the existing state structures inherited from the ancien regime were riddled with corruption, remote and unresponsive to people's needs, and in many cases staffed by government opponents who used their positions to undermine service delivery and resist reform. As a consequence, a parallel state structure began to emerge. The hugely popular social misiones, which are based in the barrios and provide everything from free health care to subsidised food markets, are run at arm's length from government ministries. Critically, they are also subject to direct community involvement and control.

Building on the success of the misiones, this model has been extended to other areas of economic, social and cultural life. Communal councils composed of 200-400 families (less in rural areas) have been established and will gradually take over key functions of the old state machinery, including managerial responsibility for public policy and projects. Further proposals for deepening popular power are currently being debated and will likely be entrenched in the new constitution, which is to be put to referendum later this year. Under a system of participatory democracy, a reversion to neo-liberal policies would be unconstitutional without winning popular consent.

It is conceivable that the United States might respond by putting Venezuela under the same sort of economic sanctions that have been imposed on Cuba since their revolution, but it would prove extremely problematic.

Chavez is not isolated. His policies engage the overwhelming support - and increasingly the involvement - of the people of the country; and the left, in shades from "soft" to "radical", dominates the politics of Latin America.

Having survived a US-inspired military coup and a business strike, controlling huge oil reserves on which the US economy partly depends, with rising China ready to invest in its diversifying economy, with Russia committed to re-equipping its military forces, and with Cuba - that survivor of 20th century socialism - as an ally and inspiration, Hugo Chavez's claim that Venezuela's progress to socialism is "unstoppable" begins to seem more than bombastic demagogy.

Texan Poker Bluff and Persian Chess Moves. by K Gajendra

K Gajendra Singh

Like Iraq , some fancy schemes are on the anvil in the Pentagon .To ward off the threats to the world economy if Tehran curtailed oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the US has reportedly made contingency plans for the indefinite takeover of Iranian territory in Chah Bahar, which would deny Tehran its strategic leverage with Hormuz

Texan Poker Bluff and Persian Chess Moves.
"The arrogance of military power has led to a grave crisis - and to a decline of the United States' role and influence." Mikhail Gorbachev.
"The president is living in a dream world,'' US Sen. Barbara Boxer.

By K Gajendra Singh

01/22/07 "ICHBlog" --- On Iran , US Administration has reached the pre-Iraq invasion rhetoric level of 2003 , when against the UN Charter and world opinion ,President George Bush decided to invade Iraq after having assembled a naval armada and air and land forces in the region ,cheerlead by a subservient US media . Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are accusing Tehran of developing nuclear weapons and exporting terrorism, just as Saddam Hussein was allegedly doing. Iran is also not abiding by U N resolutions on its nuclear weapons program, which, like Iraq then, it denies it has. UN Nuclear Agency in Vienna has found no proof of a weapons program .Neither there was one in Iraq in 2003. Almost all accusations made by US President , his deputy and others , exaggerated by US corporate owned media proved to be false.

But after 4 years of blunders and stupidity , the situation is unlike March, 2003 , with an isolated Bush administration now under siege having become unpopular and discredited at home and with allies abroad .In Iran it faces a people with a long history of survival beginning with Alexander and his uncouth Macedonian hordes , Arabs ,Turks , Mongols and others. And they succeeded in civilizing most of them.

Even the new Chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee , John D. Rockefeller (D) took umbrage at the Bush administration's increasingly hostile barrage against Iran .The efforts to portray it as a growing threat were uncomfortably reminiscent of the rhetoric about Iraq. "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned that it's Iraq again," Senator Rockefeller said in an interview on 19 January. "This whole concept of moving against Iran is bizarre." "I don't think that policymakers in this administration particularly understand Iran," he added. Rockefeller, a moderate , with good access to most classified intelligence about the threat from Tehran felt that US agencies still knew little about either Iran's internal dynamics or its intentions in the Middle East.

On how President Bush has dealt with the threat of Islamic fundamentalism since 119 attacks, Rockefeller believed that the campaign against international terrorism was "still a mystery" to the President. "I don't think he understands the world," he said. "I don't think he's particularly curious about the world. I don't think he reads like he says he does." He added, "Every time he's read something he tells you about it, I think."

Over Bush's policy of 'Surge ' ie sending additional 21,500 troops to Iraq ,hot words are being exchanged between Democrat party ,resurgent after Bush's Republican party debacle in November elections and the White House. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are backing a nonbinding Senate Democratic resolution declaring that "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the US military force presence in Iraq."

Pelosi warned that President Bush was wading too deeply into Iraq .It should not be "an obligation of the American people in perpetuity." She added that Bush "has dug a hole so deep he can't even see the light on this. It's a tragedy. It's a stark blunder." White House spokeswoman Dana Perino retorted that Pelosi's comments were "poisonous," stating that Bush feels that once additional troops reached Iraq and once they're in battle , the Congress won't cut off funds.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton , Democrat front runner for party's Presidential nomination during her recent visit to Baghdad met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. She felt that Bush's strategy had little chance of success. " The Iraqi government is not committed to taking the steps both militarily and politically that would help them to gain control over Baghdad and other places in the country," Clinton told NBC ."I do not think that this strategy has a very high level of success at all attached to it. In fact, I think that at best it's a holding pattern."But she supported " the beginning of a phased redeployment out of Baghdad and eventually out of Iraq completely." She backed placing an immediate cap on the number of US troops in the country, currently about 132, 000.

The arrival of new US reinforcements have met with increased attacks against occupation troops . On 20 January , at least 19 American troops were killed,athe deadliest day for US forces in two years, including 12 brought down in a helicopter crash claimed by the resistance and 5 in an attack by militia fighters in Shia holy city of Karbala A British soldier was killed by a roadside bomb and 4 other soldiers were wounded in the attack in Basra and south Iraq.

Bush raises the stakes;

It was the prospect of " hot pursuit" raids into Iran, raised by Bush last week, that fuelled fears that the Administration was preparing the public for attacks on Iran. Many analysts have been warning since 2004 against a planned US attack alone or in cahoots with Israel on Iran , one of the so called axis of evil , in the hoary Western tradition of demonizing those they want to invade , colonise and then loot.

US accusations of Tehran aiding militias and insurgents who attack US troops in Iraq , have been denied by Tehran. Yes, most of Iraq's Shia ruling elite and al-Badr militia were financed and trained by Iran when Saddam Hussein was a US darling in 1980s.Tehran also extended support to Kurds in north Iraq , whenever pressurized by the Saddam regime.

Having flouted most international rules, regulations , treaties and conventions since Bush was crowned by a judicial sleight of hand in 2000, tarnishing USA's electoral and legal credibility , Washington has now initiated clearly illegal and aggressive actions like the abduction of accredited Iranian personnel in Irbil in north Iraqi Kurdistan .Even the Kurdish leaders , beholden to Washington and thriving under US protection since the end of 1991 Gulf War ,have demurred and protested as have the Iraqi leaders and government 'elected' or selected by US Viceroys since the occupation.

Senior Iraqi Shia politicians , now in power, and beholden to Tehran since decades are now required to implement Bush's policy of 'Surge' ,by adding over 21,500 troops to help fight militias , provide security and reconstruction .They are naturally reluctant in striking against Shia militias and their leaders on whose support they survive , politically and militarily . In spite of public bon homie and some token measures .there are clear signs of a growing rift between the White House and the Iraqi leadership resident in Baghdad's Green Zone fortress , on policies at home or vis a vis Tehran.

A tour of the Middle East by the US Congress harassed Secretary of State Condi Rice , after her August trip last year when she described the destruction of civilian infrastructure and deaths in Lebanon by Israel as the birth pangs of a new Middle East ,evoked little enthusiasm or real support from USA's Sunni allies in the region , who are in panic over Tehran's expanding influence in the region , Muslim Ummah and the world .

After the Lebanese Hezbollah gave a bloody nose to Israel's famed commandos in July-August war last year ,its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both Shias were voted the most popular Muslim leaders even in the Sunni bastion of Egypt and elsewhere much to the discomfiture of regional Sunni leaders ,who had lambasted the Hezbollah after Tel Aviv used the abduction of its two soldiers to launch a full scale war it had prepared for . The continued ramification of Israeli defeat ended in the recent resignation of Israeli Military chief Lt.Gen Dan Halutz. "Since the end of the war we had been expecting Halutz to resign and [Defence Minister Amir] Peretz and [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert to follow him," gloated Sheikh Nasrallah .

Iraq's other neighbour; Turkey's position ;

There is little common ground on Iraq between USA and its NATO ally Turkey with a million armed men and a key regional player .Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a US TV channel last month that with the dead in sectarian violence having exceeded 650,000 ... it could only be explained as a civil war. He added that Iraq's neighbors have a huge stake in the Iraqi civil war not spreading outwards .In addition to Iran, Turkey, Syria and US having bilateral or trilateral meetings, there should be an international consensus that includes all neighboring countries and the U.N. Security Council.

As for the 'Surge ' in US troops, Erdogan felt that it was time for a phased reduction of US military presence in Iraq. Erdogan had earlier opposed dispatch of more US troops to Iraqi Kurdistan .He declared recently that if faraway US could ferry troops to Iraq then Ankara had the right to enter north Iraq too ,as the situation there impinged on Turkey directly and adversely.

Thousands of rebels from PKK (Turkish Workers Party ) are now sheltered in north Iraq .Since 1984 over 37,000 have been killed in the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey's South East. Ankara has some times laid claims on the north Iraq city of Kirkuk , floating on oil like Kuwait , where its kinsman the Turcomen have a sizable presence. This region was occupied by the British after the First World War ceasefire following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, of which the region was a province.

Policy differences between Washington and Iraqi leaders ;

The acrimonious exchanges between US Administration and Prime Minister, al-Maliki on implementation of Bush's policy of 'Surge " have become public . To counter US criticism of his failure to halt sectarian violence al Maliki said, "I wish that we could receive strong messages of support from the US so we don't give some boost to the terrorists and make them feel that they might have achieved success." To Condi Rice's statement of his government living on "borrowed time", he responded tartly, "Secretary Rice is expressing her own point of view if she thinks that the government is on borrowed time, whether it is borrowed time for the Iraqi government or American administration."

