Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hillary's Downfall

Hillary's Downfall - Hillary Clinton explodes at news of her imminent Downfall -- from inside her bunker!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

When Will Americans Have Had Enough?

How to create an Angry American

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Next Step in Nepal: An Interview with Dr. Baburam Bhattarai of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

by Stephen Mikesell and Mary Des Chene

Q. On May Day what was the message that the party was putting to the workers?

On the historic May Day our message to the working class was, we are making revolution in Nepal in a very indigenous way, but we have a lot of challenges to face. The reactionaries won't leave the stage of history very easily. They'll put up a very strong resistance, so we have to take this challenge very seriously, we have to prepare for a strong resistance from the overthrown feudal and reactionary classes. This is one message we gave to the working class. And the second message was, if we have to build a new Nepal, then we'll have to concentrate on making a new national unity. We need peace, stability, and progress, and for that the working class will take the lead to do away with all remnants of feudalism -- feudal production relations -- and develop industrial relations oriented towards socialism, which will solve the long term demands of the working class. Those are the two messages we conveyed during the May Day programmes.

Q. What's the practical approach that you're going to use to work in that direction?

The first step is, though we have won the election, the reactionary classes are hatching various conspiracies, especially the imperialists. They're trying to instigate the monarchist forces and the bureaucratic bourgeois class, which is strongly aligned with the imperialists. They're instigating them not to hand over power to the Maoists. So for that we may have to go through a process of struggle, for which the working class and all the oppressed masses should be prepared. If need be, we'll have to go to the street to resist this reactionary backlash. Practically, we appealed to them to get prepared. And secondly, after we form the government under our leadership, then we'll have to provide some immediate relief to the working class and the poor people, those who have suffered all along, they're suffering from poverty, unemployment, and also discrimination. Families of those martyred. They're poor people. Their sons and daughters were martyred so they will need immediate relief. And there are others who were disappeared, and those who were injured. That's one aspect. The other aspect is the real basic poor people, working classes, who need economic relief, immediately. So we are thinking of providing a public distribution system, a network of cooperative stores whereby we can provide basic goods to the working class and the poor people. We want to provide some fund for that. And then, for education and health. Our position has been that education and health and employment should be -- and also shelter and food security -- these should be the fundamental right of the masses of the people. This we have already promised in our manifesto. And partially it has been written in the interim constitution also. So we'll try to put it into practice. And for that, we'll have to prepare a new budget, and appropriate new policy of the new government. The working class and the mass of the poor people should contribute to this process. They should advise our party and the future government, and they should be very vigilant to keep the government in line. If the public and the working class and the poor masses don't put pressure, then the government may not be able to move in the right direction. There are very bad historical experiences in this regard, you see. So until and unless the working class is very vigilant and exercises its power to control the government from below, there are chances of the government deviating, not implementing what it has promised during the elections.

Q. What steps are you taking to give people the means to exert that pressure from below?

Firstly, our party recognizes that even when we participate in the government, this government is not a fully revolutionary government, it is a transitional government. So we'll have to compromise with the other classes. But we would like to take the lead. We would like to transform the state from within. For that we have to create pressure from outside. For that our party's position is that the whole leadership of the party won't join the government. One section of the leadership will join the government, and the other section of the party leadership will remain outside and continue organizing and mobilizing the masses. So the party will take that route. Many of us will be [in the government]. The main form of struggle will be from within the government, to make the new constitution. But another section will remain outside the government. That's why all of our central leaders didn't participate in the elections. We want to organize and mobilize the masses so that they can put pressure on the government. So this is one aspect. And we want to develop certain institutions. Though we haven't found the concrete form for them yet, we have made some policy decisions. When we put forth the concept of development of democracy in the 21st century, our slogan was that the government and the party should be constantly supervised by the masses, and the masses should intervene at times if need be. This is our policy. But we have not been able to find the concrete form. What will be the way of intervening in case the government deviates? What will be the form of putting pressure, apart from public demonstrations? How will they intervene in the state system? That mechanism we are trying to work out.

Q. What about means for the masses to supervise the constituent assembly?

The immediate task will be to make the new constitution with the full participation of the real masses of the people in making their constitution.

Q. But there are very practical issues of organization. All the forms of relation between the people and the constituent assembly have yet to be determined, and there's no assurance that effective mechanisms will be established.

We can formulate rules and regulations. The interim constitution is quite open on that issue. We can develop some modalities whereby the committees being formed within the constituent assembly will be required to go to different places and organize mass meetings, collect the opinion of the masses. That type of mechanism will have to be developed. At least our party will propose that. . . . If need be there could even be a referendum on certain articles. We'll try to develop a consensus even within the political parties and then, if not, we'll go for a two thirds majority, and in case needed, for certain issues, we could go to a referendum. Our approach will be to involve the maximum number of the mass of the people in the decision making process.

Q. How are you dealing with the challenge of bringing in international capital and retaining domestic capital within the country, in a way that is in keeping with your own economic policy?

Our main emphasis will be mobilizing internal resources. Until and unless we can mobilize internal resources, at least for basic needs, then we'll always be blackmailed by the international capital. So our first priority would be to mobilize our internal resources. But even then, in the immediate sense, we'll need some foreign capital. At least for long term economic development we have to make investment in basic infrastructure, and so on, using international capital. For that we're trying to re-negotiate with the international agencies. Of course they will try to put pressure. But we are already in contact with some of them. And they also have their own compulsions, you see. If they don't cooperate, they will also face the resistance of the people. They all have their strategic interests. Nepal being located in a very strategic place between China and India, and these forces, I think they have their eyes on the big markets of India and China, and if there is not a favorable situation in Nepal, they will be hurt, you see -- not immediately, but in the long term strategic sense. In that way they also have their certain interest in Nepal. So that, if we negotiate very carefully, though they will try to bring pressure -- we know it, this is the nature of international capital, to twist the arms of the poor countries and poor people -- even then, I think if we move very carefully, we can take some liberties out of that.

Q. Moving back to labor issues again, how are you involving the working class and in particular your unions in the economic policy of the country?

Our unions are the strongest in Nepal. We came into this [peace] process two years ago. In almost all the factories and workplaces, we have organized the workers, and our trade union is the strongest in the country. Wherever there have been [union] elections, we have won almost all of them. It may sound anachronistic, but just to give you an example, in the 5 star hotels where there were elections, we won all of them. Our trade unions got strong because they bargained with the management for the rights of the workers. To increase pay and provide benefits and facilities according to law. They were not paid earlier, and they were not provided with facilities. So the management were forced to pay. And there was a lot of attraction of workers to our trade unions. But on the other side, the reactionaries are instigating the management, saying that the Maoist trade unions are putting undue pressure, so there is no conducive environment for investment, and in this way they're encouraging capital flight. Some capital has fled also, so we have to make that [. . .]. Just the other day we were at a gathering of nationalist [capitalists] and traders and we tried to show them that our main focus right now is to do away with feudalism and do away with the feudal relations of production, and the very dependent capitalism, not national and international capitalism. So we try to distinguish between these. Firstly, we want to do away with feudalism. Then we want to develop our productive investment capital, not the very parasitic capital we have right now. This is what we call comprador and bureaucratic capitalism which doesn't promote production, and doesn't promote employment. It is only that type of distorted, dependent capitalism, which is developing in the country, that we are against. We are not against productive and industrial capitalism, you know, which provides goods, provides jobs, creates value within the country, and at least resists the imperialist interventions within the country. That type of national capitalism we promote. We tried to convince the nationalists and traders that we'll create a favorable environment.

Q. What's your position on Nepal's WTO membership in this context? There are a lot of conditions within the WTO membership that preclude some of the things you're saying.

Yes. That problem is there. It's very difficult to totally come out of the WTO. You can't be within the WTO, you can't come out of it. That dilemma is there.

Q. So the CPN(Maoist) doesn't have a formal position on this issue?

We haven't made a formal position on this so far.

Q. Following up on the role of the trade unions, theoretically in communism and socialism the working class are the rulers. So how do the trade unions insert themselves into the party policy and your state policy?

So far, our trade unions are highly politicized. Our workers have very good political consciousness. When they put demands, for the most part they know they are fighting for political and state power. We have tried to inculcate in the working class that unless and until you have state power in your hands, whatever economic gains you get, you won't be able to defend. It is the first thing we try to inculcate in the working class. So the trade unions are highly politically conscious. But apart from that we have to make a balance also, because if we don't make economic demands then a large section of the working class wouldn't attain a very high level of political consciousness -- they won't be organized. So that balance we have to make, between political and economic demands. We are trying to create a balance. And within the factories we try to create -- though we haven't called the system a soviet formally -- but in general since most of the workers, the majority of the workers are organized in our trade unions, they've been able to assert their position within the factories, so the management is forced to take the working class into confidence while making big policy decisions. So that has been achieved. Not formally in the sense of a soviet -- we haven't been able to organize as a political power in the factories. But because of their strong presence, they have been quite successful in exerting pressure and influencing the decision making within the factories.

Q. Most of Nepal's workers are not within the industrial or formal sector. Most of them are in the, you could say, peasantry. So what's the position of the party on the peasantry and its role in the party and in the state?

