Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ahmadinejad: Crazy!!!

David Seaton's News Links
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a terrible, terrible man and obviously insane. I have taken the liberty of underlining some of the crazier things this loon wrote in his absurd letter to the "Noble Americans" (doesn't that just sound like Borat?). I wonder what would happen if any American politician said any of these dreadful, insane things. DS
Abstract from Associated Press: In an open letter, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged the American people Wednesday to demand the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and reject what he called the US government's "blind support" for Israel and its "illegal and immoral" actions in fighting terrorism.(...) "Undoubtedly, the American people are not satisfied with this behavior and they showed their discontent in the recent elections," Ahmadinejad wrote. "I hope that in the wake of the mid-term elections, the administration of President Bush will have heard and will heed the message of the American people." In a message to Democrats, he said, "you will also be held to account by the people and by history." "If the US government meets the current domestic and external challenges with an approach based on truth and justice, it can remedy some of the past afflictions and alleviate some of the global resentment and hatred of America," Ahmadinejad said.(...) In Wednesday's letter, he said, "we, like you, are aggrieved by the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people" and accused the Bush administration of disregarding public opinion by remaining "in the forefront of supporting the trampling of the rights of the Palestinian people." "What has blind support for the Zionists by the US administration brought for the American people?" Ahmadinejad asked. "It is regrettable that for the US administration, the interests of these occupiers supersedes the interests of the American people and of the other nations of the world." He urged Americans to support the right of the Palestinians to live in their own homeland.(...) Ahmadinejad said in Wednesday's letter that the US invasion of Iraq, while overthrowing Saddam Hussein which people "are happy about," has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, an exponential growth of terrorism, and no rebuilding of Iraq's ruined infrastructure. "I consider it extremely unlikely that you, the American people, consent to the billions of dollars of annual expenditure from your treasury for this military misadventure," he said. "Now that Iraq has a constitution and an independent assembly and government, would it not be more beneficial to bring the US officers and soldiers home, and to spend the astronomical US military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people?" Ahmadinejad asked. "As you know very well, many victims of Katrina continue to suffer, and countless Americans continue to live in poverty and homelessness." READ IT ALL

Laundry list of failure, with no benchmark to measure it

David Seaton's News Links
In the clip below, Robert Scheer compiles a laundry list of failure in Iraq. We are looking at a disaster that dwarfs Vietnam by a magnitude. The Vietnam war was a terrible thing for the USA and especially for South East Asia, but it went no farther than that. The possible knock on effects of the collapse into anarchy of the Middle East are impossible to calculate. I don't think there is any precedent of such a complete disaster in US history which would give people some perspective. If you say to a German or a Russian, even if they are young, "WWII"... They know what that means from Grandma's table talk. If you talk to an American about "civil war" it conjures up visions of blues and grays, Matthew Brady and "Gone with the Wind"... If you say "civil war" to a Spanish kid it means grandpa buried in a mass grave in a ditch outside the village. Americans just don't have any benchmark to realize how deep in the shit they are. The Baker Commission is said to be recommending a withdrawal, but Bush still talks about "finishing the job". Amazing days are ahead. We may yet see Nancy Pelosi as president... Cheney has a heart attack and Bush is led off drunk in a strait jacket. DS
Robert Scheer - Abstract: Having idiotically dug ourselves a terribly deep hole in Iraq -- remember when protesters against the war were mocked for using the word "quagmire"? -- Bush is now forced to beg Syria and Iran to throw us a rope. As the Bush-appointed and James Baker-led Iraq Study Group has telegraphed, the cooperation of these two pariah states is essential to an effective exit strategy. In reality, this is not so much a change in policy as it is an acknowledgement of a truth-on-the-ground that has been clear since the invasion 44 months ago: Our sworn enemies were the biggest beneficiaries of our overthrow of Iraq's secular dictatorship.(...) And don't expect Tehran's theocrats to be magnanimous in victory. The key message from Ayatollah Khamenei on Tuesday was, as the BBC headline put it, "U.S. troops must leave Iraq if security is to be restored."(...) So it is that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was so desperate in his pleas to the ayatollah, admitting that, "We are in dire need of Iran's help in establishing security and stability in Iraq." Of course he is, because six years of Bush's foreign policy has had the presumably unintended consequences of elevating radicals and theocrats into positions of dominance throughout the region, from Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank and even, this past week, to the oil emirate Bahrain, where Shiite and Sunni radical Islamists split elections in an upset. "It looks like our parliament will be dominated by people who see themselves only as Sunnis or Shiites," said Fowad Shihab, a political science professor at Bahrain University. "These are the same Islamists that are gaining control across the Arab world." Simply put, the neoconservative geniuses who believed invading Iraq would bolster both U.S. and Israeli interests in fact have accomplished the exact opposite -- handing both military and public-relations victories to their sworn enemies. Similarly, the international movement to restrain the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been struck a possible death blow as a desperate United States may be forced to accommodate Iran's nuclear ambitions, just as it did those of Pakistan. READ IT ALL

Looked over Jordan and what did I see...? A Burned Bush

From Time Magazine: The fact that Bush is holding talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not in Baghdad, but in the comparatively tranquil Jordanian capital of Amman, has not gone unnoticed."One hundred and fifty thousand U.S. soldiers cannot secure protection for their president," mocked a Jordanian columnist, who called the choice of venue "an open admission of gross failure for Washington and its allies' project in Iraq." READ IT ALL
David Seaton's News Links
This trip to Amman to meet Maliki, which as the Jordanian columnist in the Time article points out, is in itself an admission of failure in Iraq, combined with the famous memo degrading Maliki timed to coincide with the trip, that at the same time gives Moqtada al-Sadr a further excuse to destabilize the government... Like so much in the American/Iraq catastrophe none of it makes any sense. Trying to follow the ins and outs of it, if you have to in your work, like I do, is quite hard on the nerves. Like having to watch a Three Stooges movie, where they torture and kill Curly... watching it in a loop. A friend told me once that he didn't believe in conspiracies, but that he believed in idiots. I'm converting. Finally there will have to be some sort of Nuremberg trial and in depth investigation, not just to determine responsibility and to punish, but to try and truly understand how so much stupidity and incompetence, venality and imbecility could rise, like it was cream, to the top of the most powerful and complex country in the world... twice. DS

