Monday, September 24, 2007

AMERICA: R.I.P

The US economy continues its slow death before our eyes, but economists, policymakers, and most of the public are blind to the tottering fabled land of opportunity.

In August jobs in goods-producing industries declined by 64,000. The US economy lost 4,000 jobs overall. The private sector created a mere 24,000 jobs, all of which could be attributed to the 24,100 new jobs for waitresses and bartenders, and the government sector lost 28,000 jobs.

In the 21st century the US economy has ceased to create jobs in export industries and in industries that compete with imports. US job growth has been confined to domestic services, principally to food services and drinking places (waitresses and bartenders), private education and health services (ambulatory health care and hospital orderlies), and construction (which now has tanked). The lack of job growth in higher productivity, higher paid occupations associated with the American middle and upper middle classes will eventually kill the US consumer market.

The unemployment rate held steady, but that is because 340,000 Americans unable to find jobs dropped out of the labor force in August. The US measures unemployment only among the active work force, which includes those seeking jobs. Those who are discouraged and have given up are not counted as unemployed.

With goods producing industries in long term decline as more and more production of US firms is moved offshore, the engineering professions are in decline. Managerial jobs are primarily confined to retail trade and financial services.

Franchises and chains have curtailed opportunities for independent family businesses, and the US government’s open borders policy denies unskilled jobs to the displaced members of the middle class.

When US companies offshore their production for US markets, the consequences for the US economy are highly detrimental. One consequence is that foreign labor is substituted for US labor, resulting in a shriveling of career opportunities and income growth in the US. Another is that US Gross Domestic Product is turned into imports. By turning US brand names into imports, offshoring has a double whammy on the US trade deficit. Simultaneously, imports rise by the amount of offshored production, and the supply of exportable manufactured goods declines by the same amount.

The US now has a trade deficit with every part of the world. In 2006 (the latest annual data), the US had a trade deficit totaling $838,271,000,000.

The US trade deficit with Europe was $142,538,000,000. With Canada the deficit was $75,085,000,000. With Latin America it was $112,579,000,000 (of which $67,303,000,000 was with Mexico). The deficit with Asia and Pacific was $409,765,000,000 (of which $233,087,000,000 was with China and $90,966,000,000 was with Japan). With the Middle East the deficit was $36,112,000,000, and with Africa the US trade deficit was $62,192,000,000.

Public worry for three decades about the US oil deficit has created a false impression among Americans that a self-sufficient America is impaired only by dependence on Middle East oil. The fact of the matter is that the total US deficit with OPEC, an organization that includes as many countries outside the Middle East as within it, is $106,260,000,000, or about one-eighth of the annual US trade deficit.

Moreover, the US gets most of its oil from outside the Middle East, and the US trade deficit reflects this fact. The US deficit with Nigeria, Mexico, and Venezuela is 3.3 times larger than the US trade deficit with the Middle East despite the fact that the US sells more to Venezuela and 18 times more to Mexico than it does to Saudi Arabia.

What is striking about US dependency on imports is that it is practically across the board. Americans are dependent on imports of foreign foods, feeds, and beverages in the amount of $8,975,000,000.

Americans are dependent on imports of foreign Industrial supplies and materials in the amount of $326,459,000,000--more than three times US dependency on OPEC.

Americans can no longer provide their own transportation. They are dependent on imports of automotive vehicles, parts, and engines in the amount of $149,499,000,000, or 1.5 times greater than the US dependency on OPEC.

In addition to the automobile dependency, Americans are 3.4 times more dependent on imports of manufactured consumer durable and nondurable goods than they are on OPEC. Americans no longer can produce their own clothes, shoes, or household appliances and have a trade deficit in consumer manufactured goods in the amount of $336,118,000,000.

The US “superpower” even has a deficit in capital goods, including machinery, electric generating machinery, machine tools, computers, and telecommunications equipment.

What does it mean that the US has a $800 billion trade deficit?

It means that Americans are consuming $800 billion more than they are producing.

How do Americans pay for it?

They pay for it by giving up ownership of existing assets--stocks, bonds, companies, real estate, commodities. America used to be a creditor nation. Now America is a debtor nation. Foreigners own $2.5 trillion more of American assets than Americans own of foreign assets. When foreigners acquire ownership of US assets, they also acquire ownership of the future income streams that the assets produce. More income shifts away from Americans.

How long can Americans consume more than they can produce?

American over-consumption can continue for as long as Americans can find ways to go deeper in personal debt in order to finance their consumption and for as long as the US dollar can remain the world reserve currency.

The 21st century has brought Americans (with the exception of CEOs, hedge fund managers and investment bankers) no growth in real median household income. Americans have increased their consumption by dropping their saving rate to the depression level of 1933 when there was massive unemployment and by spending their home equity and running up credit card bills. The ability of a population, severely impacted by the loss of good jobs to foreigners as a result of offshoring and H-1B work visas and by the bursting of the housing bubble, to continue to accumulate more personal debt is limited to say the least.

Foreigners accept US dollars in exchange for their real goods and services, because dollars can be used to settle every country’s international accounts. By running a trade deficit, the US insures the financing of its government budget deficit as the surplus dollars in foreign hands are invested in US Treasuries and other dollar-denominated assets.

The ability of the US dollar to retain its reserve currency status is eroding due to the continuous increases in US budget and trade deficits. Today the world is literally flooded with dollars. In attempts to reduce the rate at which they are accumulating dollars, foreign governments and investors are diversifying into other traded currencies. As a result, the dollar prices of the Euro, UK pound, Canadian dollar, Thai baht, and other currencies have been bid up. In the 21st century, the US dollar has declined about 33 percent against other currencies. The US dollar remains the reserve currency primarily due to habit and the lack of a clear alternative.

The data used in this article is freely available. It can be found at two official US government sites: http://www.bea.gov/international/bp_web/simple.cfm?anon=71&table_id=20&area_id=3 and http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t14.htm

The jobs data and the absence of growth in real income for most of the population are inconsistent with reports of US GDP and productivity growth. Economists take for granted that the work force is paid in keeping with its productivity. A rise in productivity thus translates into a rise in real incomes of workers. Yet, we have had years of reported strong productivity growth but stagnant or declining household incomes. And somehow the GDP is rising, but not the incomes of the work force.

Something is wrong here. Either the data indicating productivity and GDP growth are wrong or Karl Marx was right that capitalism works to concentrate income in the hands of the few capitalists. A case can be made for both explanations.

Recently an economist, Susan Houseman, discovered that the reliability of some US economics statistics has been impaired by offshoring. Houseman found that cost reductions achieved by US firms shifting production offshore are being miscounted as GDP growth in the US and that productivity gains achieved by US firms when they move design, research, and development offshore are showing up as increases in US productivity. Obviously, production and productivity that occur abroad are not part of the US domestic economy.

Houseman’s discovery rated a Business Week cover story last June 18, but her important discovery seems already to have gone down the memory hole. The economics profession has over-committed itself to the “benefits” of offshoring, globalism, and the non-existent “New Economy.” Houseman’s discovery is too much of a threat to economists’ human capital, corporate research grants, and free market ideology.

The media has likewise let the story go, because in the 1990s the Clinton administration and Congress overturned US policy in favor of a diverse and independent media and permitted a few mega-corporations to concentrate in their hands the ownership of the US media, which reports in keeping with corporate and government interests.

The case for Marx is that offshoring has boosted corporate earnings by lowering labor costs, thereby concentrating income growth in the hands of the owners and managers of capital. According to Forbes magazine, the top 20 earners among private equity and hedge fund managers are earning average yearly compensation of $657,500,000, with four actually earning more than $1 billion annually. The otherwise excessive $36,400,000 average annual pay of the 20 top earners among CEOs of publicly-held companies looks paltry by comparison. The careers and financial prospects of many Americans were destroyed to achieve these lofty earnings for the few.