Mostly ours is a peasant-based economy, because two thirds of the workforce is engaged in agriculture. So in that sense our most important sector is the agronomic sector. And most of them are poor peasants. You see the pattern of landholding. It's called owner peasant. Those who own less than 0.5 hectares of land, around 70% of the peasants own less than 1 hectare, and around 50% own less than 0.5 hectare. So there's a very small land ownership. The totally landless peasants are about 10-15% of the total. We are trying to organize the peasants into peasant associations, and within the peasant associations we try to organize the poor peasants and landless peasants separately. Also, there have been some movements, the seizing of land from the feudal landlords and the redistribution among the peasants. That has happened.

Q. At the same time , now there are pressures and promises about returning property seized during the armed struggle, and your party has also made some [post-election] statements about carrying through with land reform.

Yes, this is one of the sticking points in the peace process, because the landlord's lands were seized by the peasants during the People's War. In the peace accord, there was quite an ambiguous provision. The land which was seized unjustifiably, that will be returned. This is the word -- 'unjustifiable', 'unjustifiably'. It is very ambiguous. That is why it has not been resolved. This has been the sticking point. Our peasants are not returning the land because they think it is rightful seizure, because the landlord had in fact always seized it from the peasants, you see. So they have seized it back. This is the argument of the peasants. And on the landlord side, they would say it is the right to private property, so that is the encouragement of the democratic [bourgeois] sides. So that type of struggle is going on. But in the interim constitution we put a provision for making scientific land reform. Though we wanted to put the word 'radical' or 'revolutionary', we had to compromise on the term 'scientific' land reform. So there is again an ambiguity there -- what do we mean by 'scientific land reform'? Our interpretation is revolutionary land reform based on the principle of land to the tiller. Those who are actually tilling the land should own the land. This has been our interpretation. The other side is trying to interpret it differently. So there is also contention going on over this issue.

Q. In Volume 3 of Capital, Marx made the point that if you just have straight redistribution into small plots it actually becomes a process of even more land consolidation because the small plots are facing a very concentrated capital, and it's very hard for them to survive.

That's why we're trying to promote cooperatives. You see, one of our slogans has been that the small peasants should organize in cooperatives and the state should provide certain specific facilities and rights to the cooperatives. If they're working and organized in cooperatives, then they can compete, or they can at least defend themselves from the encroachment of capital, and big capital.

Q. That's an example of something that could be included in the interim constitution in some form, that could have significant progressive consequences. But as the numbers have turned out, even if all the left forces unite, there is not quite the required two-thirds majority to pass a constitutional provision, there's about sixty percent only. So there' s a real dilemma about how the assembly can proceed in a way that will produce, even if it's a compromise, a constitution that's genuinely progressive.

You are very right. In fact the path won't be easy, it will be a big struggle that we'll have to face for making the new constitution. That we know. But one good thing is, since we have got 37% of the seats in the constituent assembly, which is more than one-third, we have the veto power you see. They don't have two thirds without us. At least we can resist a very reactionary constitution. If they won't allow us to form a very progressive constitution, still we can prevent them from creating a very reactionary constitution. So that will be a big stalemate. It will be difficult for us to win, but we won't lose, you see. We can't lose. But they won't want to let us win either. That's the thing.

Q. Because you have veto power, maybe they'll also be forced to give in a bit too. Though they can also play the dynamic that's been played with this past government, where stalemates and therefore continuing lack of change may then get blamed on you -- I'm not saying fairly so -- because you're the force that's preventing a decision from being made. And those kinds of politics were played quite effectively by the king, for example, over a few years, even with these Congress governments and so on.

That's the thing you see, with this triangular contention in Nepal, between feudalism and monarchy, the parliamentary bourgeois forces, and the proletarian left forces. First we want to do away with feudalism and monarchy. Then the contention between the bourgeois forces and the proletarian left forces will be sharpened in the days to come. In fact we have prepared ourselves for that. In case they don't allow us to assume the leadership and implement progressive measures, then we'll resist. Our main weapon will be to mobilize the masses. As I said earlier, one section of the party will constantly engage in mobilizing the masses. This has been our strategy. In the central committee meeting we have decided that. We'll follow a two-pronged approach. We'll try to intervene maximally from within the state. We'll try to lead the state. We'll try to implement progressive programmes. But we know there'll be a lot of resistance. To counter that, we have to mobilize and organize the masses. We have already given instructions to the party, to the lower levels, that they should organize themselves and instruct the masses. At any time they may have to come to the street and resist.

Q. How are you thinking now about the role for YCL (Young Communist League), both in that kind of mobilizing you're talking about and the kind of immediate relief you were talking about earlier in the interview, the need for really immediate relief. Do you see a role for YCL there as well?

The YCL will play a very important role. The reactionaries are very frightened of the YCL. They are right in that sense, because, though it is not true that they are using any force illegally or otherwise, it is a very dedicated political force. During the election and earlier they played a very important role in organizing the masses and resisting the intimidating tactics of the reactionary classes. All these years, the reactionary classes have been intimidating the poor masses of the people, not letting them vote, you see. It has happened earlier, but this time the YCL resisted that. And then the reactionaries made a big hue and cry: "The YCL intimidated!" The YCL didn't intimidate, but, in fact, the YCL prevented the intimidation practiced by the reactionary classes all these years, throughout history. This is known to all. So in the days to come one of the functions of the YCL will to be to resist any reactionary onslaught of the feudal, and monarchist, and the reactionary classes and to defend the masses of the people. The second part will be to mobilize and engage themselves in production activities and providing relief to the masses of the people.

Q. When they are involved in production activities they could also be involved in teaching circles and teaching about the constitutional assembly.

Yes, yes, that is the way of thinking: we will train our YCL cadres to organize the masses, to engage in education and health service, and in construction and production activities.

Q. Is it the Congress or CPN(UML), one of the two, is setting as a condition for being part of a coalition government that the YCL be dissolved.

That shows their reactionary character, you see. Because all these years they have practiced rigging and [. . .]. The YCL prevented that, they know it, so that's why they are asking for that. So there is no chance of considering such a stupid and reactionary line. The YCL will defend the masses of the people. If they don't want to, then let them not join. We say, if you want to join the government, then join. We will lead the government as part of a coalition. If they are not ready for that, being the single largest party we will form the government. If they don't allow that, then we'll go to the masses of the people and bring out another movement. Those are the three choices we have. But we won't compromise on basic issues. No. Because people want change, they have given us a mandate for change. If the reactionary forces don't allow us to put this mandate into practice, then we will go to the masses of the people, rather than succumbing to the pressure of the reactionaries.

Q: And this mandate for change has been taking the form of the slogan of a "New Nepal". What exactly is meant by that and how is it expected to come about?

Yes, "New Nepal" has been a very effective slogan given by our party during the election. "New thought and new leadership for a new Nepal," that was our basic slogan. And I think that people took it very well, and that is why they voted for us. So by New Nepal, what we mean is, first, politically, we want to dismantle all the feudal political, economic, social and cultural relations. That will be one aspect of New Nepal. The other aspect of New Nepal will be making drastic socioeconomic transformation in a progressive way. The one is destruction of the old, the other will be construction of the new. There will be two aspects. And our basic focus will be on economic activities: the transforming of the agriculture sector, and then developing productive forces, industrial relations, so that the workers and the youth will be provided employment. And that will create a basis for going toward socialism. Our economic slogan that we gave was: "New transitional economic policy." That means industrial capitalism -- development of industrial capitalism -- oriented towards socialism. This has been our work for the interim period.

Q: Going back to the topic of agriculture for a moment -- in your dissertation, the indicators you used for measuring development seem to be kind of mainstream indicators of fertilizer, application of machines and land-holding concentration. Do you think that this is actually something that fits in Nepal?

No, I understand. I was forced to do this because of lack of statistical data, you see. I couldn't manufacture my own data, I had to rely on the given data and the given framework in which it was available. Because of that constraint, I had to use those indicators. That's why I was only able to give an approximation, not real averages, but just approximations. That I mentioned in my dissertation.

Q. So now in thinking about transforming agriculture, which is one base of the economy, what kinds of things would you be concentrating on now? Say you can take power in the government and set agricultural policy, what are your top three moves?

Well firstly, in the agricultural sector, we are going to change the production relations, and land-holding patterns we want to change. Especially in the plain areas; landlordism is there. The absentee landlords who own land, thousands of hectares of land they would own: they live in cities, they don't invest, they don't manage the production, so that way they exploit the poor peasants who till the land. The peasants are exploited and the productivity is also very low. So we want to abolish that type of absentee landlordism and enforce the principle of land to the tiller. That land which is tilled will be redistributed. So we will put a ceiling, say of some four or five hectares and above that land will be confiscated and redistributed to the peasants. So this is one aspect of land reform. The other will be that we are going to organize the poor peasants, because many of them will be very small landholders. I've already told you, less that 0.5 hectares. And they engage very much in subsistence farming. So with that individual cultivation and farming, they can never improve their economic lot. We want to organize these poor peasants into cooperatives. That is the second aspect. And thirdly, we want to modernize agriculture -- mechanization, modern irrigation, and so on.

Q. And on the question of agriculture that is focused on food security within the country versus export economy agriculture, what's your view?