Israel's Internet Megaphone: Email Masada

David Seaton's News Links

The Israelis have come up with a new software, the "Internet Megaphone" which produces instant email campaigns in favor of Israel. This highlights something that has become very characteristic of their tactics of late: ingenious futility. The "megaphone" is obviously terribly counterproductive for four reasons I can think of right off the bat:
  1. Bad: As soon as editors, bureaucrats and politicians get wind of the megaphone's existence they will tend to attribute any batch of emails supporting Israel to the software. They will then discount even spontaneous shows of support for Israeli positions and nobody well never take any electronic polls on the subject that favor Israel seriously again.
  2. Worse: There are Muslim programmers who are perfectly capable of reverse engineering such a program and creating a Halal version.
  3. Much worse: I can see nothing to keep hundreds of thousands of Muslims all over the world from downloading the program and sending millions of well targeted messages attacking Israel.
  4. Even much worse: a combination of points two and three, leading to massive point one.
Lately supporting the Israeli position (behind all the endless smoke about "partners for peace") of basically not giving back any of the land they conquered in 1967 is like trying to keep a lead balloon airborne. One (you should pardon the expression) "hail Mary pass" after the other, beginning with the war with Iraq. By tainting the expression and evaluation of public opinion with such a childlike device as the Internet megaphone, they are writing an entire chapter for any sequel to the Mearsheimer/Walt saga. Masada is not a stone mountain, it is a place in the mind, the fatal allure of self-destruction.
Abstract From the Jerusalem Post (tip of the hat to John Brown - USC Center on Public Diplomacy): As Al Jazeera's 24-hour station takes to the air in English and with other new Arab English-language media initiatives such as the Ramallah-based Palestine Times fresh off the press, Israel has begun effectively using a new weapon in its public diplomacy arsenal to fight the media war on the Web - a locally-developed computer software tool called the "Internet Megaphone." The Foreign Ministry itself is now pushing the idea, urging supporters of Israel everywhere to become cyberspace soldiers "in the new battleground for Israel's image."The Megaphone(...)alerts activists about polls and articles about Israel on the Internet and enables them to express th eir support or opposition by e-mail. After just four months, it has been downloaded by more than 25,000 people from the Web site called GIYUS (Mobilization) which stands for Give Israel Your Support. (...) "An Israeli company developed a type of software that functions like a beeper from one central place. They send alerts and anyone who downloads the software gets a pop-up with links to an activity. It can be to vote for Israel in a CNN survey or react to an especially nasty article. We still have a long way to go, but this is our future."(...) When GIYUS noticed a poll on albawaba asking whether the violence in Lebanon had been an Israeli provocation, it sent a message with a link to the poll to its members and soon the results jumped from an overwhelming yes to a resounding no. The Megaphone was introduced by the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) during this summer's war with the aim of getting the pro-Israel community to respond in real time to developments on the Web. To attract users from around the world, translates polls into English, French, Hebrew and Spanish. Yonit Farago in The Times reported that "Israel's government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda. "The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track Web sites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish activists can place supportive messages." WUJS's Jonny Cline said that Jewish students and youth were ideally placed to present Israel's side of the Middle East story. "We're saying to these people that if Israel is being bashed, don't ignore it, change it," Cline said. "A poll like CNN's takes just a few seconds to vote in, but if thousands take part the outcome will be changed. READ IT ALL

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bush: the important question

From the New Yorker - Hendrik Hertzberg
Abstract: (...) In Hanoi, which under its nominally Communist rulers is more vibrantly capitalist than Ho Chi Minh City ever was when it was called Saigon, Bush was asked if the American experience in Vietnam offered any guidance about Iraq. “One lesson is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while,” he replied, and added, “We’ll succeed unless we quit.” What did he mean? That the peaceable, bustling, unthreatening (if unfree) Vietnam of today represents an American success, made possible by the fact that we didn’t quit until fifty-eight thousand Americans and three million Vietnamese were dead? Or that it represents an American failure, which would have been averted by another decade of war, another fifty-eight thousand, another three million? Who knows? And who knows, really, what this President has been taught by this month’s election? The present President Bush, after all, is a decider of decisions, not a learner of lessons. And he likes to decide that he was right all along. READ IT ALL
David Seaton's News Links
History gives innumerable examples of fools and knaves, physical and mental degenerates who find themselves ruling hereditary monarchies or inheriting a dictatorship from a murderous and suddenly deceased parent. This is not supposed to happen in a democracy or at least not happen twice: as the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again." What is truly terrible and simply shameful and hopefully inexplicable is how a nation of 300M people, with strong democratic traditions, filled with universities and libraries, of legendary wealth and possibilities, could freely choose from among their enormous number a sinister, mean spirited fool and then seeing how he led them from disaster to disaster, then choose him again. The problem isn't Bush. The world is filled with knaves and fools. The question is how Bush got where he is and how got there again. This is just as interesting a question as how an Austrian clochard and failed watercolorist once became the leader of Europe's most powerful country, the home of philosophers, poets, musicians and scientists. It is a question that must be answered. So let's stop blaming Bush for being Bush and begin to blame the real culprits. DS

Ayatollah once, Ayatollah twice. How many times I gotta tell ya? Iran holds the key to Iraq.

David Seaton's News Links
Moshen Rezai, secretary of the government's "Expediency Council," states that "America's arrival in the region presented Iran with an historic opportunity." "The kind of service that the Americans, with all their hatred, have done us," said Mr. Rezai, "no superpower has ever done anything similar. America destroyed all our enemies in the region. It destroyed the Taliban. It destroyed Saddam Hussein. ... It did all this in order to confront us face to face, and in order to place us under siege. But the American teeth got so stuck in the soil of Iraq and Afghanistan that if they manage to drag themselves back to Washington in one piece, they should thank Allah.". Read the article below by Arnaud de Borchgrave. The Spanish say that the devil knows more because he's old than because he's the devil. De Borchgrave's been around since Adam ate the apple and he has more contacts then a crack dealer. Ok, so he does work for the Reverend Moon, but the old duffer really knows his stuff. DS
Abstract: The Iraq war, civil or not, is costing $226 million a day -- or $8 billion a month, $76 billion a year. It's hard to figure out what to call it when Iraqis are killing Iraqis by the score every day and when the U.S. has been fighting and dying there longer than its involvement in World War II.(...) The costly effort in blood and treasure to foster democracy in Iraq is clearly beyond our reach. Henry Kissinger, chief mandarin of geopoliticians, who negotiated the 1973 agreements that ended the Vietnam War, says Iraq is unwinnable.(...) The "go big," "go long," and "go home" options bear little relationship to the art of the possible. A broken military cannot afford to go big, unless, of course, the draft is re-enacted(...) To go long would require domestic support, which has waned to 30 percent. And to pack it in and go home under Option 3 would be tantamount to surrender to America's enemies throughout the Middle East. Borne out, too, would be Osama bin Laden's predictions about America's lack of staying power. This weekend, Jordan's King Abdullah warned against the danger of civil wars breaking out in neighboring Arab countries.(...) Vice President Dick Cheney's brief visit to Saudi Arabia for a two-hour exchange with King Abdullah (actually one hour when time is deducted for translation) left no doubt about the regional disaster that would follow a precipitous U.S. exit. But Abdullah, like his opposite numbers in Jordan and Egypt, is not anxious to pitch in with his own troops in security roles, which could spark embarrassing domestic opposition.(...) Iraq's partition, into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish mini-states, as advocated by Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the incoming Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a recipe for a larger civil war. Most towns and villages have mixed Sunni and Shi'ite populations.(...) All sides anxiously await the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group's findings. It is already common knowledge they will recommend talking to U.S. opponent Syria and U.S. enemy Iran. Members of ISG have already spoken to both. Iran now wields more influence in Iraq than the United States. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani flew to Tehran this week for a summit meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who told him Iran would do whatever it could to provide security for Iraq. Iraq's last two prime ministers, foreign ministers and holders of other government portfolios have already made the diplomatic pilgrimage to Tehran. They apologized for Saddam Hussein's eight-year war (1980-88) against Iran and twice returned with a $1 billion gift. The first billion was earmarked for schools and hospitals and last week's second billion was for assistance in restoring Iraq's power grid and linking it to Iran's. Iran can either facilitate or humiliate a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Key mullahs now say Iran should assist a U.S. exit that would enhance Iran's regional power. The argument, put forward by Moshen Rezai, secretary of the government's "Expediency Council," states that "America's arrival in the region presented Iran with an historic opportunity." "The kind of service that the Americans, with all their hatred, have done us," said Mr. Rezai, "no superpower has ever done anything similar. America destroyed all our enemies in the region. It destroyed the Taliban. It destroyed Saddam Hussein. ... It did all this in order to confront us face to face, and in order to place us under siege. But the American teeth got so stuck in the soil of Iraq and Afghanistan that if they manage to drag themselves back to Washington in one piece, they should thank Allah." READ IT ALL

