Monday, August 31, 2009

Is There a Defense for Torture Ever?

Hat tip to Beach Bum for the video below depicting the lovely upcoming Rethuglican plans (aiding in the effectuation of real Death Panels). (Like the diversity card?) Peter Beaumont informs us about the history behind a now-known fact that wasn't hard to guess earlier (from "The Guardian"): The CIA's Willing Torturers and that they had Only Two Weeks' Training For CIA Interrogators. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

The CIA report into prisoner abuse reveals a new, ugly reality: America's torturers weren't simply following orders. There is a moment in the still heavily redacted CIA inspector general's report into its use of harsh interrogation techniques against al-Qaida suspects that speaks volumes of how torture is allowed to become acceptable. Oddly it is not to be found in the details of the most egregious abuses: the mock executions, the simulated drownings and physical abuse, the intimidation with power drills or guns or the threat that one's family may be killed or raped. Instead it is to be found in a discussion between a CIA interrogator and the agency's headquarters about a technique an officer had found to be effective. The discussion, from 2003, centred on the use of "water dousing" – which involved placing the detainee on a plastic sheet and flooding him with water for 15 minutes. The reply is fascinating in a chilling way. In its advice, attempting to mitigate the risk of any future prosecution, it suggests the detainee should not be placed naked on a concrete floor but on a towel or sheet. The air temperature, the cable from heaquarters continues, must exceed 18 degrees centigrade if the victim is not to be dried immediately. In these words there is the awful intimacy that violence requires. It would be easy to see in such an exchange a concern for the rights of the prisoner. What it reveals in reality – as do the torture memos constructed by the likes of John Yoo and Jay Bybee that supplied the legal framework for the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" techniques – is something of the intellectual processes and conversations behind the rationalisation of torture in the George Bush era. In his book Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram described the experiment he had devised about the willingness of persuading participants to obey authority figures in inflicting what they believed to be extreme and dangerous pain on another human (65%).

The work of Milgram and Leonard Bickman after him demonstrated the general innate tendency of people to obey figures or institutions of authority even when it was not in their best interests – a situation intensified in institutions, like police, the military and security services, whose membership both tends to be more social conservative and in whom the values of discipline and obedience is deliberately fostered.

But this is not a question simply of authority. What is demonstrated here is that other processes are at work as well. And while both Republicans and Democrats, including Barack Obama and again on Monday former vice-president Dick Cheney, have tried to insist that individuals officers should not have to bear the burden of guilt for a wider policy, what is clear – as US attorney general Eric Holder has recognised – is that even within the context of obedience to tasks set within the context of a national security interest, the defence of only obeying orders is never a valid one.

What is critical about the quoted exchange is the way that it has joined up the dots. It demonstrates that at every point in the chain of command and conception of the policy, individuals were actively investing in it both intellectually and morally.

For while we have long known, through the release of the torture memos, about the legal framing and design of a torture policy that came down from above, what has been absent has been the raw detail of the keen individual torturer's own rationale.

Now we can see it. How the men set to the task of torturing – released largely from normal constraints – improvised wildly as they constructed their sordid scenarios. And we can see too what happened to individuals. How with the legal constraints on what they could commit so nuanced, so flabbily defined, again and again they would step beyond even what the authors of the programme had deemed to be acceptable.

It is this that the CIA and its political supporters have so long tried to suppress, the ugly reality of what was intended in the policy of "enhanced interrogation": what it does not just to the victims, but to the victimiser and the victimiser's organisation. Even to the state apparatuses that condone and encourage it.

What it demonstrates is how a permissive culture of violence always breeds abuses, especially when those committing the abuse have been equipped with a self-legitimising narrative.

There is one thing more.

The need to supply a proper name to this. For while the use of all violence in service of the state inevitably requires special pleading, there is something in the cold conversation between men about the limits to the pain and suffering that they can inflict that speaks of nothing but depravity.

Read the interrogation report in full at: My hero, Glenn Greenwald, fleshes out (so to speak) What every American should be made to learn about the IG Torture Report :

GOP Congressman Peter King - the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee - had this rancid outburst today in Politico regarding Eric Holder's decision to investigate whether laws were broken by the Bush administration's torture:

"It’s bullshit. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on. [It's' a] declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense. . . . When Holder was talking about being 'shocked' [before the report's release], I thought they were going to have cutting guys' fingers off or something - or that they actually used the power drill. . . "

Pressed on whether interrogators had actually broken the law, King said he didn't think the Geneva Convention "applies to terrorists."

Never mind that the Supreme Court in Hamdan ruled exactly the opposite: that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all detainees, including accused Terrorists. Never mind that the War Crimes Act makes it a felony to inflict "prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from . . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering. . . ." and that these acts are therefore criminal whether or not King likes them.

Never mind that scores of people have died - not merely been threatened with death - in American custody as a result of "interrogation tactics." Never mind that Ronald Reagan signed the Convention Against Torture which compels the U.S. to prosecute anyone authorizing torture; that the Treaty proclaims that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever . . . may be invoked as a justification of torture"; and that Reagan himself said the Treaty "will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today."

And most of all, never mind that King has no idea whether these people are actually "terrorists" because the people we tortured were never given trials, never proven to have done anything wrong, and in many cases were - as federal courts have repeatedly found and as the CIA IG Report itself recognized - completely innocent.

My email inbox and comment section are filled with King-like accusatory sentiments that to oppose Torture is to defend Terrorists, because Terrorists deserve to be tortured, and that to oppose their abuse is to be treasonous because it's terrible to care if Terrorists are abused, etc. etc. In his 1795 essay, which he entitled Dissertations on First Principles of Government, Thomas Paine wrote this as his last paragraph:

An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

Can that be any clearer? Of course, Paine also wrote in Common Sense that "so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king" and "in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other." And in his Dissertations, he also wrote:

The executive is not invested with the power of deliberating whether it shall act or not; it has no discretionary authority in the case; for it can act no other thing than what the laws decree, and it is obliged to act conformably thereto. . . .

For anyone who believes in the basic principles of the founding, the fact that these acts of torture are illegal - felonies - ought to end the discussion about whether they were justified.

Few things are more repellent than watching the contemporary Right in America invoke the principles of the Founders - in general - to justify their warped and lawless authoritarianism. But nothing is more repulsive than watching them pretend that Thomas Paine - of all people - has anything to do with them (Glenn Beck actually wrote his most recent book based on the explicit pretense that he is the modern day Paine).

Any casual reading of Paine makes clear that, today, he would be so far on what is deemed the "left" side of the spectrum that you'd be unable to find him. Paine is nothing but what Joe Klein refers to as a "crazy civil liberties absolutist" and what Rush Limbaugh similarly calls "far, fringe, lunatic kooks, far left radical lunatic fringe."

The Right today argues that condemning torture is wrong because the people who were tortured were just Terrorists - barely human - and they deserve no defense, not even the force of law.

Thomas Paine argued as a first principle that those devoted to liberty "must guard even his enemy from oppression." Could the contrast be any more stark?

UPDATE: The version of the IG Report released yesterday was heavily, heavily redacted. It is now being reported that several of the redacted provisions detailed at least some of the deaths of detainees at the hands of their U.S. captors, while other detainees were simply "lost."

Suzan ____________________

Saturday, August 29, 2009

An Uncomfortable Choice

John Mauldin has been accused of being a perma-bear for almost the last decade because he predicted today's catastrophic economy back when things seemed good to people who had no idea where specious credit practices and abnormally low interest rates for so long would lead. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

And then something really bad happened. Our homes started to rise in value and we learned through new methods of financial engineering that we could borrow against what seemed like their ever-rising value, to finance consumption today.

We became Blimpie from the Popeye cartoons of our youth: "I will gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

"Not for us the lay-away programs of our parents, patiently paying something each week or month until the desired object could be taken home. Come to think of it, I am not sure if my kids (15 through 32) have ever even heard of a lay-away program, not with credit cards so easy to obtain.

. . . As a banking system, we made choices. We created all sorts of readily available credit, and packaged it in convenient, irresistible AAA-rated securities and sold them to a gullible world. We created liar loans, no-money-down loans, and no-documentation loans and expected them to act the same way that mortgages had in the past. What were the rating agencies thinking? Where were the adults supervising the sand box? (Oh, wait a minute. That's the same group of regulators who now want more power and money.)

It is not as if all this was done in some back alley by seedy-looking characters. This was done on TV and in books and advertisements. I remember the first time I saw an ad telling me to call this number to borrow up to 125% of the value of my home, and wondering how this could be a good idea.

Turns out it can be a great idea for the salesmen, if they can package those loans into securities and sell them to foreigners, with everyone making large commissions on the way. The choice was to make a lot of money with no downside consequences to yourself. What teenager could say no?

