Thursday, June 30, 2005

Public opinion research and the Bush PR campaign

Bush Words Reflect Public Opinion Strategy

By Peter Baker and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 30, 2005; A01

When President Bush confidently predicts victory in Iraq and admits no mistakes, admirers see steely resolve and critics see exasperating stubbornness. But the president's full-speed-ahead message articulated in this week's prime-time address also reflects a purposeful strategy based on extensive study of public opinion about how to maintain support for a costly and problem-plagued military mission.

The White House recently brought onto its staff one of the nation's top academic experts on public opinion during wartime, whose studies are now helpingBush craft his message two years into a war with no easy end in sight. Behind the president's speech is a conviction among White House officials that the battle for public opinion on Iraq hinges on their success in convincing Americans that, whatever their views of going to war in the first place, the conflict there must and can be won.

"There's going to be an appetite by some to relitigate past decisions," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. But the studies consulted by the White House show that in the long run public support for war is "mostly linked to whether you think you can prevail," he added, which is one reason it is important for Bush to explain "why he thinks it's working and why he thinks it'll win."

For Bush, Bartlett emphasized, the public rhetoric matches the private conviction that his strategy will succeed. But it also leaves Bush in the difficult position of balancing confidence and credibility. The more optimism Bush expresses, the more criticism he draws from Congress and commentators that he is not facing the reality of a tenacious insurgency that, according to U.S. military commanders, remains as potent today as six months ago.

Bush has never been one to dwell publicly on past miscalculations in Iraq, on such issues as weapons of mass destruction, the reception forecast for invading U.S. troops and the durability of the armed resistance after the fall of Saddam Hussein. As he continues to tout progress in the face of near-daily car bombings, critics say, his standing with the public will continue to slip.

"Unless they're more candid with the American people, there's no reason to think the drift in public opinion is going to turn around," said P.J. Crowley of the Center for American Progress, a retired Air Force colonel who was a national security aide in the Clinton White House.

Bush adversaries insisted yesterday that they remain no less committed to victory and denied engaging in defeatism. "I really do think it's winnable, but you've got to keep the American people following with you," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said in an interview. "That's why I urged them to give the speech. He told us the why. He didn't tell us the how. Business as usual won't get us there. I think he has to change some policy or alter some policy."

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who has also been highly critical of Bush's handling of the war effort, rushed out a statement after Tuesday night's speech asserting his own confidence in victory. "I have had differences with the administration over the planning and execution of our postwar policy in Iraq," he said. "However, we all are working toward finding a way to succeed in Iraq."

At stake is the ability to sustain a war that so far has claimed the lives of nearly 1,750 U.S. troops and that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has predicted could last years. The Bush team is acutely aware that public support remains critical for the long-term viability of such a venture, and in the face of sagging polls in recent weeks it has determined to refocus energy on shoring up popular opinion.

In shaping their message, White House officials have drawn on the work of Duke University political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher F. Gelpi, who have examined public opinion on Iraq and previous conflicts. Feaver, who served on the staff of the National Security Council in the early years of the Clinton administration, joined the Bush NSC staff about a month ago as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform.

Feaver and Gelpi categorized people on the basis of two questions: "Was the decision to go to war in Iraq right or wrong?" and "Can the United States ultimately win?" In their analysis, the key issue now is how people feel about the prospect of winning. They concluded that many of the questions asked in public opinion polls -- such as whether going to war was worth it and whether casualties are at an unacceptable level -- are far less relevant now in gauging public tolerance or patience for the road ahead than the question of whether people believe the war is winnable.

"The most important single factor in determining public support for a war is the perception that the mission will succeed," Gelpi said in an interview yesterday.

Key Bush advisers think the general public has considerable patience for keeping U.S. forces in Iraq, but they are mindful that opinion leaders, including members of Congress, high-profile analysts, editorial writers and columnists, are more pessimistic on that question. And they acknowledge that images of mayhem that people see from Iraq create doubt about the prospects for success.

In studying past wars, they have drawn lessons different from the conventional wisdom. Bush advisers challenge the widespread view that public opinion turned sour on the Vietnam War because of mounting casualties that were beamed into living rooms every night. Instead, Bush advisers have concluded that public opinion shifted after opinion leaders signaled that they no longer believed the United States could win in Vietnam.

Most devastating to public opinion, the advisers believe, are public signs of doubt or pessimism by a president, whether it was Ronald Reagan after 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors were killed in a barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983, forcing a U.S. retreat, or Bill Clinton in 1993 when 18 Americans were killed in a bloody battle in Somalia, which eventually led to the U.S. withdrawal there.

The more resolute a commander in chief, the Bush aides said, the more likely the public will see a difficult conflict through to the end. "We want people to understand the difficult work that's ahead," said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to speak more freely. "We want them to understand there's a political process to which the Iraqis are committed and there's a military process, a security process, to which we, our coalition partners and the Iraqis are committed. And that there is progress being made but progress in a time of war is tough."

Bush drew criticism for repeated references to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in explaining the stakes in Iraq, but White House officials see that as a crucial part of setting the context for the battle ahead. "One challenge we face is that there's a clear pre-9/11 mind-set among many people," another senior official said. "Thankfully, the president isn't one of them. He knows we are at war -- and he's acting like we are at war. That's what commanders in chief are supposed to do."

But Gelpi, whose studies with Feaver have helped influence the White House thinking, said he thinks the president did not truly achieve what he needed to with the Tuesday speech. As Gelpi described it, the American people remained supportive of the Iraq effort despite extensive violence when they saw incremental goals being met -- first the handover of partial sovereignty last summer, and then the democratic elections in January.

Since then, he said, public support has fallen because there are no more intermediary benchmarks. Bush could have laid some out in his speech short of a timetable for withdrawal, Gelpi said, such as setting targets for how many Iraqi security forces would be trained by certain dates. That, he said, would give the American public a sense of moving forward as these benchmarks are attained.

"What's important for him now to keep the public with him is to look forward and say we're going to make progress and this is what progress looks like," Gelpi said. "He may have stemmed the flow for a little bit, but I don't think he's given the public a framework for showing how we're making progress."

another CAFTA article

From motherjones
Most of the arguments I've read against CAFTA frame the issue in terms of labor rights; this piece looks at the macroeconomics as well.

The Lobbyist Scandal

From The Independent. Cash rules everything around me...

American Style "Democratization"

By Ghali Hassan

June 26, 2005

The Washington Post reports recently that President George W. Bush has begun meeting prominent ‘foreign dissidents’ in an attempt to highlight ‘human rights’ abuses committed around the world. Dissidents from Venezuela, North Korea, Russia and Belarus have all recently met with Mr. Bush or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Incidentally, the Washington Post also reports that no such meetings took place with dissidents from US closest allies such as Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. All four are the best example (from a long list of client regimes) of brutal and undemocratic regimes with the worst human rights records in the world.

Let’s briefly describe the four countries that President Bush considers unworthy meeting their dissidents. In Uzbekistan where President Islam Karimov rules with an iron fist dissidents are tortured to death and anti-government protesters are killed en masse by Karimov’s security forces. In Pakistan there have been no elections since General Pervez Musharraf took power by coup d’état. He immediately declared himself the ‘Chief Executive’ of Pakistan, jailed and exiled every dissident in his way. Egypt is not much different. President Hosni Mubarak took over some 25 years ago and has been a client of the US since. His prison cells and torture chambers are filled with dissidents. The regime of Mubarak is the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel. Saudi Arabia, the US most trusted ally, is a totalitarian monarchy. In addition, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are Washington destinations for torture of kidnapped citizens accused of alleged "terrorism". Furthermore, these despots are welcomed in Washington and London as guests of honours, and their policies are conducted with the blessings and approvals of Washington and London.

By contrast, Venezuela is very high on Mr. Bush’s list of "regime change", and President Hugo Chávez is not likely to receive an invitation to the White House soon. The current Venezuelan government of President Chávez is the most legitimate and democratically elected government in the world. President Chávez was democratically elected in 1998. He has since been re-elected in 2000 and had his presidency reconfirmed in a referendum in August 2004. His current approval rating – an outcome of his popular socio-economic reforms – at 70.5 per cent, but the US insists that Chávez is a threat to democracy. The Bush administration is also involved in propaganda war and military coup to remove President Chávez from office. Venezuela of President Chavez is not as lucky as Uzbekistan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia to be included in US phantom democracy. This example of popular democracy in Venezuela is the form of democracy that the US most feared in developing countries.

The recent US fanfare about democracy rising in the Middle East is a phantom democracy. Saudi Arabia, Mr. Bush tells us, is reforming its decades-long despotic tyranny and corruption, by introducing a male-only ‘democracy’, and allowing women to obtain driver’s licence. The reality is that half of the population (women) were barred from participation in this male-only democracy. And only half of the seats were allowed to be contested and the other half were reserved. In Kuwait and the other Gulf States, the Emirs and Sheikhs select their oppositions. In Egypt, Hosni Mubark has already barred the Muslim Brotherhood Party and he will choose an opposition to participate in next year elections. In fact President Mubarak is grooming his son for the presidency. It is not democracy; it is a farce.

Any constitutional law book defines democracy as "an internal organisation of the state in which the source and exercise of political power lie with the people, enabling the governed to govern in turn through their elected representatives". However, the people have always been mislead and only allowed to watch as spectators, not participants.

In his Essays on Democracy Promotion, Thomas Carothers, director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment Program for International Peace, and a former State Department official in the Reagan administration writes; "Where democracy appears to fit in well with US security and economic interests, the United States promotes democracy, [but] where democracy clashes with other significant interests, it is downplayed or even ignored". The history of the past sixty years or so shows that the US has always favoured dictatorial regimes to serve its own interests at the expense of human rights and democracy. For decades the US has supported and encouraged Israel’s terror and oppression against the Palestinian people.