Al Maliki claimed if Iraqi security forces were given sufficient training and equipment, which were denied , Iraq could be stabilized and allow US troops to begin withdrawing ."I think that within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down." But "that's on the condition that there are real strong efforts to support our military forces." US officials are how ever worried that military equipment would end up in with the Shia militias ,which has happened.

Regarding action to eliminate all militias , al Maliki announced that 400 members ,including some commanders of the Mahdi Army loyal to the highly popular and powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were arrested. One Mahdi commander told the AP , "Our top leadership has told us to lay low and not confront the Americans. But if Sadr City is attacked, if civilians are hurt, we will ignore those orders and take matters in our own hands. We won't need orders from Sheik Muqtada ."

Mahdi street fighters have been told not to wear their black uniforms and hide their weapons and make their checkpoints less visible. It appears that instructions are being obeyed. With the US plans a public secret, Moqtda also reshuffled the Mahdi Army command structure, transferring many leaders to new districts and firing others of suspected loyalty.

The six-member Moqtda al-Sadr bloc which boycotted the Iraqi Parliament would rejoin on 21 January , in spite of the arrest of Sheikh Abdel Hadi Al-Diraji, a close aide of Moqtda , who has ordered his men to avoid armed confrontation with the government. The Parliament boycott was enforced when Al Maliki met with Bush in Amman in spite of Moqtda's demand. Al Maliki depends on Moqtda for political and military support .The other Shia Dawa militia is under Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

In an interview out on 19 January in Rome 's La Republica ,Moqtada stated that he never trusted Prime Minister al-Maliki nor his predecessor Iyad Allawi. He accused them of being in cahoots with the US plans to destroy him and his militia. A crackdown on his movement "has already kicked off." "Last night they arrested over 400 of my people. But it is not us they want to destroy, it's Islam," he declared. Moqtda also denied that members of his militia have infiltrated the army and police. "The exact opposite has happened: it is our militia which is full of spies. It is actually very easy to infiltrate an army of the people." He also denied that those who chanted his name and insulted Saddam Hussein at his execution were his men. "Those were people paid to disparage me, to make me appear like the person responsible for the hanging," he declared .

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a former Iraqi Prime Minister , when asked if an increase in US troops would be a threat to Iran, replied: "We don't want Iraq to pose a threat to any country. We also don't accept that any neighbouring country poses a threat to Iraq."

The Iraqi Government and the Mahdi Army could employ the tactics used by Washington's major non-NAO strategic ally in the war against terrorism, Pakistan and its all purpose powerful tool ,Inter-Services Intelligence agency ( ISI ). When pressed by Washington , Islamabad produces a few Al Qaeda operatives , mostly low level ,for Washington to garner some propaganda points . Five years on after 911 , the results of the war on terrorism are dismal , with most convinced it is but a charade , to keep US public frightened for Bush Administration to implement its partisan agenda .In return Pakistan has received billions worth of aid , mostly for defence, which has only strengthened the strangle hold of the military over civil society.

Iraq leaders criticise US action in Irbil;

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI , leader of the 130-member Shia bloc in the Parliament and thus one of Iraq's most powerful politicians and who was hosted at the White House in early December criticised the US action in Irbil .He described the detention of the Iranians an attack on Iraq's sovereignty. "Regardless of the Iranian position, we consider these actions as incorrect," Hakim, told the BBC. "They represent a kind of attack on Iraq's sovereignty, and we hope such things are not repeated."

In a statement Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, expressed "disturbance and condemnation" of the predawn operation and urged the US military to release the arrested. Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, also a Kurd , said that Iraq needed good relations with Iran. "We can't change the geographical reality that Iran is our neighbour. This is a delicate balance and we are treading a very thin line," he said. "We fully respect the views, policies and strategy of the United States, which is Iraq's strongest ally , but the Iraqi government has national interests of its own."

US Iran hostilities would disrupt peace in the region and the growing affluence of Kurdish war lords . In that case Turkey might even intervene. To calm the situation President Talbani , who has been to Ankara a few times , went to Damascus , first such visit in 3 decades by an Iraqi Head of State . Of course he visited Damascus many times during the Saddam era .Post 2003 invasion, Of course Iraq's Shia leadership, with long close relations with Iran have visited Tehran many times. Even convicted embezzler but Minister ,exile Ahmet Celebi, once a blue eyed boy of the Pentagon .

Iranians have played it cool and not made such a big issue of the raid .Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Husseini condemned the raid. "The activity of all those people at our office in Irbil was legal and was in cooperation with and had the approval of the Iraqi side," Husseini told Iran's state-owned Arabic language satellite channel Al-Alam.

In ratcheting up tensions beyond threats, Washington might try to implement the so called 'Khuzestan gambit' i.e. creating dissentions and even intervening across south Iraq in Iran's major oil producing region of Khuzestan , of ancient Elam and Cyrus's Persian empire's capital Susa. Now it is sparsely populated by preponderantly Arab Shias. During the 1980-99 Iraq-Iran war , Shia Arabs on the two sides of the border had fought loyally for their countries .

When the Shias in Basra were quiet watching disenfranchised Sunni elite take on the US troops and harm each other , British James Bonds were active across in Khuzestan .But Iraqi Shia militias would take on all occupation troops if Iran or themselves are attacked. A large majority of Shia population and leadership is now strongly opposed to the occupation. So the un-nerved British forces fled from Basra city to the airport and safe desert bases for easier Dunkirk like run for home, when necessary.

The British had even suggested that they would like to shift their troops to a more important mission in South Afghanistan , where along with reluctant NATO it is now confronted by a resurgent Taleban. With Pakistan having lost over 800 troops in its North West Frontier Province and forced into a peace agreement with the Taleban , attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan have increased .

Muhammad Hanif, a Taliban spokesman captured by British and Afghan troops near the border with Pakistan, on being grilled, confessed that the Taleban Emir Mullah Omar lives in Quetta in Pakistan. "He is protected by ISI," Hanif said. Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, made similar allegations in the past .But Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, Pakistan's Interior Minister denied the reports, "We have no information on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar. He is not living in Pakistan."

Following the old European and now US policy of divide and rule ,Washington is successfully igniting dissensions and perhaps succeeding in arousing the dormant historic hatred between Arab Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, who are now savagely killing each other , more so since the US reported that Al Qaeda damaged the Shia Golden Dome mosque in Samarrah early last year . US cracked the first Shia-Sunni fault line in Iraqi nationalism when then President George Bush Senior asked Shias and Kurds of Iraq to rise against Saddam Hussein at the end of 1991 Gulf War .And then did nothing when Saddam Hussein regime attacked by the rebels suppressed the uprising brutally . That would not inspire Shia trust in US words .The illegal trial and lynching of Saddam Hussein under US direction, control and occupation has deepened this sectarian chasm further.

Robert Gates- A strong and a long time US presence in Middle East;

It was quite apparent that the Iraq Study Group Report was just another red herring to mollify a disenchanted US public and keep the new Congress diverted .USA would not walk away from the region .Listen to what a major contributor to ISG report, the newly minted Defence Secretary Robert Gates said about the buildup of US forces in the region, involving the dispatch of an aircraft carrier and Patriot missile defence batteries , apart from US troops.

"We are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States and our determination to be an ongoing strong presence in that area for a long time into the future," said Gates on the first arrival of reinforcements in Baghdad as part of Bush's "surge" strategy. The US military buildup is intended to signal American determination to remain a dominant player in the region.

"The Iranians clearly believe we are tied down in Iraq, that they have the initiative, that they are in a position to press us in many ways," Gates told journalists in Brussels. "They are doing nothing to be constructive in Iraq at this point." He added that Tehran was seeking to foment conflict in Lebanon through Hezbollah.

But Gates did not rule out the possibility of talks in the future if Iran changed its behaviour. "When the Iranians are prepared to play a constructive role in dealing with some of these problems there might be opportunities for engagement," he said.

Bush 'Stays the Course' - in aggressive mode;

When asked if the alleged killing of Americans by Iranian agents in Iraq constituted an act of war , Bush said he was not a lawyer so could not define what constituted an act of war but "let me just say it's unacceptable". He warned if the US failed in Iraq it would lead to a wider regional crisis, "If the [Iraq] government falls apart and there is sectarian enclaves and violence it'll invite Iran into the Shia neighbourhoods."

On June 21, 2005, General John R Vines, then a senior US commander in Iraq, told reporters that the insurgents had probably drawn on bomb-making expertise from Saddam's battle hardened army. US media and the British keep on claiming Iranian hand in supplying and helping Iraqi militias, even to the Sunni resistance.

Baltimore Times reported that at the current spending rate on the Iraq War, being waged along with the fighting in Afghanistan, the cost of the Iraq invasion will reach $600 billion this year. Much of the funding for the war comes from outside the normal budgetary process , through emergency appropriation bills.

US Congress rallies against 'Surge';

The policy of the 'Surge 'was concocted to counter ISG Report by Neo-Cons of American Enterprise Institute and former Lt Gen Keane . But Democrat Congressman John Murtha, a former decorated Marine and vocal opponent of the Iraq war and the incoming chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee said, "If we have our way there will be substantial change and substantial pressure put on this administration… The allies don't want us over there. The Iraqis don't want us over there and we expect that even the Republicans will support us when we get our bill up."

He then added ominously, (we want a) "redeployment of troops out of Iraq" and (we will) "restrict funding until some of the problems are fixed at home." [ redeployment to new massive bases in Iraq which can house up to 70,000 soldiers !]

Murtha clarified, " You know they say that Al Qaeda is causing the divisions and sectarian violence? The invasion itself is what causes the sectarian violence –It's the occupation causes the violence. That's the problem we have and we have to change directions."