Greenspan keeping rates low aided and abetted that process. Starting two wars and pushing through a massive health-care package, along with no spending control from the Republican Party, ran up the fiscal deficits. Allowing credit default swaps to trade without an exchange or regulations. A culture that viscerally believed that the McMansions they were buying were an investment and not really debt.

Yes, we were adolescents at the party to end all parties.

Not to mention an investment industry that tells their clients that stocks earn 8% a year real returns . . . .

Even as stocks have gone nowhere for ten years, we largely believe (or at least hope) that the latest trend is just the beginning of the next bull market.

It was not that there were no warnings. There were many, including from your humble analyst, who wrote about the coming train wreck that we are now trying to clean up. But those warnings were ignored. Actually, ignored is a nice way to put it.

Derision. Scorn. Laughter. And worse, dismissal as a non-serious perpetual perma-bear. My corner of the investment-writing world takes a very thick skin.

The good times had lasted so long, how could the trend not be correct? It is human nature to believe the current trend, especially a favorable one that helps us, will continue forever. . . . Let's look at what my friend Nouriel Roubini recently wrote. I think he hit the nail on the head:

"A combination of higher official indebtedness and monetization has the potential to yield the worst of all worlds, pushing up long-term rates and generating increased inflation expectations before a convincing return to growth takes hold. An early return to higher long-term rates will crowd out private demand, as lending rates on mortgages and personal and corporate loans rise too. It is unlikely that actual inflation will emerge this year or even next, but inflation expectations as reflected in long-term interest rates could well be rising later in 2010.

This would represent a serious threat to economic recovery, which is predicated on the idea that the actual borrowing rates that individuals and businesses pay will remain low for an extended period."Yet the alternative - the early withdrawal of the stimulus drug that governments have been dispensing so freely - is even more serious. The present administration believes that deflation is a worse threat than inflation. They are right to think that. Trying to rebuild public finances at a deflationary moment - a time when unemployment is rising, and private demand is still contracting - could be catastrophic, turning recovery into renewed recession.

"There are no good choices. Nouriel, optimist that he is (note sarcasm), suggests that there is a possibility that the government can manage expectations by showing a clear path to fiscal responsibility that can be believed. And thus the bond markets do not force rates higher, thereby thwarting recovery.

And technically he is right. If there were adults supervising the party, it might be possible. But there are not. The teenagers are in control.

Instead of fiscal discipline, we are hearing increased demands for more spending. Please note that the very rosy future-deficit assumptions assume the end of the Bush tax cuts at the close of 2010. But raising taxes back to the level of 2000 does not make the projected future budget deficits go away.

Thank you, John, for your excellent analysis showing the need for much more serious leadership than we have seen so far. And I don't mean Republican. Read the rest here. Suzan _____________________

The Silence of the Antiwar Movement Is Deafening

I wish there was something I could do to support Cindy Sheehan, the now-invisible presence against the ongoing, never-ending wars in the middle of The Silence of the Antiwar Movement which Is Deafening. Like go to Martha's Vineyard or something really meaningful (maybe send her a contingent of antiwarriors who support her efforts).

August 28, 2009

Cindy Sheehan will be at Martha’s Vineyard beginning August 25 a short way from Obama’s vacation paradise of the celebrity elite but very far from the Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq where the body bags and cemeteries fill up each day as Obama’s wars rage on. She will remain there from August 25 through August 29 and has issued a call for all peace activists to join her there. For those of us close by in the New England states and in New York City, there would seem to be a special obligation to get to Martha’s Vineyard as soon as we can.

A funny thing has happened on Cindy Sheehan’s long road from Crawford, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard. Many of those who claim to lead the peace movement and who so volubly praised her actions in Crawford, TX, are not to be seen. Nor heard. The silence in fact is deafening, or as Cindy put it in an email to this writer, “crashingly deafening.” Where are the email appeals to join Cindy from The Nation or from AFSC or Peace Action or “Progressive” Democrats of America (PDA) or even Code Pink? Or United for Peace and Justice. (No wonder UFPJ is essentially closing shop, bereft of most of their contributions and shriveling up following the thinly veiled protest behind the “retirement” of Leslie Cagan.)

And what about MoveOn although it was long ago thoroughly discredited as principled opponents of war or principled in any way shape or form except slavish loyalty to the “other” War Party. And of course sundry “socialist” organizations are also missing in action since their particular dogma will not be front and center. These worthies and many others have vanished into the fog of Obama’s wars.

Just to be sure, this writer contacted several of the “leaders” of the “official” peace movement in the Boston area – AFSC, Peace Action, Green Party of MA (aka Green Rainbow Party) and some others. Not so much as the courtesy of a reply resulted from this effort - although the GRP at least posted a notice of the action. (It is entirely possible that some of these organizations might mention Cindy’s action late enough and quickly enough so as to cover their derrieres while ensuring that Obama will not be embarrassed by protesting crowds.) We here in the vicinity of Beantown are but a hop, skip and cheap ferry ride from Martha’s Vineyard. Same for NYC. So we have a special obligation to respond to Cindy’s call.

However, not everyone has failed to publicize the event. The Libertarians at are on the job, and its editor in chief Justin Raimondo wrote a superb column Monday on the hypocritical treatment of Sheehan by the “liberal” establishment. (1) As Raimondo pointed out, Rush Limbaugh captured the hypocrisy of the liberal left in his commentary, thus:

“Now that she’s headed to Martha’s Vineyard, the State-Controlled Media, Charlie Gibson, State-Controlled Anchor, ABC: ‘Enough already.’ Cindy, leave it alone, get out, we’re not interested, we’re not going to cover you going to Martha’s Vineyard because our guy is president now and you’re just a hassle. You’re just a problem. To these people, they never had any true, genuine emotional interest in her. She was just a pawn. She was just a woman to be used and then thrown overboard once they’re through with her and they’re through with her. They don’t want any part of Cindy Sheehan protesting against any war when Obama happens to be president."

Limbaugh has their number, just as they have his. Sometimes it is quite amazing how well each of the war parties can spot the other’s hypocrisy. But Cindy Sheehan is no one’s dupe; she is a very smart and very determined woman who no doubt is giving a lot of White House operatives some very sleepless nights out there on the Vineyard. Good for her.

Obama is an enormous gift to the Empire. Just as he has silenced most of the single-payer movement, an effort characterized by its superb scholarship exceeded only by its timidity, Obama has shut down the antiwar movement, completely in thrall as it is to the Democrat Party and Identity Politics. Why exactly the peace movement has caved to Obama is not entirely clear.

Like the single-payer movement, it is wracked by spinelessness, brimming with reverence for authority and a near insatiable appetite to be “part of the crowd.” Those taken in by Obama’s arguments that the increasingly bloody and brutal AfPak War is actually a “war of necessity,” should read Steven Walt’s easy demolition of that “argument.” (2) Basically Obama’s logic is the same as Bush’s moronic rationale that “We are fighting them over there so we do not have to fight them over here.” There is a potential for “safe havens for terrorists,” as the Obamalogues and neocons like to call them, all over the world; and no one can possibly believe the US can invade them all.

However, the ones which Israel detests or which allow control of oil pipelines or permit encirclement of China and Russia will see US troops sooner or later.

The bottom line is that everyone in New England and NYC who is a genuine antiwarrior should join the imaginative effort of Cindy Sheehan in Obamaland this week and weekend. We owe it to the many who will otherwise perish at the hands of the war parties of Bush and Obama.

1. See: Or go to and make a contribution while you are there. It’s almost as good as

2. See: John V. Walsh can be reached at He welcomes comments, and he looks forward to seeing crowds of CounterPunchers at Martha’s Vineyard this week and weekend.

Below are just a few of the representative comments (to help you envision how highly charged this moment in history is):

Obama is no liberal nor is he particularly interested in human rights. He talks a lot but does little to improve the lives of people. Think he'll ignore Cindy like Bush did? I'd bet my house on it. Tom Paine Homepage 08.28.09 - 5:57 pm It's clear that Obama's notion of "presidency" is that of a CEO, just like little Geo. You know: rely on "the team", take expert opinion, and vet it with input from consultants(Lobbyists). Sounds like a "Corporate State" to me. The neo-cons were no more than dual citizen fascists. Sooo... The Verdict: The United States of America is a Fascist state. And like all fascist states (Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, and all the incarnations of Israel), their tool of choice is terrorism. Forget at your peril: War is the terror of the rich,Terror is the war of the poor. Act normal,no one will know the difference. Carry on.

mot 08.28.09 - 6:46 pm Those who recognize war as overgrown little boys engaging in highly destructive brutality, are not marching in the streets. Today we expect thinking people with power (President Obama, if he indeed does have any power) to immediately stop terrorising Islamic people. The difference between the little Bush administration and the highly effective Obama administration is the collective wisdom in the latter, and the completely lack of wisdom in the former. Everyone knew that the Bush adminstration was a gang of school-yard bullies using weapons of mass destruction. Everyone knows that President Obama is doing his best to do what is right.We respect Cindy Sheehan and everything she does. We have faith that President Obama feels the same way Cindy does. He simply doesn't have the power or wherewithall to stop the military industrial war profiteers and their lacky Republican Fixed "news" propaganda machine. I suspect that President Obama will set aside time topersonally discuss the issues with Cindy Sheehan.