Our emphasis will be different from the economic policy determined by the World Bank and FAO, which has been export oriented, and peasants are not encouraged to produce food crops, they have been encouraged to produce cash crops for export. The dependency has been increased, the food security has decreased, so you see the food crisis increasing. This is one of the consequences of the World Bank policy -- wrong policy. So we wouldn't like to just blindly follow that policy. Firstly, the peasants' food security will be given high priority. They should produce food and cater to the needs of the internal market. And then secondly only, they can produce for export. So that will be our priority.

Q. We know that you have to go. Is there anything you want to say to the Left in North America?

You see the crisis is international in scale: there is a direct fight between the proletarian ideology and imperialist ideology. This is in the whole of this so-called globalization. Globalization has given this sharp class contradiction, of two classes. So North America being the center of imperialism, the working class and Left forces there, I think they should organize themselves and the stronger the movement against imperialism there, that will be helpful for the Left and proletarian movement in the Third World countries, because the Third World countries are the most oppressed by imperialism. If there is a strong working class movement and Left movement in the imperialist countries, that will directly help the revolutionary movement in the Third World countries. That way we appeal to our friends in North America. They should sharpen their struggle against imperialism. That will help our movement in our countries.

Q. The workers there see themselves as being forced into competition with workers in Third World countries because all their jobs, that is, capital, is moving to the Third World and leaving them unemployed.

That is because of the nature of imperialism, you see. It is not the fault of the Third World countries. They want to exploit the Third World countries more.

Q. Exactly. They want to use these countries to weaken the workers in the. . . .

They want to use the workers of the poor countries against the workers of the rich countries. Instead of that, I think that we should have international working class solidarity, and we have to coordinate the policy against imperialism. When you don't have this political sharpness and political consciousness, the working class in the imperialist countries will think workers of the dependent countries or Third World countries are their enemy, you see. Workers are not their enemy; imperialism is their enemy. So I think this consciousness should be developed among the workers of the imperialist countries.

Stephen Mikesell and Mary Des Chene are anthropologists who study Nepal's economy and politics. This interview was originally conducted in Nepal forWORT-FM community radio, Madison, Wisconsin. Portions of it were broadcast on 4 May 2008. It appears also in the 10-16 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly.


When did the US "lose" Latin America? The US is promoting secessionist movements to break up countries it cannot control

When did the US "lose" Latin America?
Forrest Hylton: The US is promoting secessionist movements to break up countries it cannot control

Sunday May 11th, 2008

The United States first lost its influence in Latin America because of deals it made during the Cold War to prop up any dictatorship as long as it was anti-communist. Even Bill Clinton with his "free-trade" and drug eradication projects was not open to South American autonomy from Washington.

Forrest Hylton is the the author of Evil Hour in Colombia (Verso, 2006), and with Sinclair Thomson, co-author of Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics (Verso, 2007). He is a regular contributor to New Left Review and NACLA Report on the Americas.

AmeriKKKa The Rogue State

The rogue state
Wed, 07 May 2008 17:18:03
By Joobin Zarvan, Press TV, Tehran

The US has been referring to Iran as a 'rogue state' for some time now, a perception which President George W. Bush has promoted to 'Axis of Evil'. This pejorative tag was uttered in the slightly more cushioned vein of 'state of concern' by former president Bill Clinton.

The American impulse to brand behavior is not a new development, but the language has changed in the recent past. An early favorite was 'pariah state'. The Reagan administration was partial to 'outlaw' while Bush the senior seemed to prefer 'renegade'.

Indeed, these phrases trip off the tongue in America to such an extent that US politicians and presidential candidates seem to be using them on a daily basis.

The question though has never been whether such so-called 'outlaw' countries are threatening or disagreeable to Washington and its allies, because surely they are.

While by the sheer trick of lumping together a diverse group of states under the 'rogue' rubric the term does nothing to describe these states, it doeseverything to obscure the due understanding of US foreign policy.

One might say that it is not an issue of political semantics rather than political mnemonics.

Nonetheless, the term 'rogue state', which was again attributed to Iran by top Israeli diplomat Tzipi Livini during an official visit to one of the Persian Gulf littoral states, like many other terminologies used in today's political discourse, is subject to dual usage; a propagandistic one and a literal one.

The former is rhetorically employed to deny, denigrate and denounce an assorted gallery of enemies - including fictitious and manufactured ones - and the latter is used merely to describe those states that do not see themselves as being bound by international norms and regimes.

This once meant something specific - a state that had failed to adhere to the rule of law - whereas now, it has become more of a handy elastic catchword in the US diplomatic lexicon to demonize behavior and rally political support.

For example, in 1997, then US secretary of state Madeleine Albright said, "dealing with rogue states is one of the great challenges of our time. Because as I have often described the international system, they're there with the sole purpose to destroying that system."

A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003 under a similar pretext. Their argument was that America's national security is in clear and present danger in the wake of 9/11. But their secret argument must have been something in the line of 'we have not been able to or wanted to be able to smoke the al-Qaeda ringleader out of his rugged den and since Saddam Hussein is of no more use to us as a regional puppet, he qualifies as a rogue'.

This was enough to unleash hell on a whole nation, which had already suffered unspeakably under that very ruler and more horribly under UN sanctions.

Albeit the unmentionable fact that Saddam, who had served US interests in the early 80's by initiating naked aggression against neighboring Iran, was guilty of disobeying Washington's final order(s).

One is painfully bemused at the so-called benign intentions of American interventionist policies. It magnifies the unquestionable right reserved for Washington and allies to 'liberate, democratize and civilize whomever they please'.

To the bulk of the international community, this is seen as nothing short of criminal adventurism run amuck and undisguised rampant brazen villainy.
It makes one wonder which is of greater consequence for the US government; crimes or disobedience.

In truth, the US is the closest example to a state that regards itself, especially after the cold war, exempt from international conventions and treaties.

The American Society of International Law (ASIL) observed this in a March 1999 issue. "International law is today probably less highly regarded in our country than at any time." The editor of this authoritative sober journal had also warned of the 'alarming exacerbation of Washington's dismissal of treaty obligations'.

To top this wayward US attitude, one need note that even rendering the United Nations as 'utterly ineffective', has been a routine procedure since the organization fell out of control with decolonization. An index to which is the Security Council vetoes.

The general principle appears to be, if an international organization does not serve the governing interests particularly that of the US, there is no reason to justify its existence. When the World Court was poised to examine Nicaragua's charges against Washington in the Reagan era, then US secretary of state George Shultz derided those who advocate 'utopian, legalistic means like outside mediation, the UN, and the World Court while ignoring the power element of the equation'.

The legal advisor to the US state department explained the senior American diplomat's statement, saying 'the world cannot be counted upon to share our view' and that the 'majority often opposes the US on important international issues' which is why 'we must reserve to ourselves the power to determine' how to act and which matters fall 'essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the United States, as determined by the United States.'

In this case, the actions the World Court decried as 'unlawful use of force' were against Nicaragua.

Although international norms are not stringently determined, there is an agreed measure on general guidelines. In the period after World War II, these norms and laws have been envisaged and partially codified in the Charter of the UN, the International Court of Justice and various treaties and conventions.

Logic demands that powerful states should tend to render themselves more susceptible to be more compliant with these international norms, unless internally constrained.

Nonetheless, recent history confirms that this has not been the case. The more powerful you become economy-wise, the less you deem yourself as being bound by such regimes. Perhaps this is a reason why some have used the American diplomatic parlance to crown the US as the veritable and quintessential of rogue states.

In free market terminology, one could appositely call the US a state that engages in wholesale roguery as opposed to some retailers. However, no one in the mainstream calls a rogue wholesaler by such names, any more than they would label it a terrorist state sponsoring wholesale terror no matter how close the fit.

Therefore, an economically well-heeled country naturally tends to assume the role of the manager, read police officer. On a global scale, this police officer reserves the right to itself to designate and determine who's who and what's what.

Reminiscent of the famous La Fontaine quote, 'the opinion of the Biggest is always the Best.' Under the reign of the Biggest, the law and rules of morality only apply to the Others, not the Big ruler himself and certainly not to his gang of goons either.

The bottom line is that for the real rogue states, with their tremendous economic wherewithal, crimes do not matter. They are - sought to be - eliminated from the pages of history or transmuted into benign intent that sometimes goes awry as Noam Chomsky would say.

Due to the prevalence of collective amnesia and the endemic of selective memory, induced and sustained on a daily basis by mainstream media outlets of the wholesale rogues, much theorization is now needed to retain its relevance to the exigencies of a new era in which the once 'un-people' gradually regain confidence to speak out as the 'people'.

It will take more than swelling coffers funding huge propaganda machinery and disinformation campaigns to conquer the minds of the new era. Pure decency is needed to connect with the people and perhaps rule their hearts.


US backs eastern secession in Bolivia Minority landholders vote for independence

US backs eastern secession in Bolivia
Minority landholders vote for independence
Friday May 9th, 2008

Bolivia's landowning eastern elite voted on Sunday for autonomy from President Evo Morales' central government. According to author Forrest Hylton the US government has spent up to $125 million dollars supporting the secession movement, a movement which has been disregarded by a large percentage of the Bolivian population as well as governments from Bolivia's neighboring countries.