Murtha had raised the alarm in 2005 that the US army had done what it could do in Iraq .It was now broken. It was followed by the Generals revolt , when 8 senior retired generals went against Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and blamed him for defective Iraq war planning and its implementation. The two top Generals, Arabic knowing Gen. John Abizaid ( of Lebanese extraction ) Head of Centcom and Gen George Casey the man on the ground in Iraq who expressed themselves against increased US troops , are being eased out. Along with the naval build up in the Gulf , a Naval Admiral is being appointed apparently to carry out operations against Iran .

But the opposition to the war has seeped even into the ranks of the US forces . Some 1,000 active-duty soldiers and Marines urged US lawmakers to support a quick withdrawal. Although they're duty-bound to carry out the President's orders, they can legally express their views. The statement, carried on the Web site, was signed by 1,080 troops by 16 January.

It urged the US Congress to support "the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq," adding, "Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price." "Despite our best efforts, Iraq fell further into chaos," said Marine Corps Sgt. Liam Madden at a press conference .He believed that the war "benefits neither the United States nor Iraq, and especially not the American military".

Senate leaders have introduced a non-binding bipartisan resolution opposing the 'surge' policy .It has been drafted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M.Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) "The whole thing could let Republicans off the hook with a meaningless, toothless vote," said Andrews, who has been meeting with senior Democrats on war issues. "It's a pressure valve that could work against us."

A Pew Research Center poll released on 16 January showed that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq. Some 60 percent of Republicans support Bush's plan and 33 percent oppose it. Among Democrats, 12 percent support it and 82 percent oppose it.

The media is owned and manipulated by corporate interests who fund elections and employ lobbies with a US$ 2.4 billion treasure chest to get favourable laws enacted. Thus the interests of the poor and the middle classes remain neglected .But even the misinformed and info-challenged US electorate has deciphered the truth in Iraq and in November elections bashed up the Republican party . Only an election deters these , some not so, honourable legislators , afraid of losing the power and the pelf they enjoy . Republicans slated for next elections are opposing the 'surge '.Hillary Clinton , who has announced her bid for the Presidency , a fervid supporter of Israel and a strong supporter of US war on Iraq is now singing a different tune .There would be lot of political maneuverings but US would not easily give up its addiction to cheap Middle East oil and enormous profits for the energy interests and the military industry complex , which promotes wars .They rule the roost in the USA.

Retired US Generals recommend political solution in the Senate ;

A panel of retired generals told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 18 January that sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq would do little to solve the underlying political problems in the country. "Too little and too late," said Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, a former chief of the Central Command. He added that American leaders had failed to understand the political forces at work in the country. "The solution is political, not military," he said. Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who commanded troops in the first Gulf War, described it as "A fool's errand." Other countries had concluded that the effort in Iraq was not succeeding, and "our allies are leaving us and will be gone by summer." He said that Iraqis should try to make political deals domestically and negotiate for stability with neighboring nations, particularly Syria and Iran.

"The United States did not understand the consequences of deposing Saddam Hussein," said Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, a former director of the National Security Agency. The war benefited Iran and Al Qaeda, not the United States. "There is no way to win a war that is not in your interests," he said. USA is in a 'No Win' situation. Even a plan to start withdrawing US troops carried the risk of the armed Iraqi population to step up the level of attacks. "We will be shot at as we are going out." said Gen. Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the Army.

Iran's counter moves ;

After the ISG recommendation that US talk with Syria and Iran , Tehran was somewhat euphoric and so was Damascus. But that is now gone and Tehran is pondering over its moves carefully to counter political and military moves by Washington. Ali Larijani, Iran's chief negotiator on the nuclear question delivered a joint letter to the Saudi King Abdullah from the Iranian Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad requesting Saudi mediation with the US. The letter was delivered just before Rice's visit to Riyadh. Reuters quoted an unnamed Saudi official saying Iran wanted the Saudi King to relay a goodwill message to Washington to "help bring opinions together" between Iran and the US.

Ever green Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani , a former President who lost to Ahmadinejad said that the US having failed to achieve its goals in the region, was now seeking to embark on a new adventure to cover up its defeat. He urged the need for vigilance.

To temper President Ahmadinejad's over blown rhetoric and consequent popularity with the public, but bad press in the West , Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has allowed 150 parliamentarians to attack the President's economic policies. In a signed letter they blamed Ahmadinejad for the raging inflation , high unemployment and failure to even present the budget in time. They decried his going on a tour of Latin America at the time of a crisis. Western media hopefully suggested that the mounting criticism could mean Ahmadinejad's political doom and even impeachment. But on return from Latin America Ahmadinejad reiterated that Tehran's program on nuclear energy would continue.

Like (the Chess King) Ali Khamenei might remove from the centre (Knight ) Ahmadinejad with his awkward moves. Iranians have shown Chess like long term planning and finesse to counter US moves in the region , even offering full cooperation in 2003 ( an honourable draw ) , if US normalized bilateral relations disrupted since 1979 . Always many moves ahead they nurtured SCIRI , Dawa and other Iraqi groups and Kurds .Since the invasion of Iraq , they now occupy and control the centre (as in Chess board) , with open and hidden threats to any US moves .

In Bishop like pincer moves across the region, Tehran has smartly moved with Hamas after its electoral victory in Palestine ,taking it under its wings , with its top political leader Khaled Meshaal resident in Damascus . If Iraq President Talabani is visiting Damascus , so is Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with President Bashar Assad but meeting with Meshaal did not materialize as no agreement could be reached on a unity government in Palestine . Perhaps both visitors have US acquiescence if not approval .They must also plan if US commitment in the region weakens or dwindles away.

Ahmed Yusuf, an adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, said Hamas ministers had received promises of donations amounting to £500m during recent visits in the Muslim world. But the largest pledge was from Iran, more than that of EU. Last year Tehran pledged £125 m to help Hamas survive the international boycott led by USA. After inroads in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon , Tehran's support to Hamas has created serious concern in US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states- at Iran's rapid expansion as a regional power.

Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel's secret service, Shin Bet, warned that international sanctions against the authority were forcing Hamas into a closer relationship with Iran. President Bush has asked Congress to approve $83 million for Abbas 's security forces. Israeli officials transferred $100 million in withheld revenues 9 collected as Tax and Customs dues to the Authority.

Palestine has become an arena of Shia Iran and Sunni Arab rivalry. Apart from Fathah and other cadres ,Abbas is raising a 3,500-strong Presidential Guard, as a bulwark against Hamas' militia of 5,000 gunmen. .If Iran is supplying funds and arms to Hamas then Egypt, Jordan , Saudi Arabia and USA are arming the now discredited and corrupt Palestine Authority .Hamas and Fathah militants are killing each other apart from the Israeli forces genocidal ways in Gaza in another example of divide and rule.

Apparently Hezbollah had abducted two Israeli soldiers last July to also ease intense Israeli pressure off Hamas in Gaza .Of course it did not expect a full blown savage destructive war by Israel as Nasrallah himself later admitted. But it turned out well for them and has altered the strategic power landscape in Lebanon and the region benefiting Iran. Israel must now watch over its shoulders before any reckless military venture.

In spite of blatant Western lies , nationalist Hezbollah movement has very wide support in Lebanon , where USA has now sent in its disruptive agents to counter Hezbollah's peaceful sit in for a role in decision making appropriate to its showing in the war and its popularity .In Syria with over 80% Sunni population , the ruling elite is dominated by Assad family led Shia Alawaites .But no where in the world such a minuscule minority rules as do the Jews and the Israel Lobby in USA. If the Holocaust can not be questioned neither can the influence of Israeli Lobby in USA. A recent book by former President and highly respected peacemaker Jimmy Carter , comparing Israel's apartheid system with that of former state of South Africa has brought the whole force of Israeli lobby on his head.

Condi Rice in the New Middle East after last years birth pangs;

Condi Rice began her safari of the Middle East from Israel and returned via friendly Angela Markel's Berlin and London with Tony Blair still clinging on despite failed policies and other scandals .As for Rice's attempt at rejuvenating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Arab media simply described it as an attempt to change the subject .US has little credibility as an honest broker.

The carefully worded support that Arab allies are offering for Bush's new Iraq strategy highlights the deep suspicion among Washington's few real friends and puppets in the region that Iraq might already be a lost cause. The Bush plan " encountered strong skepticism across the Mideast, where many believe that even with more soldiers, America will fail to break the cycle of violence."

Rice who discussed the 'Surge' plan in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, got only vague commitments and lukewarm response She and 8 Arab foreign ministers in a statement welcomed U.S. commitment to defend Iraq 's " territorial integrity and guarantees of its stability ." The host, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed Al Sabah, when asked if it was already too late to stop the rising cycle of Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq replied, "Nine foreign ministers are meeting in Kuwait today to try to prevent Iraq from sliding into a civil war." " I think that speaks volumes." Or rather the hopelessness of the situation.

Earlier key Sunni Arab allies while endorsing the goals of Bush's plan, and expressing hopes of success , almost in the same breath suggested that the Shia -led government in Baghdad cannot or would not implement the plan.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was perhaps the most positive , who agreed " with the full objectives set by the new plan, the strategy." After talks with Rice earlier , he commented , "This has objectives that ... if it were applied, it will solve the problems facing Iraq." But he emphasized that it was the responsibility of the Iraq government alone. "We cannot be Iraqis more than Iraqis," Saud emphasised. "Other countries can help, but the burden, the whole burden and taking a decision will be the Iraqis'."

It was well put by the Saudi newspaper Al Jazirah which noted, "The Americans are trying to get out of the Baghdad bottleneck and they are looking for agent players in managing their conflict with Tehran to make their new strategy in Iraq successful."

Of course the Sunni Arab world would not trust Prime Minister al-Maliki's government with close ties with Shia Iran The Shias have become empowered after many centuries , courtesy Washington and would not let go .Rice did admit that" There are concerns about whether the Maliki government is prepared to take an evenhanded, nonsectarian path here. There's no doubt about that."