Human Being 08.28.09 - 7:10 pm

I just hope some of the representatives of these concerns get to speak with Obama, even though it is his vacation. And where are the demonstrators for the public option or a single-payer brand of health care reform? How can Teddy be forgotten on Martha's Vineyard already? Suzan _______________________

Friday, August 28, 2009

Was Lockerbie suspect working for US? More About Abu Nidal, the CIA and BIG OIL

As I mentioned previously, the questions about the Lockerbie bombing will now never cease. Could this actually be true? If you don't like the official 9/11 explanations, you will wonder just how many of the official stories are entirely true. And what was "the wider plot?"

Like I said to my students after 9/11 was so easily explained away by the Cheney/Bush junta on the second day after the buildings fell, "Never accept the first story if it is offered too quickly." (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

CAMPAIGNERS yesterday renewed calls for the United States to answer fresh questions over a Lockerbie bombing suspect.

Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell and Edinburgh law professor Robert Black urged the Scottish and UK governments to answer reports there is evidence Abu Nidal was a US agent. They have long believed Abu Nidal, who died in Iraq in 2002, and his Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command were responsible for co-ordinating the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie on 21 December, 1988 with the loss of 270 lives. Intelligence reports, said to have been drawn up for Saddam Hussein's security services, said Kuwaitis had asked Abu Nidal, whose real name was Sabri al-Banna, to find out if al-Qaeda was present in Iraq. The reports referred to Abu Nidal's "collusion with both the American and Kuwaiti intelligence apparatuses in co-ordination with Egyptian intelligence". And campaigners said the latest evidence adds weight to the claims that Libyan secret agent Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi – who was found guilty of the atrocity in 2001 – and the Libyan government were scapegoats to cover up a wider plot. Mr Dalyell said the reports added weight to the theory that Lockerbie was a "tit-for-tat" attack for the shooting down of an Iranian passenger airliner by the warship USS Vincennes in 1988, and was allowed by the US administration. He said the claims that Abu Nidal was working for the Americans would explain some of the mysteries that surrounded the Lockerbie outrage. These included a notice that went up at the American embassy in Moscow warning diplomats not to travel on Pan Am flights, and senior South African figures being "hauled off" the plane before its final flight. The diplomats were replaced by students, who lost their lives. Added to that is the mystery over why then prime minister Margaret Thatcher overruled her transport secretary, Cecil Parkinson, and stopped a public inquiry into the attack. It has been claimed this was because the US administration did not want an inquiry. In a joint statement issued yesterday, Mr Dalyell and Prof Black said: "If the American public had known of a link with Abu Nidal, and had known that the US government knew enough to pull VIPs off the plane and let home-going students take their place, there would have been fury at a time of transition between the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. "The fact that the Iraqi government either executed Abu Nidal or forced him to commit suicide suggests they had discovered he was an American spy." Mr Dalyell and Prof Black – who with Lockerbie relative Dr. Jim Swire persuaded the Libyan government to hand over Megrahi for trial – said they were "deeply and personally concerned" about the Libyan, who is suffering from cancer.
And now for more current shenanigans (More Economic Hit Men/Second Drowning of New Orleans) brought to you by the present-day imposters (Condi Rice's benefactor Chevron Oil for one) who give big checks (with one hidden hand) to organizations they want to deep six (sound familiar?).

So I was amazed to learn that, shortly after van Heerden, wetlands protector, was given the heave-ho by LSU (Louisiana State University), a group calling itself "America's Wetland" gave the university a fat check for $300,000.

After a little digging, I found that it wasn't really "America's Wetland," the group with the oh-so-green name and love-Mother-Nature website, that provided the money. One-hundred percent of the loot, in fact, came from Chevron Oil Corporation.

Chevron had merely "green-washed" the money through "Wetlands." Was this Big Oil's "thank you" to LSU for canning van Heerden? The University refuses to talk to me about van Heerden's firing ("It's a confidential personnel matter").

- - - - -

Who put out the hit on van Heerden?

Ivor van Heerden is the professor at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center who warned the levees of New Orleans were ready to blow — months and years before Katrina did the job.

For being right, van Heerden was rewarded with ... getting fired. [See Katrina, Four Years Later: Expert Fired Who Warned Levees Would Burst]

One other tidbit of not-news news today. I respect this reporter as he is soooooooo right when the mainstream stenographers are sooooooooooo wrong. Wonder how he could get hired by a "big time" media organization? It might save us (taxpayers) big bucks!

Obama's War: Afghanistan Is Spelled V-I-E-T-N-A-M

Good luck with that, huh?

Suzan _______________________________

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In Memoriam: Ted Kennedy 1932-2009 & Widening Gap in Incomes Increases

Paul Hogarth writes in tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy:

One year before he died, Kennedy gave this very powerful speech on health care reform - which is even more apt now that he is no longer with us. Kennedy once famously said: “We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe all of us will live on in the future we make.”

Please click on this link to listen to his passionate speech on this issue which was so important to him, and then read on about an issue that was also one of his big concerns. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

The Widening Gap In America's Two Tiered Society

By Emily Spence Americans, particularly ones from the middle class, need to realize that there are no core entitlements imparted by their government representatives, nor any other sources. They have none and should adjust their expectations accordingly. If the U.S. populace somehow imagines that its members are viewed any differently than any other populations across the world that are used to produce maximal profits for the top economic class, there's a rude awakening in store ahead. Further, most legislators simply do not care whether middle and lower class interests are or aren't well served as long as they, themselves, can somehow make out well in the times ahead. Besides, why should any Americans feel that they deserve to be treated more favorably by the transnational moneyed elites and their government backers than their counterparts across the rest of the world? As A. H. Bill reminds: "The richest 225 people in the world today control more wealth than the poorest 2.5 billion people. And... the three richest people in the world control more wealth than the poorest 48 nations." Occasionally someone making a staggering amount of money in a crooked sort of way might raise a few officials' eyebrows or induce a mild reprimand. In addition, he might, occasionally, be singled out as the token fall guy so as to be made into a warning example as was Bernie Madoff.

Most of the time, though, no action is usually undertaken to correct the situation when directors of major companies carry out activities that are, obviously, right on or over the edge of fraudulent practices. As Barak Obama, perhaps hypocritically, chastened, “Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productive and sound business practices. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales.” Yet, he, himself, showed no hesitation during his election campaign over collecting $40,925 from the bailout fund recipient and nearly bankrupt investment house Bear Stearns, $161,850 from the bailout fund recipient and mortgage underwriter Morgan Stanley, as well as benefits from countless other institutions that have received government favors at taxpayers' expense.

As such, it's hard in actuality to deliver more than just a mild verbal rebuke about these organizations' modus operandi if one picks up a personal windfall from not meddling. Thus, the financial corruption continues at all levels of government. A case in point is the self-serving oil trader Andrew Hall. His relationship with Citigroup's (C.N) Phibro energy-trading unit brought him approximately $100 million in 2008 despite that his parent company registered a net deficit of $18.7 billion for the same year and received $45 billion in TARP funds. However, it's been pointed out that he could moderately adjust his current level of gain and continue to maintain the same procurement pattern if he manages to stay out of the limelight. If he follows this plan in the near future, his earnings and bonuses won't likely duplicate the $250 million personal compensation that he'd received in the past five years. Yet, he could still make out quite well all the same! In any event, one has to question such lavish rewards considering that Citigroup suffered a 95% loss of its share value since 2007 in relation to which Phibro "occasionally accounts for a disproportionate chunk of Citigroup income." At the same time, the U.S. government will shortly be the owner of 34% of this company. Put more bluntly, is Andrew Hall's personal prosperity and propensity to add to his private art collect the best use of taxpayers' funds? As long as he's a lavish beneficiary, would he care if they weren't? As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith once suggested: “The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.” Naturally, Andrew Hall aims to keep such a cozy arrangement intact. Besides, his personal take is relatively inconsequential. It's a mere pittance contrasted to the almost two and a quarter billion dollars grand total - roughly $2,217,800,000 -- that the top ten U.S. business moguls collectively grossed as their own recompense in 2008. [1] At the same time, it cannot not be expected, in a market based economy, that political influence is not also a purchased commodity. Clearly, opinions are bought and sold just as easily as are any other products and services with payment being campaign funds, such as Obama's, from big industry; offers of high paying future jobs and other lavish advantages dangled as bait. On account of this kind of shady deal, tax subsidies connected to executive pay amounted to $20 billion in 2008 according to United for a Fair Economy (UFE) and Institute for Policy Studies. (Imagine if this money, instead, were allocated towards improvements in public education, provision of a universal heath-care plan or any number of other programs that could uplift the American public as a whole.) During the same period, average CEO pay, at $10.54 million, was 344% higher than typical worker pay.