America's very own road to fascism

David Seaton's News Links
Below are some excerpts from a wonderful article about nascent, American fascism in Slate. Many people use the word fascism without any practical experience of it. I lived in Spain at the end of the Franco regime, which was universally (except to this day by Spanish fascists) considered "fascist". Sinclair Lewis said that if fascism ever came to the USA it would come wrapped in the flag and wielding the cross. Certainly that would be a fair description of Franco's "Nacional Catolicismo," whose legacy is today's Spain, with its vibrant, regional-separatist movements and its empty churches. Franco had been in power for nearly 40 years and his regime was very decadent when I encountered it, and the country had changed under its feet; but one thing that stuck with me as characteristic of the universal fascist mentality was the paranoia/phobia about the free circulation of information. To give you a wonderful example: Madrid taxis were not allowed to carry radio-dispatch, CB radios until nearly ten years after Franco's death... They had been in use in the USA since the 1930s. My impression is that, human nature being what it is and the authoritarian, malignant-narcissist type being universal; that without free movement of information and the will to use it,
in the natural course of events, beatings, torture, corruption and every other abuse occur as night follows day. Freedom has to won perpetually on a day to day basis. DS
Abstract: There's been something weird about the denouement of the midterm elections, starting with the pronounced absence of Democratic triumphalism. The prevailing mood has been stunned relief rather than glee, and nobody seems eager to delve too deeply into what exactly it was about George W. Bush that the voters so roundly rejected. Put another way, what were the sins included under the shorthand summary for the president's failures, "Iraq"? For some reason, I keep thinking about an observation Eleanor Roosevelt made in an unpublished interview conducted in May of 1940, as the German Wehrmacht swept across France. She expressed dismay that a "great many Americans" would look with favor on a Hitler victory in Europe and be greatly attracted to fascism. Why? "Simply because we are a people who tend to admire things that work," she said. So, were the voters last month protesting Bush's policies—or were they complaining that he had not made those policies work? If Operation Iraqi Freedom had not been such an unqualified catastrophe, how long would the public have assented to the programs that accompanied the "war on terror": the legalization of torture, the suspension of habeas corpus, the unauthorized surveillance of law-abiding Americans, the unilateral exercise of executive power, and the Bush team's avowed prerogative to "create our own reality"?(...) We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.(...) If the midterm election was a referendum on nothing more than Bush's competence, then the message the Republicans have gotten is: Next time, make it work. READ IT ALL

It's all the Iraqi's fault, really.... yechh!

David Seaton's News Links
All my life I've been hearing about the dangers of "isolationism": how if America minded its own business the world would go to hell in a hand basket. Obviously the complete opposite is true: if America doesn't mind its own business the world will go (is going) to hell in a hand basket. Corrupt institutions, including the press and a gullible people fed on lies and manipulation have visited death and desolation on another people who had done them no harm and then, failing miserably, blame the resultant catastrophe on the victims. Truly such inept and incompetent Americans should retire to what is now known in Newspeak as the "Homeland" and devote themselves to that one activity in which they are universally acknowledged as supreme: shopping. Come to think of it, isn't that what Bush advised the American people to do after 9-11? Didn't Alice in Wonderland, in the Disney version, sing, "I give myself such very good advice"? DS

As Iraq Deteriorates, Iraqis Get More Blame - Washington Post
Abstract: From troops on the ground to members of Congress, Americans increasingly blame the continuing violence and destruction in Iraq on the people most affected by it: the Iraqis.(...) This marks a shift in tone from earlier debate about the responsibility of the United States to restore order after the 2003 invasion, and it seemed to gain currency in October, when sectarian violence surged. Some see the talk of blame as the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement. "It is the first manifestation of a 'Who lost Iraq?' argument that will likely rage for years to come," said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University expert on terrorism who has worked as a U.S. government consultant in Iraq. Americans and Iraqis are increasingly seeing the situation in different terms, said retired Army Col. Jeffrey D. McCausland , who recently returned from a visit to Iraq. "We're just talking past each other," he said, adding that Americans are psychologically edging toward the door that leads to disengagement. "We're arguing about 'cut and run' versus 'cut and jog.' "(...) The blame game has also been playing out somewhat divisively within the secretive Iraq Study Group. (...) "I'm tired of nit-picking over how we should bully the Iraqis into becoming better citizens of their own country," former CIA Middle East expert Ray Close wrote in an e-mail to the other advisers to the study group. Several other experts of various political stripes said this tendency to dump on Baghdad feels like a preamble to withdrawal. "It's their fault, and by implication not ours, is clearly a theme that's in the air," said retired Army Col. Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran and longtime skeptic of the war in Iraq. (...) "People never understood the culture and the challenges that we faced in trying to build a new Iraq," a senior U.S. intelligence official said. "There's incredible frustration . . . but it also shows a great deal of ignorance." "Definitely," said Paul Rieckhoff, who served in Iraq as an Army officer in 2003-2004 and went on to found a veterans group critical of the conduct of the war. "It is growing into an angry, scolding tone." He said he finds it "sad" -- "especially after all the talk of our mission to 'save the Iraqis.' " The long-term effect of blaming Iraqis also could be poisonous, said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan specialist in Middle Eastern issues. He predicted that it will "infuriate the Iraqis and worsen further the future relationship of the two countries."(...) During a surprise visit to Baghdad on Oct. 5, Rice said with uncharacteristic bluntness that the security situation was not helped by "political inaction."(...) "Our role is not to resolve those issues for them," Rice told reporters last month after pressing Maliki to be bolder about disbanding militias and reconciling sectarian differences. "They are going to have to resolve those issues among themselves." READ IT ALL

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gingrich "reexamines" free speech

David Seaton's News Links
It says in my profile, on the top of the page here, that I am an "expatriate", but if Gingrich has his way you'll soon be able to consider me an "exile". Not only have these fools not been able to catch Osama bin Laden, they give me the distinct impression that bin Laden has won his war... He has destroyed the United States or what was truly worth defending of the United States: what any American anywhere considers his/her birthright. DS

Abstract: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism. Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message. "We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994. Gingrich spoke to about 400 state and local power brokers last night at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner, which fetes people and organizations that stand up for freedom of speech. READ IT ALL

Polonium 210 at Berezovsky's office

News Item - Financial Times: Traces of the radioactive substance believed to have killed a former Russian spy have been found in an office belonging to Boris Berezovsky, the former oligarch, and other locations in London, it emerged yesterday. Police investigating the death from poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko last week are understood to have detected traces in the office in Down Street, Mayfair. A spokesman for the multi-millionaire exile said Mr Litvinenko had visited Mr Berezovsky within hours of a lunch on November 1 when he is thought to have ingested polonium 210.