Bush's plan that al-Maliki use Iraqi troops to crack down on militants from both sides and meet a series of benchmarks to promote reconciliation between Sunnis and Shias is unlikely to succeed. Al-Maliki has resisted U.S. pressure in the past .Before Bush unveiled his plan al-Maliki was made to agree that he would go after his political ally Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

But he has already criticised US for not imparting proper training or providing weapons to Iraqi forces ( aka artillery , tanks and helicopter gun ships ), which US fears might be passed on to the militias and used against US forces .To begin with al-Maliki has appointed his own man as commander of the Iraqi forces in Baghdad against US choice.

Rice tried to exploit fear of Iran among US's Sunni allies, many with substantial Shia minorities, to support its plans, But have not they outsourced their security to USA since decades in return for free exploitation of the regions oil riches by US led West. The Arab states have amassed massive arms inventories , earn fat bribes and subsidise US-UK military industry complex. They can hardly use these arms, as was proved in Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Scared and hoodwinked Saudi Arabia allowed US GIs including female troopers, a run of the Arabian peninsula, sacred soil according to Muslims. The rest ie Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda is history.

Yes , the statement in Kuwait did contain a coded signal to Iran, which was reportedly not part of the group's discussions. "Relations among all countries should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states and on the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations," [ Does Washington respect this principle and what did the group do when US invaded Iraq illegally].

Intimidated and nervous, Sunni Arab rulers in Cairo, Amman, Riyadh and the Gulf are egging US to stay put in the region , to stop and roll back Iranian influence . They had acted similarly when Saudis, Kuwaitis , Emirates , Egypt , West et al had encouraged and funded 'brother Saddam' and Iraq in its 1980-88 war against a rampant Iran after the Khomeini led Shia revolution of 1979 .Iraq's Shia Arabs had fought against Iran's Revolutionary Guards and young boys seeking martyrdom .And how did the Arabs repay that debt and react to the US controlled and Al Maliki executed Kangaroo Court trials and lynching of 'brother Saddam'? In 2003 many in the Arab world were unhappy that for Arab honour , Iraqi officers and soldiers did not sacrifice themselves futilely against absurd odds in Iraq against F-16 , Cobra gun ships and massive artillery.( They melted to fight another day , as the Iraqi resistance now.)

But who among the Arabs would fight. Egypt initiated the 1973 war to recover its lands and oil fields lost to Israel after the 1967 debacle. The oil Sheikhs used the war to raise oil prices and its nouvo riche citizens went around lording over sophisticated Cairo and Beirut. After the 1979 peace treaty with Israel , Egypt , now on US pay roll retired .There can be no war with out Egypt in the Middle East( against Israel ) and no peace without Syria .During the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war millions of Egyptians worked on Iraqi farms and industries for Iraqis doing the fighting .

It was Pakistani Brigadier Zia-ul- Haq who organized the military operation against PLO guerillas in Jordan and expelled them to Lebanon in 1977. (With the ruler scripting a message for the Pakistani Military Chief for saving his Kingdom , so a retired Pakistani General told me). So who will fight the Iranians or even Iraqi Shia Arabs now in militias , army and police . They and Sunni Iraqi resistance now fought Iran's Shia revolutionary guards and young boys looking for martyrdom.

Western Policy of Divide and Rule;

USA and the perfidious Albion would only succeed in igniting a Shia-Sunni conflagration in the region except that oil prices would zoom and seriously affect the US and world economy. The US dilemma is how to expel Iran and keep control of Iraq, the region with its oil wealth for its use , as hitherto .It is a mission impossible. The British divided Hindustan into Pakistan and India, so that a weaker Muslim Pakistan ( with its ruling military elite ), would perforce ally with the West to protect from USSR , Middle East oil wells ,for exclusive Western exploitation . This can be seen from the British records of the period quoted in a recent book by an Indian diplomat, who was ADC in 1947 to the last British Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten. Following the partition of India there was ethnic cleansing in West Pakistan , exchange of populations and millions of Hindus and Muslims butchered each other . The West is at its old game again in the Middle East.

One can not forget the most disruptive Joker in the pack; Israel .Now in a state of uncertainty and an existential threat in the wake of its defeat by Lebanon's Hezbollah. An Israeli Naval warship was disabled with Hassan Nasrallah giving a running commentary of the attack on Al Minar ,its TV channel , which Tel Aviv could not disrupt during the war .Apparently Hezbollah succeeded in breaking into Israeli communications net work .Some reports suggest among other things , by providing drugs to bored Israeli border guards across south Lebanon.

West and USA are now flaunting its military prowess and would later rewrite history . Except that with online media , internet blogs and many honest and dedicated media persons even in the West , one can surf and ferry out the truth .For example ,in the Second World War , USA played a minor role compared to the Soviet Union in the destruction of the Nazi war machine in which USSR sacrificed tens of millions of its soldiers and citizens .Its economy was destroyed .Come lately US ( it has already spent more time in Iraq now than in that war ) and even UK tried to take all the credit . They produced 'The longest day ' and 'Gen Patton ' and UK dreams up James Bond victories in the battle field and the bed room .Even channels like 'Discovery Channel ' spew lies all the time and brain wash the ignorant . Germans and Russian soldiers were accused of mass rapes and killings. US soldiers raped many thousands women in West Europe and it faced a very high rate of desertion in its troops. But for instant communications now ,you would not have heard of or very little of Gulags like Guantamano, Abu Ghraib , Bagram , genocide in Fallujah ,Haditha and elsewhere , and rendition by CIA for torture of innocents ,mostly Muslims in secret places all around the world . This has been the core of the Western mental make up though out the colonial era and even now .

Shias developed the first human bomber , the Assassins and evolved the system of takkyia ie not telling the truth under duress and occupation making them very secretive in their methods as shown in Lebanon . So US would be making a grave mistake in attacking Iran , exposed as it is and fully stretched on the ground .Iran's military build up has not been degraded by sanctions like in Iraq , which had no navy or air force or missiles and even WMDs. US and China and others have provided enough military hardware including sophisticated missiles to Iran and Syria .

As for US righteousness most of the military hard ware US gifted to Pakistan to fight communism was used against democratic India .US now grants Air and Naval aircraft and hardware to counter terrorism in Afghanistan ( and Pakistan ).Israel and USA should not forget the deep tunnels and other innovations employed brilliantly in south Lebanon against such heavy odds.

Conclusions ;
Like Iraq , some fancy schemes are on the anvil in the Pentagon .To ward off the threats to the world economy if Tehran curtailed oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the US has reportedly made contingency plans for the indefinite takeover of Iranian territory in Chah Bahar, which would deny Tehran its strategic leverage with Hormuz. Washington might even push for outright "regime change" in Tehran, never mind lack of troops necessary for even a limited war. Theoretically , would this not take the war and US troops to Iran ( via Azerbaijan ) , which will then face Russia across and the Caspian Sea.

During the failed 1979 US hostages rescue operation in Iran ordered by President Jimmy Carter , it was said that USSR had tipped Tehran about Washington's plans. Both Russia and China have serious and log term stakes in a united and stable Iran.
"The administration does have Iran on the brain, and I think they are exaggerating the amount of Iranian activities in Iraq," commented Kenneth Pollack, the director of research at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, "There's a good chance that this is going to be counterproductive."

W Joseph Stroupe , editor of Global Events Magazine wrote recently that the Middle East was already 'like a sectarian tinderbox waiting for a spark to ignite its multiple civil wars-in-waiting. The United States' additional 21,500 new troops will be like a desperate roving band of flamethrowers let loose on the entire region, from Saudi Arabia to Iran. " Stroupe wondered if the current invasion plans were any better than of 2003 .Would it achieve only " an early but short-lived victory over Iran, only to massively lose the longer war, just as happened in Iraq? "

Iraq's sectarian and other militias will not lay down their arms and would fight the US led occupation forces to retain and further consolidate their hard-won power and prestige within their respective regions. Very importantly, the majority of Iraqis , who have come to rely on their respective militias for safety and security in the environment of the abject failure of Iraq's government and the US and British forces to provide such, would not wish to see their favored militias weakened or defanged.

Hence the population can be expected to deny all meaningful support to the US. Many will actively oppose the occupying powers through their respective militias, thereby dooming the entire effort to massive failure. " If the US and Britain are perceived by Iraq's Shias as excessively targeting Shia militias while largely ignoring Sunni militias, then they risk mobilizing the entire body of Iraq's Shia population against the continued presence of foreign forces, resulting in a virtual Shia insurrection, with catastrophic results,' says Stroupe.

By unintentionally shoving the entire oil-and-gas-rich Middle East on to a fast track to chaos, the US will empower Russia as the immovable global energy kingpin. Already, Europe and Asia are being forced to reconsider placing too much reliance on the region for energy imports, opening the way for Russia." Africa and Latin America suffer from strategic instability and long distances haulage.

Iran would be helped in its recovery by Russia, China and other key energy exporting and consuming nations of the world. While signing another liquid gas contract with Tehran , Beijing brushed aside Washington's opposition in the spirit of recent UNSC resolution . Iran has excellent relations with Russia and China .The three powers could initiate a global energy consortium opposed to US power. It could be joined by others like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, with Iran even becoming a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is slowly morphing into a military alliance to counter a rapacious NATO , now getting ensnared in the Afghanistan morass .

" I am deeply concerned about Iraq. The task you have given me is becoming really impossible. Our forces are reduced now to very slender proportions… I do not see what political strength there is to face a disaster of any kind, and certainly I cannot believe that in any circumstances any large reinforcements would be sent from here…

There is scarcely a single newspaper… which is not consistently hostile to our remaining in this country. … Any alternative Government that might be formed here… would gain popularity by ordering instant evacuation. Moreover, in my own heart I do not see what we are getting out of it. …No progress has been made in developing the oil. Altogether I am getting to the end of my resources. --At present we are paying… millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having."

Extracts from a memorandum dated September 1, 1922 , from Winston Churchill , Colonial Secretary to Prime Minister David Lloyd George, whose government was on its last legs.

Both Bush and Blair claim to be great admirers of Churchill, but never come round to read this chapter in Iraq's history or Churchill's naval debacle at Gallipoli .Now another naval misadventure is under planning.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail: .