When it comes to genuine democracy, the US is enemy number one of democratic principles and international law. In 1953, the US intelligence agents, the CIA, engineered a military coup that toppled Iran's popularly elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and replaced him with the three decades-long vicious dictatorial regime of Shah Reza Behlavi. The recent elections in Iran were more transparent and superior democratic processes than the 30 January US-staged elections in Iraq or the last two US elections. However, the US and Western media continue to attack Iran

The US is never shy to lend hand to brutal dictators. On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet, with tacit support from the CIA, led a violent military and overthrew the democratically elected Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. Because of the CIA covert intervention in Chile, and the repressive character of General Pinochet's rule, the coup became the most notorious military takeover in the annals of Latin American history. Thousands of Chilean dissidents have been murdered or disappeared during the military rule of Augusto Pinochet.

On 29 February 2004, just a year after the invasion of Iraq, the US backed by Canada and France orchestrated a get together coup d’état against the popular government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Deliberately ignored by Western media, a democratically elected government was replaced by unelected, repressive and murderous "Interim Government" which committed hundreds of political killings and more than 700 summary executions (without charges) of political prisoners.

From the Middle East to Latin America, the US administrations play the "democracy" card and overtly or covertly support dictators and military dominated regimes that systematically repress and terrorise the local population. The US "promotion of democracy" is not against the status quo of dictators, but it is designed for domestic consumption in order to deceive the public that the US is an "honest broker" interested in "democracy". In other word, it is a cover for war and control of people’s natural resources, including oil.

It was only after the fabricated pretexts for the war on Iraq had collapsed, the Bush administration and its allies turned to imperialism most favoured propaganda, "democracy". The pretexts keep changing so often that drew little opposition or protest against this flagrant falsification of history regarding the war on Iraq. The Bush administration continues to tell the world that the invasion of Iraq is to "build democracy" throughout the Middle East, as if democracy is another brick in a wall. One important fact to remember is that had Iraq’s Arab neighbours been democratically elected governments (like Turkey), the US and Britain wouldn’t have unilaterally mounted an illegal invasion into Iraq and committed the kind of international war crimes against the Iraqi people.

Despite the illegality of the war and the enormous war crimes committed against the Iraqi people, many people, particularly Americans, still believe that the war on Iraq was initiated because of Iraq’s procession of WMD and Iraq’s links to "terrorism". It is now established that Iraq had no WMD since 1991 and that Iraq had no link to "terrorism", and posed no threat to the US, Britain and their allies.

The US invaded and occupied Iraq because: 1. Iraq was a defenceless nation, destroyed by 13-years long genocidal sanctions and constant US-British bombing campaigns. 2. Iraq is a resources-rich and strategically vital nation, and 3. Iraq was and could be a formidable counter to Israel’s Zionist expansion. Hence, Iraq was the preferred target for the soon to be US president long before the 9/11 attacks on the US. Also by attacking Iraq, the US intended to send a bullying message to other nations.

According to recent reports, Bush believes that, no president is "great" president without wining one military aggression in his presidency. In 1999 Bush revealed his personal motivation to use war in order to advance his domestic political ends. When Bush was asked at New Hampshire primary event in December 1999 about Saddam Hussein, Bush told David Nyhan of the Boston Globe; "I’d take ‘em [Saddam] out", and, "take out the weapons of mass destruction…I’m surprised he’s [Saddam] still there". This comment alone should be taken as an illegal declaration of war against Iraq and violation of the US Constitution. It follows; the invasion and occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with "democracy", "liberation" or the propaganda perpetuated by Western media, the US government and its allies of the "coalition of the willing". Furthermore, the US invaded Iraq despite massive worldwide protests against an illegal war.

The war perpetuated by the Anglo-American axis have caused the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, destroyed the Iraqi state and the fabric of the Iraqi society. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children as young as 12 years old, are languishing in hundreds of US-run prison camps and subject to unrestrained torture and abuse by US forces. In addition to the violence, the Occupation has brought Iraqis desperate living conditions – the destruction of Iraq’s health care and education systems –, ethnic divisions, and a culture of corruption.

Mr. Bush claims that "democracy is spreading" throughout the Middle East is simply a phantom to justify an illegal war against Iraq and provides a diversion for the war crimes committed against the Iraqi people. Coupled with military occupation, the US is in a process of political penetration under the rubric of "democracy". This involves the promotion of the Iraqi elites – mostly expatriates, including religious groups, criminal elements and corrupt Kurdish warlords – to high offices. It also involves the corruption of Iraqi and Arab media, trade unions, women organisations and other professional associations to serve the interests of US corporations and enhance US imperial agenda.

The US aim in Iraq is to prolong the Occupation, control Iraq’s vital resources and rob Iraq’s of its wealth and sovereignty at the expense of the Iraqi people. The form of "democracy" the US pretends building in Iraq is a form of colonial dictatorship dressed in fraudulent elections in order to re-colonise Iraq economically. The US strategy in Iraq is to rule Iraq by the proxy of an "Arab façade", serving Washington and Western interests, and suppressing any alternative popular movement that opposes US design. As pointed out earlier, democracy is never part of US imperialist agenda. If it is not so, then the US should let the Iraqi people decide on the presence of the Occupation forces. If the US is serious about the "spread of democracy" the US must accept the outcome of free and fair elections.

The January 2005 elections were illegitimate and flawed, because Iraq was and continues to be under foreign military occupation. The Iraqi people were deceived to believe that they were voting to end the Occupation. Although the US-preferred candidate (Iyad Allawi) lost, the elections still won by those groups who supported the invasion and occupation. Immediately after the elections, the first act of treason the new "government" committed is to extend the presence of the Occupation forces in Iraq, and escalate the violence against the Iraqi people. The London-based Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported recently that one-third (83 MPs) of the members of Iraq’s 275 National Assembly have asked for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, accusing the Assembly itself of not caring "about the demands of millions of Iraqis".

Finally, the US strategy is doomed to fail in Iraq. Historically, Iraq is an anti-imperialism ground. The Iraqi people are politically very engaged and educated. It is almost near impossible for a pro-Occupation, pro-US policy regime to survive in Iraq. All Iraqis are united for an immediate withdrawal of foreign troops and end to the Occupation. They have enough of US perpetuated violence.

People around the world know that the American form of ‘democracy’ has not benefited the masses. It is an old imperialist tormentor. The invasion and occupation of Iraq have exposed the true nature of this imperialist tormentor. It is the duty of decent men and women not to remain silent and encourage the tormentor to continue tormenting the Iraqi people. Those who committed war crimes and crimes of deception should be held accountable for their actions.

Dems still not gaining ground

Despite Bush's ever-weakening poll numbers, despite his insane economic, foreign policy and social policies, despite all the horrible fornt-page news stories, the Democrats are still losing ground. This post says it all.

Class matters

This piece from In these Times hits the point exactly. The right-wing charge of liberals waging "class warfare" is a bunch of bs.

Revolution, geopolitics and pipelines

Revolution, geopolitics and pipelines
Asia Times Online, June 30, 2005
By F. William Engdahl
After a short-term fall in price below the $50 a barrel level, oil has broken through the $60 level and is likely to go far higher. In this situation one might think the announcement of the opening of a major new oil pipeline to pump Caspian oil to world markets might dampen the relentless rise in prices.

However, even when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed on June 15 to raise its formal production quota by another 500,000 barrels per day (bpd), the reaction of NYMEX oil futures prices was to rise, not fall. Estimates are that world demand in the second half of 2005 will average at least 3 million barrels a day more than the first half of the year.

Oil has become the central theme of world political and military operations planning, even when not always openly said.

Caspian pipeline opens a Pandora's box

In this situation, it is worth looking at the overall significance of the May opening of the Baku to Ceyhan, Turkey, oil pipeline. This 1,762 kilometer long oil pipeline was completed some months ahead of plan.
The BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) pipeline was begun in 2002 after four years of intense  international dispute. It cost about US$3.6 billion, making it one of the most expensive oil projects ever. The main backer was British Petroleum (BP), whose chairman, Lord Browne, is a close adviser to Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair. BP built the pipeline through a consortium including Unocal of the US, Turkish Petroleum Inc, and other partners.

It will take until at least late September before 10.4 million barrels can provide the needed volume to start oil delivery to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea. Ceyhan is conveniently near to the US airbase Incirlik. The BTC has been a US strategic priority ever since president Bill Clinton first backed it in 1998. Indeed, for the opening ceremonies in May, US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman attended and delivered a personal note of congratulations from US President George W Bush.

As the political makeup of the Central Asia Caspian region is complex, especially since the decomposition of the Soviet Union opened up a scramble in the oil-rich region of the Caspian from the outside, above all from the US, it is important to bear in mind the major power blocs that have emerged.

They are two. On the one side is an alliance of US-Turkey-Azerbaijan and, since the "Rose" revolution, Georgia, that small but critical country directly on the pipeline route. Opposed to it, in terms of where the pipeline route carrying Caspian oil should go, is Russia, which until 1990 held control over the entire Caspian outside the Iran littoral. Today, Russia has cultivated an uneasy but definite alliance with Iran and Armenia, in opposition to the US group. This two-camp grouping is essential to understanding developments in the region since 1991.

Now that the BTC oil pipeline has finally been completed, and the route through Georgia has been put firmly in pro-Washington hands, an essential precondition to completing the pipeline, the question becomes one of how Moscow will react. Does President Vladimir Putin have any serious options left short of the ultimate nuclear one?

A clear strategy

A geopolitical pattern has become clear over the past months. One-by-one, with documented overt and covert Washington backing and financing, new US-friendly regimes have been put in place in former Soviet states which are in a strategic relation to possible pipeline routes from the Caspian Sea.