David Seaton's News Links
Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice used to say. Again, for me, finding myself in full agreement with Pat Buchanan is one of the strange side effects of the war in Iraq and the endless disasters that flow from it. Buchanan asks the correct question: why would Putin shoot himself in the foot so clumsily? What is objective fact is that Putin has started deliveries on the TOR antiaircraft missiles to Iran that, according to Israeli sources, will make it impossible for Israel and or the USA to attack Iran when fully deployed within the next six months. And we saw from
Haaretz that the Litvinenko story immediately connected to Tel-Aviv and Yukos oligarchs. To follow these lines of investigation, it is very useful to take the "license number" of all the commentators that are howling for Putin's blood before there is any hard evidence to link him with Litvinenko's death and then determine their previous position on the war in Iraq. A lot could be learned from this. As Buchanan says, "America has a vital interest in this Scotland Yard investigation. What it discovers may tell us more about the character of the man into whose eyes George Bush claimed to have stared, and seen his soul, or it may tell us who the real enemies of this country are, who are out to restart the Cold War, and perhaps another hot one.". DS

Patrick Buchanan: Is Putin Being Set Up? - Creators Syndicate
Abstract: What benefit could Putin conceivably realize from the London killing of an enemy of his regime, who had just become a British citizen? Why would the Russian president, at the peak of his popularity, with his regime awash in oil revenue and himself playing a strong hand in world politics, risk a breach with every Western nation by ordering the public murder of a man who was more of a nuisance than a threat to his regime? Litvinenko, after all, made his sensational charges against the Kremlin "that the KGB blew up the Moscow apartment buildings, not Chechen terrorists, as a casus belli for a war on Chechnya and that he had refused a KGB order to assassinate oligarch Boris Berezovsky" in the late 1990s. Of late, Litvinenko has been regarded as a less and less credible figure, with his charges of KGB involvement in 9-11 and complicity in the Danish cartoons mocking Muhammad that ignited the Muslim firestorm. Yet, listening to some Western pundits on the BBC and Fox News, one would think Putin himself poisoned Litvinenko. Who else, they ask, could have acquired polonium 210, the rare radioactive substance used to kill Litvinenko? Who else had the motive to eliminate the ex-agent who had dedicated his life to exposing the crimes of the Kremlin? Indeed, no sooner had Litvinenko expired than his collaborator in anti-Putin politics, Alex Goldfarb, was in front of the television cameras reading Litvinenko's deathbed statement charging Putin with murder: "You may succeed in silencing one man, but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. ... You may succeed in silencing me, but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed." Litvinenko's statement is awfully coherent and eloquent for a man writhing in a death agony. But if he did not write it, who did? All of which leads me to conclude Putin is being set up, framed for a crime he did not commit. But then, if Putin did not order the killing, who did? Who else could have acquired the polonium 210? Who else would kill Litvinenko to make Putin a pariah? These are the questions Scotland Yard, which also seems skeptical that Putin had a hand in this bizarre business, has begun to ask. As the predictable effect of Litvinenko's death has been to put a cloud of suspicion over Putin and a chill over Russian relations with the West, one must ask: To whose benefit is the discrediting of Putin? Who would seek a renewal of the Cold War? (...) America has a vital interest in this Scotland Yard investigation. What it discovers may tell us more about the character of the man into whose eyes George Bush claimed to have stared, and seen his soul, or it may tell us who the real enemies of this country are, who are out to restart the Cold War, and perhaps another hot one. READ IT ALL

Israeli position unraveling: Bush/Baker back

David Seaton's News Links
Yasser Arafat was at first pleased when George W. Bush 'defeated' Al Gore for the presidency. The late Rais thought that the Shrub would follow the pro-Arab James Baker/Brent/Snowcroft policies of his father... After some time that is what looks like finally happening. Arafat must be rolling around in his grave with laughter. It becomes clearer by the day that the only way out of the Middle Eastern quagmire for the USA is to bring in all the Arab countries for a solution. First this means not destabilizing their authoritarian regimes with democratization campaigns and multi-colored "Springs". And then, so that they all have something nice to take home from the conference to show their peoples that helping the USA was really a good idea: a solution to the Palestinian question. The loser in this will be Israel This is the mirror image of the entire neo-con, "A Clean Break" strategy for the Middle East and the end of the Jabotinsky dream of a "Greater Israel" that would dominate the Middle East. In the end this policy change may set off more earthquakes in the USA than in the Middle East. DS
Iraq and Palestine: Twinned in Revised Bush Strategy on Iraq - Debka
Abstract: One of the most pressing pieces of business the US president George W. Bush must tackle in Amman later this week is the demand for an international conference on Iraq which must be dominated by a built-in agenda on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Palestinian leaders, picking up the new tones in Washington, decided to cash in by announcing the cessation of Hamas’ Qassam missile attacks on Israeli civilian locations, starting Sunday, Nov. 26.(...) The ceasefire – like Olmert’s promises - is unlikely to survive long after Bush’s departure from the Middle East. Since Sunday, every Palestinian and Israeli verbal pronouncement has been attuned to the wavelengths of Bush and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. She will join him in Amman and lead the effort to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders together. Her mission will be to extract results from these encounters for tempting Arab rulers to lend the United States a helping hand on the Iraq crisis.(...) the brain behind this new strategy belongs to Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to three Republican presidents, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George Bush Sr. He is emerging as the live wire behind the latest US foreign policy departures and the pivotal figure behind the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. This panel - which submits its final report to Congress on Dec. 10 - recommends an international conference on Iraq attended by leaders from Europe, Russia, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and the main Muslim nations.(...) such a conference would spend more time on the Palestinian-Israeli issue than on Iraq. The group’s leaders predict that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and other Arab participants will demand “progress on the Israel-Palestinian track” before letting the conference get down to brass tacks on Iraq. To lay the groundwork, therefore, Washington will have to give the international community free rein to squeeze Israel for far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians - and not only the Palestinians, if Syria is to be engaged. This would require a diametric reversal of George Bush’s previous warm attitude towards “our friend and ally” Israel, possibly even a reversion to the iciness directed against the Shamir government in the early 1990s by the elder Bush, whom James Baker served as secretary of state and Scowcroft as national security adviser. Earlier this month, Scowcroft, as chairman of the American-Turkish Friendship League, visited Ankara for an appeal to Turkish leaders to persuade the Syrian ruler Bashar Asad to cooperate on Iraq. His mindset was revealed in an interview he gave the Turkish Daily News of Nov. 9, 2006: “I think we need to embed Iraq in a larger regional solution, and that to me goes back to the Palestinian issue. I think this would put us back on the offensive psychologically and even make Iraq easier to manage.” Scowcroft then linked this viewpoint to the notion of an international conference, saying: “But I don’t think this will start with some kind of a conference because everyone will come with their preset speeches and everything will freeze again. But I think that there will be some quiet consultations in the region. I believe the Arab states in the region are eager for such a conversation. Israel may not be eager, but Israel is in bad shape right now.”(...) The cards in Washington are therefore stacked against Israel these days. An unfortunate combination has emerged of a president who regards the Jewish state as strategically weak and a brace of key US advisers on the administration’s new Iraqi policy who are drawn from the most anti-Israeli US administrations of the past. The Olmert government, however forthcoming, must brace itself for a period of intensive American pressure to cede ever more assets to curry favor with the Arabs. READ IT ALL