Off the Rails: Big Oil, Big Brother Win Big in the State of the Union

by Greg Palast

There was that tongue again. When the President lies he’s got this weird nervous tick: He sticks the tip of his tongue out between his lips. Like a little boy who knows he’s fibbing. Like a snake licking a rat.

In his State of the Union tonight the President did his tongue thing 124 times — my kids kept count.

But it wasn’t all rat-licking lies.

Most pundits concentrated on Iraq and wacky health insurance stuff. But that’s just bubbles and blather. The real agenda is in the small stuff. The little razors in the policy apple, the nasty little pieces of policy shrapnel that whiz by between the appearances of the Presidential tongue.

First, there was the announcement the regime will, “give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers.” In case you missed that one, the President is talking about creating a federal citizen profile database.

There’s a problem with that idea. It’s against the law. The law in question is the United States Constitution. The Founding Fathers thought the government had no right to keep track on a citizen unless there is evidence they have committed, or planned to commit, a crime.

But the Founding Fathers didn’t imagine there were millions and billions of dollars to be made by private contractors ready to perform this KGB operation for the Department of Homeland Security, tracking each and every one of us to keep tabs on our “status.”

These work databases will tie into “voter verification” databases required by the Help America Vote Act. And these will tie to the databases on citizenship and so on.

Will Big Brother abuse these snoop lists? The biggest purveyor of such hit lists is Choice Point, Inc. – those characters who, before the 2000 election, helped Jeb Bush purge innocent voters as “felons” from Florida voter rolls. Will they abuse the new super-lists? Does Dick Cheney shoot in the woods?

There were several other little IEDs (improvised execrable policy devices) planted in the State of the Union. Did you catch the one about doubling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? If you’re unfamiliar with the SPR, it is supposed to be the stash of oil we keep in case the price of crude gets too high.

Well, the price of oil has been horribly high but Dick Cheney, the official who sits on the Reserve’s spigots, has refused to release the oil into the market.

Instead of unleashing the Reserve and busting Big Oil’s price gouging Bush will double the Reserve, which will require buying three-quarters of a billion barrels of oil. This is a nice $40 billion pay-out to Big Oil from the US Treasury. Compare this to the President’s health insurance plan which will be “revenue neutral” — that is, have a net investment of zero.

But the $40 billion in loot the oilmen will get from us taxpayers for doubling the Reserve is nothing compared to the boost in the worldwide price of crude caused by this massive, mad purchase. While the Congressional audience didn’t even bother polite applause for the reserve purchase plan, there’s no doubt they were whooping it up in Saudi Arabia. Clearly, the state of the Saudi-Bush union is still pretty good.

But why end on a cynical note? I must admit I was moved by the President’s praise of Wesley Autrey, a New Yorker who, last month, threw himself on top of a man who had fallen on subway tracks — and held him between the track rails as the train passed over them.

While the President properly acknowledged Autrey’s courage in saving the man who fell on the subway tracks, Mr. Bush still did not explain why Dick Cheney pushed the man in the first place.

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller: Armed Madhouse: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War. The subscribe to Palast’s investigative reports, go to

George H. W. Bush's bizarre comments about the John F. Kennedy assassination

January 25, 2007 -- Washington observers are still puzzled by George H. W. Bush's bizarre comments about the John F. Kennedy assassination and Warren Report during his eulogy of President Gerald Ford at the Washington National Cathedral. Bush, who has made it clear that he does not care for the information posted about him and his family on the Internet, has good reason to be worried about the availability of information on the web.

After Lee Harvey Oswald returned, along with his Soviet wife and daughter, to the United States from the Soviet Union, he was "handled" by Belarusian immigrant George DeMohrenschildt, a Dallas businessman who once worked in New York for Humble Oil, Prescott Bush's company. DeMohrenschildt was active in the right-wing anti-Communist circles and had close links to the CIA. DeMohrenschildt "committed suicide" in 1977 shortly before he was to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. He also wrote a manuscript in which he stated he did not believe that Oswald could have killed Kennedy.

Nevertheless, it is interesting whose name appeared in DeMohrenschildt's address book, provided to House investigators after his "suicide":

Poppy Bush has a fuzzy memory about where he was on Nov. 22, 1963 but his name, address, and phone number were found in the address book of Lee Harvey Oswald's close friend.

As for what occurred on Nov. 22, 1963 at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, perhaps George H. W. Bush has forgotten about what is found in the 26 volume House Select Committee on Assassinations Report concerning 14 shots fired that day towards Kennedy's limousine:

Bullet #1 - Throat shot (Kennedy)

Bullet #2 - Forehead shot (Kennedy)

Bullet #3 - Hit lady on street whose blood and flesh hit Officer Martin as he rode past. (Vol. 20, p. 410 and Vol. 6, p. 160)

Bullet #4 - Hit person on sidewalk (Vo. 20, p. 410 and Vol. 6, p. 160).

Bullet #5 - Hit the inside of the windshield of the driver's compartment cracking the windshield (Vol..16, pages 945 and 946, 947)

Bullet #6 - Hit the windshield chrome (Vol. 16, pages 945 and 946, 947).

Bullet #7 - Hit the sign (Vol. 16, pp. 19-24).

Bullet #8 - Hit motorcycle officer on the far side of the motorcade (Vo. 18, p. 763 & Vol. 19, p. 535).

Bullet #9 - Known as the "Koolade bullet" (Vol. 6, p. 212).

Bullet #10 - Right shoulder/chest (Connally) (Vol. 6, p. 19).

Bullet #11 - Right wrist (Connally) (Vol. 6, p. 92).

Bullet #12 - Left thigh (Connally) (Vol. 6, p. 90).

Bullet #13 - Hit child at curb on the north side of Elm Street (Vol. 11, p. 218).

Bullet #14 - Hit man named John Tagle (Vol. 19, p. 535).

The Bush Crime Family: their fingerprints are on most of the major political and financial crimes since World War II.

Poppy Bush remains recalcitrant as a minority believer in the Warren Report. But with Bush's odd pang of conscience at the Ford funeral and more evidence that the Bush family is, in fact, a crime family, is there any doubt about Bush's complicity in the murder of the century?

Pentagon Active Denial System (ADS) millimeter wave directed energy beam PSYOPs directed against Saturday DC anti-war marchers.

Pentagon PSYOPs directed against Saturday DC anti-war marchers. First, the corporate media attempted to ignore the January 27 anti-war march on Washington. As the Internet and progressive talk radio spread the word about the march and groups around the nation began to mobilize their members to participate in it, the Bush administration -- now armed with all sorts of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) "non-lethal" toys, decided to stage a test of an anti-crowd microwave weapon, code named "Sheriff," in a demonstration for the media at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

On January 24, the military demonstrated its Active Denial System (ADS) millimeter wave directed energy beam in a test designed for the media, and hence, the public. Using enlisted airman, acting as "rioters," as "guinea pigs," a beam was directed at them from a parabolic antenna located 500 yards away atop a Humvee. The wave heated the skin of the "rioters" to 130 degrees, creating the feeling in the targets that they were being burned alive, scattering them in the process. The military pointed out that the beam can penetrate winter clothing (which will be worn by those participating in Saturday's march) and 1/64th of an inch under the skin. As with any electronic weapon, it is clear that the "juice" can be turned up on Sheriff to cause more than a nasty skin burn, including internal organ damage, blindness, and death.

The weapon was developed under a contract awarded by the Pentagon's non-lethal weapons program office at the Quantico, Virginia Marine Corps Base to Raytheon.

The public testing of such a weapon by the military just prior to what may be the largest anti-war march in Washington since the Vietnam War is a clear message by the Pentagon to marchers that the millimeter wave technology exists and is deployable. Psychologically, most people find the idea of being burned alive frightening and this Pentagon "show and tell" was an obvious ploy to scare away marchers, especially those planning to bring their families.

Pentagon's PSYOPs warning to anti-war marchers: we can and may microwave you with our Sheriff weapon.

However, marchers should keep in mind that a Humvee is no match against hundreds of thousands of marchers and that any attempt to use such a weapon would have one shot before an angry crowd descended on the vehicle and rendered it useless as both a weapon and a vehicle.

Will Raytheon Active Denial System (ADS), the millimeter microwave directed beam weapon be used against the anti-war march in Washington??

January 26, 2007 -- Save your aluminum foil "hats." According to a technology expert who is familiar with the Raytheon Active Denial System (ADS), tested January 24 at Moody Air Force base in Georgia, the millimeter microwave directed beam weapon can be defeated by a crowd of people using aluminum- or gold-coated Mylar to conduct the beam to ground or even direct it back to the Humvee housing the ADS system. Although the Humvee is shielded, any law enforcement or military personnel standing near the Humvee would get a burning taste of their own medicine if the directed beam were reflected back to its source or to a crowd of police. In addition to aluminum or gold coated Mylar, Mylar reflective space blankets, aluminum coated windshield heat protective screens, and more sophisticated and precise corner cube retro-reflectors or Luneburg spheres can all be used to reflect the millimeter wave beam back to its source.

The source we spoke to also revealed that the ADS technology has already been used in Iraq against civilian rioters even though the Pentagon claims it will not be deployable until 2010. The source added that even if the ADS Humvee is present at the anti-war march in Washington tomorrow, Raytheon would not permit its use because of liability issues stemming from potential eye damage and human rights violations. However, WMR has learned that Raytheon is offering the ADS technology to police departments and as a component of home security alarm systems.

Bush's new anti-crowd ray gun -- In a case of Alcoa versus Raytheon, it can be defeated and used against the users with aluminum foil.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Replying to the Bush Shit of the State of The Union Address

Arguing With Bush

Yet one question has surely been settled - that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy.
Actually, it is unclear what "taking the fight to the enemy" means in Bush's ill-conceived "war on terror." He is probably still trying to sneak Iraq into the struggle against al-Qaeda through the back door. If so, that dog won't hunt. By launching an unprovoked and illegal war of aggression on a major Arab Muslim country, Bush hasn't "carried the fight to the enemy" but has rather dishonored the 9/11 dead by using their killings as a pretext to carry out his own preconceived and Ahab-like plans to "take out" Saddam Hussein. Nothing could be better calculated to increase the threat of terrorism against the United States than an attempt militarily to occupy Iraq, with all the repression and torture it has entailed. And, if Bush was so good at taking the fight to the enemy, why is Ayman al-Zawahiri still free to taunt him by videotape. Al-Zawahiri was a major force behind the September 11 attacks. Why is he at large?