Ukraine is now more or less in the hands of a Washington-backed "democratic" regime under Viktor Yushchenko and his billionaire Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, known in Ukraine as the "gas princess" for the fortune she made as a government official, allegedly through her dubious dealings earlier with Ukraine Energy Minister Pavlo Lazarenko and Gazprom. The Yushchenko government's domestic credibility is reportedly beginning to fade as Ukrainian "Orange" revolution euphoria gives way to economic realities. In any event, on June 16 in Kiev, Yushchenko hosted a special meeting of the Davos World Economic Forum to discuss possible investments into the "new" Ukraine.

At the Kiev meeting, Timoshenko's government announced that it planned to build a new oil and gas pipeline from the Caspian across Ukraine into Poland, which would lessen Ukraine's reliance on Moscow oil and gas supplies. Timoshenko also revealed that the Ukrainian government was in positive talks with Chevron, the former company of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for the project.

It goes without saying that such a project would run counter to the Russian regional interest. One reason for Washington's strong backing for Yushchenko last year was to counter a decision by the Kuchma government and parliament to reverse the flow of the Brody-Odessa pipeline from a planned route from the Black Sea port into Poland. The initial Odessa-to-Poland route would have tied Ukraine to the West. Now Ukraine is discussing with Chevron to build a new pipeline doing the same. The country presently gets 80% of its energy from Russia.

A second project Ukraine's government and the state NAK (Naftogaz Ukrainy) are discussing is with France's Gaz de France to build a pipeline from Iran for natural gas to displace Russian gas. Were that to happen it would simultaneously weaken ties of mutual self-interest between Russia and Iran, as well as Russia and France.

On the same day as the Kiev conference, Kazakhstan's government told an international investors' conference in Almaty that it was in negotiations with Ukraine to route Kazakh oil as well through the proposed new Ukrainian pipeline to the Baltic. Chevron is also the major consortium leader developing Kazakh oil in Tengiz. Given the political nature of US "big oil", it is more than probable that Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and the administration in Washington are playing a strong role in such Ukraine pipeline talks. The "Orange" revolution, at least from the side of its US sponsors, had little to do with real democracy and far more with military and oil geopolitics.

Pipelines and US-Azeri ties
The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline was originally proclaimed by BP and others as the project of the century. Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was a consultant to BP during the Bill Clinton era, urging Washington to back the project. In fact, it was Brzezinski who went to Baku in 1995, unofficially, on behalf of Clinton, to meet with then-Azeri president Haidar Aliyev, to negotiate new independent Baku pipeline routes, including what became the BTC pipeline.

Brzezinski also sits on the board of an impressive, if little-known, US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC). The chairman of USACC in Washington is Tim Cejka, president of ExxonMobil Exploration. Other USACC board members include Henry Kissinger and James Baker III, the man who in 2003 personally went to Tbilisi to tell Eduard Shevardnadze that Washington wanted him to step aside in favor of the US-trained Georgian president Mikhail Shaakashvili. Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to George H W Bush, also sits on the board of USACC. And Cheney was a former board member before he became vice president. A more high-powered Washington team of geopolitical fixers would be hard to imagine. This group of prominent individuals certainly would not give a minute of their time unless an area was of utmost geopolitical strategic importance to the US or to certain powerful interests there.

Now that the BTC pipeline to Ceyhan is complete, a phase 2 pipeline is in consideration undersea, potentially to link the Caspian to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with its rich gas reserves, directing that energy away from China to the West in a US-UK-controlled route.

In this context, it's worth noting that Bush himself made a trip to Tbilisi on May 10 to address a crowd in Freedom Square, promoting his latest war on tyranny campaign for the region. He praised the US-backed "color revolutions" from Ukraine to Georgia. Bush went on to attack Franklin D Roosevelt's Yalta division of Europe in 1945. He made the curious declaration, "We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability," the president said. "We have learned our lesson; no one's liberty is expendable. In the long run, our security and true stability depend on the freedom of others." Bush continued, "Now, across the Caucasus, in Central Asia and the broader Middle East, we see the same desire for liberty burning in the hearts of young people. They are demanding their freedom - and they will have it."

What color will the Azeri revolution take?

Not surprisingly, that speech was read as a "go" signal for opposition groups across the Caucasus. In Azerbaijan four youth groups - Yokh! (No!), Yeni Fikir (New Thinking), Magam (It's Time) and the Orange Movement of Azerbaijan - comprise the emerging opposition, an echo of Georgia, Ukraine and Serbia, where the US Embassy and specially trained non-governmental organizations operatives orchestrated the US-friendly regime changes with help of the US National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House and the Soros Foundations.

According to Baku journalists, Ukraine's Pora (It's Time), Georgia's Kmara (Enough) and Serbia's Otpor (Resistance) are cited by all four Azeri opposition organizations as role models. The opposition groups also consider Bush's February meeting in Bratislava with Pora leader Vladislav Kaskiv as a sign that Washington supports their cause.

It seems the same team of Washington regime-change experts are preparing for a "color revolution" for the upcoming November elections in Azerbaijan as were behind other recent color revolutions.

In 2003, on the death of former Azeri president Haider Aliyev, his playboy son, Ilham Aliyev, became president in grossly rigged elections which Washington legitimized because Aliyev was "our tyrant", and also just happened to hold his hand on the spigot of Baku oil.

Ilham, former president of the state oil company SOCAR, is tied to his father's power base and is apparently now seen as not suitable for the new pipeline politics. Perhaps he wants too big a share of the spoils. In any case, both Blair's UK government and the US State Department's AID are pouring money into Azeri opposition groups, similar to Otpor in Ukraine. US Ambassador Reno Harnish has stated that Washington is ready to finance "exit polling" in the elections. Exit polling in Ukraine was a key factor used to drive the opposition success there.

Moscow is following Azeri events closely. On May 26, the Moscow daily Kommersant wrote, "While the pipeline will carry oil from the East to West, the spirit of 'color revolutions' will flow in the reverse direction." The commentary went on to suggest that Western governments wanted to promote democratization in Azerbaijan out of a desire to protect the considerable investment made in the pipeline. That is only a part of the strategic game, however. The other part is what Pentagon strategists term "strategic denial".

Until recently the US had supported the corrupt ruthless dictatorship of the Aliyev's as the family had played ball with US geopolitical designs in the area, even though Haider Aliyev had been a career top KGB officer in the Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev era. Then on April 12, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went to Baku, his second visit in four months, to discuss demands to create a US military base in Azerbaijan, as part of the US global force redeployment involving Europe, the Mideast and Asia.

The Pentagon already de facto runs the Georgia military, with its US Special Forces officers, and Georgia has asked to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Now Washington wants to have direct bases in Azerbaijan proximate to Russia as well as to Iran.

The Pentagon has also allocated $100 million to build a Caspian Guard of special forces military, ostensibly to guard the new BTC pipeline, though the latter was deliberately built underground to make it less vulnerable, one reason for its high cost. Part of the Pentagon money would go to build a radar-equipped command center in Baku, capable of monitoring all sea traffic in the Caspian. The US wants airbases in Azerbaijan, which naturally would be seen in Tehran and Moscow as a strategic provocation.

In all this maneuvering from the side of Washington and 10 Downing Street, the strategic issue of geopolitical control over Eurasia looms large. And increasingly it is clear that not only Putin's Russia is an object of the new Washington "war on tyranny". It is becoming clear to most now that the grand design in Eurasia on the part of Washington is not to pre-empt Osama bin Laden and his "cave dwellers".

The current Washington strategy targets many Eurasian former Soviet republics which per se have no known oil or gas reserves. What they do have, however, is strategic military or geopolitical significance for the Washington policy of dominating the future of Eurasia.

That policy has China as its geopolitical, economic and military fulcrum. A look at the Eurasian map and at the target countries for various US-sponsored color revolutions makes this unmistakably clear. To the east of the Caspian Sea, Washington in one degree or another today controls Pakistan, Afghanistan, potentially Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. These serve as a potential US-controlled barrier or buffer zone between China and Russian, Caspian and Iranian energy sources. Washington is out to deny China easy land access to either Russia, the Middle East or to the oil and gas fields of the Caspian Sea.

Whither Kyrgystan?
Since early 2005, when a series of opposition protests erupted over the fairness of parliamentary elections in February and March, Kyrgystan has joined the growing list of Eurasian republics facing major threat of regime change or color revolution. The success of former Kyrgystan premier Kurmanbek Bakiev in replacing ousted president Askar Akayev in that country's so-called "Tulip" revolution, becoming interim president until July presidential elections, invited inevitable comparisons with the "Orange" revolution in Ukraine and the Georgian "Rose" revolution.

Washington's Radio Liberty has gone to great lengths to explain that the Kyrgystan opposition is not a US operation, but a genuine spontaneous grass-roots phenomenon. The facts speak a different story however. According to reports from mainstream US journalists, including Craig Smith in the New York Times and Philip Shishkin in the Wall Street Journal, the opposition in Kyrgystan has had "more than a little help from US friends" to paraphrase the Beatles song. Under the Freedom Support Act of the US Congress, in 2004 the dirt-poor country of Kyrgystan received a total of $12 million in US government funds to support the building of democracy. This will buy a lot of democracy in an economically desolate, forsaken land such as Kyrgystan.

Acknowledging the Washington largesse, Edil Baisolov, in a comment on the February-March anti-government protests, boasted, "It would have been absolutely impossible for this to have happened without that help." According to the New York Times' Smith, Baisolov's organization, the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Rights, is financed by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a Washington-based non-profit organization in turn funded by Rice's State Department. Baisolov told Radio Liberty he had been to Ukraine to witness the tactics of their "Orange" Revolution, and got inspired.