Forrest Hylton is the the author of Evil Hour in Colombia (Verso, 2006), and with Sinclair Thomson, co-author of Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics (Verso, 2007). He is a regular contributor to New Left Review and NACLA Report on the Americas.


PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Bolivia is at a crossroads. To better understand what's happening in the gas-rich South American country, we're joined by Forrest Hylton, the author of Evil Hour in Colombia and Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics. Forrest is also a frequent contributor to The New Left Review. Forrest Hylton, welcome to The Real News.

FORREST HYLTON, AUTHOR, "REVOLUTIONARY HORIZONS": Thanks very much for having me, Pepe.

ESCOBAR: What is the white oligarchy in Bolivia up to, considering this last referendum in Santa Cruz, which they won by a margin of 84 to 85 percent? What does that mean for Bolivia?

HYLTON: Well, it's not entirely clear what it means yet, and you can't be sure that it means what the international media would have us believe that it means. So far it appears that abstention rates were fairly high—around one-third of people did not actually vote in this referendum that was not sanctioned by the National Electoral Court or the Bolivian Congress. There were no outside international observers there, so there's absolutely no way that this process could be called transparent in any way, shape, or form. It's really an attempt on the part of the small minority of large landholders in Bolivia, who happen to live in the place where close to 97 percent of all the gas reserves are located. So what they want to do is hold on to their large landed estates and use the revenues from gas exploitation in order to maintain the status quo in their regions, rather than in order to redistribute the wealth to the western highlands, which has historically provided Bolivia with mining taxes that were never plowed back into the departments from which they came. So there's a sort of historical injustice that's been done to the western highlands, and the secessionists in the eastern lowlands really don't want to deal with that at all. What they want to do is keep the wealth for themselves—and the land.

ESCOBAR: Forrest, can you tell us about the involvement of the US embassy in La Paz in this whole process?

HYLTON: Well, Ambassador Philip Goldberg comes to Bolivia from Kosovo. And he is clearly a supporter of the secessionist agenda of the eastern lowlands, which is known as the Half Moon because it forms a half-moon arc running from north to south in the eastern lowlands. The figures that I've read in terms of US Agency for International Development, as well as the National Endowment for Democracy, the figures I've read suggest that the United States has invested some $125 million to back this secessionist autonomy movement. But what's interesting, Pepe, is that unlike earlier periods, this right-wing secessionist agenda in Bolivia today does not count on any support from any of the major regional powers, such as Brazil, such as Argentina, such as Chile, who all back the Evo Morales government. And this is the same with the Bolivian armed forces, which is another major difference between now and the past, when right-wing reactionaries in the eastern lowlands were able to count on the support of both military dictatorships in neighboring countries as well as coup plotters within the Bolivian armed forces. This is not the case today, and therefore we can say that Evo Morales as the president of Bolivia is unlikely to be overthrown or even challenged by such a maneuver.

ESCOBAR: So it's under this framework that we should understand the--in fact, no reaction of Brazil and Argentina. They totally downplayed the results of the referendum this past weekend, and also all the Mercosur countries for that matter, right?

HYLTON: This is correct, and this is the thing to keep in mind, that in contrast to English-language media, the press in neighboring countries really doesn't see this autonomy referendum as a significant development within the region. So in that sense it is very much about the fight to control internally the revenues from the exploitation of Bolivian-petroleum resources. And Santa Cruz, as a department where this referendum was held, Santa Cruz is home to 11 percent of estimated gas reserves, and it has, ever since the 1930s, benefited from central government largess in the form of sharing of petroleum revenues with the department of Santa Cruz. Now, in the mining regions where tin and silver was exploited, the departments that had tin and silver never received any percentage of those royalties, which stayed with the national treasury. So Santa Cruz in fact has been a beneficiary of a welfare state for a very small landed class in the eastern region ever since the 1930s, and particularly after the national revolution of 1952. All through the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, the region of Santa Cruz received something like 60 percent of all credits that were dispersed through the Banco Agricola in the entire country. So every move that the Santa Cruz elite has ever made has been subsidized and supported by the federal government. Now that they have lost control of the federal government, they want to secede from it.

The Air Force Above All Dominating the Air, Space, and Cyberspace By William J. Astore

Tomgram: William Astore, Coming Down to Earth

[Note for Tomdispatch Readers: Think of this dispatch, in TV terms, as counterprograming. While much of America sits, couch- and Earth-bound, checking out the latest 24/7 bout of Democratic primary coverage, Tomdispatch soars into the heavens on the wings of historian and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William J. Astore. No couch-potatoes we. And while I'm at it, let me recommend a website. For those of you interested in keeping up with the latest developments in techno-war, there is only one place to go: Wired Magazine's Danger Room run by Noah Shachtman.]

Once upon a time, when it came to weaponry in space, "the final frontier" was left largely to the USS Enterprise and early Trekkie cultists (myself among them). Ever since the Reagan era, however, R&D for all sorts of exotic space weaponry to be employed against "enemy" satellites or used against enemies on Earth, has been on the drawing boards, in development, and in the dreams of aerospace enthusiasts.

We've just passed the 25th anniversary of President Reagan's March 23, 1983 "Star Wars" moment, when he tacked three unforgettable paragraphs onto a speech calling for greater defense spending against the Soviet threat. He challenged the "scientific community" to undertake a vast research and development effort to create an "impermeable" antimissile shield in space that would render nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete." While the purest of presidential fantasies in itself, it marked the beginning of a quarter-century long race to weaponize space, to take what the Air Force regularly refers to today as "the high ground."

Now, of course, we have an Air Force Space Command and a President who has signed a National Space Policy "that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone 'hostile to U.S. interests.'" Though you'll find many explanations for the urge to develop space weaponry and dominate that high ground, it's hard not to believe that a set of deep fantasies aren't involved. Weaponizing space, after all, combines the urge to take that "frontier" (even if it's a vacuum and there are no redskins); the urge to be or play God -- to embrace, that is, the delusion that what you can't control from close up, street by street, or village by village, you can somehow control from unbelievably far away; and perhaps the urge to be young and male. (Space wars! Yippee! I saw it in the movies!) Of course, as with so much else in our militarized world, there's also the prosaic, if profitable, urge to spend prodigious amounts of money, fund cutting-edge projects, direct future research, and triumph in interservice rivalries. All of this Astore takes up soaringly in the following piece. Tom

The Air Force Above All

Dominating the Air, Space, and Cyberspace
By William J. Astore
When I first joined the Air Force, its mission statement was straightforward: to fly and fight. The recruiting slogan was upbeat: the Air Force was "a great way of life," and the ROTC program I enrolled in was the "gateway to a great way of life."

Mission statements and slogans are easy to poke fun at and shouldn't, perhaps, be taken too seriously. That said, the people who develop them dotake them seriously, which is why they can't be ignored.

Consider the Air Force's new slogan: "Air Force -- Above All."

Okay, I admit it's catchy, even cute, if, that is, you can get past the "high ground" conceit and ignore the Germanic über alles overtones. Its literal meaning is obvious enough and it does fit with the Air Force's most basic precept, that mastery of the air means mastery of the ground. Yet today's Air Force seeks more than that. It wants to extend its "mastery" to space ("the new high ground") and even to cyberspace. This is yet another disturbing manifestation of our military's quest for "full spectrum dominance," achieved at debilitating cost to the American taxpayer -- and a potentially destabilizing one to the planet.

Striving to be "above all" everywhere is ambitious to the point of folly. By comparison, the slogans of the Air Force's sister services seem modest. The poor, embattled Army is simply "Army Strong." The Navy now promises to "Accelerate Your Life." Yawn. The Marines, always faithful, refuse to tinker with their slogan, which remains: "The Few. The Proud. The Marines." Meanwhile, the Air Force soars above such slavish adherence to tradition -- as well as any reasonable sense of boundaries or restraint.
The new slogan may also serve as a reminder to airmen to keep their service branch "above all" in their hearts and minds -- despite the fact that the Air Force is currently shedding 40,000 airmen as it tries to pay for a new generation of high-tech fighter jets. It most certainly is a measure of the service's determination to deny the use of space to powerful rivals, whether China, Russia -- or the U.S. Navy.

Perhaps the slogan even expresses a certain moral superiority -- as in an Air Force pilot's comment I once overheard that, when aloft, he felt "morally superior" to the little people scampering around on the ground below him. High ground, indeed.

Flying and Fighting, Everywhere!

So much for slogans. The Air Force's new mission statement begins -- and do bear with me for a moment --

The Mission of the United States Air Force is to deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests to fly and fight in air, space and cyberspace.

Flying and fighting in cyberspace sounds exciting -- think Neo in The Matrix. And flying and fighting in space -- which might yet come to pass -- is so Star Wars, especially if the "good" side of the Force is with you, which it must be if you're defending America.

But wait. The Air Force mission statement makes an instant, and anything but defensive u-turn, and promptly lays out a "vision" of "Global Vigilance, Reach and Power," which, it claims, "orbits around three core competencies: Developing Airmen, Technology-to-Warfighting and Integrating Operations." How a vision can orbit three cores I don't know -- and I once completed the "Space Operations Short Course" at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Nonetheless, this trinity of core competencies somehow enables six "capabilities," which are unapologetically offensive.