Bush then claims some successes in breaking up terror plots. But these plots were broken up by old-fashioned detective and intelligence work, with some substantial dependence on our allies. It has even been suggested that Bush broke the news about the alleged airplane liquids plot in the UK before British intelligence was ready for it to become public. In any case, it is hard to see what these counter-terrorism successes have to do with his expansion of the US military or his quixotic war in Iraq.

Every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy. The evil that inspired and rejoiced in Nine-Eleven is still at work in the world. And so long as that is the case, America is still a Nation at war.
Do we have to be at war? Couldn't we just be vigilant and do good counter-terrorism. Isn't "war" a distraction from the latter?

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty.
Yes but it isn't so important what your enemy's intentions are. You always have enemies with bad intentions. What is important is your enemy's capabilities. Al-Qaeda was never very large or powerful, and it is increasingly clear that the September 11 attacks were a fluke. The fact is that al-Qaeda cannot overthrow the Egyptian government, or any other government, and cannot actually harm the United States or its way of life in any prolonged or serious way. This small band of 5,000 to 12,000 men in Afghanistan, now largely killed or scattered, cannot possibly be a pretext for keeping all Americans on their toes all the time, and keeping them willing to cede their constitutional liberties to Bush.

It has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah - a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.
The major Shiite religious parties with long histories of anti-American rhetoric and activity are the Islamic Call or Da'wa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Both of these Shiite religious parties are now allies of Bush. The Iraqi Da'wa actually helped to form the Lebanese Hizbullah in the early 1980s. A major figure in its Damascus bureau at that time was Nuri al-Maliki, now the Prime Minister of Iraq and a Bush ally. Al-Maliki supported Hizbullah versus Israel in the war last summer. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is close to the Iranian regime but whom Bush hosted in the White House on Dec. 4.

So if these Iraqi Shiite parties and militias can be brought in from the cold, why is it that Bush demonizes and essentializes other Shiite groups that are equally capable of changing their policies given the right incentives?

As for the Lebanese Hizbullah, it was formed in 1984 and so was not responsible for the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. That was carried about by the Islamic Amal faction of Abbas al-Musawi. Elements of the latter may have later joined Hizbullah.

Hizbullah's energies have not been put into killing Americans during the past two decades, but rather into getting the Israelis back out of their country. In fact, it isn't clear that the Lebanese Hizbullah has done anything to the US for 20 years.

It is arguably the Israeli invasion and military occupation of south Lebanon that created Hizbullah in the first place. Prior to that, the southern Lebanese Shiites weren't very political and often were pro-Israel.

What every terrorist fears most is human freedom - societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies - and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, reformers, and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security . . . we must.
First of all, "terrorists" are just political activists who commit violence against noncombatants. Lots of political movements have used this technique including some whose goal was liberal democracy. So it simply is not true that all those who deploy terror have the same goals.

Second, people in capitalist democracies resort to terrorism all the time. Indeed, the most horrific regime of modern times, that of the Nazis, came out of the liberal parliamentary Weimar Republic and was elected to office. The Baader-Meinhoff gang in liberal West Germany, the Japanese Red Army, the McVeigh-Nichols "Christian Identity" terrorism in Oklahoma-- all of these examples prove Bush's premise wrong.

And, even if it were the case that capitalist democracies don't produce terrorism (which it is not), Bush cannot spread democracy in the Middle East by his so-far favored military means. Ask any Middle Easterner if he or she would like to have a situation such as prevails in Iraq. They will say, if that is democracy I want none of it. Bush has actively pushed the Middle Eastern publics away from democracy for an extra generation or two.

In the last two years, we have seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East - and we have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution ... drove out the Syrian occupiers ... and chose new leaders in free elections.
What universe does Bush live in, that he brings up Lebanon as though it were not in flames these days, with 3 killed and 100 wounded in the opposition strike. I mean, he did once admit he doesn't read the newspapers. But couldn't he listen to the radio or something?

Note, too, that the "Cedar Revolution" government was joined by the Lebanese Hizbullah. It was a national unity government. The US ambassador in Lebanon encouraged this development. What destabilized that government was the brutal Israeli war on Lebanon of last summer. Bush collaborated in that war and even worked against the early cease-fire called for by the Seniora government. Bush can't pretend to be a friend of the Lebanese government and yet approve publicly of a sanguinary war on it by Olmert. Bush puts all the blame for instability in Lebanon on Syria, which is implausible.

Bush then goes on to complain that "the enemy" has adjusted its tactics and thrown up new challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in reality, Bush just imposed a 'winner-take-all, devil-take-the-hindmost' situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, generating profound ethnic and religious resentments that have exploded into violence.

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.
Puh-lease. Spare us the Rumsfeldisms. Either we are in charge or we are helpless leaves being blown by the wind of the enemy. If we aren't in charge, then we have already lost.

As for the idea that we still have the power to shape the outcome, that is contradicted by his previous admission that we have been maneuvered into a different kind of war that we hadn't planned on. We couldn't shape the outcome, which is why the war is going badly. We cannot now shape the outcome by main force. We have to negotiate, with the insurgents and with Iran and Syria, if we are to avoid a catastrophe.

We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq - a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission.
You don't have a new strategy. You may have some new tactics, but that remains to be seen. Iraq's government in any case has already rejected the idea that it must meet artificial US 'benchmarks.' And, the "government" is anyway weak and divided. Most of the major political figures are linked to guerrilla or militia groups. It cannot stop the fighting because its members provoke the fighting.

And in Anbar province - where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them - we are sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. We did not drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.
I'm confused. I thought Bush and Cheney maintained that Iraq under Saddam was already a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Now he is saying that he won't let Iraq become such a safe haven, implying that it wasn't before.

Bush's cynical use of "al-Qaeda" to confuse the American public hides the simple fact that the vast majority of violence in Iraq is perpetrated by Sunni Arab Iraqis who want an end to what they see as a foreign military occupation of their country. Most are either Baathists or Salafi Sunni revivalists. There isn't really any al-Qaeda in Iraq in the sense of a group directly tied to Bin Laden. How would they even find him to give him fealty?

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country - and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective.
Yes, Mr. Bush, and you are the one who got us into this mess. Nor can you get us back out by 'staying the course' or with a mere 21,500 further troops. Any other ideas how to extract us from the dilemma?

And out of chaos in Iraq, would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens... new recruits ... new resources ... and an even greater determination to harm America.
When Britain got out of Kenya, no Kenyan terrorists took advantage of the withdrawal to plot bombings of London. Kenyans were pretty happy about the British getting out. When the US got out of Vietnam, no Vietnamese terrorists followed us to the US mainland to inflict terrorism on us. Bush's charges are just propaganda.

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. That is why it is important to work together so our Nation can see this great effort through.
The struggle against al-Qaeda proper is over with. No big new arrests have been made in its ranks for years. There are other counter-terrorism targets, which should be monitored and broken up on a continual basis. That isn't a war and doesn't require the Pentagon. The 'war on terror' as a trope won't succeed Bush by even a day from his last moments in office.

Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle - because we are not in this struggle alone. We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism.
Of all the lies and misrepresentations, this is the most egregious. Bush's policies have left the US isolated and deeply unpopular throughout the world. Some 75 percent of Indonesians had a positive view of the US before W. It has more lately been around 30% and at one point fell to 15%.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agcency hasn't certified that Iran even has a nucear wapons esearh program. Iran was, at least a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. Bush may be pushing it out of the treaty.

Bush has exacerbated conflicts throughout the Middle East. He has contributed heavily to the outbreak of three civil wars, in Iraq, in Palestine and Lebanon. His incompetence and self-contradictory policies have deeply endangered Americans and American interests. Now he is holding his own failures over our heads to blackmail us into throwing good money after bad.

Bloggers Who Criticize Government May Face Prison

Global Research, January 24, 2007

Bill would allow rounding up and imprisoning of non-registered political writers

Steve Watson
Thursday, January 18, 2007

You'd be forgiven for thinking that it was some new restriction on free speech in Communist China. But it isn't. The U.S. Government wants to force bloggers and online grassroots activists to register and regularly report their activities to Congress in the latest astounding attack on the internet and the First Amendment.

Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman of, a website dedicated to fighting efforts to silence grassroots movements, states:

"Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the Senate, would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself."

In other words Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats may redefine the meaning of lobbying in order that political communications to and even between citizens falls under the same legislation.

Under current law any 'lobbyist" who 'knowingly and willingly fails to file or report." quarterly to the government faces criminal charges including a possible jail term of up to one year.

The amendment is currently on hold.

This latest attack on bloggers comes hot on the heels of Republican Senator John McCain's proposal to introduce legislation that would fine blogs up to $300,000 for offensive statements, photos and videos posted by visitors on comment boards.

McCain's proposal is presented under the banner of saving children from sexual predators and encourages informants to shop website owners to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who then pass the information on to the relevant police authorities.

Despite a total lack of any evidence that children are being victimized en mass by bloggers or people who leave comments on blog sites, it seems likely that the proposal will become legislation in some form. It is well known that McCain has a distaste for his blogosphere critics, causing a definite conflict of interest where any proposal to restrict blogs on his part is concerned.

In recent months, a chorus of propaganda intended to demonize the Internet and further lead it down a path of strict control has spewed forth from numerous establishment organs:

During an appearance with his wife Barbara on Fox News last November, George Bush senior slammed Internet bloggers for creating an "adversarial and ugly climate."

- The White House's own recently de-classified strategy for "winning the war on terror" targets Internet conspiracy theories as a recruiting ground for terrorists and threatens to "diminish" their influence.

- The Pentagon recently announced its effort to infiltrate the Internet and propagandize for the war on terror.