This disparity, also, is generally indicative of a trend that increasingly funnels wealth upward rather than having it more equitably distributed across class lines. Another sign of this ascendant drift can be found in the change between the first Forbes 400 Report (1982) and its 2008 version. In 1982, an entrepreneur only needed slightly more than $100 million dollars to get on the list. By 2008, he wouldn't be in the top 400 unless he'd garnered at least $1.3 billion. In other words, so much more wealth shot upward in the last twenty years that $100 million now is almost viewed as chump change in comparison to the new top gains. In addition, Congressional reports have indicated that widespread tax avoidance tricks, like use of overseas banks that do not report amounts to the IRS, have cost taxpayers more than $2 billion annually.

Certainly, these lost moneys could well be used to help people less fortunate. For example, the hidden $2 billion could be used to create job training programs for any of the one in nine Americans currently forced to rely on food stamps as an alternative to starvation.

Now, go out and organize to pass a true health care finance reform bill (with Senator Edward Kennedy's name attached!).

Suzan _____________________________

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Has Obama Lost the Trust of Progressives?

I wish I had the gift of words on just some days that Glenn Greenwald has every day. His sterling prose precisely depicts where I am today on further trust being invested in Obama's team, and I suspect most liberals/progressives feel just about the same. On this auspicious day after the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy, who did not live to see the health care finance reform bill, which was one of his most special causes, pass, please contact your representatives in Congress and let them know your desires. I believe it will be called the Senator Edward Kennedy Memorial Health Care Finance Reform Bill (if the Democrats decided to pass it without allowing the Rethuglican corporate-driven changes). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Has Obama Lost the Trust of Progressives, as Krugman Says? Paul Krugman has an excellent column today arguing that progressives have backlashed so intensely over the prospect of Obama's dropping the public option because - for reasons extending far beyond specific health care issues - they no longer trust the President. Citing Obama's steadfast continuation of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, the administration's extreme coziness with crisis-causing banks, and the endless retreats on health care, Krugman says that "a backlash in the progressive base . . . has been building for months" and that "progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it."

Krugman contends that while "the fight over the public option involves real policy substance," it is at least as much "a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach."

That's the argument I made the other day about why the health care fight is so important regardless of one's views of the public option. The central pledges of the Obama campaign were less about specific policy positions and much more about changing the way Washington works - to liberate political outcomes from the dictates of corporate interests; to ensure vast new levels of transparency in government; to separate our national security and terrorism approaches from the politics of fear. With some mild exceptions, those have been repeatedly violated. Negotiating his health care reform plan in total secrecy and converting it into a gigantic gift to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries - which is exactly what a plan with (1) mandates, (2) no public option and (3) a ban on bulk negotiations for drug prices would be - would constitute yet another core violation of those commitments, yet another bolstering (a major one) of the very power dynamic he vowed to subvert.

Please read the rest here. Suzan ______________________________

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

50,000 Insurance Employees Work Against Health Care Reform & How Lockerbie Bomber Appeal Threatened Everybody

As if this was hard to guess. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Memo Tells Employees To Keep a Low Profile

A spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s trade group, admitted in an article published Monday that as many as 50,000 industry employees are involved in an effort to fight back against aggressive healthcare reform.

The admission, published in the last sentence of a Wall Street Journal article, highlights the stakes of potential healthcare reform for the private health insurance industry. Insurers and investors alike are terrified at the prospect of a so-called “public option,” which would create a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers. Because the government plan wouldn’t have to earn a profit, the plan would be able to undercut the premiums of private firms, pressuring profit margins.

“The health-insurance industry is sending thousands of its employees to town-hall meetings and other forums during Congress’s August recess to try to counter a tide of criticism directed at the insurers and remain a player — and not an outsider — in the debate over the future of the health-care system,” the Journal’s Vanessa Fuhrmans and Avery Johnson wrote Monday.

Employees of the health insurers have also been given talking points that encourage them to keep a low profile and avoid taking “the bait” when the industry is criticized in public, the reporters say. The industry’s trade group drafted a “Town Hall Tips” memo that instructs employees to stay calm and not to yell at members of Congress.

The industry’s staff have also been encouraged to write their local representatives. Health insurers are trying to reshape the debate over the public option by fighting back against charges that they’re enjoying record profits at consumers’ expense. Most private insurers enjoy a four to six percent profit margin, which is less than many other industries, but, all told, amounts to billions and billions of dollars.

Karen Ignagni, America’s Health Insurance Plans’ chief lobbyist, says that town hall meetings are a chance for employees “to strongly push back against charges that we have very high profits.”

“It’s very important that our men and women . . . calmly provide the facts and for members of Congress to hear what these people do every day,” Ignagni added.

Insurers have also been trying to convince the public that they’re well-intentioned. They’ve agreed to dispense with policies that prevent patients with pre-existing conditions from getting coverage and stop marking up policies based on gender. But they’ve agreed to this only on the condition that Congress mandate health insurance coverage for all Americans, which would add tens of millions of new customers to insurers’ pools.

And didn't you just know already that the reason the Lockerbie bomber was so humanely allowed to go home to die was that he was our guy from the start (or somebody's guy who would become our guy after the blackmail card was played)? Those CIA schemers are good (although it would be a higher level of schemer who helped Madoff for soooo long (who also has cancer now - sniff! - we hear) wouldn't it?)! (I swear I heard that the fix was in there from the get-go.) Will we ever know the truth about the Lockerbie massacre?

The government is likely to portray the meeting as unexceptional because relations between the UK and Libya have normalised in recent years.

Mandelson met Gaddafi's son at Rothschild villa before Lockerbie bomber move

The Financial Times

Lord Mandelson met Colonel Gaddafi's son at a Corfu villa only a week before the announcement that the perpetrator of the Lockerbie bombing could be released from prison, the Financial Times has learnt. Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, widely seen as the Libyan leader's most likely successor, was a fellow guest of the Rothschild family at its Greek property a fortnight ago in a wider annual gathering of powerful friends. Stays by the two men overlapped by only one night, according to Lord Mandelson's spokesman.

He said the pair spoke only briefly but they did discuss Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrah. "There was a fleeting conversation about the prisoner; Peter was completely unsighted on the subject," he said. It was only one week later that news emerged that Mr Megrah could get an early release on compassionate grounds because he is suffering from terminal cancer. Lord Mandelson said through his spokesman that he had had no involvement in the decision and only learnt of it through the BBC. Mr Megrah's possible release was a decision entirely for the Scottish government rather than London.

"It was entirely coincidental," the spokesman said.

The government is likely to portray the meeting as unexceptional because relations between the UK and Libya have normalised in recent years.

It was in 2003 that Muammer Gaddafi surrendered his weapons of mass destruction programmes and helped deliver the Lockerbie bombing suspects for trial. In November 2008 he agreed a $1.8bn (£1.1bn) compensation package for bomb victims.

Libya's role as a large oil producer, with the potential for much greater mineral discoveries in the future, has made it a magnet for international business - including British oil companies.

"Libya is . . . very much back in the mainstream of international affairs," the British ambassador to Libya, Sir Vincent Fean, said this summer.

However, news of the meeting could renew questions about Lord Mandelson's affinity for rich and powerful individuals and his ability to create controversy. Seif Gaddafi antagonised relatives of some of the 270 Lockerbie victims last year when he said in a BBC interview that they were "very greedy" and "trading with the blood of their sons and daughters". Global Research Articles by Jim Pickard

And then there's always a new essay (every day or so) to titillate the masses further:

$2m Witness Payment, Bogus Forensic Evidence and Pentagon Memo Blaming Iran: How Lockerbie Bomber Appeal Threatened Scottish Justice


August 25, 2009 "The Daily Mail" -- As the political furore over the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi engulfs three countries in bitter recriminations, The Mail on Sunday can now reveal the new and compelling evidence which he says would have proved his innocence.

In a submission to the Court of Appeal running to thousands of words, Megrahi’s lawyers list 20 grounds of appeal which include:

- Details of a catalogue of deliberately undisclosed evidence at the original trial. - Allegations of ‘tampering’ with evidence. - A summary of how American intelligence agencies were convinced that Iran, not Libya, was involved but that their reports were not open to the 2001 trial.

The closely guarded submission was obtained by Ian Ferguson, an investigative journalist and co-author of the book Cover-up of Convenience - The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie.

But the evidence will never be tested in open court after the dying Libyan abandoned it last week to spend his final days with his family.

Read all about it here.

Suzan ________________________

Sibel Edmonds in War Declared by Turkish Lobby Group & CIA Torturing Still

Is there anyone left in the country who doesn't understand the power of foreign entanglements (lobbies)? And the importance of investigating the machinations and torture-related history of the CIA after 9/11?