Ecuador Elections: give it back to the Indians

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If you were trying to find some common factor that defines our era, it is the previously silent finding voice. The new, inexpensive communication systems put those with common language and values into comfortable contact with each other across formidable physical obstacles. Thus Muslims around the world, combining Arabic, the Koran and the Internet, are in the process of forming a common Islamic consciousness, much to the discomfort of non-Muslims. Language + shared values + similar economic conditions X Internet = trouble for those in charge. In Spanish America all these ingredients exist: common language, colonial past and downtrodden Indians. Unlike North America, all the South American rivers run in the wrong direction and all the mountains are in the wrong place and this has kept the different peoples separated. The white settlers of one Latin American country are not interested in the white settlers of the other countries, looking only toward Europe and especially to the USA which is seen to guarantee their position economically and if necessary militarily. Fluid communication between the impoverished Indians of the different countries, or even communication between the Indians of any one country was science fiction until the very recent past. All this has changed in only a few years. All the ingredients being in the pot and the heat turned up, the smells from the kitchen are wafting through the house. DS
Ecuador Elections: This eruption is irreversible - The Guardian
Abstract: The red tide sweeping through Latin America, checked in Peru and Mexico, has achieved another memorable record this week in Ecuador. The substantial electoral victory of Rafael Correa, a clever, young, US-educated economist and former finance minister, marks a further triumph for Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and his Bolivarian revolution, which has long sought to ignite Latin America's "second independence".(...) Unlike most US-trained academics in Latin America, Correa is an economist of a radical persuasion. He has been an outspoken critic of the neo-liberal economics of the globalised world, and an opponent of the so-called Washington consensus that has imposed this ideology on Latin America in the past 20 years. He cannot be easily dismissed as a caudillo or a populist, but was the intelligent choice against his absurdly rightwing millionaire opponent, Álvaro Noboa, whose electoral bribes were too outrageous to be effective. Yet significantly, both candidates stood outside the existing party system. The Correa victory marks a seismic explosion in Ecuador's traditional politics. During the past decade, a series of popular demonstrations, military coups, and temporary governments have given clear warning of changes to come. Similar shifts occurred in Venezuela and Bolivia, where the termites of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption hastened the collapse of the old order. Nothing was left but an ineffective opposition that has proved leaderless and demoralised. Correa, like Chávez and Morales, will move swiftly towards establishing a constituent assembly to give a more representative voice to the country's indigenous majority.(...) Whatever the psephological details, the wave of popular feeling aroused in Ecuador, as in Bolivia earlier this year, clearly indicates the irreversible shift in power. The peoples subdued by Cortés and Pizarro 500 years ago are beginning to rebel against white settler rule. Simón Bolívar, after travelling through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru during the independence wars in the early 19th century, recorded his impression in 1825 that "the poor Indians are truly is a state of lamentable depression. I intend to help them all I can: first as a matter of humanity; second, because it is their right; and finally, because doing good costs little and is worth much." READ IT ALL

Monday, November 27, 2006

Meshal, en route to victory: Israel's position in free fall - Haaretz

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Before you give too much weight to Olmert's peace initiatives, read this article by Danny Rubinstein in today's Haaretz. Things are moving very, fast. The likudnik-neoconservative-Greater Israel position has collapsed, the United States wants out of Iraq with some of its dignity intact, James ("fuck the Jews") Baker has been called in to arrange this. The signs are clear, the planets are not aligned In Israel's favor. Serious negotiations are to begin. This is the Middle East, what is called the "bazaar mentality" kicks in. What does this mean? It means that, "how much are a kilo of tomatoes?" is just an opening gambit in a possibly long negotiation, not just a simple question. The first price is not meaningless, it gives you an idea of the strength of seller's position. If there are lots of tomatoes in the market, bluffing is useless. What is the Palestinian leader Khaled Meshal asking of Israel? According to Israeli military sources quoted by Debka, Hamas leader Meshal's demands are, 1. To procure Shalit’s release, Israeli must free 1,400 jailed Palestinians in three stages, including all Hamas, Fatah and other terrorists, such as Marwan Barghouti, who was convicted to six life sentences for murdering six Israelis. For the first batch of 400 women and minors, the Israeli soldier will be handed to Egypt. After the second batch of 500 (including the murderers) is released, Shalit’s parents and Israeli representatives will be allowed to see him. 2. Israel must halt all military operations in the Gaza and West Bank, including preventive detentions. 3. For his consent to a Palestinian unity government, the Hamas politburo chief wants a mechanism for opening the Palestinian Liberation Organization umbrella to Hamas membership and appointing him permanent chairman in place of Mahmoud Abbas. Meshaal will thus acquire total control of the Palestinian movement and its resources worldwide. 4. Hamas will retain treasury, interior and foreign affairs in the unity government. 5. Within six months, Israel must withdraw to the June 4, 1967 borders and an independent Palestinian state established, else the Palestinians will wage a third intifada. In this context Olmert's reply is weak. Has Bush called for a bowl to wash his hands? DS
Abstract: There is not much of a chance that the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians will be upheld. The reason is that the deterioration in the security situation between the sides is only one aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian political imbroglio that has been developing recently. Ten months have elapsed since the dramatic victory of Hamas in the elections of the Palestinian parliament, in the wake of which Ismail Haniyeh's government was set up. The entire world, with the exception of Iran and Syria, rejected it. The United States and Europe, together with almost all the Arab countries, and of course Israel, boycotted it. They refused to transfer money to it or to meet its representatives. The distress in the territories and in particular in the Gaza Strip grew worse and, as the security situation declined, more dead and wounded were counted daily in Gaza and the West Bank. What has been the result? Instead of the Hamas government collapsing, the movement's strongman and the head of its political bureau, Khaled Meshal, appeared at the end of the week at a news conference in Cairo and issued an ultimatum to the international community: You have six months to organize an Israeli withdrawal from the territories and to end the conflict, otherwise a third intifada will break out and the Palestinian Authority (PA) will collapse. Of course, Meshal did not address Israel. He has no interest in previous agreements made with the country, nor in international demands that they be recognized. He looks down on the chairman of Fatah and the PA, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and appears to mock him and his predecessor Yasser Arafat for wasting almost 10 years in negotiations over self-rule with only miserable results. What those leaders did not manage to achieve over long years of recognition of Israel, he hopes to achieve in a few short months. It is hard to believe Meshal will succeed, but it is clear that he, and Abu Mazen, with help from Israel and other nations, have succeeded in creating a crisis of such complexity in Palestinian politics that no one can see a way out.(...) To square the circle even further, the international community, including the Arab regimes, is demanding that Meshal must not come out of all this victorious. If Meshal brings about the release of 1,400 prisoners in return for Shalit, and the establishment of a government that does not explicitly recognize Israel, this will be a clear message that Abu Mazen and the veteran Fatah and PLO activists have been selling Palestinian interests far too cheaply: They have recognized Israel without any serious quid pro quo, and because of their groveling policies, tens of thousands of Palestinians are today languishing in Israeli jails without any chance of being released. It is doubtful whether under present circumstances the Israeli government can do much to change the situation. Meshal and Hamas are on the way to victory and if they are stopped en route, the price will be further deterioration and destruction. READ IT ALL