Hubris prevents realization that Americans are losing their economic future along with their civil liberties and are on the verge of enserfment.

By Paul Craig Roberts

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"We're Dealing with a Christian Taliban"

Interview with Mikey Weinstein

Last month, the Pentagon pulled the plug on a plan to dispatch so-called "freedom packages" to U.S. troops in Iraq that included Bibles, proselytising materials in English and Arabic, and an apocalyptic computer game in which "soldiers for Christ" battle satanic "Global Community Peacekeepers".
The scheme was derailed in part because of the efforts of Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which seeks to protect the wall separating church and state in the United States armed forces.

Weinstein, in his own words, is no "bleeding-heart liberal". He is a 1977 honor graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, and spent 10 years in the Air Force as a "JAG" or military attorney serving as both a federal prosecutor and criminal defence attorney.

A registered Republican, he also spent over three years in the Ronald Reagan administration as legal counsel in the White House, where he helped investigate the Iran-Contra scandal.

St. Martins Press in New York recently released Weinstein's new book, "With God On Our Side," an expose on the systemic problem of religious intolerance throughout the United States armed forces.

Eli Clifton recently spoke with Weinstein about Operation Straight Up, which designed the "freedom packages", and the Pentagon's growing coziness with fundamentalist evangelical religious groups.

IPS: What is it about the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs that has made it a breeding ground for Christian Dominionists?

MW: Well, first we thought it was that there was this nexus of what I refer to as the "Protestant Vatican" -- in fact many people refer to it as that. Colorado Springs has over 100 of this nation's largest evangelical fundamentalist Christian organisations centred right there for some reason. Just like a moth to a flame these organisations have been attracted there. That was our initial theory before we found out that this imperious contagion of constitutional triumphalism, this fanatical Dominionist Christianity had swept like a tsunami all the way through all 737 US military installations that the Pentagon admits that we have -- but it's really closer to a thousand -- in 132 countries around the world. Seventy of those are in Europe of and 11 of those house nuclear weapons.

Let me make this clear. I'm doing this Q&A with you guys today as a man at war with the gun smoke in my face. We are not at war with Christianity or evangelical Christianity. We have many evangelical or non-evangelical Christians who massively support what our organisation, the Military Religious Freedom Centre, is doing. We are at war with a small subset of evangelical Christianity [known as] "Dominionist Christianity" and it represents about 12.6 percent of the American public or about 38 million people.

And at every one of those 737 US military installations that are scattered in 132 countries around the world -- as we garrison the globe -- we have one or more of those organisations. They're called the "Officers Christian Fellowship" for the officers and "The Christian Military Fellowship" for the enlisted folks and these organisations have a tripartite, or three level goal, which they view as much more important than the oath that they all swear to protect and preserve, support and defend the constitution of the United States.

The first goal -- and they're unabashed about it, it's right on their website -- is they want to see a "spiritually transformed U.S. military..."

Second, "...with ambassadors for Christ in uniform..." which, parenthetically, hasn't worked out too well for the world for the past 2,000 years.

And then thirdly, "...empowered by the Holy Spirit."

IPS: Could you talk a bit about Operation Straight Up and the Christian Ministry? How do they gain access to soldiers in Iraq or film promotional videos in the halls of the Pentagon?

MW: Well we hope to have the full answers to these questions shortly as we are nearing the filing of our massive lawsuit against the Pentagon for these very reasons.

The Christian Embassy was a little known, under the radar, extreme right-wing fundamentalist organisation that was operating in Washington DC and ministering, if you will, only to the glitterati and cognoscenti -- that is to say the senior people at the State Department, members of Congress, and political appointees, specifically in the Pentagon.

If you go MilitaryReligiousFreedom.o
rg you'll see their slick, 11-minute video. It opens up with the Christian Embassy stating that there are 25,000 men and women in the corridors and rings of the Pentagon and through the use of daily prayer breakfast and bible studies and outreach events the Christian Embassy is "mustering all of them into an intentional relationship with Jesus Christ." It's really astonishing to see. To see senior members of the U.S. military and political appointees prostituting themselves with regard to the oath they took to the constitution and supporting the biblical worldview of just this one particular group.

IPS: What steps has the Defence Department taken to limit proselytising within the ranks? Where has the DoD fallen short?

MW: They are encouraging this. They aren't stopping it. The report that the DoD IG (Inspector General) came out with was ludicrous. It immediately exempted itself from something called DoD directive 1300.17 which is entitled "Accommodation of Religious Practices within the Military Services". They say that anyone who appeared in that video was not really trying to proselytise or express their religious views. They say that the directive is just dictating when you may or may not wear your uniform.

This is a complete lie. If you look at that video again you'll see that if the people at the Pentagon had been doing a video like that for the Ford Mustang there'd be no doubt in your mind that these people were pushing Ford Mustangs as the best cars around. So the IG report is terrible. It doesn't provide any remedial action.

Let me make it clear. We are dealing with a Christian Taliban. They hate when I say that but that's too bad. If you look at Chris Hedges Book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" you'll see that the Christian Right is a fascistic organisation. And remember, I'm not a bleeding heart liberal -- not that there's anything wrong with that. I know the Christian Right would love it if I were a tree-hugging, Chardonnay-sipping, Northern California Democrat. I'm not. I come from a conservative military family. My youngest son just graduated three months ago from the Air Force Academy. He's the sixth member of my family to go there including myself. We have three consecutive generations of military academy graduates and over 128 years of combined active duty military service in my immediate family. I spent three and half years in the West Wing of the Reagan White House as one of his lawyers. I've been Ross Perot's general counsel. I didn't want to have to get into this fight. But when I say the Christian Taliban I frickin mean the Christian Taliban.

IPS: What consequences do whistleblowers within the armed forces face?

MW: They're terrified. Look, in many aspects the military controls their lives. We are closing in on having our 6,000th active member of the U.S. military contact us not as claimants but as tormentees. And the amazing thing is that it stays remarkably constant that roughly 96 percent of these tormentees coming to us are Christian themselves.

Roughly three-fourths of that group are going to be traditional Protestant -- that is to say Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists and Episcopalians. We even get Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, Baptists and sometimes Southern Baptists. The other one-fourth of that 96 percent are generally Roman Catholic. And that leaves four percent who are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Shinto, Jain, Wickan and atheists and agnostics.

Basically what we're facing are Fundamentalist, Dominionist Christians that are preying --- P-R-A-Y and P-R-E-Y -- on non-Fundamentalist Christians including in many respects other evangelical Christians that are just not fundamentalist Christians, telling them that, "you may think you were Christian enough for us but you're not. And as a result, you will burn eternally in the fires of Hell along with the Jews."

And that's why I've got to be here to take the calls around the clock from our troops. Many times they will not give me their name, sometimes they will. Often times they will give me the contact information for their supervisors or their commanders and what unit they're in. Then my job is I go call these people and make it clear that this is happening and suggest they make it stop or make them the next star on CNN.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bush’s Fake Sheik Whacked

A special investigative report from inside Iraq
By Greg Palast

**************************
******

Monday, September 17, 2007- Did you see George all choked up? In his surreal TV talk on Thursday, he got all emotional over the killing by Al Qaeda of Sheik Abu Risha, the leader of the new Sunni alliance with the US against the insurgents in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Bush shook Abu Risha's hand two weeks ago for the cameras. Bush can shake his hand again, but not the rest of him: Abu Risha was blown away just hours before Bush was to go on the air to praise his new friend.