But that isn't all. The whole cast of democracy characters has been busy in Bishkek and environs supporting American-style democracy and opposing "anti-American tyranny". Washington's Freedom House has generously financed Bishkek's independent printing press, which prints the opposition paper, MSN, according to its man on the scene, Mike Stone.

Freedom House is an organization with a fine-sounding name and a long history since it was created in the late 1940s to back the creation of NATO. The chairman of Freedom House is James Woolsey, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director who calls the present series of regime changes from Baghdad to Kabul "World War IV". Other trustees include the ubiquitous Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Clinton commerce secretary Stuart Eizenstat, and national security adviser Anthony Lake. Freedom House lists USAID, US Information Agency, the Soros Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy among its financial backers.

One more of the many non-governmental organizations active in promoting the new democracy in Kyrgystan is the Civil Society Against Corruption, financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED which, with Freedom House, has been at the center of all the major color revolutions in recent years, was created during the Ronald Reagan administration to function as a de facto privatized CIA, privatized so as to allow more freedom of action, or what the CIA likes to call "plausible deniability". NED chairman Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman, is close to neo-conservative Bill Bennett. NED president since 1984 is Carl Gershman, who had previously been a Freedom House scholar. NATO General Wesley Clark, the man who led the US bombing of Serbia in 1999, also sits on the NED board. Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, said in 1991, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."

Not to be forgotten, and definitely not least in Kyrgystan's ongoing "Tulip" revolution is Soros' Open Society Institute - which also poured money into the Serbian, Georgian and Ukraine color revolutions. The head of the Civil Society Against Corruption in Kyrgystan is Tolekan Ismailova, who organized the translation and distribution of the revolutionary manual used in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia written by Gene Sharp, of a curiously named Albert Einstein Institution in Boston. Sharp's book, a how-to manual for the color revolutions, is titled From Dictatorship to Democracy. It includes tips on non-violent resistance - such as "display of flags and symbolic colors" - and civil disobedience.

Sharp's book is literally the bible of the color revolutions, a kind of "regime change for dummies". Sharp created his Albert Einstein Institution in 1983, with backing from Harvard University. It is funded by the US Congress' NED and the Soros Foundations, to train people in and to study the theories of "non-violence as a form of warfare". Sharp has worked with NATO and the CIA over the years training operators in Myanmar, Lithuania, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Taiwan, even Venezuela and Iraq.

In short, virtually every regime which has been the target of a US-backed soft coup in the past 20 years has involved Gene Sharp and usually, his associate, Colonel Robert Helvey, a retired US Army intelligence specialist. Notably, Sharp was in Beijing two weeks before student demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Pentagon and US intelligence have refined the art of such soft coups to a fine level. RAND planners call it "swarming", referring to the swarms of youth, typically linked by short message services and weblogs, who can be mobilized on command to destabilize a target regime.

Then Uzbekistan ...?
Uzbekistan's tyrannical President Islam Karimov had early profiled himself as a staunch friend of the Washington "war on terror", offering a former Soviet airbase for US military actions, including the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001. Many considered Karimov too close to Washington to be in danger. He had made himself a "good" tyrant in Washington's eyes.

That's also no longer a sure thing. In May, Rice demanded that Karimov institute "political reforms" following violent prison uprisings and subsequent protests over conditions in the Ferghana Valley region in Andijan. Karimov has fiercely resisted independent inquiry into allegations his troops shot and killed hundreds of unarmed protesters. He insists the uprisings were caused by "external" radical Muslim fundamentalists allied with the Taliban and intent on establishing an Islamic caliphate in Uzbekistan's Ferghana Valley bordering Kyrgystan.

While the ouster of Karimov is unclear for the moment, leading Washington backers of Karimov's "democratic reform" have turned into hostile opponents. As one US commentator expressed it, "The character of the Karimov regime can no longer be ignored in deference to the strategic usefulness of Uzbekistan." Karimov has been targeted for a color revolution in the relentless Washington "war on tyranny".

In mid-June, Karimov's government announced changes in terms for the US to use Uzbekistan's Karshi-Khanabad military airbase, including a ban on night flights. Karimov is moving demonstrably closer to Moscow, and perhaps also to Beijing, in the latest chapter of the new "Great Game" for geopolitical control over Eurasia.

Following the Andijan events, Karimov revived the former "strategic partnership" with Moscow and also received a red-carpet welcome at the end of May in Beijing, including a 21-gun salute. At a June Brussels NATO meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov backed Karimov, declaring there was no need for an international investigation of what happened in Andijan.

Tajikistan, bordering Afghanistan and China, is so far the only remaining Central Asian republic not yet to undergo a successful US-led color revolution. It's not for lack of trying. For several years Washington has attempted to woo Dushanbe away from its close ties to Moscow, including the economic carrot of US backing for Tajik membership in the World Trade Organization. Beijing has also been active. China has recently upgraded military assistance to Tajikistan, and is keen to strengthen ties to all Central Asian republics standing between it and the energy resources to the Eurasian west, from Russia to Iran. The stakes are the highest for the oil-dependent China.

Washington playing the China card

The one power in Eurasia that has the potential to create a strategic combination which could checkmate US global dominance is China. However, China has an Achilles' heel, which Washington understands all too well - oil. Ten years ago China was a net oil exporter. Today China is the second-largest importer behind the US.

China's energy demand is growing annually at a rate of more than 30%. China has feverishly been trying to secure long-term oil and gas supplies, especially since the Iraq war made clear to Beijing that Washington was out to control and militarize most of the world's major oil and gas sources. A new wrinkle to the search for black gold, oil, is the clear data confirming that many of the world's largest oilfields are in decline, while new discoveries fail to replace lost volumes of oil. It is a pre-programmed scenario for war. The only question is, with what weapons?

In recent months Beijing has signed major oil and economic deals with Venezuela and Iran. It has bid for a major Canadian resources company, and most recently made the audacious bid to buy California's Unocal, a partner in the Caspian BTC pipeline. Chevron immediately stepped in with a counter bid to block China's.

Beijing has recently also upgraded the importance of the four-year-old organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO. SCO consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan. Not surprisingly, these are many of the states which are in the midst of US-backed attempts at soft coups or color revolutions. SCO's July meeting list included an invitation to India, Pakistan and Iran to attend with observer status.

This June, the foreign ministers of Russia, China and India held a meeting in Vladivostock where they stressed the role of the United Nations, a move aimed clearly at Washington. India also discussed its project to invest and develop Russia's Far East Sakhalin I, where it has already invested about $1 billion in oil and gas development. Significantly, at the meeting, Russia and China resolved a decades-long border dispute, and two weeks later in Beijing discussed potentials for development of Russia's Siberian resources.

A close look at the map of Eurasia begins to suggest what is so vital here for China, and therefore for Washington's future domination of Eurasia. The goal is not only strategic encirclement of Russia through a series of NATO bases ranging from Camp Bond Steel in Kosovo to Poland, to Georgia, possibly Ukraine and White Russia, which would enable NATO to control energy ties between Russia and the EU.

Washington policy now encompasses a series of "democratic" or soft coup projects which would strategically cut China off from access to the vital oil and gas reserves of the Caspian, including Kazakhstan. The earlier Asian Great Silk Road trade routes went through Tashkent in Uzbekistan and Almaty in Kazakhstan for geographically obvious reasons, in a region surrounded by major mountain ranges.

Geopolitical control of Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and Kazakhstan would enable control of any potential pipeline routes between China and Central Asia, just as the encirclement of Russia allows for the control of pipeline and other ties between it and Western Europe, China, India and the Mideast.

In this context, the revealing Foreign Affairs article from Zbigniew Brzezinski from September/October 1997 is worth again quoting:

Eurasia is home to most of the world's politically assertive and dynamic states. All the historical pretenders to global power originated in Eurasia. The world's most populous aspirants to regional hegemony, China and India, are in Eurasia, as are all the potential political or economic challengers to American primacy. After the United States, the next six largest economies and military spenders are there, as are all but one of the world's overt nuclear powers, and all but one of the covert ones. Eurasia accounts for 75% of the world's population, 60% of its GNP [gross national product], and 75% of its energy resources. Collectively, Eurasia's potential power overshadows even America's.

Eurasia is the world's axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world's three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa. With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical chessboard, it no longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe and another for Asia. What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy ...
This statement, written well before the US-led bombing of former Yugoslavia and the US occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, or the BTC pipeline, helps put recent Washington pronouncements about "ridding the world of tyranny" and about spreading democracy into a somewhat different context from the one usually mentioned by Bush.

"Elementary, my dear Watson. It's about global hegemony, not democracy, you fool."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Put Rove's Speech in Context of McCarthyism

Another short and sweet piece by E.J. Dionne from Brookings. He's one of my favorite columnists.

On the impending decline of Saudi oil output

Must read this...

More bad news from Bush's energy policy

Check out this interesting article...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A.M.A. to Study Effect of Marketing Drugs to Consumers

From the NYTimes.
A.M.A. to Study Effect of Marketing Drugs to Consumers
ADD another voice to the list of groups questioning how drugs are pitched to consumers.

The American Medical Association, the nation's largest organization of physicians, agreed yesterday to study whether consumer drug advertising leads to unnecessary prescriptions, potentially harming patients and driving up health costs.

The A.M.A.'s decision, during a meeting in Chicago, came after a debate over consumer drug advertising. The association's House of Delegates had considered half a dozen proposals to limit drug advertising.

Many critics say advertising fueled the widespread use of cox-2 painkillers, recently linked to serious cardiovascular problems. Vioxx, the cox-2 drug that Merck withdrew from the market in September, was widely advertised to consumers. Studies later indicated that, for many patients, it was no more effective than other, safer pain killers.