Because if so, they must be BFF's with Joe Lieberman, Paris Hilton or Goldman Sachs.

Take a look at the characters who have supported Edmond's testimony in the past (Grassley, Leahy, Ashcroft(?)).

If you are confused after reading this essay about who is probably one of the great patriots of our time, read the Comments Section after this essay . (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Turkish Lobby Group'Declares War' on Sibel Edmonds' Under-Oath Testimony

In a rather extraordinary unbylined blog item posted on Wednesday, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) has launched what appears to be an all-out assault on FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds and her remarkable, long-awaited under-oath deposition taken over the weekend in the Ohio Election Commission (OEC)'s Schmidt v. Krikorian case.

Called as a witness for David Krikorian (who is Armenian-American), Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH)'s opponent in 2008 and 2010, Edmonds (who is Turkish-American) testified to infiltration, bribery, corruption, and blackmail within the U.S. Government, by current and former members of the U.S. House and other high ranking officials, on behalf of Turkish interests. Schmidt, the co-chair of the Congressional Turkish Caucus has filed a complaint with the OEC alleging "false statements" by Krikorian during their 2008 contest when he had alleged she had taken "blood money" from those opposed to a Congressional declaration of Armenian Genocide by the Turks during WWI. Schmidt is also said to have taken more money from Turkish interests during the 2008 campaign than any other House candidate.

The TCA seems to have "declared war," according to Edmonds who touched base from out of the country via email on Wednesday. The scathing blog post alleges Edmonds' testimony was "a full-on assault against the national interests of the United States and the integrity of its justice system by the Armenian lobby"; says "Krikorian and his lobbyist backers are getting desperate"; and otherwise attempts to disparage Edmonds' character by describing her as "self-aggrandizing," and a "disgruntled and discredited former federal employee."

The report offers no evidence to support any of its allegations against Krikorian, Edmonds or "the Armenian Lobby." Many of the claims, particularly those concerning Edmonds, are directly contradicted by official reports from the FBI Inspector General's office, as well as senior, bi-partisan members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee . . . "[S]he has a self-aggrandizing imagination inflating her position at the FBI to that of an interrogator of terrorists; and . . . has a book coming out this fall," the blog post claims about Edmonds. While we've interviewed Edmonds for many hours over the years, in depth, and read an extraordinary amount of reportage on her case, we've never heard or read any such claims of her having interrogated anybody. As to a book coming out, we know nothing of that either, though it would certainly be welcome!

While alleging in one breath that "Krikorian and his lobbyist backers are getting desperate," the blog post then goes on to make the rather, um, desperate, charge that: "The irrelevance and insignificance of Ms. Edmonds' deposition can be evidenced by the fact that Mr. Geragos, Mr. Krikorian’s attorney of record, did not bother to show up."

Huh? Krikorian himself flew in from Ohio for the deposition, and celebrity-attorney Geragos' firm is, in fact, representing Krikorian, but it's rather common for other attorneys in any law firm to be present for a deposition. While we don't have any particular dog in the Turkish Lobby vs. Armenian Lobby hunt, the use of such a silly claim would seem to suggest the author of the Turkish Coalition's post was fairly desperate him/herself.

The TCA post goes on to ask why Edmonds' was called to testify in the case at all, since she admittedly had no specific information on Schmidt's personal involvement with the Turkish lobby or last year's race between her and Krikorian. Schmidt came to Congress in a 2005 special election, several years after Edmonds had left the FBI where she was a translator of pre-9/11 wiretaps.

Why would she testify then? Was the Armenian Lobby merely trying to divert the court’s attention away from the case at hand by introducing a witness who would make further unfounded accusations against the Turkish government, none of which involved the defendant or the plaintiff? Or, one might ask, has there even been a bigger waste of time for the American legal system?

We hate to say it, but this passage seems to offer still more desperation. The case concerns whether or not Schmidt has been unduly influenced by Turkish lobbyists and/or the Turkish government. Edmonds testified on just about a half dozen U.S. Congressmembers, current and former, who, she says, had been bribed, blackmailed, and otherwise cajoled or strong-armed into supporting Turkish causes. Offering up a first-hand witness to such behavior by others in Congress seems a perfectly reasonable part of anybody's defense in such a case.

The TCA continues by then attempting to simply disparage Edmonds' character, describing her as "a discredited former employee of the FBI (who served the federal government for a total of six months before being fired)."

They do not, however, offer any actual evidence for their claims that Edmonds has been "discredited," even as the actual on-the-record evidence suggests quite the opposite.

In 2005, for example, portions of the FBI's own Inspector General's report on her case were unclassified. They reported her allegations to be "credible," "serious," and "warrant[ing] a thorough and careful review by the FBI."

As far back as 2002, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-NE) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), then the senior members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, co-wrote letters on Edmonds' behalf to Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and DoJ Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, calling on all of them to take action in respect to the allegations she's made to Congress and, later, to the 9/11 Commission.

Grassley would discuss Edmonds' credibility on CBS' 60 Minutes in a 2002 report when he said "Absolutely, she's credible...And the reason I feel she's very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story." To our knowledge, none of her on-the-record allegations about Turkish influence and/or infiltration in the U.S. government have been discredited. Though the TCA seems to have done a fine job of discrediting themselves with such an irresponsible, evidence-free, unbylined attack on an FBI whistleblower.

Read the rest here.

And how long do you think the CIA stayed in the torture business? (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

CIA Accused of Third Torture Prison in Europe

Spiegel Online

As Americans continue to debate the torture era of the Bush administration, a new report has emerged about the alleged existence of a third secret prison used by the CIA in Europe. According to ABC News, the CIA operated a "black site" prison in Lithuania until the end of 2005.

Following reports on "black site" prisons in Poland, ABC News is now reporting that a third jail existed in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. According to the report, as many as eight prisoners were held there for at least one year.

The United States is believed to have used the third black site prison in Europe to hold high-value al-Qaida suspects after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to question them using "special interrogation techniques." These included the simulated drowning of prisoners through the practice known as waterboarding. With the development, the debate in America over government interrogation techniques and torture appears to be taking on a greater European dimension.

ABC News reports that the site wasn't closed until late 2005, after newspapers and TV stations first reported on secret prisons in Europe used by the US after the 9/11 attacks. The broadcaster cited former CIA sources either directly involved or briefed on the secret program to detain the suspected al-Qaida terrorists in Europe.

The US intelligence agency refused to comment on the report. "The CIA does not publicly discuss where facilities associated with its past detention program may or may not have been located," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano told ABC News. "We simply do not comment on those types of claims, which have appeared in the press from time to time over the years. The dangers of airing such allegations are plain. These kinds of assertions could, at least potentially, expose millions of people to direct threat. That is irresponsible."

The Lithuanian government approved the secret prison because it was interested in improving its relations with the US, a former CIA agent told ABC News. The country, however, wasn't offered any incentives for its cooperation. "We didn't have to," a former intelligence official in the program said. "They were happy to have our ear."

Flights Between Secret Prisons

The Lithuanian Embassy in Washington has denied the existence of a secret prison in the Baltic state. However ABC News claims to have seen flight logs that document flights between the various secret prisons in Lithuania, Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Morocco.

"We've known for a long time that there had to be a third site in Eastern Europe," John Sifton of the New York-based human rights organization One World Research told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

"But unfortunately we never knew where it was." Sifton has also obtained records which show flights to Lithuania, mainly in 2004 and 2005. Aircraft belonging to the company Richmor Aviation, which has been proven to have carried out flights on behalf of the CIA and which has repeatedly come under suspicion of transporting prisoners for the intelligence agency, landed in Vilnius on several occasions. "Admittedly that is not proof, but it is at least a significant piece of evidence," says Swifton.

Additionally, a cargo plane with the number N8213G, which also belongs to one of the CIA's partner companies, is alleged to have flown to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. One theory is that the cargo plane may have been bringing food and other supplies to the black site. However, aircraft did not always fly directly to Vilnius - some flights also took place via Poland.

A Gulfstream jet with the tail number N379P, known as one of the so-called "torture taxis" used to carry out renditions, often landed at the small Szymany military airport in the northeast of Poland. The Americans maintained a secret prison about an hour's drive away from Szymany, where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the 9/11 attacks was held, among other prisoners. In March 2003 alone, Mohammed was subjected to exactly 183 incidences of water boarding - an average of eight times a day. The Polish secret service is alleged to have put 20 of its own agents at the CIA's disposal. A Warsaw prosecutor has been investigating the former Polish government for abuse of authority for over a year.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed later told a team from the International Red Cross, who questioned him in late 2006, that he thought he had probably been held prisoner in Poland. "I think the country was Poland," he said, according to the Red Cross report. "I think this because on one occasion a water bottle was brought to me without the label removed. It had (an) e-mail address ending in '.pl'. The central-heating system was an old-style one that I would expect only to see in countries of the former communist system."