A Modest Proposal: Bring Back Saddam - LAT

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This article from the Los Angeles Times is a bit like Swift's "A Modest Proposal". Briefly, The author of "Gulliver's Travels" proposed that, since the Irish had so many children and so little to eat they should eat their children or sell them to be eaten. The question in Iraq always was, "did Iraq create Saddam or did Saddam create Iraq?". The answer now is obvious. DS
Abstract: The debate about Iraq has moved past the question of whether it was a mistake (everybody knows it was) to the more depressing question of whether it is possible to avert total disaster. Every self-respecting foreign policy analyst has his own plan for Iraq. The trouble is that these tracts are inevitably unconvincing, except when they argue why all the other plans would fail. It's all terribly grim. So allow me to propose the unthinkable: Maybe, just maybe, our best option is to restore Saddam Hussein to power. Yes, I know. Hussein is a psychotic mass murderer. Under his rule, Iraqis were shot, tortured and lived in constant fear. Bringing the dictator back would sound cruel if it weren't for the fact that all those things are also happening now, probably on a wider scale.(...) Restoring the expectation of order in Iraq will take some kind of large-scale psychological shock. The Iraqi elections were expected to offer that shock, but they didn't. The return of Saddam Hussein — a man every Iraqi knows, and whom many of them fear — would do the trick. The disadvantages of reinstalling Hussein are obvious, but consider some of the upside. He would not allow the country to be dominated by Iran, which is the United States' major regional enemy, a sponsor of terrorism and an instigator of warfare between Lebanon and Israel. Hussein was extremely difficult to deal with before the war, in large part because he apparently believed that he could defeat any U.S. invasion if it came to that. Now he knows he can't. And he'd probably be amenable because his alternative is death by hanging. I know why restoring a brutal tyrant to power is a bad idea. Somebody explain to me why it's worse than all the others. READ IT ALL

Israel: dangerous when cornered

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Briefly described, the neocon plan for the Middle East theorized that the invasion of Iraq and its regime change, accompanied by much "shock and awe", would bring about regime change in Iran and Syria. The new regimes thus produced would forthwith sign peace treaties with Israel and this would leave the Palestinians isolated and thus forced to accept whatever conditions Israel willed. This strategy was expressed as, "the road to Jerusalem leads through Baghdad". Poof! That strategy lies in ruins. Turned inside out like a stocking. The United States is now in the death grip of the Middle East and is struggling to extricate itself. Now it appears that "the road to Baghdad lead through Jerusalem", in other words: for the USA to leave Iraq with even a shred of dignity intact it needs the cooperation of Iran, Syria and the various factions of Iraq who share a common hatred for the "Zionist entity" and will need to humble Israel in order to justify their concessions before their peoples. Therefore, any cooperation, peace plan, or peace conference will come at the expense of Israel, which will have to concede much, much, more than what Ariel Sharon termed, "painful concessions". To top it off, after their military, diplomatic and propaganda failure against Hezbollah last summer, the Israeli's military prestige is in tatters and their enemies emboldened. The Israeli rightwing will do anything and activate any resource to slow down or derail this momentum which is totally to their detriment. In my opinion many of the strange things that are occurring and may occur in the near future, in the Middle East and elsewhere, can be explained by the Israeli right's need to save what they can from the collapse of the neocon 'dream'. This article from the Financial Times lays out the elements without connecting the dots. DS
The assassination in Lebanon should not derail dialogue - Financial Times
Abstract: The assassination of Lebanese industry minister Pierre Gemayel last Tuesday sent shockwaves through the Middle East. It seemed to run counter to the growing momentum for diplomacy and co-operation that had seen Syrian ministers in Baghdad, the Iraqi president preparing to go to Tehran and calls in London and Washington for a change of course toward more constructive engagement with Syria and Iran. However, the killing necessitates a balanced policy of moving ahead with the United Nations special tribunal on assassinations in Lebanon while also reducing conflict and instability through constructive and multilateral dialogue.(...) At the international level, the murder disrupts the momentum in London and Washington for a fundamental change of approach in the Middle East. Regardless of who actually perpetrated it, much public commentary has laid the blame at the doorstep of Damascus. Syria has condemned the killing, denies any responsibility and protests that the act, carried out on the day that the UN Security Council was meeting to finalise the tribunal agreement, could not have been timed more effectively to hurt its interests. Nevertheless, the assassination revived international wariness of the Syrian regime and helped rush the tribunal agreement through the Security Council.(...) Despite the latest events, the logic of reaching out to Tehran and Damascus still holds. The two are major forces in the region and there is much to be gained from robust and responsible dialogue between them and the international community. With the removal of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, Iran has made gains in the region, helped by the rise in oil prices. Iran will be an important participant in the future of Iraq and in the stability or otherwise of the Middle East. Despite sharp differences over its nuclear programme, Iran shares with other countries an interest in a stable Iraq. It seeks assurances that it will not be attacked or overthrown, that it will not be considered a pariah state and that its role in the region will be recognised. In exchange, it should be open to co-operation in Iraq, security in the gulf, as well as co-operation in stabilising Lebanon.(...) The killing in Lebanon reminds us all that there are dangerous and violent elements at play. But there is no alternative to engaging governments and encouraging states to become partners rather than pariahs in the international community, thus having a stake in playing by its rules. READ IT ALL

Sunday, November 26, 2006

American Raj: how it felt

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Among the very few conservative American political commentators that can be read with fruition and without retching is the ever civil and always civilized George Will. In today's Washington Post he gives a very good description of how America of the 1950s felt. This was when the USA was really and truly the world's only superpower. When did it end? It felt like it ended when Kennedy got shot, but it probably ended on August 15, 1971 when Nixon took the dollar off gold. Few countries have declined so fast, without losing a world war. Those who lived the period will recognize the accompanying illustration, and those born in a less innocent era may think there is even a porno reference. Times change. DS
Abstract: In 1951, when the average American ate 50 percent more than the average European, Americans(...) controlled two-thirds of the world's productive capacity, owned 80 percent of the world's electrical goods, and produced more than 40 percent of its electricity, 60 percent of its oil and 66 percent of its steel. America's 5 percent of the world's population had more wealth than the other 95 percent, and Americans made almost all of what they consumed: 99.93 percent of new cars sold in this country in 1954 were U.S. brands. By the end of the '50s, GM was a bigger economic entity than Belgium, and Los Angeles had more cars than did Asia -- cars for a gadget-smitten people, cars with Strato-Streak engines, Strato-Flight Hydra-Matic transmissions and Torsion-Aire suspensions. The 1958 Lincoln Continental was 19 feet long. And before television arrived (in 1950, 40 percent of Americans had never seen a television program; by May 1953 Boston had more televisions than bathtubs) America made almost a million comic books a month. Consider what was new or not invented then: ballpoint pens, contact lenses, credit cards, power steering, long-playing records, dishwashers, garbage disposals. And remember words now no longer heard: icebox, dime store, bobby socks, panty raid, canasta (a card game). In 1951 a Tennessee youth was arrested on suspicion of narcotics possession. The brown powder was a new product -- instant coffee.(...) The '50s did have worries. When a contestant on a TV game show said his wife's astrological sign was Cancer, the cigarette company sponsoring the show had the segment refilmed and her sign changed to Aries. You could get 14 years in an Indiana prison for instigating anyone under age 21 to "commit masturbation." And to get a New York fishing license, you had to swear a loyalty oath. READ IT ALL

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dollar: Waiting for Monday

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Enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend. Monday might be a little rough. Everybody has been waiting for the dollar to drop, but nobody wanted to start the rush for the door. You may have heard the old saying, "if you owe the bank a thousand dollars, you have a problem, if you owe the bank a million dollars, the bank has a problem." The dollar has been living on that principal for a long time. People and governments all over the world have their savings in dollars, nobody wants to rock the boat. However, once the rush starts for the door, nobody wants to be the last one holding devalued dollars. Vicious circle kind of thing. Like the proverbial lemmings, once the punters start to shed dollars it's hard to know where they'll stop. So enjoy this this Thanksgiving weekend. Monday might be a little rough. DS
New York Times: “This drop in the dollar has been justified for some time,” said Chris Turner, head of foreign exchange strategy at ING Baring in London. “The American economy could do more than simply land softly, and Europe is pretty strong right now.” But there was no single event yesterday to touch off such a sharp drop in the value of the dollar. Rather, economists said, it was a culmination of recent signs of weakness in the American economy that investors found troubling. Some experts said that could suggest that the dollar’s losses would deepen. Julian Jessop, chief international economist for Capital Economics in London, said in a research note yesterday that the sudden drop in the dollar was “an indication of a much more fundamental lack of support for the currency.” He said this suggests that “the falls will be all the larger once the markets do start to anticipate persistently sluggish growth.”