The first of the six is "air and space superiority" with which we "can dominate enemy operations in all dimensions: land, sea, air and space." Capability #2 turns out to be "global attack," enabling us to "attack anywhere, anytime and do so quickly and with greater precision than ever before." (In Bush-speak, we'll kill them there, so they don't kill us here.)

And when we attack, capability #4, "precision engagement," theoretically ensures that we put bombs on target, as we used to say in simpler times. Today's "precision" vision is more prolix: "the essence [of precision engagement] lies in the ability to apply selective force against specific targets because the nature and variety of future contingencies demand both precise and reliable use of military power with minimal risk and collateral damage."

I pity the recruits who have to recite that mouthful of gobbledygook. As bloodless and evasive as such prose may be, however, the mission statement doesn't pull punches about just what "above all" really means. It wields words like "attack," "force," "power," and, most revealingly, "dominate." They reflect what matters most in the new Air Force vision -- and by extension, of course, that of our country. And if you don't believe me, go to theAir Force website and click on the icons for "air dominance," "space dominance," and "cyber dominance."

Death at a Distance

Our capability to deliver damage and death across the globe -- at virtually no immediate risk to ourselves -- gives extra meaning to the words "above all." But with great power comes great responsibility, a tagline I learned as a teen from Spider-Man comic strips, but which is no less true for that. The problem is that our "global reach" often exceeds the grasp of our collective wisdom to employ "global power" responsibly.
Listen to the Air Force's own pitch for its "global reach" and "global power," and you know that today's service is indeed an imperial instrument focused on "power projection" and "dominance" (with nary a thought of how others may respond to being dominated). Worse yet, our "capabilities" have so detached us from delivering death that it's become remarkably close to a video-game-like exercise.

Twenty-five years ago, I watched a recruiting film that predicted the coming age of remote-control warfare. And where would the Air Force find its new "pilots," the narrator asked rhetorically? The film promptly cut to a 1980s video arcade, where young teens were blasting away with abandon in games like "Missile Command."

I remember the audience laughing, and it tickled my funny bone as well, but I'm not so amused anymore. For what was prophesied a generation ago has come true. Using unmanned drones, armed with missiles and "piloted" by joystick-wielding warriors, often thousands of miles away from the targets being attacked, the Air Force need not risk any aircrew in "battle." Our military speaks blithely, even with excitement, of "killing 'Bubba' from the skies"; but, in actuality, what that means is: from air bases tucked safely far behind the lines, whether in Qatar on the Arabian peninsula oroutside of Las Vegas. (In this case, what happens in Vegas definitely does not stay in Vegas.)

I'm not suggesting that our Global Hawk, Predator, and Reaper (What a name!) pilots are anything less than dedicated to their assigned missions, including minimizing "collateral damage." Rather, the technology of unmanned aerial vehicles itself serves to detach them from their targets. Tracking the enemy, often with infrared sensors that show people as featureless blobs of heat-light, how can they not become human versions of the ruthless alien hunter that blasted its way through Arnold Schwarzenegger's unit in a movie coincidentally named Predator?

As our weapons technology weakens ground-level empathy and understanding, it simultaneously emboldens the Air Force to seek (deceptively) "clean" kills. It's well known, for example, that, in the opening days of the invasion of Iraq, in March 2003, the Bush administration tried to "decapitate" Saddam Hussein and his inner circle with precision weapons. (In fact, only Iraqi civilians were killed in these coordinated attacks aimed at the Iraqi leadership as the war began.)

Terrorist networks like Al Qaeda provide even fewer and more elusive "high-value" targets than do organized governments. Yet, when the U.S. succeeds with "decapitation" strikes against such networks, new heads often emerge, hydra-like, especially when "collateral damage" includes dead civilians -- and live avengers.

Control Fantasies in Space

The Air Force's vision of total domination used to stop at the stratosphere. Yet, according to its grandiose website, it now extends "to the shining stars and beyond." I hesitate to ask what lies beyond. God? Certainly, there's something unbounded, almost god-like, in the Air Force's space fantasy.

When it turns to space, the Air Force readily admits its desire to dominate all potential foes. As Peter B. Teets, a former Air Force undersecretary and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, declared back in 2002: "If we do not exploit space to the fullest advantage across every conceivable mode of war fighting, then someone else will -- and we allow this at our own peril."

There's nothing surprising about this "king of the hill" mentality. A decade ago, as a uniformed officer, I attended a space conference in Colorado Springs. Major topics of discussion included space weaponry already on the drawing board and being funded. Included were space-based directed energy weapons ("ten to twenty years away" was the prediction back then) and "Brilliant Pebbles," a constellation of thousands of miniature killer-satellites, proposed in the 1980s, that would be used to intercept ballistic missiles and which, fortunately, went unfielded, though not for want of lobbying to revive the project.

Much of the argument then -- undoubtedly abstruse to outsiders -- was about whether space represented a "revolution in military affairs" or a "strategic center of gravity." It turned out that it didn't matter. Either way, we clearly had to seize it and dominate it first, since space, as "the ultimate high ground," was going to be critical in future wars.

Several enthusiasts called for a new, separate, and independent space force, a fifth service, with its own unique doctrine -- an idea the Air Force has, so far, fought off valiantly. Among my notes from the occasion was a statement by General Howell M. Estes III, then Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Space Command, that the Air Force simply couldn't afford to lose the space mission -- not just to "the enemy," but to the dreaded U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, both of which were, he claimed, already exploiting space assets more skillfully than the Air Force.

Dominating space (and again the other services) certainly sounds seductive. Having worked in the Space Surveillance Center in Cheyenne Mountain, however, I can tell you that near-earth orbital space is already overcrowded with satellites and space junk -- and the delicate sensors on these satellites are highly vulnerable to space shrapnel traveling at 17,000 miles per hour. Explosive battles in space would degrade, rather than enhance, any existing advantage in space-based intelligence and communication the U.S. does have. Demilitarizing space is the only sensible strategy, yet it's the one that promises few lucrative contracts for aerospace firms and no new command billets for an Air Force seeking global (and supra-global) dominance.
Closing the Empathy Gap

As the Air Force flexes its earth, space, and cyber muscles, we rarely stop to think of the asymmetrical advantages enjoyed by the military -- the overwhelming advantage in firepower, mobility, and technology. This has created what can only be called an empathy gap.

Fortunately, Americans have never been on the receiving end of a sustained bombing campaign in this country. Two shocking days excepted -- December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor (where my uncle dodged aerial strafing at Schofield barracks), and September 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington -- the skies have always been friendly to us, even the repository of our hopes and dreams. When fighter jets scream overhead, our first thought isn't "death," it's display. We look up in curiosity or wonder; we don't panic and run for our lives. We expect the opening of a sporting event or aerial acrobatics, not the arrival of "precision guided munitions."

As a result, we have trouble realizing that our ability to soar "above all" and rain death from the skies generates resistance and revenge, rather than awe and retreat, or submission and rapprochement. We marvel that our enemies just don't get the message -- but our signals are mixed, and our receivers flawed.

Flying and fighting so far above it all has proven deceptive indeed. It leaves us with little idea of the new realities we are creating down below, and blind to the disturbing inequities and resentments generated by our global/galactic/cyber power.

It turns out that the higher you soar -- the more "above all" you perceive yourself to be -- the less likely it is that you'll understand the little people beneath you, and the more likely it is that those same "little people" will resent being dominated. And the solution to that problem lies not in dominating the stars or some other higher physical realm, but in looking within to a higher moral realm. "Above All" in moral courage -- now there'sa slogan toward which I'd willingly soar.

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. He currently teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is the author of Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (Potomac Press, 2005). He may be reached at

Copyright 2008 William Astore

America's Pay-or-Die Health Care System By RALPH NADER

This is a tale of pay or die that recurs again and again all over our country and only in our country in the entire western world.

Advised by her physician to go to M.D. Anderson for urgent treatment of her leukemia, Mrs. Lisa Kelly was told she had to pay $105,000 up front before being admitted. The hospital declared her limited insurance unacceptable.

Sitting in the business office with seriously advanced cancer, she asked herself – "Are they going to send me home?" "Am I going to die?"

Time out from her torment for a moment. M.D. Anderson started this upfront payment demand in 2005 because of a spike in its bad debt load.

The Wall Street Journal explains – "The bad debt is driven by a larger number of Americans who are uninsured or who don't have enough insurance to cover costs if catastrophe strikes. Even among those with adequate insurance, deductibles and co-payments are growing so big that insured patients also have trouble paying hospitals."

It isn't as if non-profit hospitals like M.D. Anderson are hurting. Look at this finding in an Ohio State University study: net income per bed at non-profit hospitals tripled to $146,273 in 2005 from $50,669 in 2000. And you also may have noticed the huge pay packages awarded hospital executives.

M.D. Anderson, exempt from taxation, recipient of funds from large government programs and research grants has cash, investments and endowment totaling $1.9 billion, with net income of $310 million last year, the Journal reports.