If the allegations against Lithuania are confirmed, it could lead to further investigations. Like Poland and Romania, Lithuania has signed the United Nations' Convention Against Torture.

Suzan ______________________________

Monday, August 24, 2009

War Against All & Why Destruction of an Irreplaceable Civilization (Iraq) Was Imperative

Justin Raimondo at provides us with some compelling insight into how the ongoing, neverending wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer being covered by the mainstream media and why. After you've absorbed enough of this wisdom, consider how the American occupation of Iraq has destroyed on purpose a once-remarkable civilization and its leading educated class (and for what?). Will it ever be possible to publicize what has happened to the United States of America since the money interests behind politicians like Ronald Reagan assumed control? (And you thought Colin Powell couldn't be any more embarrassed at his actions or that there was little reason for the skyrocketing suicides in the troop statistics? There's also a discussion of the rise of Hamas at the hands of the Israelis in order to justify the continuing strife of the Palestinians.) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

War Coverage and the Obama Cult

Why We Aren't Getting the Real Story

There was a time when Cindy Sheehan couldn’t go anywhere without having a microphone and a TV camera stuck in front of her. As she camped out in front of George W. Bush’s Crawford ranch, mourning the death of her son Casey in Iraq and calling attention to an unjust, unnecessary, and unwinnable war, the media created in her a symbolic figure whose public agony epitomized a growing backlash against the militarism and unmitigated arrogance of the Bush administration.

It was a powerful image: a lone woman standing up to the most powerful man on earth in memory of her fallen son.

Touting "an exclusive interview with Cindy Sheehan" on Good Morning America, four years ago ABC anchorman Charles Gibson intoned: "Standing her ground. She lost her son in Iraq, she opposes the war, now she’s camped out at President Bush’s ranch and says she won’t leave until he meets with her."

The level of coverage only increased in the coming days and weeks. As Cindy continued her vigil, Gibson enthused:

"All across the country protests against the war in Iraq, inspired by the mother standing her ground at President Bush’s ranch."

Flashing across their television screens, viewers saw the headline “MOM ON A MISSION: IS ANTIWAR MOVEMENT GROWING?” as Gibson averred:

“This morning a war of words. All across the country protests against the war in Iraq, inspired by the mother standing her ground at President Bush’s ranch. But is anyone in the White House feeling the heat?”

That was then. This is now: in an interview [.mp3] with Chicago’s WLS radio on Aug. 18, Gibson was asked whether his network planned to cover Sheehan’s plans to travel to Martha’s Vineyard, where she is protesting the escalation of the war in Afghanistan while President Obama is vacationing there. Gibson’s answer:

"Enough already."

It is one thing to decide war protests aren’t newsworthy, that they’re just the irrelevant emanations of a fringe element radically out of step with the 99 percent of the country that’s marching happily off to war. That, however, is very far from being the case. Back in 2005, Cindy represented a minority that was on its way to becoming a majority. Today, she starts off her renewed vigil with over half of the American people agreeing with her that the Afghan war isn’t worth it.

Yet Gibson’s announced news blackout is being observed well nigh universally: aside from Rush Limbaugh, only the generally conservative Boston Herald, the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette, a daytime MSNBC news show, and a few blogs bothered noticing Sheehan’s determination to be "an equal opportunity vacation disruption," as the Herald writer put it. The bitterness of conservatives over the obvious double standard is expressed by Limbaugh in terms of the usual partisan rhetoric:

Read the rest here.

As for what's happening and not being reported in and to one of the most ancient foundations of civilization: Iraq . . . and why they hope you never know why. . . . (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

The US War against Iraq

The Destruction of a Civilization

By James Petras

The US seven-year war and occupation of Iraq is driven by several major political forces and informed by a variety of imperial interests. However these interests do not in themselves explain the depth and scope of the sustained, massive and continuing destruction of an entire society and its reduction to a permanent state of war. The range of political forces contributing to the making of the war and the subsequent US occupation include the following (in order of importance):

The most important political force was also the least openly discussed.

The Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC), which includes the prominent role of long-time, hard-line unconditional Jewish supporters of the State of Israel appointed to top positions in the Bush Pentagon (Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz ), key operative in the Office of the Vice President (Irving (Scooter) Libby), the Treasury Department (Stuart Levey), the National Security Council (Elliot Abrams) and a phalanx of consultants, Presidential speechwriters (David Frum), secondary officials and policy advisers to the State Department. These committed Zionists ‘insiders’ were buttressed by thousands of full-time Israel-First functionaries in the 51 major American Jewish organizations, which form the President of the Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO). They openly stated that their top priority was to advance Israel’s agenda, which, in this case, was a US war against Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, occupy the country, physically divide Iraq, destroy its military and industrial capability and impose a pro-Israel/pro-US puppet regime. If Iraq were ethnically cleansed and divided, as advocated by the ultra-right, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and the ‘Liberal’ President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and militarist-Zionist, Leslie Gelb, there would be more than several ‘client regimes’.

Top Zionist policymakers who promoted the war did not initially directly pursue the policy of systematically destroying what, in effect, was the entire Iraqi civilization. But their support and design of an occupation policy included the total dismemberment of the Iraqi state apparatus and recruitment of Israeli advisers to provide their ‘expertise’ in interrogation techniques, repression of civilian resistance and counter-insurgency.

Israeli expertise certainly played a role in fomenting the intra-Iraqi religious and ethnic strife, which Israel had mastered in Palestine. The Israeli ‘model’ of colonial war and occupation – the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 – and the practice of ‘total destruction’ using sectarian, ethno-religious division was evident in the notorious massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, which took place under Israeli military supervision.

The second powerful political force behind the Iraq War were civilian militarists (like Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney) who sought to extend US imperial reach in the Persian Gulf and strengthen its geo-political position by eliminating a strong, secular, nationalist backer of Arab anti-imperialist insurgency in the Middle East. The civilian militarists sought to extend the American military base encirclement of Russia and secure control over Iraqi oil reserves as a pressure point against China. The civilian militarists were less moved by Vice President Cheney’s past ties with the oil industry and more interested in his role as CEO of Halliburton’s giant military base contractor subsidiary Kellogg-Brown and Root, which was consolidating the US Empire through worldwide military base expansion. Major US oil companies, who feared losing out to European and Asian competitors, were already eager to deal with Saddam Hussein, and some of the Bush’s supporters in the oil industry had already engaged in illegal trading with the embargoed Iraqi regime. The oil industry was not inclined to promote regional instability with a war.

The militarist strategy of conquest and occupation was designed to establish a long-term colonial military presence in the form of strategic military bases with a significant and sustained contingent of colonial military advisors and combat units. The brutal colonial occupation of an independent secular state with a strong nationalist history and an advanced infrastructure with a sophisticated military and police apparatus, extensive public services and wide-spread literacy naturally led to the growth of a wide array of militant and armed anti-occupation movements. In response, US colonial officials, the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agencies devised a ‘divide and rule’ strategy (the so-called ‘El Salvador solution’ associated with the former ‘hot-spot’ Ambassador and US Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte) fomenting armed sectarian-based conflicts and promoting inter-religious assassinations to debilitate any effort at a united nationalist anti-imperialist movement. The dismantling of the secular civilian bureaucracy and military was designed by the Zionists in the Bush Administration to enhance Israel’s power in the region and to encourage the rise of militant Islamic groups, which had been repressed by the deposed Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Israel had mastered this strategy earlier: It originally sponsored and financed sectarian Islamic militant groups, like Hamas, as an alternative to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization and set the stage for sectarian fighting among the Palestinians.

The result of US colonial policies were to fund and multiply a wide range of internal conflicts as mullahs, tribal leaders, political gangsters, warlords, expatriates and death squads proliferated. The ‘war of all against all’ served the interests of the US occupation forces. Iraq became a pool of armed, unemployed young men, from which to recruit a new mercenary army.

The ‘civil war’ and ‘ethnic conflict’ provided a pretext for the US and its Iraqi puppets to discharge hundreds of thousands of soldiers, police and functionaries from the previous regime (especially if they were from Sunni, mixed or secular families) and to undermine the basis for civilian employment. Under the cover of generalized ‘war against terror’, US Special Forces and CIA-directed death squads spread terror within Iraqi civil society, targeting anyone suspected of criticizing the puppet government – especially among the educated and professional classes, precisely the Iraqis most capable of re-constructing an independent secular republic.

The Iraq war was driven by an influential group of neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideologues with strong ties to Israel. They viewed the success of the Iraq war (by success they meant the total dismemberment of the country) as the first ‘domino’ in a series of war to ‘re-colonize’ the Middle East (in their words: “to re-draw the map”). They disguised their imperial ideology with a thin veneer of rhetoric about promoting democracies’ in the Middle East (excluding, of course, the un-democratic policies of their ‘homeland’ Israel over its subjugated Palestinians). Conflating Israeli regional hegemonic ambitions with the US imperial interests, the neo-conservatives and their neo-liberal fellow travelers in the Democratic Party first backed President Bush and later President Obama in their escalation of the wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan. They unanimously supported Israel’s savage bombing campaign against Lebanon, the land and air assault and massacre of thousands of civilians trapped in Gaza, the bombing of Syrian facilities and the big push (from Israel) for a pre-emptive, full-scale military attack against Iran.