Several psychiatrists' groups with representatives at the A.M.A. meeting raised the idea of a ban on advertising of new drugs for at least a few months after they go on sale.

Imposing a window of time between a new drug's release and its first advertising to consumers would allow doctors to evaluate medications before patients asked for them. If a drug caused serious side effects, doctors might spot them before the drugs were widely used.

"I'm optimistic that we have placed the issue squarely on the A.M.A.'s agenda," said Dr. David Fassler, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont.

The A.M.A., with nearly a quarter-million members, is the latest group increasing pressure on the pharmaceutical industry.

The Food and Drug Administration has recently raised its surveillance of drug advertising, sending out 13 warning letters this year on advertising-related issues. The United States House of Representatives voted this month to double the F.D.A.'s budget for monitoring the advertising of pharmaceuticals to consumers.

Some support for constraints on advertising is coming even from within the industry. Last week, Bristol-Myers Squibb became the first large pharmaceutical company to announce and publish self-imposed guidelines, which include a promise that the company will not advertise new drugs to consumers in the first year they are available.

A spokesman for Bristol-Myers, Brian Henry, said the company wanted to make sure that physicians developed a comfort level with the drug before patients began asking for it.

Limiting drug ads is easier for Bristol-Myers than it is for some other pharmaceutical companies because much of the company's business is in specialty products for diseases like AIDS and cancer. Those are normally marketed to physicians rather than consumers, anyway.

So-called recreational drugs, like Viagra, or products that appeal to a large market are more likely to be advertised directly to consumers.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, is drafting guidelines for the industry. The guidelines are expected to be released next month. But the trade group is not expected to embrace a ban on the advertising of new drugs.

Both the pharmaceutical manufacturers and the advertising industry argue that the marketing of drugs helps alert consumers to treatments.

"Somewhere between 24 and 30 million people have gone to their doctor to talk about a health problem they had never discussed before after seeing a prescription drug ad," said Daniel L. Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers. The organization says that an advertising ban on new drugs would raise First Amendment issues.

In 1997, the F.D.A. eased constraints on advertising pharmaceuticals to consumers. Since then, it has become one of the advertising industry's fastest-growing segments. Last year, it reached $3.8 billion.

"We've seen a dramatic increase in direct-to-consumer advertising in recent years," said Dr. Fassler, a delegate who represented the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the meeting. "Data indicates that a majority of physicians believe that such advertising can cause patients to think that medications can work better than they do."

Psychiatrists have a special interest in drug advertising after reports that some antidepressants were overprescribed and that some had been linked to suicidal thoughts and actions in some children and teenagers.

Last year, the F.D.A. banned some types of ads for antidepressants - those that include the drug's name but not its intended use. In other ads for antidepressants, the agency said, the warnings of potentially serious side effects must be prominently displayed or clearly spoken.

Also, within the last year, the F.D.A. warned Eli Lilly & Company that an advertisement on television for the company's drug to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder minimized the risks of the drug. The ad, for Lilly's heavily marketed drug called Strattera, featured graphics like those in a video game. The F.D.A. complained that the ad's music and images seemed to mask messages about the drug's risk. The company had already stopped using the ad, however, by the time it received the warning letter.

Other companies have toned down their advertising after F.D.A. warnings.

In March, the agency told AstraZeneca that its ads for its cholesterol drug, Crestor, were misleading. The ads had claimed the drug was superior to rivals at lowering cholesterol.

A new Crestor campaign makes no claim of superiority but features a serious discussion of high cholesterol and its dangers, delivered by the actor Mandy Patinkin. Middle-aged viewers who could not identify Mr. Patinkin by name may remember him for one of his roles. He played Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on the 1990's television drama "Chicago Hope."

Interesting article on what's going on in "big labor"

By Bob Kuttner, one of my favorite columnists in the mass media.

Short but sweet editorial on Gitmo

From Anthony Lewis at the IHT. It's all been said before and is really open-and-shut, but it still needs to be said. Too bad Durbin wasn't man enough to stand by his criticism of our crimes.

Because you can't make this stuff up

Unbelieveable...DeLay is such a moron. At least he didn't compare Iraq to NYC.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Dick Durbin...sellout

Finally, the Dems were calling Gitmo for what it is. Then Durbin "apologizes". Apologizes for US soldiers doing this...

Hitchens' take on the Downing Street Memos

Christopher Hitchens, former left-winger and now war pimp, has this editorial in It's good to know how the neo-cons are attempting to marginalize the significance of these memos, as well as all the previous lies the admin has given about the war.
I did enjoy Hitchen's Trial of Henry Kissenger and I agree with him on the da Vinci code being an overrated book.

Bush Administration Increasingly Isolated on Venezuela

I'm not a big fan of Chavez...but Mark Weisbrot from CEPR makes some good points.

Iraq says U.S. Delaying Saddam Interrogations

Hmm,this is interesting...What could the US have to hide? Or how about this?

Monday, June 20, 2005

(Part of) why Bush won in 2004

Well-written, eye-opening piece on what ails the DNC. I'm not a big fan of Howard Dean, but the "centrist" policies and the consultants that help shape them don't seem to be working. As this article (which I know is a little old) points out, a sports franchise with seven losing seasons replaces its management, at least a few times.

Why isn't this headline news??

Check this out. I guess Rice thinks if she says Iraq is a "generational" conflict, all Presidents/administrations for the next 30 years will need to continue the fine work Bush started 2 years ago. As the link makes clear, the admin. went out of its way when selling this war to say this wasn't a generational conflict.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Debt relief a big victory for activists


Thanks in large part to persistent campaigners in the global South and their international supporters, a plan granting 100 percent multilateral debt relief for 18 impoverished countries has been approved by leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries in advance of their July meeting in Scotland.

When President Bush stood with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House recently and argued that "highly indebted developing countries that are on the path to reform should not be burdened by mountains of debt," he may have been the first American president to endorse full debt cancellation for some of Africa's poorest countries. But he merely echoed what debt relief activists in the globalization movement have been saying for a decade.

Observers have often remarked in recent years that globalization demonstrators have won the moral argument about trade and development, yet have not been able to translate their positions into policy. The debt victory, however, provides a clear instance in which allied activists from Africa, Europe, the United States, and beyond have affected governmental decision-making and opened real possibilities for human development.

For years, demonstrators promoting debt relief were dismissed or derided. In the early '90s, citizens of the developing world condemned an emerging situation in which some impoverished countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, paid more in debt service to wealthy nations than they were receiving from in aid. Still, the issue had little traction in affluent countries. "There was almost zero awareness" of the debt issue in the United States at the time, says Neil Watkins, National Coordinator of Jubilee USA, the leading coalition of debt relief advocates.

Social movement efforts changed that. In 1998 and 1999, global activists, who had united in the international Jubilee debt campaign, mobilized protests of more than 50,000 supporters at the respective G-8 summits in Birmingham, England, and Cologne, Germany.

They also gained the support of religious leaders such as the late Pope John Paul II, who held up debt relief as "a precondition for the poorest countries to make progress in their fight against poverty."

By this time policy-makers and pundits could no longer ignore the call for debt cancellation. Some went on the attack. Following the Birmingham demonstrations, Andreas Whittam Smith, a columnist from the London daily The Independent, echoed much of elite opinion by calling the Jubilee campaign's goals "laudable" but criticizing its political strategy as "badly conceived." He charged that the coalition's political action would "be ineffectual ... if not counter-productive."

In fact, as grassroots efforts to highlight the issue grew, wealthy countries responded at each stage by grudgingly expanding their limited proposals for debt relief. While never satisfactory, the previous G-8-endorsed plan -- the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative -- nevertheless began establishing a track record for what cancellation could accomplish.

Conservative critics have regularly charged that money from debt cancellation would be mismanaged and would not be used to reduce poverty.

In fact, HIPC demonstrated that cancellation could be a most effective form of foreign aid, allowing developing countries to retain and use their own resources.

By 2004, HIPC had advanced some measure of relief to 27 countries, including Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique. A report from the World Bank that year showed that together these countries nearly doubled their total spending on poverty reduction -- including education, health care and clean water -- in the period from 1999 to 2004.

A final turning point in the debate came in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, when the Bush administration appealed to creditor nations to forgive tens of billions of dollars worth of Iraq's foreign debt.

With long-time advocates of cancellation unexpectedly hearing the leader of the world's largest economic power contend that unfair debt endangered a poor nation's "long-term prospects for political health and economic prosperity," the moral debate was effectively closed. All that remained was for policy to catch up.

While the G-8 agreement, involving more than $40 billion of debt, sets a landmark precedent, Jubilee campaigners will have much work ahead of them making sure that 100 percent cancellation is granted to other poor countries in need, as well as to nations who hold "odious" debts accumulated by past dictators.

Yet the challenges that remain should not obscure a major milestone -- one 10 years and dozens of protests in the making.

U.S. Does Little as Others Pitch In

by Jeffrey D. Sachs

President Bush last week brazenly brushed aside British Prime Minister Tony Blair's call for a doubling of aid to Africa. Blair and other European leaders have taken on the task of fighting extreme poverty -- and Bush watches from the sidelines. To justify its dereliction, the Bush administration perpetuates a mythology that contributes to the premature deaths of millions of people each year.
The U.S. is a generous provider of aid to Africa, the mythology says, but Africa is corrupt and mismanaged and thus cannot absorb more aid. In addition, there is no room in the budget to do any more than what we are currently doing. This fantasy is widely shared in the United States and recalls Napoleon's dictum that ``history is a fable often told.''