Here's what you need to know that NPR won't tell you.

1. Sheik Abu Risha wasn't a sheik.
2. He wasn't killed by Al Qaeda.
3. The new alliance with former insurgents in Anbar is as fake as the sheik - and a murderous deceit.

How do I know this? You can see the film - of "Sheik" Abu Risha, of the guys who likely whacked him and of their other victims.

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/C223AE63-CE85-4887-9275-D2278C2A844C.htm

Just in case you think I've lost my mind and put my butt in insane danger to get this footage, don't worry. I was safe and dry in Budapest. It was my brilliant new cameraman, Rick Rowley, who went to Iraq to get the story on his own.

http://www.bignoisefilms.org/

Rick's "the future of TV news," says BBC. He's also completely out of control. Despite our pleas, Rick and his partner Dave Enders went to Anbar and filmed where no cameraman had dared tread.

Why was "sheik" Abu Risha so important? As the New York Times put it this morning, "Abu Risha had become a charismatic symbol of the security gains in Sunni areas that have become a cornerstone of American plans to keep large numbers of troops in Iraq though much of next year."

In other words, Abu Risha was the PR hook used to sell the "success" of the surge.

The sheik wasn't a sheik. He was a fake. While proclaiming to Rick that he was "the leader of all the Iraqi tribes," Abu lead no one. But for a reported sum in the millions in cash for so-called, "reconstruction contracts," Abu Risha was willing to say he was Napoleon and Julius Caesar and do the hand-shakie thing with Bush on camera.

Notably, Rowley and his camera caught up with Abu Risha on his way to a "business trip" to Dubai, money laundering capital of the Middle East.

There are some real sheiks in Anbar, like Ali Hathem of the dominant Dulaimi tribe, who told Rick Abu Risha was a con man. Where was his tribe, this tribal leader? "The Americans like to create characters like Disney cartoon heros." Then Ali Hathem added, "Abu Risha is no longer welcome" in Anbar.

"Not welcome" from a sheik in Anbar is roughly the same as a kiss on both cheeks from the capo di capi. Within days, when Abu Risha returned from Dubai to Dulaimi turf in Ramadi, Bush's hand-sheik was whacked.

On Thursday, Bush said Abu Risha was killed, "fighting Al Qaeda" - and the White House issued a statement that the sheik was "killed by al Qaeda."

Bullshit.

There ain't no Easter Bunny and "Al Qaeda" ain't in Iraq, Mr. Bush. It was very cute, on the week of the September 11 memorials, to tie the death of your Anbar toy-boy to bin Laden's Saudi hijackers. But it's a lie. Yes, there is a group of berserkers who call themselves "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia." But they have as much to do with the real Qaeda of bin Laden as a Rolling Stones "tribute" band has to do with Mick Jagger.

Who got Abu Risha? Nothing - NOTHING - moves in Ramadi without the approval of the REAL tribal sheiks. They were none-too-happy, as Hathem noted, about the millions the US handed to Risha. The sheiks either ordered the hit - or simply gave the bomber free passage to do the deed.

So who are these guys, the sheiks who lead the Sunni tribes of Anbar - the potentates of the Tamimi, Fallaji, Obeidi, Zobal and Jumaili tribes? Think of them as the Sopranos of Arabia. They are also members of the so-called "Awakening Council" - getting their slice of the millions handed out - which they had no interest in sharing with Risha.

But creepy and deadly or not, these capi of the desert were effective in eliminating "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia." Indeed, as US military so proudly pointed out to Rick, the moment the sheiks declared their opposition to Al Qaeda - i.e. got the payments from the US taxpayers - Al Qaeda instantly diappeared.

This miraculous military change, where the enemy just evaporates, has one explanation: the sheiks ARE al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Just like the Sopranos extract "protection" payments from New Jersey businesses, the mobsters of Anbar joined our side when we laid down the loot.

What's wrong with that? After all, I'd rather send a check than send our kids from Columbus to fight them.

But there's something deeply, horribly wrong with dealing with these killers. They still kill. With new US protection, weapons and cash, they have turned on the Shia of Anbar. Fifteen thousand Shia families from a single district were forced at gunpoint to leave Anbar. Those moving too slowly were shot. Kids and moms too.

Do the Americans know about the ethnic cleansing of Anbar by our erstwhile "allies"? Rick's film shows US commanders placing their headquarters in the homes abandoned by terrorized Shia.

Rick's craziest move was to go and find these Shia refugees from Anbar. They were dumped, over a hundred thousand of them, in a cinder block slum with no running water in Baghdad. They are under the "protection" of the Mahdi Army, another group of cutthroats. But at least these are Shia cutthroats.

So the great "success" of the surge is our arming and providing cover for ethnic cleansing in Anbar. Nice, Mr. Bush. And with the US press "embedded," we won't get the real story. Even Democrats are buying into the Anbar "awakening" fairy tale.

An Iraqi government official frets that giving guns and cover to the Anbar gang is like adopting a baby crocodile. "A crocodile is not a pet," he told Rick. It will soon grow to devour you. But what could the puppet do but complain about his strings?

This Iraqi got it right: the surge is a crock.

*************************************

Greg Palast is the author of "Armed Madhouse: from Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild." See Palast's reports for BBC Television's Newsnight, now filmed by Rick Rowley and partners, at www.GregPalast.com

On his departure from Iraq, Al Jazeera's English language network agreed to broadcast the Rowley/Enders film. I urge you to see it: click here. Palast will update the report today on Air America's Randi Rhodes show.

How war was turned into a brand - by Naomi Klein

Gaza in the hands of Hamas, with masked militants sitting in the president's chair; the West Bank on the edge; Israeli army camps hastily assembled in the Golan Heights; a spy satellite over Iran and Syria; war with Hizbullah a hair trigger away; a scandal-plagued political class facing a total loss of public faith. At a glance, things aren't going well for Israel. But here's a puzzle: why, in the midst of such chaos and carnage, is the Israeli economy booming like it's 1999, with a roaring stock market and growth rates nearing China's?

Thomas Friedman recently offered his theory in the New York Times. Israel "nurtures and rewards individual imagination", and so its people are constantly spawning ingenious hi-tech start-ups, no matter what messes their politicians are making. After perusing class projects by students in engineering and computer science at Ben-Gurion University, Friedman made one of his famous fake-sense pronouncements. Israel "had discovered oil". This oil, apparently, is located in the minds of Israel's "young innovators and venture capitalists", who are too busy making megadeals with Google to be held back by politics.

Here's another theory. Israel's economy isn't booming despite the political chaos that devours the headlines but because of it. This phase of development dates back to the mid-90s, when the country was in the vanguard of the information revolution - the most tech-dependent economy in the world. After the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, Israel's economy was devastated, facing its worst year since 1953. Then came 9/11, and suddenly new profit vistas opened up for any company that claimed it could spot terrorists in crowds, seal borders from attack, and extract confessions from closed-mouthed prisoners.

Within three years, large parts of Israel's tech economy had been radically repurposed. Put in Friedmanesque terms, Israel went from inventing the networking tools of the "flat world" to selling fences to an apartheid planet. Many of the country's most successful entrepreneurs are using Israel's status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of 24-hour-a-day showroom, a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war. And the reason Israel is now enjoying supergrowth is that those companies are busily exporting that model to the world.

Discussions of Israel's military trade usually focus on the flow of weapons into the country - US-made Caterpillar bulldozers used to destroy homes in the West Bank, and British companies supplying parts for F-16s. Overlooked is Israel's huge and expanding export business. Israel now sends $1.2bn in "defence" products to the United States - up dramatically from $270m in 1999. In 2006, Israel exported $3.4bn in defence products - well over a billion more than it received in American military aid. That makes Israel the fourth largest arms dealer in the world, overtaking Britain.