The US advocates of sequential and multiple simultaneous wars in the Middle East and South Asia believed that they could only unleash the full strength of their mass destructive power after they had secured total control of their first victim, Iraq. They were confident that Iraqi resistance would collapse rapidly after 13 years of brutal starvation sanctions imposed on the republic by the US and United Nations. In order to consolidate imperial control, American policy-makers decided to permanently silence all independent Iraqi civilian dissidents. They turned to the financing of Shia clerics and Sunni tribal assassins, and contracting scores of thousands of private mercenaries among the Kurdish Peshmerga warlords to carry out selective assassinations of leaders of civil society movements.

The US created and trained a 200,000 member Iraqi colonial puppet army composed almost entirely of Shia gunmen, and excluded experienced Iraqi military men from secular, Sunni or Christian backgrounds. A little known result of this build up of American trained and financed death squads and its puppet ‘Iraqi’ army, was the virtual destruction of the ancient Iraqi Christian population, which was displaced, its churches bombed and its leaders, bishops and intellectuals, academics and scientists assassinated or driven into exile. The US and its Israeli advisers were well aware that Iraqi Christians had played a key role the historic development of the secular, nationalist, anti-British/anti-monarchist movements and their elimination as an influential force during the first years of US occupation was no accident. The result of the US policies were to eliminate most secular democratic anti-imperialist leaders and movements and to present their murderous net-work of ‘ethno-religious’ collaborators as their uncontested ‘partners’ in sustaining the long-term US colonial presence in Iraq.

With their puppets in power, Iraq would serve as a launching platform for its strategic pursuit of the other ‘dominoes’ (Syria, Iran, Central Asian Republics…).

The sustained bloody purge of Iraq under US occupation resulted in the killing 1.3 million Iraqi civilians during the first 7 years after Bush invaded in March 2003. Up to mid-2009, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has officially cost the American treasury over $666 billion. This enormous expenditure attests to its centrality in the larger US imperial strategy for the entire Middle East/South and Central Asia region. Washington’s policy of politicizing and militarizing ethno-religious differences, arming and encouraging rival tribal, religious and ethnic leaders to engage in mutual bloodletting served to destroy national unity and resistance. The ‘divide and rule’ tactics and reliance on retrograde social and religious organizations is the commonest and best-known practice in pursuing the conquest and subjugation of a unified, advanced nationalist state. Breaking up the national state, destroying nationalist consciousness and encouraging primitive ethno-religious, feudal and regional loyalties required the systematic destruction of the principal purveyors of nationalist consciousness, historical memory and secular, scientific thought. Provoking ethno-religious hatreds destroyed intermarriages, mixed communities and institutions with their long-standing personal friendships and professional ties among diverse backgrounds. The physical elimination of academics, writers, teachers, intellectuals, scientists and professionals, especially physicians, engineers, lawyers, jurists and journalists was decisive in imposing ethno-religious rule under a colonial occupation. To establish long-term dominance and sustain ethno-religious client rulers, the entire pre-existing cultural edifice, which had sustained an independent secular nationalist state, was physically destroyed by the US and its Iraqi puppets.

This included destroying the libraries, census bureaus, and repositories of all property and court records, health departments, laboratories, schools, cultural centers, medical facilities and above all the entire scientific-literary-humanistic social scientific class of professionals.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi professionals and family members were driven by terror into internal and external exile. All funding for national, secular, scientific and educational institutions were cut off. Death squads engaged in the systematic murder of thousands of academics and professionals suspected of the least dissent, the least nationalist sentiment; anyone with the least capacity to re-construct the republic was marked.

The Destruction of a Modern Arab Civilization

Independent, secular Iraq had the most advanced scientific-cultural order in the Arab world, despite the repressive nature of Saddam Hussein’s police state. There was a system of national health care, universal public education and generous welfare services, combined with unprecedented levels of gender equality. This marked the advanced nature of Iraqi civilization in the late 20th century.

Separation of church and state and strict protection of religious minorities (Christians, Assyrians and others) contrasts sharply with what has resulted from the US occupation and its destruction of the Iraqi civil and governmental structures. The harsh dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein thus presided over a highly developed modern civilization in which advanced scientific work went hand in hand with a strong nationalist and anti-imperialist identity. This resulted especially in the Iraqi people and regime’s expressions of solidarity for the plight of the Palestinian people under Israeli rule and occupation.

A mere ‘regime change’ could not extirpate this deeply embedded and advanced secular republican culture in Iraq.

The US war planners and their Israeli advisers were well aware that colonial occupation would increase Iraqi nationalist consciousness unless the secular nation was destroyed and hence, the imperial imperative to uproot and destroy the carriers of nationalist consciousness by physically eliminating the educated, the talented, the scientific, indeed the most secular elements of Iraqi society.

Retrogression became the principal instrument for the US to impose its colonial puppets, with their primitive, ‘pre-national’ loyalties, in power in a culturally purged Baghdad stripped of its most sophisticated and nationalistic social strata. According to the Al-Ahram Studies Center in Cairo, more that 310 Iraqi scientists were eliminated during the first 18 months of the US occupation – a figure that the Iraqi education ministry did not dispute.

Another report listed the killings of more than 340 intellectuals and scientists between 2005 and 2007. Bombings of institutes of higher education had pushed enrollment down to 30% of the pre-invasion figures. In one bombing in January 2007, at Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University 70 students were killed with hundreds wounded. These figures compelled the UNESCO to warn that Iraq’s university system was on the brink of collapse. The numbers of prominent Iraqi scientists and professionals who have fled the country have approached 20,000. Of the 6,700 Iraqi university professors who fled since 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported than only 150 had returned by October 2008. Despite the US claims of improved security, the situation in 2008 saw numerous assassinations, including the only practicing neurosurgeon in Iraq’s second largest city of Basra, whose body was dumped on the city streets.

The raw data on the Iraqi academics, scientists and professionals assassinated by the US and allied occupation forces and the militias and shadowy forces they control is drawn from a list published by the Pakistan Daily News on November 26, 2008. This list makes for very uncomfortable reading into the reality of systematic elimination of intellectuals in Iraq under the meat-grinder of US occupation.


The physical elimination of an individual by assassination is an extreme form of terrorism, which has far-reaching effects rippling throughout the community from which the individual comes – in this case the world of Iraqi intellectuals, academics, professionals and creative leaders in the arts and sciences. For each Iraqi intellectual murdered, thousands of educated Iraqis fled the country or abandoned their work for safer, less vulnerable activity.

Baghdad was considered the ‘Paris’ of the Arab world, in terms of culture and art, science and education. In the 1970’s and 80’s, its universities were the envy of the Arab world. The US ‘shock and awe’ campaign that rained down on Baghdad evoked emotions akin to an aerial bombardment of the Louvre, the Sorbonne and the greatest libraries of Europe. Baghdad University was one of the most prestigious and productive universities in the Arab world.

Many of its academics possessed doctoral degrees and engaged in post-doctoral studies abroad at prestigious institutions. It taught and graduated many of the top professionals and scientists in the Middle East. Even under the deadly grip of the US/UN-imposed economic sanctions that starved Iraq during the 13 years before the March 2003 invasion, thousands of graduate students and young professionals came to Iraq for post-graduate training. Young physicians from throughout the Arab world received advanced medical training in its institutions. Many of its academics presented scientific papers at major international conferences and published in prestigious journals. Most important, Baghdad University trained and maintained a highly respected scientific secular culture free of sectarian discrimination – with academics from all ethnic and religious backgrounds.

This world has been forever shattered: Under US occupation, up to November 2008, eighty-three academics and researchers teaching at Baghdad University had been murdered and several thousand of their colleagues, students and family members were forced to flee.

The Selection of Assassinated Academics by Discipline

The November 2008 article published by the Pakistan Daily News lists the names of a total of 154 top Baghdad-based academics, renowned in their fields, who were murdered. Altogether, a total of 281 well-known intellectuals teaching at the top universities in Iraq fell victim to the ‘death squads’ under US occupation.

Prior to the US occupation, Baghdad University possessed the premier research and teaching medical faculty in the entire Middle East attracting hundreds of young doctors for advanced training. That program has been devastated during the rise of the US-death squad regime, with few prospects of recovery. Of those murdered, 25% (21) were the most senior professors and lecturers in the medical faculty of Baghdad University, the highest percentage of any faculty. The second highest percentage of butchered faculty were the professors and researchers from Baghdad University’s renowned engineering faculty (12), followed by the top academics in the humanities (10), physical and social sciences (8 senior academics each), education (5). The remaining top academics murdered at Baghdad University spread out among the agronomy, business, physical education, communications and religious studies faculties.