Wal-Mart sees weak sales as holiday season starts - Reuters
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. predicted a rare decline in monthly sales on Saturday, even as U.S. bargain-hunters jammed stores in search of gifts at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season. Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, sounded a cautious note for retailers as they began a second day of Thanksgiving weekend sales with deep discounts and early bird specials on items ranging from cashmere sweaters to big-screen plasma televisions. Wal-Mart estimated that November sales fell 0.1 percent at its U.S. stores open at least a year -- a closely watched retail measure known as same-store sales.(...) "We would frankly have expected better," Merrill Lynch retail analyst Virginia Genereux wrote in a note to clients dated Friday, pointing out that Wal-Mart had slashed prices on popular toys, electronics and other gift items to lure customers. The retailer's widely publicized $4 generic drug program should have drawn more shoppers, too. Investors are watching holiday sales particularly closely this year to gauge how consumers are coping with a slowdown in the housing market that has already hurt home improvement retailers and furniture stores. Consumer spending accounts for some two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and the November-December holiday season makes up anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of retailers' annual sales.

Demagogy about a Third World War - William Pfaff

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I keep pushing William Pfaff at my readers, hoping they will finally become as enthusiastic about his deep knowledge, experience and uncommon, common sense as I am. Guru Jai Jai. Guru maharaj. I always knew he was good, but until the war in Iraq, I didn't know how good. He was one of the few (like chicken's teeth) American commentators that was exactly right about Iraq from day one. As Iraq is the major political, geostrategic, human and historical disaster of our time, from which an endless chain of disasters are flowing and will flow, therefore; the world of analysts is forever divided into those of us who got it right from the beginning and those who didn't. DS
Abstract: Last week at Harvard, General John Abizaid, head of the American Central Command, responsible for operations in Iraq, said that if a way is not found to stem the rise of Islamic militancy, there will be a third world war. I do not understand from where in the labyrinths of Pentagon and Washington think-tank deliberations, grounds are found for such sensationalist forecasts by people in responsible positions in and out of American government. Henry Kissinger has made the same forecast, while readjusting his personal position from support for the war, to a prediction that the war can’t be won, but that it nonetheless should continue. Who is going to fight this third world war? Presumably Islamic militants against the United States (with such allies as remain, now that Britain is leaving). That is not a world war. It is war of American intervention in foreign countries to stamp out movements supported by at least a part of the people there. We are doing that in Iraq and it’s not working, nor did it work in Somalia or Vietnam.(...) Ah, the promulgators of the new world war theory say, the terrorists have already told us that they will first seize power in Iraq (and Iran), proclaim a new universal caliphate, and take power with the support of the masses in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, and the Maghreb. Then Western Europe, enfeebled by welfare governments and cowardice, in need of oil and subverted from within by Islamic minority populations, will submit to al Qaeda, or appease it (Europe’s people turning themselves into “Euarabs,” as one recent American scenario has it). That will leave a heroic America standing alone, battling the Islamic hordes. This is puerile fantasy. Yet Abizaid said to his Harvard audience: “Think of [today] as a chance to confront fascism in 1920. If we only had the guts to do it!” More fantasy and misinformation. There was nothing to confront in 1920. The Fascist party did not exist until 1921, and Mussolini did not form a government until 1923, when it won general praise in America and Britain for its spirit and efficiency.(...) The only way there now can be a “third world war” is for the United States to insist on staying on in Iraq, and go into Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other states as well, no doubt allied with Israel. Even in that case it would not be the great clash of ideology and geopolitics General Abizaid foresees. It would be a narrow war of illusion and ideology which most American allies would wish to avoid. It would be a struggle by the Islamic people to get the United States out of their countries and out of their lives. American intervention in the Islamic world started long before 9/11. The U.S. is fighting the ignored legacy of its own past policies. It is time to call an armistice, and go home.

Befuddled Superpower

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One of the most surreal, strange and extraordinary side effects of the war in Iraq has been to find myself repeatedly agreeing with Pat Buchanan. This had never happened to me before, that I recall. This article, for example, is bang on. DS
Abstract: "The president," said an anonymous White House official, "has asked the national security agencies to assess the situation in Iraq, review the options and recommend the best way forward. … The president indicated Monday that he is interested in hearing interesting ideas both within the administration and from the Baker-Hamilton commission." So critical is this review that Condi Rice postponed her departure for the Asia-Pacific summit to participate. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told the Post the secretary has been "doing a lot of thinking" about Iraq over the last two months. Thinking about what? Replied McCormack: "The primary focus is on the State Department role in Iraq and are we pursuing the proper policies, are we asking the right questions, are we seeking the right objectives, are we using the right means to achieve these objectives, following the right strategy and tactics?" Excuse me, but this sounds like some lost soul crying in a wilderness. Yet it is the voice of the foreign ministry of the world’s last superpower in the fourth year of a war to decide the fate and future of the entire Middle East. Should not these questions have been asked, and answered with finality, by our war leaders before they marched us up to Baghdad? Are these not the questions a Democratic Senate should have asked Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell before they gave Bush a blank check for war? READ IT ALL

Poisened Spy Case Doesn't Make Any Sense

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The Soviet Union collapsed because the Russians couldn't make a decent washing machine or a car anyone would want to drive, not because they couldn't execute an enemy without fuss at the proper time. The death of Litvinenko coinciding with the Helsinki summit was obviously timed to cause Putin maximum embarrassment. Logically you would have to look among his enemies to find anyone who would want to embarrass him. There seem to be interesting links to Yukos and to disgruntled oligarchs in general. The Israeli military web DEBKA’s intelligence sources add that the Russian ex-spy is believed to have been a double agent, who sold trade secrets to different parties in and outside Russia, among them some of the Russian oligarchs living in exile in the West. Livinenko served as a colonel in a Russian Federal Security Services unit which investigated and carried out special operations against businessmen. To pursue this theory, it would be useful to follow the press coverage of the affair. The editorial from the Guardian below keeps a prudent distance from the rush to judgment. DS
A still mysterious death - Leader - The Guardian
Abstract: Russia's argument that a scandal abroad is the last thing that President Putin needs at this moment, holds weight. Why would the Kremlin risk a torrent of western opprobrium by killing an insignificant critic in London? Friends of Litvinenko claim he was investigating the death of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and therefore a threat to the Russian state who also sanctioned her murder. But the leads in the investigation of her murder point away from the Kremlin and towards either the Moscow-backed regime in Chechnya or elements in the Russian army, exposed by her courageous journalism as war criminals. We know that Litvinenko had already shot his bolt, by publishing a book accusing the Kremlin of involvement in the blowing up of apartment blocks in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999 which Moscow used to launch a new campaign in Chechnya. That was seven years ago and the truth still has not come out. Those waiting for the truth about the death of a Russian in London might have longer to wait. READ IT ALL