- In a speech last month, Homeland Security director Michael Chertoff identified the web as a "terror training camp," through which "disaffected people living in the United States" are developing "radical ideologies and potentially violent skills." Chertoff pledged to dispatch Homeland Security agents to local police departments in order to aid in the apprehension of domestic terrorists who use the Internet as a political tool.

- A landmark legal case on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America and other global trade organizations seeks to criminalize all Internet file sharing of any kind as copyright infringement, effectively shutting down the world wide web - and their argument is supported by the U.S. government.

- A landmark legal ruling in Sydney goes further than ever before in setting the trap door for the destruction of the Internet as we know it and the end of alternative news websites and blogs by creating the precedent that simply linking to other websites is breach of copyright and piracy.

- The European Union, led by former Stalinist and potential future British Prime Minister John Reid, has also vowed to shut down "terrorists" who use the Internet to spread propaganda.

- The EU also recently proposed legislation that would prevent users from uploading any form of video without a license.

- We have also previously exposed how moves are afoot to clamp down on internet neutrality and even to designate a highly restricted new form of the internet known as Internet 2.

Make no mistake, the internet, one of the greatest outposts of free speech ever created is under constant attack by powerful people who cannot operate within a society where information flows freely and unhindered. All these moves mimic stories we hear every week out of State Controlled Communist China, where the internet is strictly regulated and virtually exists as its own entity away from the rest of the web.

The phrases "Chinese government" and "Mao Zedong" have even been censored on China's official Web sites because they are "Sensitive phrases". Are we to allow our supposedly Democratic governments to implement the same type of restrictive policies here?

Under section 220 of the lobbying reform bill, could be required to seek a license in order to bring this information to you. IF we were granted a license we would then have to report our activities to the government four times per year in order to bring you this information. Does that sound more like free speech or more like totalitarianism?

Take action:

As well as calling the Senate you should go to which has a petition that you can sign against Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill.

Paul Joseph Watson contributed to this report.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Just what is 21st-Century Socialism?

Tuesday, Jan 23, 2007

By: Mary Pili Hernandez -

As a result of President Chávez's resounding triumph in the recent election, many people have become seriously interested in the proposal he made in his speech of Feb. 25, 2005, at the inauguration of the Fourth Summit of Social Indebtedness.

In it, Chávez expressed his belief that the revolution should be socialist, otherwise it would not be a revolution. Later, when discussing that speech, he explained that it should be a 21st-Century type of socialism, giving a name to a new concept. But exactly what is 21st-Century socialism?

A concept in the making

The first thing that needs to be said is that the definition of 21st-Century socialism is not yet completed. When the president first broached the subject, he invited the Venezuelan people to participate in a discussion on the subject. Many of us have participated in forums and have written articles that permit an in-depth analysis. Nevertheless, it is vital to read Chávez's speeches to understand with greater clarity where this process leads, all the more so when the president was backed by almost 63 percent of the voters in the recent election.

Socialism was born in Latin America

Lamentably, people who make simplistic analyses of events always confuse the concept of socialism with that of Marxism, whereas Marxist socialism is only one of the models of socialism that have been applied worldwide, although it certainly is the most famous.

When Marx spoke about his vision of socialism, he went back to an older concept that arose in the early 16th Century from the mind of Sir Thomas Moore (a saint, not a politician) in his famous work “Utopia.” Moore was fascinated by Vespuccio's descriptions of the Archipelago of Fernando de Oroña in Brazil and in his work imagined a perfect society, which he called socialist.

Of course, the first people who applied this model dreamed up by Moore were not the Russians but the Jesuits, in their “reducciones” (communes) of Guaraní Indians in Paraguay. This fact is interesting, because it is not coincidental that the concept of socialism apparently emerged in some Brazilian islands and was later applied in Paraguay. In other words, the first socialists were not the Europeans but the Latin Americans.

21st-Century socialism is not Marxist

I don't know how many times Chávez has had to repeat it. He has been saying it since 2003. He has said it clearly in several remarks, speeches and television programs: “This is not a Marxist project. I have many Marxist friends, but this is not a Marxist project.” (“Hello President” radio program, Oct. 2, 2005.) He even has told it to journalists in interviews and press conferences.

“I am not a communist. If I were, I would say so without hesitation. Had I had a Marxist project for Venezuela, I would have said so from the first day I stepped into the political arena. So, I am not a Marxist. I feel close to socialist and progressive thinking, but I am not a Marxist.” (Interview with CNN correspondent Lucía Newman, Aug. 18, 2004.)

Just in case, he repeated that statement at the press conference in Miraflores Palace on the day he was confirmed as President-elect. But this was not made public by the media because much of the press operates as agents of the dirty campaign of anti-Chavismo and they need to instill fear in the people. Therefore, anything that may reduce or dissipate that fear is censored or simply omitted.

Bolivarian socialism

Bearing in mind that socialism is not synonymous with Marxism and that Chávez has clarified until exhaustion that he is not a Marxist and has no Marxist project for Venezuela, we should remember that the first time that the president described the Venezuelan revolution as socialist (Feb. 25, 2005) he was delivering an extraordinary speech (one of the best I've ever heard him deliver), where, documents in hand, he interpreted -- in his capacity as professor of Venezuelan history -- the thoughts of Liberator Simón Bolívar on social subjects.

Chávez took the decrees on education, land ownership, health, and the use of common goods that Bolívar issued after independence and, as he read them, he explained what the Founding Father bequeathed to us as the framework for a nation. Clearly, as Chávez concluded at that time, Bolívar was a socialist.

Therefore, to define 21st-Century socialism one doesn't have to look into European thinking, but into Latin American thinking, more specifically, into Bolivarian thinking.

Christian socialism

For several years now, a process of personal conversion has taken place in Chávez's heart. Now he defines himself as profoundly Christian, speaks of Jesus as his savior, and invokes him as “the Commander in Chief of this revolution.”

In this sense, he has posited that 21st-Century socialism must be inspired in Christianity.

It should be said that this is not something he invented. Christian socialism is a political current that has been very important in the world, particularly in Latin America, notwithstanding the fact that some political organizations that have defined themselves as such paid no heed to the ideas of Jesus.

It is important to make clear that, when we say 21st-Century socialism has a Christian inspiration, we don't say that it must be confessional but that it is based on the social thinking found in the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole. It is the socialism practiced by the early Christian communities after Pentecost.

Obviously from the 21st Century

This definition must include the fact that 21st-Century socialism looks to the future. In other words, it is not anchored to the socialist models that ruled much of the world in the past.

Nor is it a socialism that emerged from -- or was framed by -- the Cold War in the mid-20th Century. It is a new socialism, inspired on the values the world accepts as fair in this new century: democracy, respect for human rights -- not just civil and political rights but also economic, social and cultural rights.

‘Capitalism cannot contain democracy’

This was a statement made by Chávez in a recent press conference. And it is a clear statement. If democracy is the power of the people and for the people, it has no place in a system where individual interests are above the collective interest, and where capital is more important than people.

Socialism is nothing more than placing collective interests above individual interests, as a priority. Only thus can we live in democracy. If an individual and his money are above a community, that relationship will never be a democracy. It will be a dictatorship or, worse yet, a plutocracy. Like the one that exists in the United States, a nation with 45 million poor people.

Venezuelans voted for this project

Ever since democracy began, no president has received a support at the polls as big as Chávez received this time. I think that clears all doubts. Venezuela wants socialism and it wants it to be the 21st-Century version.

Bolivia's Government Faces Right-Wing Offensive: Popular Forces Struggle for Unity against Attacks by Federico Fuentes

A chain of events triggered by the passage of a new agrarian reform law, part of Bolivian president Evo Morales' "agrarian revolution," has brought to sharp relief the drive by the right-wing opposition to overthrow Morales' government, even if it means pushing Bolivia into civil war.

On November 28, in front of thousands of cheering campesinos in La Paz, the left-wing president announced that the Senate had managed to pass the law, after three senators broke ranks with the opposition, which has been boycotting the Senate and preventing it from convening. The previous day, Morales had threatened to issue the law as a simple decree to get around the Senate.

This determined move gave the government greater powers to redistribute land that was not performing a "social function." In retaliation, the right-wing opposition launched a new phase in its destabilization campaign, shifting the centre of gravity of the struggle to its home turf. A series of "cabildos" -- open town meetings -- were convoked for December 15 in the four eastern departments (provinces).

The core of Bolivia's right-wing opposition is the business elites from Santa Cruz, predominantly tied to gas transnationals and large agribusiness and the U.S. embassy. Their public face is the civic committee of Santa Cruz and the four opposition-controlled governorships of the east.

The largest of these cabildos, held in Santa Cruz, brought around half a million people onto the streets. The meeting resolved to not recognize the new constitution being drafted by the Constituent Assembly if it did not include a form of departmental autonomy which would grant high levels of political, economic, and administrative decentralization to the governorships.

Rising tensions in the East saw clashes in the days leading up to and following the cabildo. Armed fascist youth organized by the Crucenista [Santa Cruz] Youth Union patrolled the streets, threatening and attacking indigenous people, many of whom support MAS, having migrated east over the last few years in search of employment.

That same day, several thousand people rallied in La Paz and El Alto to condemn the divisive calls by the right and to proclaim themselves in favor of national unity and the process of change being led by Morales.

Conflict Shifts to the Heart of Bolivia

However it was the calls that day by the governor of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa, in favor of a new referendum on autonomy, and in support of "independence for Santa Cruz" which swung the site of battle to the heart of Bolivia. Despite attempting to clarify afterwards that he had been wrong in referring to "independence," his statements -- in a department where 64% voted against autonomy in the July 2 nationwide referendum, and where MAS and Morales are particularly strong -- triggered a showdown.