The facts are otherwise. Total annual U.S. aid for all of Africa is about $3 billion, equivalent to about two days of Pentagon spending. About $1 billion pays for emergency food aid, of which half is for transport. About $1.5 billion is for ''technical cooperation,'' essentially salaries of U.S. consultants. Only about $500 million a year -- less than $1 per African -- finances clinics, schools, food production, roads, power, Internet connectivity, safe drinking water, sanitation, family planning and lifesaving health interventions to fight malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

Minuscule U.S. aid

The myth that more aid would be squandered is pernicious. Once in a while, the industrialized countries try to accomplish something real in Africa. Notable examples are smallpox eradication begun in the 1960s, control of river blindness in the 1970s, increased child immunization in the 1980s, Jimmy Carter's initiatives to fight Guinea worm, trachoma and leprosy in the 1990s and Rotary International's bold efforts to eliminate polio this decade.

These interventions throughout Africa were remarkably successful. That they could be easily monitored was a key to their success. More victories could have been achieved -- in food production, malaria control and AIDS treatment -- if the efforts had been undertaken. Instead, U.S. aid was minuscule and misdirected into consultants' salaries and emergency-food shipments.

If the administration were more than modestly interested in helping Africa, it could learn about the huge gains made possible by Blair's plan to provide about $50 billion a year to Africa by 2010 -- with the U.S. kicking in $15 billion to $20 billion. With that money, Africa could control killer diseases, triple food production, cut hunger and improve transportation and communications.

These steps, incidentally, would accelerate the continent's transition to lower fertility rates and slower population growth because they would contribute to a lower child mortality rate and economic gains, which would help persuade couples to have fewer children.

The new aid would not involve guesswork or be a blank check. Consider one example.

Malaria will kill up to three million children this year, overwhelming Africa's meager hospitals. Yet five measures could end this: long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (cost: $7 per net); effective medications freely available to the poor; community health workers trained in malaria control; medical diagnostic capacity at the local level; and indoor insecticide spraying where appropriate. The cost: $3 billion a year for the industrialized countries, $1 billion for the U.S. -- about 10 times what's currently spent on malaria control.

Consequences of U.S. policy

The administration's claim that budget restraints prevent more spending on Africa is the most cynical of its contentions. The president has cut taxes by more than $200 billion a year, with the wealthiest Americans the chief beneficiaries, and has raised military spending by $200 billion a year. But when $20 billion is needed to keep the poorest of the poor in Africa alive and put the continent's economies on a path toward long-term growth, there's no money available.

The millions of Africans who die young and the hundreds of millions going hungry are not victims of fate. They are the consequences of U.S. policy.

Americans want to do better.

Friday, June 17, 2005

An in-depth analysis of the history, and future of corporate governance

This will take you a couple of hours to read, but well worth the effort if you consider yourself a progressive. Corporations have an incredible amount of power and institutional investorsm including state pension funds and university endowments own about one-third of US public corporations. How this power is distributed and used has repercussions for everyone...

Dr. Frist Damaged a Serious Debate

Dr. Frist Damaged a Serious Debate
by E.J. Dionne Jr.

We are not entitled to our moral, ethical and philosophical commitments. We are not entitled to our own facts.

So why is this basic rule of argument often ignored by politicians whose certainty about their righteousness persuades them that they can say absolutely anything to further their causes?

The autopsy in the Terri Schiavo case provides a rare moment of political accountability. We should not "move on," as Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist suggested we should. No, we cannot move on until those politicians who felt entitled to make up facts and toss around unwarranted conclusions about Schiavo's condition take responsibility for what they said -- and apologize.

Nothing in the autopsy report prevents those who opposed removing Schiavo's feeding tube from continuing to insist they were right. It's legitimate and honorable to argue on philosophical grounds that every medical decision in a tragic circumstance such as Schiavo's should be made on the side of keeping the sick person alive.

But those who supported an extraordinary use of federal power to force their own conclusion against the judgment of state courts knew that philosophical arguments would not be enough. Most Americans were uneasy about compelling Schiavo's husband Michael to keep his wife alive if -- as the state courts had concluded and as the autopsy confirmed on Wednesday -- she had suffered irreversible brain damage and was incapable of recovering.

So the big government conservatives had to invent a story. They had to insist that they knew, just knew, more about Terri Schiavo's condition than the doctors on the scene. They had to question Michael Schiavo's motives and imply that he wanted to, well, get rid of her.

"As I understand it," Frist said on the Senate floor, "Terri's husband will not divorce Terri and will not allow her parents to take care of her. Terri's husband, who I have not met, does have a girlfriend he lives with and they have children of their own." No accusation here, just a brisk walk through innuendo city.

Dr. Frist, as he likes to be known, didn't just make his case as a pro- lifer. He invoked his expertise as a member of the medical profession. "I close this evening speaking more as a physician than as a U.S. senator," Frist said during the March 17 debate on the bill forcing a federal review of the case.

Proffering references to medical textbooks and journals, Frist led his colleagues through to his conclusion. He argued that "a decision had been made to starve to death a woman based on a clinical exam that took place over a very short period of time by a neurologist who was called in to make the diagnosis rather than over a longer period of time." Dr. Frist, in other words, was offering a second opinion.

In a Thursday appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America," Frist insisted: "I raised the question, 'Is she in a persistent vegetative state or not?' I never made the diagnosis, never said that she was not."

Well, that depends on the meaning of "diagnosis." In the midst of his impressively detailed medical review, Frist declared flatly: "Terri's brother told me Terri laughs, smiles and tries to speak. That doesn't sound like a woman in a persistent vegetative state."

So Frist wanted to be seen as having the medical expertise to support his conclusion when doing so was convenient -- and now wants us to think he did nothing of the sort.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay didn't pretend to be a doctor, just expert enough to know what was wrong with the news reports.

"Mrs. Schiavo's condition, I believe, has been at times misrepresented by the media," DeLay said on March 20. "Terri Schiavo is not brain dead; she talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and discomfort. Terri Schiavo is not on life support."

You wonder: Will DeLay now say he's sorry to the media? Will he acknowledge that in the Schiavo case, he honestly didn't know what he was talking about?

Right-to-life politicians have done terrible damage to what is a serious cause. They claimed to know what they did not, and could not, know. They were willing to imply, without proof, terrible things about a husband who was getting in their way. Instead of making the hard and morally challenging case for keeping Terri Schiavo on life support, they spun an emotional narrative that they thought would play well on cable TV and talk radio.

No, we should not move on. We should remember that some politicians will say whatever is necessary to advance their immediate purposes. Apologies, anyone?

Now Seven Leaked British Documents Raise Iraq War Questions

How Much Proof Needed Before the Truth Comes Out?
Now Seven Leaked British Documents Raise Iraq War Questions

by Kevin Zeese

The Downing Street Memo - minutes of a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair and his advisors that said the U.S. was "fixing" the intelligence to support the Iraq War - was not enough to get the mainstream U.S. media or members of Congress to take the issue seriously. Now there is Downing II, III, IV, V, VI and VII!

As the evidence mounts, the failure of the media to seriously investigate the issues is baffling. Why aren't they interviewing current and former U.S. military intelligence officials about these reports from highest levels of British government? Isn't the media supposed to investigate and get the truth for their readers and viewers?

And, how about Congress - shouldn't they be subpoenaing witnesses to testify under oath about pre-war intelligence gathering, the influence Bush administration had on manipulating or misstating intelligence findings and whether intelligence was gathered to report the truth or designed to support a pre-ordained war? The Chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, has promised to investigate whether intelligence was manipulated by the Administration - but that promise remains unfulfilled and last week Knight-Ridder reporter Dick Polman was told it was "still on the back burner." Maybe it is time to make good on that promise.

How much more information is needed before the truth is sought and reported to the American people?

Here's a summary of the British memos:

Downing Street I:

This memorandum is the minutes of a meeting between Britain's top national security officials and Prime Minister Blair on July 23, 2002 - eight months before the invasion of Iraq. The document, marked "Secret and strictly personal - UK eyes only," consists of the official minutes of a briefing given by Richard Dearlove, then-director of Britain's MI-6 (the equivalent of the CIA) who, based on a recent visit to Washington, DC, reported that the Bush administration planned to start a preemptive war against Iraq. By the summer of 2002 President Bush had decided to overthrow Iraq President Saddam Hussein by launching a war. Dearlove stated the war would be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]." Dearlove continued: "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw agreed saying: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided." "But," he continued, "the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, and Iran."

Downing Steet II:

This memorandum dated July 21, 2002 to the Prime Ministers cabinet seeks comments on the Iraq War Planning. It discusses how to justify the Iraq War by "creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq." It describes U.S> planning as proceeding: "The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it." It also reports that Tony Blair agreed to support the Iraq War in a discussion with President Bush in Crawford, TX in April: "When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change . . ." The memo expressed concern about legality stating it "is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action." Regarding legality, the memo notes "US views of international law vary from that of the UK and the international community. Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law." One option to create legality stated was "It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003."

Downing Street III:

A memorandum from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to the Prime Minister dated March 25, 2002 in preparation for the PM's visit to Crawford, TX. Straw begins the memo with a warning: "The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few. The risks are high, both for you and for the Government." He notes the lack of support for a war with Iraq in the Parliament and sees the case as challenging to make because "(a) the threat from Iraq and why this has got worse recently; (b) what distinguishes the Iraqi threat from that [of] Iran and North Korea so as to justify military action; (c) the justification for any military action in terms of international law." He also notes: "there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September." He points out how Bush's 'axis of evil' makes the task more difficult - "A lot of work will now need to be done to delink the three, and to show why military action against Iraq is so much more justified than against Iran and North Korea." He concludes saying: "A legal justification is a necessary but far from sufficient precondition for military action. We have also to answer the big question - what will this action achieve?"

Downing Street IV:

This memorandum, written by Blair political director Peter Ricketts and dated March 22, 2002 raises two concerns regarding supporting the planned U.S. war with Iraq. His first concern: "First, the THREAT. The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September. . . the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW [Chemical Warfare/Biological Warfare] fronts." He also expresses concerns with other aspects of "US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing," the threat "it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran)," After looking at the goal of the war he says "It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."