At three other Baghdad universities, 53 senior academics were slaughtered, including 10 in the social sciences, 7 in the faculty of law, 6 each in medicine and the humanities, 9 in the physical sciences and 5 in engineering. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s August 20, 2002 pre-invasion joke, “…one has to assume they (scientists) have not been playing ‘tiddlywinks’(a child’s game)”( justifying the bloody purge of Iraq’s scientists in physics and chemistry. An ominous signal of the academic bloodletting that followed the invasion.

Similar bloody purges of academics occurred in all the provincial universities: 127 senior academics and scientists were assassinated at the various well-regarded universities in Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra and elsewhere. The provincial universities with the highest number of murdered senior faculty members were in cities where the US and British military and their Kurdish mercenary allies were most active: Basra (35), Mosul (35), Diyala (15) and Al-Anbar (11).

The Iraqi military and allied death squads carried out most of the killing of academics in the cities under US or ‘allied’ control. The systematic murder of academics was a nation-wide, cross-disciplinary drive to destroy the cultural and educational foundations of a modern Arab civilization. The death squads carrying out most of these assassinations were primitive, pre-modern, ethno-religious groups ‘set loose’ or instrumentalized by US military strategists to wipe out any politically conscious intellectuals and nationalist scientists who might pursue an agenda for re-building a modern, secular society and independent, unified republic.

In its panic to prevent the US invasion, the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate provided a list, which identified over 500 key Iraqi scientists to the UN on December 7, 2002.

There is little doubt that this list became a core element in the US military’s hit list for eliminating Iraq’s scientific elite. In his notorious pre-invasion speech to the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell cited a list of over 3,500 Iraqi scientists and technicians who would have to be ‘contained’ to prevent their expertise from being used by other countries. The US had even created a ‘budget’ of hundreds of millions of dollars, drawn from the Iraqi ‘Oil for Food’ money held by the United Nations to set up ‘civilian re-education’ programs to re-train Iraqi scientists and engineers. These highly touted programs were never seriously implemented. Cheaper ways of containing what one American policy expert termed Iraq’s ‘excess scientists, engineers and technicians’ in a Carnegie Endowment Paper (RANSAC Policy Update April 2004) became clear. The US had decided to adopt and expand the Israeli Mossad’s covert operation of assassinating selected key Iraqi scientists on an industrial scale.

The US ‘Surge’ and ‘Peak Assassination’ Campaigns: 2006-2007

The high tide of terror against academics coincides with the renewal of the US military offensive in Baghdad and in the provinces. Of the total number of assassinations of Baghdad-based academics for which a date is recorded (110 known intellectuals slaughtered), almost 80% (87) occurred in 2006 and 2007. A similar pattern is found in the provinces with 77% of a total of 84 scholars murdered outside of capital during the same period. The pattern is clear: the murder rate of academics grows as the occupying US forces organize a mercenary Iraqi military and police force and provide money for the training and recruitment of rival Shia and Sunni tribesmen and militia as a means of decreasing American casualties and of purging potential dissident critics of the occupation.

The terror campaign against academics intensified in mid-2005 and reached its peak in 2006-2007, leading to the mass flight of tens of thousands of Iraqi scholars, scientists, professionals and their families overseas. Entire university medical school faculties have become refugees in Syria and elsewhere. Those who could not afford to abandon elderly parents or relatives and remained in Iraq have taken extraordinary measures to hide their identities. Some have chosen to collaborate with the US occupation forces or the puppet regime in the hope of being protected or allowed to immigrate with their families to the US or Europe, although the Europeans, especially the British are disinclined to accept Iraqi scholars. After 2008, there has been a sharp decline in the murder of academics – with only 4 assassinated that year. This reflects the massive flight of Iraqi intellectuals living abroad or in hiding rather than any change of policy on the part of the US and its mercenary puppets. As a result, Iraq’s research facilities have been decimated. The lives of those remaining support staff, including technicians, librarians and students have been devastated with few prospects for future employment.

The US war and occupation of Iraq, as Presidents Bush and Obama have declared, is a ‘success’ – an independent nation of 23 million citizens has been occupied by force, a puppet regime is ensconced, colonial mercenary troops obey American officers and the oil fields have been put up for sale. All of Iraq’s nationalist laws protecting its patrimony, its cultural treasures and national resources, have been annulled. The occupiers have imposed a ‘constitution’ favoring the US Empire. Israel and its Zionist flunkies in the Administrations of both Bush and Obama celebrate the demise of a modern adversary…and the conversion of Iraq into a cultural-political desert. In line with an alleged agreement made by the US State Department and Pentagon officials to influential collectors from the American Council for Cultural Policy in January 2003, the looted treasures of ancient Mesopotamia have ‘found’ their way into the collections of the elite in London, New York and elsewhere.

The collectors can now anticipate the pillage of Iran.

Warning to Iran

The US invasion, occupation and destruction of a modern, scientific-cultural civilization, such as existed in Iraq, is a prelude of what the people of Iran can expect if and when a US-Israeli military attack occurs. The imperial threat to the cultural-scientific foundations of the Iranian nation has been totally absent from the narrative among the affluent Iranian student protesters and their US-funded NGO’s during their post-election ‘Lipstick Revolution’ protests. They should bear in mind that in 2004 educated, sophisticated Iraqis in Baghdad consoled themselves with a fatally misplaced optimism that ‘at least we are not like Afghanistan’. The same elite are now in squalid refugee camps in Syria and Jordan and their country more closely resembles Afghanistan than anywhere else in the Middle East. The chilling promise of President Bush in April 2003 to transform Iraq in the image of ‘our newly liberated Afghanistan’ has been fulfilled. And reports that the US Administration advisers had reviewed the Israeli Mossad policy of selective assassination of Iranian scientists should cause the pro-Western liberal intellectuals of Teheran to seriously ponder the lesson of the murderous campaign that has virtually eliminated Iraqi scientists and academics during 2006-2007.


What does the United States (and Britain and Israel) gain from establishing a retrograde client regime, based on medieval ethno-clerical socio-political structures in Iraq? First and foremost, Iraq has become an outpost for empire. Secondly, it is a weak and backward regime incapable of challenging Israeli economic and military dominance in the region and unwilling to question the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian Arabs from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Thirdly, the destruction of the scientific, academic, cultural and legal foundations of an independent state means increasing reliance on the Western (and Chinese) multinational corporations and their technical infrastructure – facilitating imperial economic penetration and exploitation.

In the mid-19th Century, after the revolutions of 1848, the conservative French sociologist Emil Durkheim recognized that the European bourgeoisie was confronted with rising class conflict and an increasing anti-capitalist working class. Durkheim noted that, whatever its philosophical misgivings about religion and clericalism, the bourgeoisie would have to use the myths of traditional religion to ‘create’ social cohesion and undercut class polarization. He called on the educated and sophisticated Parisian capitalist class to forego its rejection of obscurantist religious dogma in favor of instrumentalizing religion as a tool to maintain its political dominance. In the same way, US strategists, including the Pentagon-Zionists, have instrumentalized the tribal-mullah, ethno-religious forces to destroy the secular national political leadership and advanced culture of Iraq in order to consolidate imperial rule – even if this strategy called for the killing off of the scientific and professional classes. Contemporary US imperial rule is based on supporting the socially and politically most backward sectors of society and applying the most advanced technology of warfare.

Israeli advisers have played a major role in instructing US occupation forces in Iraq on the practices of urban counter-insurgency and repression of civilians, drawing on their 60 years of experience. The infamous massacre of hundreds of Palestinian families at Deir Yasin in 1948 was emblematic of Zionist elimination of hundreds of productive farming villages, which had been settled for centuries by a native people with their endogenous civilization and cultural ties to the soil, in order to impose a new colonial order. The policy of the total deracination of the Palestinians is central to Israel’s advise to the US policymakers in Iraq. Their message has been carried out by their Zionist acolytes in the Bush and Obama Administrations, ordering the dismemberment of the entire modern Iraqi civil and state bureaucracy and using pre-modern tribal death squads made up of Kurds and Shia extremists to purge the modern universities and research institutions of that shattered nation.

The US imperial conquest of Iraq is built on the destruction of a modern secular republic. The cultural desert that remains (a Biblical ‘howling wilderness’ soaked in the blood of Iraq’s precious scholars) is controlled by mega-swindlers, mercenary thugs posing as ‘Iraqi officers’, tribal and ethnic cultural illiterates and medieval religious figures. They operate under the guidance and direction of West Point graduates holding ‘blue-prints for empire’, formulated by graduates of Princeton, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Yale and Chicago, eager to serve the interests of American and European multi-national corporations.

This is called ‘combined and uneven development’: The marriage of fundamentalist mullahs with Ivy League Zionists at the service of the US.

So there.

Suzan _____________________________