Much of this growth has been in the so-called homeland security sector. Before 9/11 homeland security barely existed as an industry. By the end of this year, Israeli exports in the sector will reach $1.2bn, an increase of 20%. The key products and services are hi-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems - precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories.

And that is why the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region doesn't threaten the bottom line in Tel Aviv, and may actually boost it. Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the "global war on terror".

It's no coincidence that the class projects at Ben-Gurion that so impressed Friedman have names like Innovative Covariance Matrix for Point Target Detection in Hyperspectral Images, and Algorithms for Obstacle Detection and Avoidance. Thirty homeland security companies have been launched in Israel during the past six months alone, thanks in large part to lavish government subsidies that have transformed the Israeli army and the country's universities into incubators for security and weapons start-ups - something to keep in mind in the debates about the academic boycott.

Next week, the most established of these companies will travel to Europe for the Paris Air Show, the arms industry's equivalent of Fashion Week. One of the Israeli companies exhibiting is Suspect Detection Systems (SDS), which will be showcasing its Cogito1002, a white, sci-fi-looking security kiosk that asks air travellers to answer a series of computer-generated questions, tailored to their country of origin, while they hold their hand on a "biofeedback" sensor. The device reads the body's reactions to the questions, and certain responses flag the passenger as "suspect".

Like hundreds of other Israeli security start-ups, SDS boasts that it was founded by veterans of Israel's secret police and that its products were road-tested on Palestinians. Not only has the company tried out the biofeedback terminals at a West Bank checkpoint, it claims the "concept is supported and enhanced by knowledge acquired and assimilated from the analysis of thousands of case studies related to suicide bombers in Israel".

Another star of the Paris Air Show will be Israeli defence giant Elbit, which plans to showcase its Hermes 450 and 900 unmanned air vehicles. As recently as last month, according to press reports, Israel used the drones on bombing missions in Gaza. Once tested in the territories, they are exported abroad: the Hermes has already been used at the Arizona-Mexico border; Cogito1002 terminals are being auditioned at an unnamed American airport; and Elbit - also one of the companies behind Israel's "security barrier" - has set up a deal with Boeing to construct the Department of Homeland Security's $2.5bn "virtual" border fence around the US.

Since Israel began its policy of sealing off the occupied territories with checkpoints and walls, human rights activists have often compared Gaza and the West Bank to open-air prisons. But in researching the explosion of Israel's homeland security sector, a topic explored in greater detail in my forthcoming book, it strikes me that they are something else too: laboratories where the terrifying tools of our security states are being field-tested. Palestinians - whether living in the West Bank or what the Israeli politicians are already calling Hamastan - are no longer just targets. They are guinea pigs.

So in a way Friedman is right, Israel has struck oil. But the oil isn't the imagination of its techie entrepreneurs. The oil is the war on terror, the state of constant fear that creates a bottomless global demand for devices that watch, listen, contain and target "suspects". And fear, it turns out, is the ultimate renewable resource.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

6 Years Later

On Sept. 7, National Public Radio reported that Muslims in the Middle East were beginning to believe that the 9-11 attacks on the WTC and Pentagon were false flag operations committed by some part of the U.S. and/ or Israeli government.

It was beyond the imagination of the NPR reporter and producer that there could be any substance to these beliefs, which were attributed to the influence of books by U.S. and European authors sold in bookstores in Egypt.

NPR's concern was that books by Western authors questioning the origin of the 9-11 attack have the undesirable result of removing guilt from Muslims' shoulders.

The NPR reporter, Ursula Lindsey, said that "here in the U.S., most people have little doubt about what happened during the 2001 attacks."

NPR's assumption that the official 9-11 story is the final word is uninformed. Polls show that 36 percent of Americans and more than 50 percent of New Yorkers lack confidence in the 9-11 commission report. Many 9-11 families who lost relatives in the attacks are unsatisfied with the official story.

Why are the U.S. media untroubled that there has been no independent investigation of 9-11?

Why are the media unconcerned that the rules governing preservation of forensic evidence were not followed by federal authorities?

Why do the media brand skeptics of the official line "conspiracy theorists" and "kooks"?

What is wrong with debate and listening to both sides of the defining issue of our time? If the official line is so correct and defensible, what does it have to fear from skeptics?

Obviously, a great deal considering the iron curtain that has been erected to protect the official line from independent examination.

Some may think that the 9-11 commission report was an independent investigation, and others will protest that we have the National Institute of Standards and Technology analysis, which explains the collapse of the Twin Towers as a result of airliner impact and fire.

The 9-11 commission was a political commission run by Bush administration insider Philip Zelikow. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the head of which is a member of President Bush's Cabinet.

Zelikow was a member of President Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a neoconservative stronghold. In February 2005, Zelikow was appointed counselor of the U.S. Department of State. Obviously, there was zero possibility that the 9-11 commission would hold any part of the Bush administration accountable for the numerous failures of U.S. government agencies on Sept. 11, much less would the commission investigate for any complicity.

If one looks at the credentials of skeptics compared to the credentials of defenders of the official line, it is impossible to dismiss skeptics as kooks. There are many people with strong imaginations on the Internet, but serious skeptics stick to known facts, known violations of standard procedures and the laws of physics. The vast majority of the people who call skeptics "kooks" are themselves ignorant of physics and have little comprehension of the improbability that such an attack could succeed without either the complicity or complete failure of government agencies.

Over the past six years, the ranks of distinguished skeptics of the 9-11 storyline have grown enormously. The ranks include distinguished scientists, engineers and architects, intelligence officers, air traffic controllers, military officers and generals, including the former commanding general of U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, former presidential appointees and members of the White House staff in Republican administrations, Top Gun fighter pilots and career airline pilots who say that the flying attributed to the 9-11 hijackers is beyond the skills of America's best pilots, and foreign dignitaries.

Dr. Andreas von Buelow, former West German minister of research and technology and former state secretary of the federal ministry of defense, said: "The planning of the attacks was technically and organizationally a master achievement. To hijack four airliners within a few minutes and within one hour to drive them into their targets with complicated flight maneuvers! This is unthinkable, without years-long support from secret apparatuses of the state and industry."

Gen. Leonid Ivashov, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said: "Only secret services and their current chiefs -- or those retired but still having influence inside the state organizations -- have the ability to plan, organize and conduct an operation of such magnitude. ... Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida cannot be the organizers nor the performers of the Sept. 11 attacks. They do not have the necessary organization, resources or leaders."

Americans might concede that it is unusual that U.S. airport security would fail four times within a few minutes, that U.S. air defenses would fail across the board to intercept the hijacked airliners and that hijackers lacking in flight skills could conduct the exotic flight maneuvers that top gun fighter pilots say are beyond their own skills. Still, there is some possibility, however remote, that Allah could have blessed the hijackers with unbelievable luck.

But when we come to the explanation of the collapse of the Twin Towers, the official story lacks even a remote possibility of being true. Architects, engineers and physicists know that powerfully constructed steel buildings do not suddenly collapse at free-fall or near-free-fall speed simply because they were impacted by airliners and experienced short-lived, low intensity and limited fires.

Physicists also know that there was not enough gravitational energy to pulverize massive concrete into fine dust, to cut massive steel beams into appropriate lengths to be loaded and removed on trucks, and to eject dust and steel beams hundreds of yards horizontally. Physicists know that if intense fire were present throughout the towers sufficient to cause steel to weaken and suddenly collapse, such fires would not have left unburned and unscorched hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper, which floated all over lower Manhattan.