Downing Street V:

This memorandum from then British Ambassador to the U.S., Christopher Meyer, dated March 18, 2002 discusses a conversation with Paul Wolfowitz. He told Wolfowitz that a war against Iraq would be a difficult sell in Britain, and more difficult in Europe, and "went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN SCRs [Security Council Resolutions]."

Downing Street VI:

A memorandum to Prime Minister Blair dated March 12, 2002 from British foreign policy advisor, David Manning, the purpose of which is to prepare the Prime Minister for his trip to Crawford, TX to meet with President Bush. Regarding Iraq, he reports that Bush is "grateful for your support and has registered you are getting flak." Manning based his comments on a meeting with Condoleezza Rice. He said the President had not yet found answers to several issues among them "how to persuade the international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified." There was recognition that if Bush could not put together a coalition that the U.S. "could go it alone."

Downing Street VII:

A legal options memorandum - eight pages long - looks at the alternative legal justifications for war - security counsel resolutions, self-defense and humanitarian intervention - and finds all of them lacking.

What do all these leaked, confidential British memos point to? The Bush Administration had decided to go to war at least one year before doing so and many months before seeking a resolution from Congress. The invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law so they tried to create legal justification through manipulation of the United Nations in order to trap Saddam into violating U.N. resolutions. This also provided the side benefit of making it look like they were seeking a peaceful resolution while at the same time putting in place the machinery for a massive U.S./U.K invasion. The case for war was weak - the link to terrorism particularly Al Qaida was poor, Iraq was no more dangerous than other 'axis of evil' countries, Iraq's weapons program for nuclear, bio and chemical weapons was no greater than prior to deciding to go to war and intelligence needed to be 'fixed' in order to justify the war to the public and international community. Finally, these memos indicate that the U.S. planned poorly for the post-invasion occupation of Iraq, greatly underestimating how difficult this part of the military activity would be.

The British memos are certainly producing a lot of smoke - will anyone with credibility and resources do the investigation needed to show us the fire?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The center of the doughnut

By Andre Gunder Frank

(PART 1: Why the emperor has no clothes )

All Ponzi schemes build a financial pyramid. Many who pay into them also live in a financial world themselves, but others need to derive their in-payment through earnings from production in the real world. In today's world of financial transactions that every day are a hundredfold more than all payments for real goods and services put together, the financial ones put the real ones into the shadow behind their brilliance.

Moreover, to oversimplify a very complex matter into more intelligible layperson's language, options, derivatives, swaps and other recent financial instruments have been ever much further compounding already compounded interest on the real properties in which their stake and debts are based, which has contributed to the spectacular growth of this financial world. Nonetheless, the financial pyramid that we see in all its splendor and brilliance, especially in its center at Uncle Sam's home, still sits on top of a real-world producer-merchant-consumer base, even if the financial one also provides credit for these real-world transactions.

Now, what if we look at the world as a doughnut, analogous to so many cities in the US rust belt. The center is derelict and hollowed out as production and consumption have moved to the surrounding suburbs (in automobile capital Detroit, the windows of the principal department store Hudson's have been boarded up for years, even as the city has built an expensive "Renaissance Center" to re-gentrify the center, a process that has "succeeded" in some other cities). General Motors' derelict Flint, Michigan, gave us Michael Moore, who featured it in Roger and Me (a reference to GM chief executive officer Roger Smith). We might look at the entire world in doughnut terms, with the whole of Uncle Sam in the empty hole in the middle that produces almost nothing it can sell abroad. The main exceptions are agricultural goods and military hardware that are heavily subsidized by the US government from its taxpayers and its dollar-printing press, and even so Uncle Sam runs a US$600-billion-plus budget deficit.

Should the dollar crash ...
The big difference in this US doughnut is that both the budget deficit and the $600-billion-plus trade deficit are financed by foreigners, as we have seen. Uncle Sam would exclude most of them as persons, but gladly receives the real goods they produce. As world consumer of last resort, as already suggested, Uncle Sam performs this important function in the present global political economic division of labor: everybody else produces and needs to export, and Uncle Sam consumes and needs to import. The crash of the dollar would (will?) crumble this entire world-embracing and -organizing political economic doughnut and throw hundreds of millions of people, not to mention zillions of dollars and their owners, into turmoil, with unforeseen and perhaps unforeseeable consequences.

Many people, high and low on the world totem pole, have a big stake in avoiding that, even if it requires continuing to blow an empty Uncle Sam up like a balloon. Or to refer to a well-know metaphor, to continue to pretend that the emperor with no clothes is dressed up. That still includes China, for which a financial showdown with Uncle Sam would be a blessing in disguise: it would oblige China to change its political economic course, and instead of giving its goods away for free to Uncle Sam, to turn production and consumption inward to its poor interior and outward to its neighbors in East Asia, all of which it could and should be doing already. (The latter China has recently begun to do, but not yet the former.)

Of course, crashing the dollar would finally also in one fell swoop wipe out, that is default, Uncle Sam's debt altogether. Thereby, it would simultaneously also make all foreigners and rich Americans lose the whole of their dollar-asset shirt, of which they are still desperately trying to save as much as possible by not so doing. In fact, this historically necessary transition out from under the US-run doughnut world could bring the entire world into the deepest depression ever - and in all of them the poorest suffer the most. Only East Asia could save itself with greatest ease, but also after paying a high cost for this transition - toward itself! Thus, the Uncle Sam Ponzi Scheme poses the world's biggest and craziest Catch-22 since MAD (mutually assured destruction).
However, even this would not be historically new. Recall how much the transition to Uncle Sam cost: another 30 Years' War from 1914 to 1945 with the intervening second Great Depression in a century that cost 100 million lives lost to war, more than in all of previous world history, not to mention the millions who suffered and died from unnecessary starvation and disease. Or the previous transition to Britain cost the Napoleonic Wars, the Great Depression of 1873-95, colonialism and semi-colonialism, to name a few, and their human costs, especially combined with the most pronounced El Nino climatic changes in two centuries, which ravaged Indians, Chinese and many others with famines. But these were in turn magnified by the imperial colonial powers and used in their own interests, eg increased export of wheat from India especially during years of famine.

The parallels with today, including even again taking advantage a century later of renewed stronger El Ninos, are too horrifying and guilt-generating for hardly anybody to make with Uncle Sam's International Monetary Fund-imposed "structural adjustment" that obliges Mexican peasants to have already eaten the belt that the IMF wants them to tighten still further. And that is not to mention 3 million dead in Rwanda and Burundi, and then some in neighboring Congo, first after IMF-imposed strictures and the cancellation primarily by Uncle Sam of the Coffee Agreement that had sustained its price for these producers. And then we get the scramble for and production and sale there of gold for Uncle Sam's Fort Knox, titanium so we can communicate by mobile telephone, diamonds forever, and so on.

Yet there are also others in the world who do not (yet) feel all caught in this trap. Just before the 2004 US election, one of them said so out loud in a video broadcast to the world. It seems to have been least publicly noted by its principal addressee, Uncle Sam, who should have been the most interested party, for it was none other than Osama bin Laden himself who announced that he was "going to bankrupt the Uncle Sam". In view of Uncle Sam's deliberate blindness to the shakiness of his real-world foundation abroad, so massive a collapse may not be more difficult to arrange than it was to topple its Twin Towers symbol.

How Uncle Sam spends your dollars
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as the saying goes in Texas, what does Uncle Sam himself blithely do with the world's hard-earned savings and money? His consumers still over-consume it without 99.9% of them knowing what they are doing, since hardly anyone tells them. And Uncle Sam's government uses much if not all of its increased hundreds of billions of dollars for the Pentagon. It does not, however, spend it to pay its poor professional soldiers, who come mostly from small-town rural America and took the only job they could get, and even less to its hapless reservists. No, better increasingly to privatize war in Iraq as well as at home. The military-industrial complex against which General Dwight Eisenhower warned in his 1958 parting presidential address is alive and kicking, more than ever under the stewardship of Vice President Richard Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (with their jobs disastrously well done, both are being kept on for a second term. So is Douglas Feith, with Paul "Wolfowitz of Arabia" one of the duo at the Pentagon who went to Israel and who the commander of the Iraq invasion, Tommy Franks, has been quoted as calling "the greatest total idiot that there is on God's Earth, with whom I have to battle almost every day").

Between 1994 and mid-2003, Uncle Sam's Pentagon made more than 3,000 contracts valued at more than $300 billion with 12 US private military companies (PMCs) out of the 35 estimated by the New York Times, others of which are small and offer mercenary services. But more than 2,700 of those contracts were given to only two companies: Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Cheney-connected Halliburton, and Booz Allen Hamilton, according to the Center for Public Integrity's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In Iraq these PMCs now have as many mercenaries as US and UK troops combined. But of course that is still "small" potatoes, since the bulk of Pentagon money is used to buy expensive weapons systems from only four major US "defense" contractors and the likes of Halliburton.

Uncle Sam then uses these arms unilaterally to twist others' arms by blackmail, to lord it over and invade the world that provided the money in the first place. After all, Uncle Sam has to do what it must to keep it coming. US unilateralism is not so much, as often mistakenly supposed, just going it alone. Yes, it is to proclaim fighting for "freedom" (whose, we may ask?) and "saving civilization", as President George W Bush and his even more eloquent British mouthpiece Tony Blair proclaim every day. The simplest way to "save" civilization was by simply abolishing in a day its most precious gift of the whole body of international law to keep the peace, which the West had taken centuries to develop, admittedly also in its own imperial interests. Still, it was the best and only international law we had, and at the very least better than nothing at all. Now the only "Law of the West" that remains is indeed "the law of the west": The spaghetti-western vigilante law of posses that, with or without a conniving judge, take the "law" into their own hands to form a lynch party and go after whomever and where and when they please, alas now on a much grander scale than any spaghetti western ever imagined.