Although there was an immediate response by the social movements, the mass mobilizations were deferred until after the New Year break. By January 8, tens of thousands of mostly indigenous campesinos, cocaleros (coca farmers), and water irrigators, together with workers and other social movements, had occupied the centre of Cochabamba, demanding Reyes Villa resign for not listening to the will of the people. Attacked by the police, protester anger grew as they burnt down part of the building housing the offices of the governorship

Events turned ugly on January 11, when residents from the middle class northern suburbs of Cochabamba, incited by Reyes Villa and the mass media, marched into the centre of the city armed with sticks, golf clubs, and even firearms to confront the campesinos. They broke through police lines and viciously attacked the protestors. During several hours of street clashes, over a hundred people were injured -- including five who remain in a critical condition -- and two were killed.

In response, Evo Morales cut short his international agenda to attend to the growing crisis. He returned on January 12 in his dual capacity as president of the Republic and of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba (also known as the Chapare region), a key force in the mobilizations. Although saying the conflict was one between the social movements and the authorities of Cochabamba, he squarely pointed the finger of blame at Reyes Villa, while asking the social movements to contribute to a solution via dialogue and remaining within the law.

"Now I am much more convinced that the indigenous peasant movement represents the moral reserve of humanity," said Morales. He called on the social movements to reflect and avoid any further violence or revenge attacks. He proposed to rush through a new law to allow a recall referendum on all elected officials, to avoid further confrontations between those who held positions "legally," but not "legitimately," in the eyes of the population.

A National Crisis?

That same day, a cabildo of the protestors voted to radicalize their actions by cutting off Cochabamba from the rest of the country and vowing not to leave until Reyes Villa resigned. Reyes Villa, fearing for his physical and political future, went into "exile" in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Civic Committee welcomed Reyes Villa with open arms, having already called for a 24-hour stoppage on January 16 to support the besieged governor.

Three days later, a cabildo was convened in El Alto, where residents declared themselves in a "war to the death" until they received the resignation of both Reyes Villa and La Paz governor José Luis Paredes, who had also recently come out in favor of autonomy. They gave Paredes 48 hours to resign or else be forced out, as confrontation and violence threaten to spill out of the city of Cochabamba.

On the other side of the country, the story was different. A rally called for January 15 by the newly formed Popular Civic Committee of Santa Cruz -- made up of organizations of the lower classes opposed to the official right-wing-controlled civic committee -- suspended their mobilization, due to threats of violent attacks against them by the Crucenista Youth Union.

Saturnino Pinto, president of the Popular Civic Committee, said that the mobilization would be postponed "until the authorities follow the law and tell us where we can meet without confrontations."

Reporting on the second cabildo held in Cochabamba on January 16, Pablo Stefanoni noted that the leaders of the key social organizations that had led the demonstrations were now "uncomfortably faced with the determination of the campesinos. They were facing pressure from both sides: the calls from the presidential palace and from their base, each time more radicalized after various days of sleeping in plazas and precarious trade union headquarters" ("Cochabamba: sigue la crisis y Evo busca que no se extienda el conflicto," Clarín, 17 January 2007).

In the end they put forward a resolution that, while continuing to call on the prefect to resign and maintaining the "state of emergency," gave the departmental council -- controlled by a MAS majority -- a mandate to continue meeting in Reyes Villa's absence to work out a legal way to remove him. Stefanoni wrote:

[P]ersistent whistling blocked out the voice of the speaker and threats forced the [departmental] council to meet "in order to name a new prefect."

But the pressure coming from the government had its effect. Bit by bit the leaders who respond to Evo Morales -- especially the cocaleros -- began disappearing and the massive presence in the plaza diminished.

Afterwards, a small group of ultra-radicals decided to proclaim their own new prefect and "revolutionary government" and to enter the governor's office, only to be easily repelled by the police. By the following day, even the "new" prefect was complaining that he had been abandoned by everyone.

Whilst unrest continues in El Alto, it seems that Morales has been able to stop the right-wing offensive by winning a possible truce, albeit very temporary.

One Country, Two Political Projects
No one doubts, however, that the conflict is far from over as these two political projects -- that represented by Santa Cruz elite, and that of the indigenous majority, led by Morales -- continue to battle for the future of this country, situated in the heart of South America.

With the advent of neoliberalism in Bolivia in 1985, the Santa Cruz elite, who had gained economic influence during the previous dictatorships, moved to directly occupy positions in the state administration. Through the establishment of several pro-oligarchy parties who "fought it out" in Bolivia's manipulated democracy, they were able to preside over an illusory stability.

However, the resurgence of struggle in 2000 by the indigenous people of the west (Aymara uprising in the altiplano) and centre (Water War of Cochabamba) in 2000, and the rise of the indigenous- and campesino-led Popular Instrument for the Sovereignty of the People -- which runs under the registered name of MAS in elections --- shattered this stability. The oligarchy's traditional institutions and political parties become thoroughly discredited.

With the overthrow of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in October 2003, these elites were gradually displaced from the positions they traditionally held and lost the direct access they had to decision making at the national level.

Moreover, confronted with an organized indigenous-majority west, hostile to neoliberalism, where support for Morales is overwhelming (polls in December showed 62% support in La Paz, 79% in El Alto), they began to articulate a political bloc geographically based in the east (where Morales support drops to a modest 35%). First they focused on defense of "autonomy," later adding "democracy" to put up a better camouflage of their real goals.

Their aim was to solidify their hegemony in the east where the social movements are much weaker and in many cases aligned with the elites, shielding themselves from the encroaching west. Thus emboldened, they would move towards regaining their influence in the west.

The plan has been to confuse the population, projecting an image of instability domestically and internationally, coupled with calls for "international intervention" and stalling, by any means necessary, the "Democratic and Cultural Revolution" initiated by the massive election victory of Evo Morales in December 2005.

By demobilizing and promoting disillusionment among Bolivia's combative social movements, they hope to create the conditions to bring down Morales and the MAS government.

A key element in the strategy of the right has been to try to paralyze the work of the Constituent Assembly. They have had some success at this. Despite having been convened on August 6, it has yet to resolve its rules of procedure.

Their calls for "autonomy" are aimed at securing control of national resources and wealth for the governorships they control, whilst they wait in the wings to recapture control of the central government. Their kind of "autonomy" would gravely undermine the ability of MAS government to implement its program.

At the same time, by playing up regional divisions and stoking up separatist sentiments with talk of "independence," they are conjuring up fears of the disintegration of Bolivia.

Part of this project is the designation of Phillip Goldberg as the new U.S. ambassador to Bolivia on October 13. Goldberg's history includes playing a key role in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, a skill which the U.S. government obviously believes could come in handy in Bolivia.

Clearly the current objective of the right is to overthrow Morales. However, the balkanization of Bolivia, including splitting the eastern departments away from the indigenous west and taking the majority of Bolivia's gas reserves and fertile land with them, cannot be ruled out. If the Santa Cruz elite come to conclude that they have lost all hope on the political level, they could well choose to plunge the country into a civil war, holding out the option of separation of the departments they control from Bolivia.

One reason why the division of the country seems unlikely in the immediate future is the situation in the armed forces. Most commentators agree that any attempt to carve up the country would be opposed, at least at this stage, by the overwhelming majority of the armed forces,

The spectre of separatism, however, could both work in favor or against the indigenous movement and the Morales government. The right wing is also using this fear as a way to gain a stronger foothold in the high command of the military.

Although Morales has been trying to incorporate the armed forces into his project, very few are willing to speculate as to what is happening internally within an army that has throughout its history intervened to back both pro-imperialist and nationalist regimes.

The Shape of Things to Come
This latest push by the opposition has demonstrated its continuing hegemony over large sections of the population in the east, although it has also revealed an emerging, yet still very weak, popular movement amongst the poorer sections in the surroundings of Santa Cruz.

The street presence of the opposition and the concerted media campaign, along with the troubles in the Constituent Assembly, also seem to have swung a section of the urban middle class, who voted for Morales a year ago on the idea that "if a blockader is in government then the blockades will stop," behind the consolidating bloc that claims to defend "democracy" and "autonomy."

However it has also revealed that Bolivia's powerful social movements, who for now are almost entirely behind the Morales government in its democratic and cultural revolution, have not forgotten that their power lies in mass mobilization. They demonstrated this on the streets of Cochabamba and EL Alto.

Part of the political struggle is the need to project a viable and convincing course to defend the territorial integrity of Bolivia and overall social stability. These issues weigh heavily on the minds of middle-class elements and also important sections of the armed forces. They add weight to the need to concentrate on widening the scope of political struggle against the right. The right, well aware of this, seek to avoid political struggle through provocations, street violence, and threats to defy constitutional authority wherever they sense they have the strength to do so.

MAS Senator Antonio Peredo Leigue, writing on January 17, pointed out that "work needs to be done towards the organization and coordination of these movements. The right counts in their favor these faults; they project their provocations confident of finding a reaction amongst the popular sectors. In this way, they want to justify the conspiracy against the government."

He adds, "The leadership of Evo Morales has reined in, once again, the danger of a national confrontation. It is necessary that this leadership be recognized in order to halt provocations. In this context, the process of change will advance more decisively and the right will be left isolated. The task of the mobilized people is the deepening of democracy."

The Bolivian masses have a huge task on their hands, and no one doubts that the big clashes are still to come. As the powerful opposition to the U.S. government continues to grow -- led by Cuba and Venezuela, and recently joined by Ecuador and Nicaragua in the expanding Bolivarian axis -- the U.S. is looking for how it can counterattack.

The role of Morales as an indigenous president within this alliance, who is consciously reaching out to awakening indigenous movements of the region, is crucially important. The indigenous government in Bolivia is the high-water mark in the struggle for indigenous self-determination in the Americas -- the main reason it is so hated and despised by the imperialist powers and why they are determined to crush it.

The current push in Bolivia, perhaps seen as the weak link in this axis, is undoubtedly aimed at smashing this powerful piece of the Bolivarian alliance. The task of all progressives and socialists inside and outside Bolivia is to unite with and defend the Bolivian masses and their government against the attacks of imperialism and its Bolivian agents.

Federico Fuentes is a frequent writer for the Australian socialist newspaper, Green Left Weekly, and maintains the blog Bolivia Rising. He is a member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, a tendency within the Australian Socialist Alliance.