Physicists have raised unanswered questions about the official explanation's neglect of the known laws of physics. Recently, Dr. Crockett Grabbe, a Caltech trained applied physicist at the University of Iowa, observed: "Applying two basic principles, conservation of energy and conservation of momentum, the government explanation quickly unravels. NIST conspicuously ignored these principles in their reports. NIST also ignored the observed twisting of the top 34 floors of the South Tower before it toppled down. This twisting clearly violates the conservation of both linear and angular momentum unless a large external force caused it. Where the massive amounts of energy came from that were needed to cause the complete collapse of the intact parts below for each tower, when their tops were in virtual free fall, is not answered in NIST's numerous volumes of study."

Some of NIST's own scientists are questioning its reports. Dr. James Quintiere, former chief of the fire science division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, recently said that "the official conclusion that NIST arrived at is questionable" and called for an independent review of NIST's investigation into the collapses of the WTC towers.

Quintiere has called attention to many problems with NIST's investigation and reports: the absence of a timeline, failure to explain the collapse of WTC 7, the spoliation of the evidence of a fire scene, reliance on questionable computer models, the absence of any evidence for the existence of temperatures NIST predicts as necessary for failure of the steel and a Commerce Department legal structure that instead of trying to find the facts "did the opposite and blocked everything."

On Aug. 27, 2007, a prominent member of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the National Medal of Science, Dr. Lynn Margulis, dismissed the official account of 9-11 as a "fraud" and called for a new, thorough and impartial investigation.

On Sept. 5, 2007, U.S. Navy Top Gun fighter pilot and veteran airline pilot Ralph Kolstad said that the flight maneuvers attributed to the 9-11 hijackers are beyond his flight skills. "Something stinks to high heaven," declared Kolstad.

When faced with disturbing events, the Romans asked a question, "Cui bono?" Who benefits? This question was conspicuously absent from the official investigation.

Who are the beneficiaries of 9-11? The answer is: the military-security complex, which has accumulated tens of billions of dollars in profits; U.S. oil companies, which hope to get their hands on Iraqi and perhaps Iranian oil; the Republican Party, which saved a vulnerable newly elected president, George W. Bush, viewed by many as illegitimately elected by one vote of the Supreme Court, by wrapping him in the flag as "war president"; the Republican Federalist Society, which used 9-11 to achieve its goal of concentrating power in the executive; Vice President Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives, who used the "new Pearl Harbor" to implement their "Project for a New American Century" and extend American hegemony over the Middle East; and right-wing Israeli Zionists, who have successfully used American blood and treasure to eliminate obstacles to Israeli territorial expansion.

In addition to American troops and Iraqi and Afghan civilian casualties, a casualty of the neoconservative "war on terror" is the civil liberties that protect Americans from tyranny. President Bush and his corrupt Department of Justice (sic) have declared our constitutional protections to be null and void at the whim of the executive.

The greatest benefactors of 9-11 are the authoritarian personalities that John Dean says have taken over the Republican Party.

By Paul Craig Roberts

Shameless: Marine Barracks Bombing - Lebanon

Americans have a particular mindset. Their belief in their altruism would be tolerable were it not so dangerous, especially when White House occupants threaten the stability of the world. The danger lies in that they believe that no matter what the U.S. policy, be it coups, sabotage, or illegal wars, America is always in the right and it is the ‘other’ that is evil. Their irrational support of the government’s implausible and unacceptable actions has always been without scrutiny or self-examination.

In the latest fiasco, a US Federal court, ruled that Iran should pay $2.65bn to the families of the 241 marines killed by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1983. It is worthwhile making a simple parallel before delving into the policies and facts of the matter.

Iran’s support of Hezbollah is akin to U.S. support of Israel although Israel is supplied with an inordinate amount of military goods, including bunker-busters. Israel deliberately killed U.N. peacekeepers in last year’s 33-day war. Given that the U.S. deliberately stopped the cease-fire and supplied Israel not only with arms, but a carte blanche to kill at will, which country should be sued for the death of the peace keepers? The U.S., Israel, or is the U.N. the ‘other’ evil?

But this article is not dealing with the atrocities of Israel and American terrorism, for there are far too many of them to recount, it was simply stated as an analogy to invalidate the law suit against Iran. As to the facts…

Upon taking office, Ronald Regan decided to launch a ‘second Cold War’ in the Middle East. He moved combat forces into the region and armed ‘allies’ while initiating a strategic cooperation agreement with Israel. The assassination of Sadat made the U.S. jittery and it rewarded those Middle Eastern governments that joined the ‘Strategic Consensus”. This displeased Israel as it enjoyed the status of being the predominant ally of the U.S. The administration’s campaign against “international terrorism” provided ‘justification’ for Israeli strikes into Lebanon under the pretext of challenging terrorism. The ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ signed by Weinberger and Ariel Sharon in Late November set the stage for a joint military collaboration between Israel and the U.S.

Israel occupied Lebanon, but its invasion met with a wave of protests from within Israel. June 25, 1982, Haaretz editorial: Professor Yehoshwar Porat openly challenged the rationale for the Israel’s attack on Lebanon.

“it did not even result from the need to retaliate against Palestinian shellings of the Galilee, because there was no such shelling since and agreement [cease fire agreement between the Palestinians and the Israeli government]. So what was the reason? I think the Israeli government’s {or more precisely, its two leaders’) decision resulted from that cease fire.”

The papers printed many such protests. Perhaps this is why the academia in this country is under attack from the current White House occupants.

Initially, on August 20, U.S. Marines landed in Beirut with a clearly defined mission - to supervise the evacuation of the PLO guerillas. This was accomplished at the end of the first week of September. There was no longer a need for a peacekeeping force. ‘Mission accomplished’. However, 19 days later, after the Israeli invasion and occupation of West Beirut, and the brutal Sabra – Sahtila massacres under the supervision of Ariel Sharon, a larger US force returned to Beirut – this was with a very different mission in mind. Theirs was not only to secure the airport, but to help the new Gemayel regime ‘consolidate’ power .

Per the Reagan strategy, the additional forces were showing a permanent US presence in the Middle East, more pertinent to the events, some 100 field grade US Army and Special Forces officers were training “the most highly motivated” Lebanese brigades, that is, those with strong Phalangist militia components. According to the ‘Britannica Concise Encyclopedia’, these were the same militias who under Sharon’s supervision massacred 800- several thousand women, children and elderly at Sabra and Sahtila. ‘Peace-keeping’ had clearly taken on a new definition.

By September 1983, U.S. warships were shelling Syrian and Druze militia positions outside Beirut, and Marine ground forces were trading artillery and sniper fire with Shi’a [the Hezbollah are Shi’a] and Druze fighters. On October 23, 1983, two trucks hit a building housing US Marines killing most – ‘peace-keepers’

Iran’s implications in the incident may be that the Islamic regime had proven itself capable of challenging the world’s superpower with a simple religious ideology – Islam. The Hezbollah had borrowed from the same ideology and resisted the American/Israeli occupation by looking towards Iran as a source of inspiration, but to hold Iran accountable is not only irresponsible, but outrageous.

There is never any justification for taking the life of another. The US claims the Marines were simply peace keepers, and in an effort to sweep the dirt under the rug, given its hostilities with Iran post the 1979 revolution, it has allowed the families to sue the government of Iran. As expected, the U.S. judicial system has sided not with the law, but with politics, a slap in the face of the people of its country – for policies change, as do international dynamics, but violating laws to suit the whims of administrations’ policies is tragic for the nation.