Back to the 52 year old, Lisa Kelly. She and her husband returned with a check for $45,000. After a blood test and biopsy, the hospital oncologist urged admittance quickly. Then the hospital demanded an additional $60,000-$45,000 just for the lab tests and $15,000 for part of the cost of the treatment.

To shorten the story, she received chemotherapy for over a year. Often her appointment was "blocked" until she made another payment.

In a particularly grotesque incident, she was hooked up to a chemotherapy pump, but the nurses were not allowed to change the chemo bag until Mr. Kelly made another payment.

She endured other indignities and overcharges. Reporter Martinez cites $360 for blood tests that insurers pay $20 or less for and up to $120 for saline pouches that cost less than $2 retail.

Imagine anything like Mrs. Kelly's predicament and pressures occurring in Canada, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Holland, England or any other western country. It would never happen.

These countries have universal single payer health insurance. No one dies because they cannot afford health care. In America, 18,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford health care, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Many more get sick or become sicker.

None of these countries spend more than 11% of their GDP on healthcare. The U.S. spends over 16% of its GDP on health care and does not cover 47 million people and tens of millions are under covered

In the U.S. the drug companies charge their highest prices in the world, even though we, the taxpayers, subsidized them in large ways. In other countries like Mexico and Canada, they cannot get away with such drug price gouging, with a pay or die ultimatum.

In the U.S., computerized billing fraud and abuse cost over $200 billion last year, according to the GAO arm of Congress. In other counties, single payer prevents such looting.

In other countries, administrative expenses of their single payer system are about a third of what the Aetna's and other insurers rack up.

In other western countries, medical outcomes for children and adults and paid family leave are far superior to that of the U.S. The World Health Organization ranks the US health care system 37th in the world.

When apologists in Washington hear these statistics, they say "but we have the best medical research centers in the world, like M.D. Anderson."

Clearly much is wrong with the nature of pricing health care.

Like other hospitals, M.D. Anderson is caught in a macabre spider's web of cost allocations mixing treatment costs with research budgets, cash reserves, and just plain accounting gimmicks that burden patients.

When a friend showed the Journal's article to a Dutch visitor, the latter blurted in anger – "you are a nation of sheep." Not a very flattering description of "the land of the free, home of the brave."

Someday, soon maybe, Americans will finally band together and say "enough already," we're going for full Medicare for all- without loopholes for corporate profiteers and purveyors of waste and fraud.

Last month after being in remission, Lisa Kelly's leukemia has come back.

Ralph Nader is running for president as an independent.


General Petraeus: Zionism's Military Poodle

by James Petras / May 5th, 2008

General Petraeus: President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders promised to end their support for the special groups but the nefarious activities of the Quds Force have continued.

Senator Joseph Lieberman: Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?

General Petraeus: It certainly is… That is correct.

– General Petraeus testimony to the US Senate, April 8-9, 2008.

'The Israeli flag is proudly displayed above the Sacred Ark alongside the American flag…' ( in an orthodox synagogue in wealthy Georgetown, Washington DC. The entrance fee to the synagogue is $1000 for a single holiday.) 'On each Sabbath the prayers include the benediction for the Israeli Jewish soldiers and the prayer for the welfare of the Israeli government and its officials. Many Jewish American Administration pray there. They not only don't try to conceal their religious affiliation, but go to great lengths to demonstrate their Judaism since it may help their careers greatly. The enormous Jewish influence in Washington is not limited to the government. In the Washingtonian, media's a very significant part of the most important personages and of the presenters of the most popular programs on the TV are warm Jews… and let us not forget, in this context, the Jewish predominance in the Washingtonian academic institutions.'

– Avinoam Bar-Yosef (the Israeli daily newspaper) Ma'rivSeptember 2, 1994 (translated by Israel Shahak).


When President Bush appointed General David Petraeus Commander (head) of the Multinational Forces in Iraq, his appointment was hailed by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post as a brilliant decision: A general of impeccable academic and battlefield credentials and a warrior and counter-insurgency (terrorist) intellectual. The media and the President, the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and Congress, described his appointment as 'America's last best hope for salvation in Iraq'. Senator Hilary Clinton joined the chorus of pro-war politicians in praise and support of Petraeus' 'professionalism and war record' in Northern Iraq. In contrast, Admiral William Fallon, his predecessor and former commander, had called Petraeus' briefings 'a piece of brown-nosing chicken shit.'
In theory and strategy, in pursuit of defeating the Iraqi resistance, General Petraeus was a disastrous failure, an outcome predictable from the very nature of his appointment and his flawed wartime reputation.

In the first instance, Petraeus was a political appointment. He was one of the few high military officials who shared Bush and the Zioncons' assessment that the 'war could be won.' Petraeus argued that his experience in Northern Iraq were replicable throughout the rest of the country. Moreover Petraeus, unlike most military analysts, was willing to ignore the heavy costs of multiple prolonged tours of duty on US troops. Petraeus' willingness to ignore the larger costs of prolonged military engagement in Iraq has weakened the capacity of the US to sustain its world-wide imperial interests. For Petraeus, sacrificing the overall cohesion and structure of the US military in Iraq, the global interests of the empire and the US domestic budget were worth securing Bush's appointment as Commander of the Forces in Iraq. Shortly after taking office and in the face of massive domestic, international and Iraq demands for the withdrawal of US troops, Petraeus took the path dictated by the US and pro Israeli militarists in the Bush Administration and their powerful 'Lobby.' He escalated the war, by calling up more troops, what he euphemistically referred to as 'the surge' — a massive call-up of 40,000 more mission-weary infantry and marines.

An analysis and critique of the failure of military-driven imperialism and its militarily dangerous consequences requires an objective critical analysis of Petraeus' media-inflated military record prior to taking command. Equally important Petraeus close ideological and political linkages with Israel's militarist approach toward Iran (and the rest of the Middle East countries opposing it) dates back to his close collaboration with Israel's (unofficial) military advisers and intelligence operatives in Kurdish Northern Iraq.
Petraeus' Phony Success in Northern Iraq

Petraeus' vaunted military successes in Northern Iraq — especially in Nineveh province in Northern Iraq was based on the fact that it is dominated by the Kurdish warlord tribal leaders and party bosses eager to carve an independent country. The relative stability of the region has little or nothing to do with Petraeus' counter-insurgency theories or policies and more to do with the high degree of Kurdish 'independence' or 'separatism' in the region. Put bluntly, the US and Israeli military and financial backing of Kurdish separatism has created a de facto independent Kurdish state, one based on the brutal ethnic purging of large concentrations of Turkmen and Arab citizens. General Petraeus, by giving license to Kurdish irredentist aspirations for an ethnically purified 'Greater Kurdistan,' encroaching on Turkey, Iran and Syria, secured the loyalty of the Kurdish militias and especially the deadly Peshmerga 'special forces' in eliminating resistance to the US occupation in Nineveh. Moreover, the Peshmerga has provided the US with special units to infiltrate the Iraqi resistance groups, and to provoke intra-communal strife through incidents of terrorism against the civilian population. In other words, General Petreaus' 'success' in Northern Iraq isnot replicable in the rest of Iraq. In fact, his very success in carving off Kurd-dominated Iraq has heightened hostilities in the rest of the country and provoked Turkish attacks in the region.

Petraeus: Armchair Strategist

His theory of 'securing and holding' territory presumes a highly motivated and reliable military force capable of withstanding hostility from at least eighty percent of the colonized population. Petraeus, like Bush and the Zionist militarists, ignores the fact that the morale of US soldiers in Iraq and those scheduled to be sent to Iraq is very low. The ranks of those who are seeking a quick exit from military service now include career soldiers and non-commissioned officers — the backbone of the military.1 The soldiers being recruited include convicted felons, mentally unstable young men, uneducated and impoverished immigrants and professional mercenaries. Unauthorized absences (AWOLs) have shot up — 14,000 between 2000-2005.1 In March 2007, over one thousand active-duty and reserve soldiers and marines petitioned Congress for a US withdrawal from Iraq. By April 2008, a record 69% opposed Bush's war strategy and economic policy.2 The opposition of retired and active Generals to Bush's escalation of troops percolates down the ranks to the 'grunts' on the ground, especially among reservists on active duty whose tours of duty in Iraq have been repeatedly extended (the 'backdoor draft'). Demoralizing prolonged stays or rapid rotation undermines any effort of 'consolidating ties' between US and Iraqi officers and certainly undermines most efforts to win the confidence of the local population.
If the US troops are deeply troubled by the war in Iraq and increasingly subject to desertion and demoralization, how less reliable is the Iraqi mercenary army? Iraqis recruited on the basis of hunger and unemployment (caused by the US war), with kinship, ethnic and national ties to a free and independent Iraq do not make reliable soldiers. Every serious expert has concluded that the divisions in Iraqi society are reflected in the loyalties of the soldiers. The attempt by Petraeus and US puppet Prime Minister Maliki to invade Basra in Southern Iraq turned into a military fiasco as thousands of Iraqi soldiers joined the insurgents.

General Petraeus could not count on his Iraqi troops because scores were defecting and perhaps thousands will in the future. An empty drill field, or worse a widespread barracks revolt, is a credible scenario. The continued high casualty rates among US soldiers and Iraqi civilians, during his 18 months as Commander suggests that 'holding and securing' Baghdad failed to alter the overall situation.