Poisoned Spy Affair : a note from Haaretz

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It now turns out now that this affair is not just about "dissidence" or "criticism" or democracy, its about Yukos and about money with a capital 'M'. And the trail leads to Tel-Aviv where Russians have been known to launder money... now and again. DS
Abstract:Russian-born businessman Leonid Nevzlin, former CEO of the Yukos oil company and current chairman of the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, said Friday that he had met in Israel with former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died Thursday in London from poisoning. During the meeting, Litvinenko allegedly passed Nevzlin documents containing classified information possibly damaging to the current leadership in Russia. In Nevzlin's estimation, Litvinenko's murder was tied to the information relating to Yukos contained in the documents. Nevzlin has turned the documents over to the London Metropolitan Police, who are investigating the murder.(...) A few months before his murder, Litvinenko arrived in Israel in order to pass the documents to Nevzelin. The Government of Russia has issued an arrest warrant for Nevzlin, arguing that he is wanted for tax evasion, budget irregularities, and for connection to the murder of the mayor a Siberian town where Yukos was operating.(...) Nevzlin and his business partner Michael Khodrokovsky, who is incarcerated in a Russian prison, were formerly large shareholders in Yukos, once one of the largest holding companies in Russia, as well as one of the largest oil companies in the world. After the struggle of the company's owners against Putin's administration, and their support of opposition parties hostile to the Russian president, the government opened a series of investigations against the company, eventually resulting in the company's bankruptcy, and the imprisonment of Khodrokovsky and Platon Levedev, an additional business partner in Yukos. READ IT ALL

Russia sells Iran sophisticated missile systems - Debka

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Debka is somehow connected to Israeli intelligence. It is reliable to the extent that it reflects that mentality and its hope and fears. Read with that filter it is often interesting. In this case what appears here is the same as the press agency's reports, but with a bit more background and more "flavor". The bottom line for Debka is that when the Tor anti-aircraft system is fully deployed in six months time Iran, will be invulnerable to US and Israeli attack. So that gives us some sort of objective time-line. I always return to my old saw: it could have been different with Russia. The Clinton administration made grave, historical errors in treating such an important country so shabbily and so frivolously at its darkest hour. If handled with the care that post-war Germany received, Russia might have become a positive and fundamental player in that "New World Order" that people bandied about in the early 90s. Stripping Russia's assets, economic, historical and geopolitical; kicking them when they were down, has led to this. DS
LINK TO DEBKA: The first of 29 Tor-M1 systems in the $700m deal have been delivered to Iran by Moscow despite US opposition to their sale of a weapon widely regarded as the most advanced of its kind in the world. Some Iranian and Russian air defense experts say its full deployment at Iran’s nuclear installations will make them virtually invulnerable to American or Israeli attack in the foreseeable future. Therefore, no more than six months remain, until the Russian Tor-M1 systems are in place, for any attempt to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons industry. DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that Iran’s military and Revolutionary Guards units are on top war alert for the second month. Their fighters and bombers are parked on the runways ready for takeoff, their surface missiles including Shehab are a button’s push away from firing and their war ships and submarines cruise out at sea in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Tehran is determined not to be caught napping by any surprise attacks. The fact that officials in Moscow, albeit unidentified, announced the Tor-M1 missile’s delivery to Iran indicates the Russian president Vladimir Putin has decided to shrug off US objections, including a request put to him in person by President George W. Bush when they talked in Moscow and Hanoi earlier this month. DEBKAfile adds some information about this super-missile: The first batteries to be delivered come ready with Iranian crews trained at Russian air defense corps facilities. The advantages of the Tor-M1 system are principally its ability to simultaneously destroy two targets traveling at up to 700km/h in any weather by day or night; its powerful, jamming-resistant radar with electronic beam control, and its vertically-launched missiles’ ability to maintain high speed and maneuverability throughout their operation. According to military experts, the 3D pulse Doppler electronically beam-steered E/F-band surveillance radar feeds to a digital fire control computer range, azimuth, elevation and automatic threat evaluation data on up to 48 targets. The 10 most dangerous targets are automatically tracked and prioritized for engagement. The maximum radar range is billed as 25 kilometers but may be more. On the lower right side of the tracking radar, which is located at the front of the turret, is an automatic TV tracking system with a range of 20 km that enables the system to work in a heavy ECM environment. Last spring, the United States called on all countries to stop all arms exports to Iran.

Bolton accuses Syria of organizing a Coup in Lebanon

David Seaton's News Links
The Gemayel assassination is very fishy coming at the moment it does. Who does it benefit? Certainly it puts obstacles in the way of the Iran/Syria summit and could scupper a number of peace initiatives in both Iraq and Palestine/Israel. But, when John Bolton appears, everything gets very, very odoriferous. The language for example: "The issue is not whether the United States will talk to Syria; the issue is whether Syria is going to listen." The idea being the USA does the talking and other people's job is to listen. Reality does not seem to be penetrating into their head, does it? DS
From the BBC: John Bolton, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said recent probes into political killings in Lebanon suggested Syrian involvement. He told the BBC that if Syria was deemed to have been involved, the implications were serious.(...) Mr Bolton said he did not want to pre-judge any investigation into Mr Gemayel's death, but proof of Syrian involvement would have serious consequences. "I think then you have a further clear piece of evidence that Syria is not just a supporter of terrorism but is a state actor in a terrorist fashion and I think the United States has to take that into account when it decides whether and to what extent to deal with a country like that. "We can talk to the Syrians, and do all the time. The issue is not whether the United States will talk to Syria; the issue is whether Syria is going to listen."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Euro hits 19-month high as dollar sinks - Financial Times

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“The exchange rate of the US dollar, which is the major reserve currency, is going lower, increasing the depreciation risk for east Asian reserve assets,”
said Mr Wu (Wu Xiaoling, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China). The subtext of Mr. Wu´s message is "next Thanksgiving, meatloaf". Everybody has been waiting for Asia to reduce their dollar risk. When they start there could be an obscene rush for the doors. Since nothing like Asia owning so much US debt has ever happened before, we really cannot predict how this will all play out. DS

Financial Times: The dollar sank across the board on Friday, with the euro hitting a 19-month high against the US currency on rising eurozone interest rate expectations, while comments from China also caused heavy selling. The single currency rose as high as $1.3085 against the dollar, exceeding its previous high of the year by more than a cent. Recent economic data has indicated continuing strength in the eurozone economy, while the US appears to be heading towards a slowdown. German consumer prices looked likely to add to this picture as six of the country’s states reported rising inflation trends. Added to Thursday’s stronger-than-expected Ifo business confidence survey, interest rate expectations moved in favour of further gains for the euro. “There is scope for further advances in the interest rate market in our view, with risks to the European Central Bank rate outlook on the upside,” said Henrik Gullberg at Calyon investment bank. “This should further the bullish euro environment.” The losses were exacerbated by thin trading conditions, helping trigger stop-loss orders around the $1.30 level. By mid morning, the euro was 1 per cent higher against the dollar at $1.3070. Wu Xiaoling, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said following Thursday’s suspected central bank intervention in South Korea and India, that Asian foreign exchange reserves were at risk from the fall in the dollar. “The exchange rate of the US dollar, which is the major reserve currency, is going lower, increasing the depreciation risk for east Asian reserve assets,” said Mr Wu. The yen gained 0.5 per cent to Y115.68 against the dollar as Toshikatsu Fukuma, Bank of Japan board member, reiterated the central bank’s gradual and cautious stance on monetary tightening. Sterling surged to its highest in a year-and-a-half, up 0.9 per cent to $1.9313.READ IT ALL