It is time for the American public to open their eyes to the abhorrent policies of their government and as a democratic society direct the actions of the policy makers. Only then will they seize to cover the mistakes of their government by vindicating the ‘other’.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Religion Building Enterprise

Blaming Islam for the lack of democratic and scientific developments in Muslim countries is not a new idea but an old enterprise, rooted in the nineteenth and twentieth century European Orientalism. The late Edward Said succeeded, in the 1980s, in unmasking Orientalist notions within Western academia and exposing its false pretense. In his seminal work, Orientalism, Said demonstrated that Orientalist views of Islam were used to justify the European colonial ambitions in the Muslim world. Said's monumental work was pivotal for the eventual transformation of Middle Eastern studies in Europe and the United States, as it forced the academia to embrace more scholarly and objective methods when studying the Muslim world.

Specialists who were intent on presenting Islam and Muslims in a negative light were unhappy with the positive portrayal, as were those who previously considered their work to be objective. Many were particularly disturbed by the rise of authentic voices that presented Islam as a vibrant religion, whose followers share many of the values and concerns of the West. Led by Princeton University historian, Bernard Lewis, they attempted to refute Said's work and defend Orientalism. But Said's thesis was profound, and Orientalists never fully recovered.

The September 11th terrorist attacks on mainland United States gave a new momentum to the Orientalist spirit. Bernard Lewis once again led the effort to revive Orientalist notions with the publishing of his 2002 book, What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response. Using subtle arguments, he indeed placed the blame on Islam and Islamic traditions for the failure of Middle Eastern societies to develop and modernize like the West. Lewis' book has since been followed by an avalanche of similar articles and publications, mostly by neoconservative journalists and pundits, who reinforce Lewis' thesis and even blame Islam for the rise of terrorism as well as the rising tension between the West and the Muslim world.

The blame game is led today by neoconservative pundits who often present Islam as the new villain to be confronted by American military power. They have consistently presented Muslims as incapable of democratic rule, and who espouse values that are antithetical to world peace and religious tolerance.

To ensure that their views are not challenged by the academic community, neoconservatives are working hard to undermine academic freedom by intimidating scholars that present a balanced view of the Middle East. Martin Kramer's Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, a diatribe against Middle East Studies in U.S. universities, and Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch, an organization devoted to smearing professors critical of U.S. foreign policy and Israeli's treatment of Palestinians, are two such examples. This campaign is one that aims to intimidate free thinking on Middle East politics and silence voices that challenge their perspective.

Although many of the anti-Islam writers and neoconservative pundits play on the fear of the general public by publishing books for a general audience, others have been done for policymakers under the cover of respected institutions and think tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the RAND Corporation. Readers should note that this activity began in 1992 when Defense Department staffers I. Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz drafted the "Defense Policy Guidance." and was followed more discretely and in more depth in a report, "Rebuilding America's Defenses," published in 2000 by the Project for the New American Century.

The neoconservative attitudes of, and approach to, Islam and the Middle East is well illustrated by a widely publicized report written by Cheryl Benard and published by the RAND Corporation in late 2003 under the title Civil and Democratic Islam. Like other neoconservatives, Benard blames the rise of intolerance, anti-democratic tendencies, and terrorism on all Muslim individuals and groups that closely adhere to Islamic values and practices. RAND openly advocates "religion building" as the only way to counter terrorism and anti-Americanism.

Religion building is an invitation to world powers to reform Islam. It is a call for reinterpreting Islam and restructuring Muslim societies so as to counter the rise of militancy in Muslim societies. There is no contention over the need for reform, and the need for cultural and social reforms in Muslim societies and communities is well articulated by Muslim intellectuals long before Islam became the main focus of Western reporters and pundits. Indeed, reform has been underway for more than a century now, and Muslims have been engaged in an internal struggle to redefine modern Islamic societies in ways that aim at empowering civil society and ensuring democratic control.

The contention is rather over how reform is to be achieved, and who is more capable of leading the reform. The contention is over whether reform can or should be imposed by outsiders who have little understanding of Muslim societies and vague sense of the nuances of local cultures, and who call on world powers to use their political and military clout to impose socio-political design on Muslim societies and communities. A call for external intervention to restructure the Islamic faith and rebuild Muslim societies is faulty, and is guilty of misreading Islam and ignoring the sociopolitical reality that gives rise to global terrorism.

Religion building is perilous, complex, ill-conceived, and practically untenable. It is a distraction and a blatant attempt to avoid any serious evaluation of the responsibility of world powers for the radicalization of Muslim politics. The rise of radical Islam cannot be explained purely on the level of religious doctrine. Radicalization of Muslim politics is directly connected to the rise of authoritarian regimes in Muslim societies. Authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes that suppress open debate and silence opposition have long enjoyed the support of successive U.S. administrations.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Who are the Fanatics?

President Jimmy Carter was demonized for pointing out in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, that there are actually two sides to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Distinguished American scholars, such as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have suffered the same fate for documenting the excessive influence the Israel Lobby has on US foreign policy.

Americans would be astonished at the criticisms in the Israeli press of the Israeli government’s policies toward the Palestinians and Arabs generally. In Israel facts are still part of the discussion. If the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, could replace Fox “News,” CNN, New York Times and Washington Post, Americans would know the truth about US and Israeli policies in the Middle East and their likely consequences.

On September 1, Haaretz reported that Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents 900 Congregations and 1.5 million Jews, “accused American media, politicians and religious groups of demonizing Islam” and turning Muslims into “satanic figures.”

Rabbi Yoffie is certainly correct. In America there is only one side to the issue. An entire industry has been created that is devoted to demonizing Islam. Books abound that misrepresent Islam as the greatest possible threat to Western Civilization and seek to instill fear and hatred of Muslims in Americans. For example, Norman Podhoretz proclaims “World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism.” Daniel Pipes shrieks that “Militant Islam Reaches America.” Lee Harris warns of “The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam’s Threat to the West.”

Think tanks have well-funded Middle East programs, the purpose of which is to spread Islamophobia. Fear and loathing pour out of the Middle East Forum and the American Enterprise Institute.

In the US it is acceptable, even obligatory in many circles, to hate Muslims and to support violence against them. Pipes has been described as a “leading anti-Muslim hate propagandist.” He is on record advocating the use of violence alone as the solution to the Muslim problem. This won him the endorsement of the Christian Coalition, AIPAC, and the Zionist Organization of America for appointment to the board of the United States Institute of Peace. President George Bush used a recess appointment to appoint this man of violence to the Institute of Peace.

Pipes advocates that the Muslims be beaten into submission by force, the view that has guided the Bush administration.To brainwashed and propagandized Americans, Pipes appointment made perfect sense.

Podhoretz believes that Islam has no right to exist, because it is opposed to Israeli territorial expansion, and that America must deracinate Islam, which means to tear Islam up by the roots.

While neoconservatives, Christian Zionists, and the Bush administration embrace unbridled violence against Muslims, Lee Harris warns that America is much too tolerant and reasonable to be able to defend itself against Muslim fanaticism. America’s “governing philosophy based on reason, tolerance, consensus and deliberation cannot defend itself against a [Muslim] strategy of ruthless violence.”

Islamophobia overflows with such absurdities and contradictions. Harris tells us that the Enlightenment overcame fanatical thinking in the West, leaving the West unfamiliar with fanaticism and helpless to confront it. Harris, who fancies himself an authority on fanaticism, is deaf, dumb, and blind to Communism and National Socialism and is completely ignorant of the fact that neoconservative fanatics are the direct heirs of the Jacobins of the French Revolution, itself a fanatical product of the Enlightenment.