While the addition of 30,000 US troops saturating Baghdad initially reduced civilian and military casualties there, fighting intensified in other regions and cities. More important, the decline of violence had less to do with Petraeus' 'surge' and had more to do with the temporary political cease-fire reached with the anti-occupation forces of Muqtada al Sadr. This was clear when the US and its client Prime Minister Maliki launched an offensive against Sadr's forces in March-April 2008 and casualties shot up, and even the US 'Green Zone bunker' came under daily rocket attacks. After 18 months under Commander Petraeus, the Iraqi troops showed little willingness to fight their own compatriots engaged in resistance. Thousands turned their arms over to the anti-colonial popular militias and several hundreds joined them
Petraeus 'rule book' prioritizes "security and task sharing as a means of empowering civilians and prompting national reconciliation." 'Security' is elusive because what the US Commander considers 'security' is the free movement of US troops and collaborators based on the insecurity of the colonized Iraqi majority. They continue to subject the civilian Iraqis to arbitrary house-to-house searches, break-ins and humiliating searches and arrests.

While the death toll of civilians declined from 'hundreds a day' to 'hundreds a week,' it demonstrated Petraeus' failure to achieve his most elementary goal. Task Sharing as defined by Petraeus and his officers is a euphemism for Iraqi collaboration in 'administrating' his orders. 'Sharing' involves a highly asymmetrical relation of power: the US orders and the Iraqis comply. Petraeus defines the 'task' as informing on insurgents. The Iraqi population is supposed to provide 'information' on their families, friends and compatriots, in other words betray their own people. The concept sounded more feasible in his manual than in practice. US troops still are ambushed on a daily basis and insurgents, operating among the population, bomb their armored carriers.

'Empowering civilians,' another prominent concept in Petraeus' manual, assumed that those who 'empower' give up power to the 'others.' In other words, that the US military cedes territory, security, financial resource management and allocation to a colonized people or to the local armed forces. During his 18 months in command, it is the 'empowered' people who protect and support insurgents and oppose the US occupation and its puppet regime. In fact, what Commander Petraeus really meant was 'empowering' a small minority of civilians who were willing collaborators of an occupying army. They were frequently the deadly target of the insurgents. The civilian minority 'empowered' by the Petraeus formula requires heavy US military protection to withstand retaliation. In practice no neighborhood civilian collaborators have been delegated real power and those who were delegated authority, are dead, hiding or secretly allied with the resistance.

Petraeus' goal of 'national reconciliation' has been a total failure. The Iraqi regime is paralyzed into squabbling sects and warlords. Reconciliation between warring parties is not on the horizon. What Petraeus fails to recognize, but even his puppet allies publicly state, is that US colonization of Iraq is a blatant denial of the conditions for reconciliation. Commander Petraeus and his army and the dictates of the Zionist White House play off the warring parties undermining any negotiation toward 'conciliation.' Like all preceding colonial commanders, Petraeus fails to recognize that Iraqi popular sovereignty is the essential precondition for national reconciliation and stability. Military imposed 'reconciliation' among warring collaborator groups with no legitimacy among the Iraqi electorate has been a disaster.

Former Clintonite, Sarah Sewall (ex-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Harvard-based 'foreign affairs expert') was ecstatic over Petraeus' appointment. Yet she claimed the 'inadequate troop to task ratio' would undermine his strategy.3 The 'troop to task ratio' forms the entire basis of Israel and the Zioncon Democratic Senators' Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer's' 'critique' of Bush's Iraq policy. Their solution is 'send more troops'. While Petraeus did increase the troops with the surge, it is militarily and politically unable to mobilize 500,000 more to meet Sewall's 'troop to task ratio.' This argument begs the question: Inadequate numbers of troops reflects the massiveness of popular opposition to the US occupation. The need to improve the 'ratio' (greater number of troops) is due to the level of mass Iraqi opposition and is directly related to increasing neighborhood support for the Iraqi resistance. If the majority of the population and the resistance did not oppose the imperial armies, then any ratio would be adequate — down to a few hundred soldiers hanging out in the Green Zone, the US Embassy or some local brothels.

Petraeus' prescriptions borrowed heavily from the Vietnam War era, especially General Creighton Abram's Clear and Hold counter-insurgency doctrine. Abrams ordered a vast campaign of chemical warfare spraying of thousands of hectares with the deadly Agent Orange to 'clear' contested terrain. He approved of the Phoenix Plan — the systematic assassination of 25,000 village leaders to 'clear' out local insurgents. Abrams implemented the program of 'strategic hamlets,' the forced re-location of millions of Vietnamese peasants into concentration camps. In the end, Abram's plans to 'clear and hold' failed because each measure extended and deepened popular hostility and increased the number of recruits to the Vietnamese national liberation army. Israel's brutal occupation policies in the West Bank have followed the same strategy with equally disastrous results, which doesn't prevent its advisers from selling it to the US military.

Petraeus is following the Abrams-Israeli doctrine with the same disastrous civilian casualties. Large-scale bombing of densely populated Shia and Sunni neighborhoods has taken place since he took command. Mass arrests of suspected local leaders accompanied by the tight military encirclement of entire neighborhoods. Arbitrary, abusive house-to-house searches turn the poor sectors of Baghdad into one big shooting gallery and concentration camp. Paraphrasing his predecessor, General Creighton Abrams, Petraeus wants to 'destroy Iraq in order to save it.' In fact his policy is merely punishing the civilians and deepening the hostility of the population. In contrast, the insurgents blend into the huge slum neighborhood of Sadr City population or into the surrounding provinces of Al-Anbar, Diyala, and Salah and Din. Petraeus was able to 'hold' a people hostage with armored vehicles but he has not been able to rule with guns. The failure of General Creighton Abrams was not due to the lack of 'political will' in the US, as he complained, but was due to the fact that 'clearing' a region of insurgents is temporary, because the insurgency is founded on its capacity to blend in with the people and then re-emerge to fight the occupation army.
Petraeus' fundamental (and false) assumptions are based on the notion that the 'people' and the 'insurgents' are two distinct and opposing groups. He assumed that his ground forces and Iraqi mercenaries could distinguish and exploit this divergence and 'clear out' the insurgents and 'hold' the people. The four-year history of the US invasion, occupation and imperial war, including his 18 months in command, provides ample evidence to the contrary. With upward of 170,000 US troops and close to 200,000 Iraqi and over 50,000 foreign mercenaries, Petraeus has failed to defeat the insurgency. The evidence points to very strong, extensive and sustained civilian support for the insurgency. The high ratio of civilian to insurgent killings by the combined US-mercenary armies suggests that US troops have not been able to distinguish (nor are interested in the difference) between civilians and insurgents. Even the puppet government complains of civilian killings and widespread destruction of popular neighborhoods by US aerial bombing. The insurgency draws strong support from extended kin ties, neighborhood friends and neighbors, religious leaders, nationalists and patriots: these primary, secondary and tertiary ties bind the insurgency to the population in a way which can not be replicated by the US military or its puppet politicians.

Early on, General Petraeus' plan to 'protect and secure the civilian population' was a failure. He flooded the streets of Baghdad with armored vehicles but was quickly forced to acknowledge that the 'anti-government… forces were regrouping north of the capital.' Petraeus was condemned to play what Lt. General Robert Gaid un-poetically called 'whack-a-mole: Insurgents will be suppressed in one area only to re-emerge somewhere else.'
General Petraeus made the presumptuous assertion that the Iraqi civilian population did not know that the 'special operations' forces of the Occupation, which he directed, is responsible for fomenting much of the ethno-religious conflict. Investigative reporter Max Fuller in his detailed examination of documents, stressed that the vast majority of atrocities… attributed to 'rogue' Shiite or Sunni militias "were in fact the work of government-controlled commandos of 'special forces,' trained by the Americans, 'advised' by Americans and run largely by former CIA agents."4Petraeus' attempt to play Good Cop/Bad Cop in order to 'divide and rule' has been unable to weaken the opposition and has instead destabilized and fragmented the Maliki regime. While Petraeus was able to temporarily buy the loyalty of some Northern Sunni tribal leaders, their dubious loyalties depends on multi-million dollar weekly payoffs.

In theory, Petraeus recognized the broader political context of the war: "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency… In Iraq, military action is necessary to help improve security… but it is insufficient. There needs to be a political aspect."5 Yet the key 'political aspect,' as he put it, is the reduction, not escalation, of US troops, the ending of the endless assaults on civilian neighborhoods, the terminationof the special operations and assassinations designed to foment ethnic-religious conflict, and above all a timetable to withdraw US troops and dismantle the chain of US military bases. During his 18-month tenure, Petraeus increased the number of troops, increased the bombing of the very people he was supposed to win over and fortified the 102 acres of US bases. General Petraeus was not willing or in a position to implement or design the appropriate political context for ending the conflict because of his blind implementation of the Bush-Zionist 'war to victory' policy.

The gap between Petraeus' 'theoretical' discourse on the centrality of politics and his practice of prioritizing military victory can be explained by his desire to please the Bush-Zioncons in Washington in order to advance his own military career (and future political ambitions). The result was an exceptionally mediocre military performance, underwritten by dismal political failures and the achievement of his personal ambitions.

In April 2008, the Bush Administration named Petraeus as head of the US Central Command, overseeing the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the rest of the Horn of Africa. Petraeus replaced Navy Admiral William Fallon who was forced to resign his command by the White House and the Zioncons over his opposition to their war plans against Iran. Even prior to his retirement, Fallon had expressed his contempt for Petraeus' shameful truckling to the Zionists in Northern Iraq and the Bush Know Nothings in charge of Iraq and Iran policy planning. It is clear that Petraeus ensured his promotion on April 16, 2008, through his senate testimony, one week earlier (April 8-9, 2008) with his bellicose speech implicating Iran in the fighting deaths of US troops in Iraq. With the purge and intimidation of military officials not willing to act as White House/Zionist poodles, Petraeus had few competitors. Petraeus' promotion to the top military post, just days after his senate testimony pointing to war with Iran could not be attributed to his (failed) military performance, but to his slavish adherence to Bush's and Israel's push for heightened confrontation with Iran. Blaming Iran for his failed military policies served a double purpose: it covered up his incompetence and it secured the support of leading Zionist Senators like Joseph Lieberman.
Petraeus reference to the "need to engage in talks with some groups of insurgents" fell on deaf ears. His proposal was seen by the insurgents as a continuation of the divide and conquer (or 'salami') tactics. The only 'talks' Petraeus secured were with tribal leaders who demanded millions of dollars up front. Otherwise he failed to attract any sector of the insurgency. Petraeus proved to be an armchair tactician, wise on public relations 'techniques,' but mediocre in coming to grips with the 'decolonization' political framework in which tactics might work.

Petraeus Double Discourse

Commander Petraeus was quick to grasp the difficulty of his colonial mission. Just a month after taking command, he engaged in the same sophistry and double discourse of any colonial general confronted with an unwinable war. To keep the flow of funds and troops from Washington he talked of the "reduction of killings and discontent in Baghdad," cleverly omitting the increase of civilian and US deaths elsewhere. He mentioned 'a few encouraging signs' but also admitted that it is 'too early to discern significant trends.'6 In other words the 'encouraging signs' he expressed to the White House were of no military importance!
From the beginning Petraeus gave himself an open-ended mission by extending the time frame to secure Baghdad. He shifted the goal posts from days and weeks to 'months' and years. Playing with indefinite time frames in which to evaluate his performance, was a coy way to prepare the US public for prolonged warfare — with few positive results. There is nothing like a failed general acting as a political panderer covering his ass in anticipation of military defeat.

As a military intellectual, Petraeus surely has read George Orwell's 1984because he was so fluent in double-speak. In one breath he spoke of "no immediate need to request more US troops to be sent to Iraq," on the other he called for 30,000 additional troops as part of what he called 'the surge.' In March 2008, he spoke of big advances in security and one month later he demanded a 'pause' because the puppet regime and army were not capable of defending themselves without US backing.

Petraeus' political manipulation of troop numbers and his blatant lies about the security situation in Iraq prepared the ground for a greater military escalation in the region. "Right now we do not see other requests (for troops) looming out there. That's not to say that some emerging mission oremerging task will not require that, and if it does then we will ask for that." [my emphasis]7 First there's a 'surge' then there is an 'emerging mission' and suddenly there are another fifty thousand troops on the ground and in the meat-grinder that is Iraq, seven battleship and aircraft carriers off the Persian and Lebanese coasts, thousands more troops in Afghanistan and $175 billion dollars in military spending added to the 2008 federal budget.

Petraeus Political Ambitions

The General is a fine master of 'double speak.' Yet despite superb media performances before his colleagues in the White House and Congress, Petraeus' military strategy is doomed to go down the same road of political-military defeat as his predecessors in Indo-China. His military police have jailed tens of thousands of civilians and killed and injured many more. They were interrogated, tortured and perhaps some were 'broken.' But many more took their place turning the Green Zone into a war zone under siege. Petraeus' real security policy through intimidation 'held' only as long as the armored cars patrolled each neighborhood, pointing their cannons at every building. That proved to be a temporary solution. As soon as the troops moved on, the insurgents returned. The insurgents re-emerge after a week because they live and work there, whereas the Marines do not and neither do the Iraqi collaborators dare. Petraeus ran a costly colonial army, which suffers endless casualties and is not politically sustainable. Petraeus knows that, so he chose a political route upward and out of immediate command in Iraq, shifting the burden for failure to his replacement Lieutenant General Ray Odierno.

General Petraeus realized his long-term political ambitions exceeded his military abilities. Militarism is a stepping-stone to a higher post in Washington. Since only winning generals or draft dodgers are elected President, Petraeus, like McCain, must present failure as success.

In his Senate testimony of April 8-9, 2008, Petraeus lied to Congress and the American people about the US military failures, fabricating accounts of progress, in order to bolster the sagging fortunes of his political patron, President Bush. His Senate testimony and press conferences were designed to bolster Bush's total loss of credibility: he claimed that the war was being won, Iraq was stabilized, security and peace were 'around the corner' and that we should go to war with Iran.

If the media uncritically swallowed Petraeus testimony, the public didn't and a host of former generals and admirals were chagrined, embarrassed and outraged that he was advancing his career by sucking up to President Bush and Israel at the expense of the troops serving under him.

Petraeus Panders to Israel's Fifth Column: The Iran Threat

By the spring of 2008, as the war turned from bad to worse, as the insurgency grew in power and his leadership and strategy was transparently a sham, Petraeus played his last formidable political card. To sustain his position and cover up his defeats in Basra, and his inability to lower US casualties or even defend the Green Zone, he blamed Iran. It was Petraeus who charged Iranian weapons were blowing up US armored carriers; Iranian agents were training the Iraqi resistance and defeating his army of 200,000 Iraqi collaborators. Petraeus could not face the fact that he was losing Iraq. He deflected attention from the failure of his entire military-political strategy in Iraq by dragging in Iran as a key military player.
In pointing to Iran, Petraeus played the dangerous game of echoing the Israeli line and providing support for a military attack on Iran promoted by the leadership of the Major American Jewish Organizations.

Even while Petraeus was covering up his failure by blaming Iran, the Iraqi puppet government was praising the Iranian government for helping to stabilize the country, using its influence on the Shia militias to hold their fire. Puppet Prime Minister Maliki invited the Iranian President to Baghdad, signed trade agreements and praised their co-operation and efforts to stabilize the country.

The only organized group, which took up Petraeus', campaign to blame Iran for the US defeats was the Zionist Power Configuration in the US. In the Congress, media and public forums, Zionists amplified and backed Petraeus. They see him as a critical ally in countering the National Intelligence Report absolving Iran of having a program to develop nuclear weapons. No other high military commander, in Europe or the US, took up Petraeus call to arms against Iran… except the Israeli military command. It is a sad commentary on the state of the US military when generals advance to the highest posts by flattering and propagandizing for the most discredited American president in memory and advance the agenda of power brokers for a foreign power.

General Petraeus, in his advance from Commander of US and 'allied' forces in Iraq to head of the US Central Command overseeing current US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and overseeing future wars with Iran, Lebanon and Syria, has left behind a bitter legacy of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, an unreliable Iraqi 'quisling' army, a failed client regime and a vast US bunker under constant attack. Every military official and most experts know that he was 'Bush's man' and his advances were very much a product of the White House and its pro-Israel backers in the Congress.

The advance of Petraeus is a victory of the Zionist Power Configuration in its quest for American military leaders willing to pursue Israel's agenda of sanctions and war against Iran. That is why the ZPC was a factor in the ousting of Admiral William Fallon, and why the main propaganda bulletin (the Daily Alert) of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations worked for and hailed his promotion to military overseer of the Middle East wars. AIPAC and their bought and bonded Senators ensured Petraeus an easy time during his confirmation hearing and his unanimous endorsement. His appointment marks the first time that the Zionist Power Configuration has trumped the views and opinions of the majority of active and retired American military officers. How far Petraeus will go in 'paying back' his debt to his long-term Zionist backers for his meteoric rise remains to be seen. What is certain is that they will demand that he line up with the State of Israel in pushing forth toward a war with Iran.

It is neither military honor, nor patriotism, which will restrain Petraeus from pursuing the Zionist War for Israel agenda — but his future presidential ambitions. He will have to calculate whether a second Middle East war, which will please Israel and billionaire American (?) Zionist political fundraisers can offset voter discontent resulting from a war in which the price of oil will rise to $300 dollars a barrel and cost several tens of thousands of American casualties, will further his political ambitions.

The US has degenerated into a sorry state of affairs when its future course depends on the political calculus of a feckless General, a failed counter-insurgency 'expert' and ambitious politician pandering to billionaire political contributors working for a foreign colonial power.

Financial Times, March 3-4, 2007 p.2. # #
USA Today, April 22, 2008. #
Guardian, March 6, 2007. #
Chris Floyd 'Ulster on the Euphrates: The Anglo-American Dirty War.' #
BBC, 3/8/2007. #
Aljazeera, 3/8/2007. #
AlJazeera, 3/8/2006. #

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). His latest books are The Power of Israel in the United States (Clarity Press, 2006) and Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists, Militants (Clarity Press, 2007). He can be reached Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.