If Americans did rely on reason, tolerance and deliberation, they might free their minds of shrill propaganda long enough to consider the “Muslim threat.” Muslims are disunited. Their disunity makes them a threat to one another, not to the West.

In Iraq most of the fighting and violence is between Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs and between Sunnis and Kurds. If Iraqis were unified, most of the violence, instead of a small part of it, would be directed against the American troops, and the remnants of a US defeated army would have been withdrawn by now. However much Iraqis might hate the American invader and occupier, they do not hate him enough to unite and to drive him out. They had rather kill one another.

Iran, the current focus of demonization, is not Arab. Iranians are the ancient race of Persians. Indeed, Iran would do itself a favor if it changed its name back to Persia. For eight years (1980-1988) the Iranians and Iraqis were locked in catastrophic war with horrendous casualties on both sides. Despite its military exhaustion, Iraq was considered a “threat” by the American Superpower and was bombed and embargoed for the decade of the 1990s, one consequence of which was 500,000 deaths of Iraqi children.

Not content with the complete crippling of Iraq by the Clinton administration, the Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003 and has been dealing more death and destruction to Iraq ever since.

Palestine has been under Israeli occupation for decades. Israel has simply stolen most of Palestine, and the remaining Palestinian enclaves are ghettos policed by the Israeli army.

The rulers of Saudi Arabia and the oil emirates are Sunni Arabs. They are more afraid of Shi’ite Arabs than of Israelis. Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan are ruled by bought-and-paid-for American puppets. The Turkish military is also in the American pocket and suppresses any Islamist influence in the civilian government.

Afghanistan is a disunited country of tribal peoples, each holding sway in their area. The Taliban were attempting to unify Afghanistan, and the Bush administration’s fear that the Taliban might succeed was the reason for the US invasion of Afghanistan. The US allied with the defeated Northern Alliance, in part a remnant of the old Soviet puppet government, and turned Afghanistan back over to warlords.

When the facts are considered--Muslim disunity and the absence of modern technology, navies, and strategic reach--the Bush/Cheney/ neoconservative/Zionist propaganda that “we must fight them over there before they come over here” is such a transparent hoax that it is astounding that so many Americans have fallen for it.

To the extent that there is any Muslim threat, it is one created by the US and Israel. Israel has no diplomacy toward Muslims and relies on violence and coercion. The US has interfered in the internal affairs of Muslim countries during the entire post World War II period. The US overthrew an elected government in Iran and installed the Shah. The US backed Saddam Hussein in his aggression against Iran. The US has kept in power rulers it could control and has pandered to the desires of Israeli governments. If America is hated, America created the hate by its arrogant and dismissive treatment of the Muslim Middle East.

There is no such thing as Islamofascism. This is a coined propaganda word used to inflame the ignorant. There is no factual basis for the hatred that neoconservative Islamophobes instill in Americans. God did not tell America to destroy the Muslims for the Israelis.

In America today blind ignorant hate against Muslims has been brought to a boiling point. The fear and loathing is so great that the American public and its elected representatives in Congress offer scant opposition to the Bush administration’s plan to make Iran the third Middle East victim of American aggression in the 21st century.

Most Americans, who Harris believes to be so reasonable, tolerant, and deliberative that they cannot defend themselves, could not care less that one million Iraqis have lost their lives during the American occupation and that an estimated four million Iraqis have been displaced. The total of dead and displaced comes to 20 percent of the Iraqi population. If this is not fanaticism on the part of the Bush administration, what is it? Certainly it is not reason, tolerance, and deliberation.

The Bush supporter will ask, “What about 9/11?” Even those who believe the fraudulent 9/11 Commission Report should understand that in the official account the attack was the work of individuals, none of whom were acting in behalf of Muslim governments and none of whom were Iraqi, Afghan, or Iranian. 9/11 provides no justification for attacking Muslim countries.

- By Paul Craig Roberts; Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Chronology of Iran's Nuclear Programme

1957 The United States and Iran sign a civil nuclear co-operation agreement as part of the US Atoms for Peace program.

1957 The Institute of Nuclear Science, under the auspices of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), moves from Baghdad to Tehran, and the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, takes a personal interest in nuclear energy.

1959 The Shah orders the establishment of a nuclear research centre at Tehran University.

1960 Iran arranges to establish a 5MW research centre at Tehran University. The United States is supplying a research reactor, it also sells Iran many hot cells.

11 February 1961 The US Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested to place nuclear weapons in Iran as part of its close links with Iran.

1964 During his visit to the United States the Shah decides to start an ambitious plan for nuclear power.

September 1967 The United States supplies 5.545kg of enriched uranium, of which 5.165kg contain fissile isotopes, to Iran for fuel in a research reactor. The United States also supplies 112kg of plutonium, of which 104kg are fissile isotopes, for use as "start-up sources for research reactor."

November 1967 The 5MWt pool-type, water-moderated research reactor supplied to Iran by GA Technologies of the United States goes critical, using 5.585kg of 93% enriched uranium supplied by the United Nuclear Corporation to the United States.

1 July 1968 Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the day it is opened for signature. Iran ratifies NPT on 2 February 1970.

March 1974 The Shah announces that Iran intends to generate 23,000MWe at nuclear power plants "as soon as possible." The first reactor in Bushehr nearly completed by 1978.

11 April 1974 US State Department says the United States considers co-operation with Iran in the field of nuclear energy as an alternative means for energy production to be a suitable area for joint collaboration and co-operation. The majority of reactors are to be built by the United States.

June 1974 The Shah says that Iran will have nuclear weapons, "without a doubt and sooner than one would think." ("The Shah Meets the Press," Kayhan International)

June 1974 Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Chairman Akbar Etemad and the Shah travel to Paris, where France and Iran ratify a preliminary agreement for France to supply five 1,000MWe reactors, uranium, and a nuclear research centre to Iran.

June 1974 The United States and Iran reach a provisional agreement for the United States to supply two nuclear power reactors and enriched uranium fuel.

20 October 1974 A State Department document says the United States and Iran are preparing to negotiate an agreement that would permit the sale of nuclear reactors as well as enriched fuel "at levels desired by the Shah." The United States also notifies the Shah of their support for Iran's proposal to buy up to 25% interest in a commercial uranium enrichment plant.

November 1974 Iran signs agreements to purchase two 1200MWe pressurised water reactors (PWRs) from the German firm Kraftwerk Union (KWU) to be installed at Bushehr and two 900 MWe reactors from Framatome of France to be installed at Bandar Abbas. Under the contracts, France and Germany will provide enriched uranium for the initial loading and ten years' worth of reloads. The French reactors are to be built under license from Westinghouse of the United States.

January 1975 US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Iranian Finance Minster Hushang Ansari sign a broad trade agreement that calls for the purchase of eight reactors valued at $6.4 billion. The US Atomic Energy Commission agrees to supply Iran with fuel for two 1,200MWe light water reactors and signs a provisional agreement to supply fuel for as many as six additional reactors with a total power capacity of 8,000MWe.

February 1979 The Islamic revolution in Iran puts an end to nuclear program.


Post-Revolution

July 1989 Iranian President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani signed the 10-point Iran-Russia co-operation pact on peaceful utilisation of "nuclear materials and related equipment."

13 April 1993 The Iranian Majlis [Parliament] ratifies bills on co-operation pacts with Russia and China.

19 September 1993 China agrees to sell two 300MW Qinshan reactors under a project named Esteqlal for the facility of Darkhovin located south of the city of Ahvaz.

1993 China provides Iran with an HT-6B Tokamak fusion reactor that is installed at the Plasma Physics Research Centre of Azad University.

1993 Iran asks Russia for heavy water reactors. President Clinton convinces Russian President Boris Yeltsin to kill negotiations with Iran on the sale of a natural-uranium-burning [heavy water] reactor.

13 December 1993 Germany refuses to resume construction of the 80-percent-complete Siemens-built nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

19 December 1993 Russian Ambassador to Iran Sergei Tretyakov confirms that Russia will help Iran to complete nuclear reactor in Bushehr, indicating that a preliminary agreement has been reached but that financing is still being negotiated.

21 March 1994 Russian experts start work on the first unit of Iran's 1000MW plant, according to a source at the plant. The Bushehr nuclear power plant is scheduled to be finished in four years.


Recent Developments

August 2002 Exiled opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran, reports existence of uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and heavy water plant at Arak.

22 September 2002 Russian technicians restart work on the abandoned Bushehr reactor despite strong US objection.

December 2002 United States accuses Iran of "across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction".

June 2003 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, after February inspection of Natanz and Arak, says Iran has failed to comply with nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

October 2003 Iran tells France, Britain and Germany -- the "EU3" negotiating for the European Union -- it will suspend all enrichment-related activities.

December 2003 Iran signs protocol allowing snap inspections of nuclear facilities.

June 2004 IAEA board complains of inadequate co-operation from Iran. In retaliation, Iran says it will resume production and testing of centrifuges.

November 2004 Iran agrees to suspend voluntarily all of its uranium enrichment activity as part of a deal with EU3 (Paris Agreement).

February 2005 President Mohammad Khatami says no Iranian government will give up nuclear technology programs.
August 2005: Iran says it has resumed uranium conversion at its Esfahan plant.

2 September 2005 Report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei confirms Iran has resumed uranium conversion at Isfahan.

15 September 2005 New Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran ready to transfer nuclear know-how to other Muslim nations.

1 January 2006 Iran says it has developed machinery to separate uranium from its ore.

7/8 January 2006 Russia and Iran discuss Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Iran. Talks due to resume on February 16.

10 January 2006 Iran removes UN seals at Natanz uranium enrichment plant and resumes research on nuclear fuel under IAEA supervision, despite Western warnings it would endanger efforts to find compromise.

12 January 2006 EU3 call off nuclear talks with Iran and say Tehran should be referred to UN Security Council. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says military attack on Iran's nuclear program not on U.S. agenda "at this point", but all options on the table.

4 February 2006 The IAEA votes to report Iran to the Security Council for resuming uranium enrichment if Iran does not stop enrichment within a month. Iran ends snap UN nuclear checks the day after.

13 February 2006 Iran postpones talks with Russia.

14 February 2006 Iran confirms it has restarted some uranium enrichment work, says that talks with Russia to go ahead on February 20.

8 March 2006 The IAEA Board of Governors voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council. The Security Council called on the IAEA director general to issue another report on Iran by the end of April.

11 April 2006 During a large, carefully staged and nationally televised celebration in Mashhad, President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad announced that Iran had enriched uranium to 3.6 percent. He declared: "The nuclear fuel cycle at the laboratory level has been completed, and uranium with the desired enrichment for nuclear power plants was achieved… Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world." Currently, uranium enrichment plants are operating in China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, United Kingdom and United States.

28 April 2006 In his report ElBaradei confirmed Iran's claim to have enriched uranium to 3.6 percent, but also mentioned that there had been no sign of any diversion to military use. However, he called on Iran for greater transparency and said that in the absence of such co-operation he would not be able to give Iran's program a clean bill of health.

2 May 2006 The representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany met in Paris to discuss Iran's nuclear program, but failed to reach agreement.

3 May 2006 President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed Iran's nuclear program in Washington, but in the joint press conference Angela Merkel stressed that Iran's nuclear issue should be resolved through patient and step-by-step diplomacy.

5 May 2006 Russia and China reject the draft resolution prepared by the United States, Britain and France under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that would make it binding on Iran to cease all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

8 May 2006 Foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the Security Council meeting in New York fail to reach agreement over the resolution prepared by France and Britain.

6 June 2006 On behalf of the five permanent members of the Security Council Javier Solana flew to Tehran to convey to Iran a package of incentives if Iran suspends her uranium enrichment. The package also contains threats of specific actions that might be taken if Iran does not accept the package.

12 July 2006 Foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - plus Germany at a meeting in Paris ahead of the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg agreed to refer Iran's file back to the Security Council.

31 July 2006 Security Council passes Resolution 1696, under Article 40 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, which:

"1. Calls upon Iran without further delay to take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors in its resolution GOV/2006/14, which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear program and to resolve outstanding questions;

2. Demands, in this context, that Iran shall suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA…."

22 August 2006 Iran gave its formal reply to an offer by the European Union, backed by the United States, for trade and other concessions if Iran suspends its enrichment of uranium. In a 21-page response Iran suggested that it was prepared to talk again about suspension but would not accept this as a precondition.

23 November 2006 The IAEA deferred an Iranian request for help in building a heavy-water nuclear reactor at Arak. The technical meeting of the IAEA's board of governors was split between the United States and most of its EU allies who feared that Iran could use the reactor to make fuel for a nuclear weapon, and the members of the Developing nations who argued that barring Tehran's request would set a precedent for denying technical aid to them for peaceful atomic energy programs. As Western and developing nations failed to reach consensus on Iran's request, they decided to defer the decision for one year. Meanwhile, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, said that Iran had agreed to give inspectors access to records and equipment from two of its nuclear sites. ElBaradei also said that Iran had agreed to let the IAEA inspectors take environmental samples from equipment at a former military site at Lavizan, as well as to give them access to records from a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. ElBaradei welcomed the moves but said that Iran needed to show more transparency over its nuclear programme.

23 December 2006 After two months of tough negotiation, the UN Security Council unanimously approved resolution 1737, imposing a number of sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, aimed at pressuring Tehran to return to negotiations and clarify its nuclear ambitions. The resolution orders all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also freezes Iranian assets of 10 key companies and 12 individuals related to those programs. Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif denounced the council for imposing sanctions on Iran, whose facilities are under UN safeguards, while doing nothing about Israel, whose prime minister recently confirmed that it is a nuclear power. "A nation is being punished for exercising its inalienable rights" to develop nuclear energy, primarily at the behest of the United States and Israel, "which is apparently being rewarded today for having clandestinely developed and unlawfully possessed nuclear weapons," Zarif said. Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the resolution as illegal and invalid and stressed that Iran would continue her uranium enrichment programme under the supervision of the IAEA.

24 March 2007 The UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1747, imposing further sanctions on Iran, banning export of Iranian weapons and freezing the assets of 15 additional individuals and 13 organisations allegedly involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programmes and connected with the Revolutionary Guards. The Resolution also asks the IAEA to report within 60 days on whether Iran has suspended its efforts at enriching uranium or not. The resolution also stressed the importance of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, in an indirect reference to Israel's nuclear weapons. In a speech after the vote, the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made a defiant rebuttal to the Security Council, dismissing the sanctions as “unlawful, unnecessary and unjustifiable” and said they would have no effect. “Iran does not seek confrontation nor does it want anything beyond its inalienable rights,” Mr. Mottaki said. “I can assure you that pressure and intimidation will not change Iranian policy.”

9 April 2007 On the first anniversary of the announcement that Iran had succeeded to enrich uranium, in ceremonies held in Natanz enrichment plant, the Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad announced that Iran was now enriching uranium on an industrial scale. Addressing government officials, diplomats, and foreign and local journalists at the Natanz site, he declared: “With great pride, I announce that as of today our dear country is among the countries of the world that produces nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.” He stressed that Iran's nuclear programme would be for peaceful purposes. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said that Iran had injected gas into 3,000 centrifuges.