That also means disemboweling and paralyzing the institution of the United Nations that was established to guard the peace, except when Uncle Sam after its own wars always recycles the UN to pick up the pieces he shattered in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and now Iraq. But in so doing, it also means to dupe, threaten, cajole and blackmail all others - friends and foes alike - to do his bidding on every issue, big and small. He has trained a whole civilian army of officials to do that. That way, Uncle Sam can "unilaterally" always throw around his still-apparent weight in all other international institutions that deal with endeavors from agriculture and aviation to zoology. But Uncle Sam extorts real unilateral favors for himself even more through his bilateral relations. That is why the World Trade Organization was dead on arrival. Indeed, Uncle Sam now prefers to use bilateral relations unilaterally, as he increasingly isolates himself internationally. Thus he can exercise even more military, political and economic bargaining power over his bilateral "partners" than he could over all or even many in international institutions.

And when bargaining is not enough, or even if it could be, Uncle Sam simply attacks when he feels like it, invading little Grenada (population all of 300,000), Nicaragua (with the help of arch-enemy Iran), Panama (7,000 civilians killed in one night to capture one man only, Daddy Bush's onetime friend and ally Manuel Noriega - there is an all-smiles photo of them shaking hands), Iraq (that was even a money-making venture as Uncle Sam extorted more dollars from his allies to pay for the war than it actually cost him), Somalia, and Yugoslavia, which was attacked in part to make an example out of what can happen when one is weak and yet in abject defiance of Uncle Sam and his IMF, maintaining some state ownership of important means of production and social-welfare state protection of the population, like Belarus today, where Uncle Sam also tried to get "regime change", but military action is more difficult on the border of Russia, unless it is an accord as against Afghanistan or bought off. Moreover, Yugoslavia gave up only when Russia withdrew support after Uncle Sam successfully blackmailed political economically and partly bought it off in Berlin. Then there is Afghanistan (again with the help of Iran and Russia), and now again Iraq. Who's next, Iran? Syria? Not Libya, it is now obediently making oil deals with Uncle Sam; and not North Korea, which made nukes to protect itself against precisely that.

Simple inspection of the facts on the ground reveals that, except for little Grenada, not a single one of these or any other US wars was ever won by military force, unless it be the Pacific one against Japan (World War II was won in Europe at Stalingrad in 1943 by Russian troops who would have reached Berlin even if Uncle Sam had not arrived later). Nonetheless, Uncle Sam has now already built 800 military bases around the world. Apart from that Bush has a new "Plan for the Middle East", which now stretches from Morocco beyond Pakistan - to Muslim Indonesia? Just what this plan involves is not yet clear, other than that Israel is to remain Uncle Sam's political and military stalking horse in the region as it has always been. Only now it's assigned its own reach and may also expand further. Bush himself went to Africa, especially West Africa, to look at its oil. In the Americas, his Plan Colombia (it has oil too) has been extended to the whole Andean region (Ecuador also exports oil), he has yet another plan for the Amazon (maybe some is to be found there and in the meantime he built a huge base there, allegedly for NASA, which is not unknown also to engage in military ventures), a plan to "take care of" with World Bank help the world's largest underground deposit of sweet water under Iguazu Falls, where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet, and is already again training 40,000 Latin American military personnel at a time on US bases.

All this is a giant global military-political economic foundation on which to maintain Uncle Sam's financial Ponzi Scheme Confidence Racket, and cheap at twice the price for those that end up with the dollars and as long as he can pay for it all with the self-made paper dollars that so far also maintains the global Ponzi business. Well, to be honest, it's not only for the dollars. After all, they are only useful if you can actually buy something with them, especially the oil that keeps the foundation running.

All about oil
Not only does Uncle Sam have to buy ever more oil, today with self-printed dollars, but perhaps tomorrow with euros or yuan, he also has to try to make sure to have his hand on every spigot so he can control who else can, and especially who cannot, buy it. So that is why we now find him attempting political and financial control of the oil spigots, wherever he still can, and going in also for military presence as in Central Asia, or using military power to go in, as Iraq. That is both to use it as a lever of control and/or to warn its neighbors what may happen to them if they fail to continue to play along with Uncle Sam. Fortunately for him, most of East Asia and especially China also seem to be obliged to buy foreign oil, even if tomorrow perhaps no longer with dollars but with yuan/yen. On the other hand, sad but true, the world's biggest seller of oil is Russia, whose spigots remain beyond Uncle Sam's control. But how could Uncle Sam continue to pay for and maintain all these bold ventures in defense of freedom with those self-made paper dollars if nobody accepts them anymore?

The December 10 Financial Times (FT) offered some additional tip-of-the-iceberg examples of Uncle Sam's Defense of Freedom in Iraq. Though poor Iraq sits on top of the world's largest still-unexploited pool of ever-more-precious oil, it remains in the background or only at the bottom of this story that barely mentions it and, like the present essay, focuses instead on dollars. In two different reports, it relates how three helicopters flew 14 tons of $100 bills in to the Kurds. The money, much of the $1.8 billion US payoff to the Kurds, was part of Iraq's earnings under the UN "oil for food" program. Initially, of course, the bills simply were the product of the self-same US printing press, for which Iraq had exported real oil. It did not come from the $18 billion that Uncle Sam's Congress appropriated for "reconstruction" of Iraq. As an FT graph graphically shows, no more than $388 million - or 2.15% - of that US money had yet been spent, and only $5 billion of it having even been budgeted by Uncle Sam in Iraq by the time US proconsul L Paul Bremer went home from a job well done. No, instead in his wisdom the Good Uncle had thought it best to spend $13 billion of the $20 billion of Iraqi funds. That was 65% of the Iraqi money compared with the still only 2% of the nearly equivalent amount of original US money.

By the time the new Iraqi government took over some tasks from Uncle Sam, it discovered that a full $20 billion of their funds had been spent, $11 billion from sales of oil, according to the International Herald Tribune. Why? Simple, is the answer of the "responsible" finance officer, Admiral David Oliver, "I know we spent some money from [the Iraqi] fund. It was purely the matter that we'd run out of US money" - of which there was only another $17.5 billion-plus unspent. We might wonder whether the good admiral was schooled in Clausewitz and happened also to discover his good advice about making the conquered victim pay for his own military occupation, in this case by Uncle Sam.

The Iraqi representative on the funding disbursement and oversight committee attended all of one out of its 43 meetings; but then why bother with more, when most expenditures were authorized without any meeting at all. So although US funds were budgeted for all sorts of projects, they were nonetheless paid out of Iraqi funds. Of these, many disbursements were even made without any contract whatsoever, in one case a mere $1.4 billion. Most others occurred without any multiple competitive, nor even any previously vetted or subsequently evaluated, bids. The US funds, on the other hand, remained virtually unspent in Iraq. Maybe Admiral Oliver had "run out of US money" in Iraq because it remained at home in Washington; and if disbursed at all, it simply changed hands and bank accounts right there. After all, that is much more efficient than it would have been to send it back and forth, and a bit of it might not even get back. After all, it has long since been standard practice for the bulk of the dollars that Uncle Sam lends or even "gives" to Third World countries to stay at home, where it belongs and would return to anyway. No matter; Congress has already appropriated another $30 billion to "prepare for transition to elections" in Iraq this month.

All that being the case, it would of course be altogether undesirable for Iraqi, let alone Uncle Sam's, funds to be squandered on any Iraqi service of old foreign debt to others. So it was only logical to strong-arm "allies" who can't help already losing US debt to them also to forgive the Iraqi debt. This, as we may recall from above, while Uncle Sam still insists that the rest of the Third World must continue servicing their debts to him. For God forbid that any repayment of Iraqi debt should go instead to those ungodly Russians, traitorous Frenchmen or even to the Chinese best friend indeed, who most invested in Iraq, a dastardly thing to do in the first place, when Uncle Sam has much more worthy causes for the Iraqi money.

And what were and still are these grander, worthy causes? The largest single payment of $1.4 billion was to whom else but the self-same Vice President Cheney's Halliburton. Yet we now know that at the same time it was also cheating even its generous benefactor Uncle Sam out of hundreds of millions more dollars on the side, buying petrol for $X in Kuwait and selling it in Iraq for $5-10X and other shenanigans. Altogether, Halliburton got Iraq contracts for a cool $10 billion plus change, according to the IHT.

Without the shadow of a doubt, most of the other Iraqi and US dollars went to other crony US - and some crumbs off the table for the UK - corporations and even to private and military individuals who have their fingers in the till. But alas, we will never know who they all are, since as per Uncle Sam's inspector general, "I was, candidly, not interested in having army auditors because I thought we had to slide into the Iraqi system as quickly as possible."

Rewards of conquest
Frankly, being both non- and anti-military, I have not myself read Clausewitz. So I do not know what, if any, good advice he gives about relying on corruption as the first principle in cutting and dividing up the conquered pie.

All of the above speculation was written before the UN International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Development in Iraq (IAMBDI) issued a report on its findings about US stewardship. Before we get to the report, we should keep in mind that the FT observes diplomatically that "the UN has been reluctant to take the US to task publicly over its spending of Iraqi funds". The FT quotes directly from the report: "There were control weaknesses ... inadequate accounting systems, uneven application of agreed-upon contracting procedures and inadequate record keeping." The IHT also makes its own summary of the same report: "There had been widespread irregularities, including financial mismanagement, a failure to cut smuggling [outward of oil and other Iraqi physical property; nobody knows at what price and to whose benefit] and over-dependence on no-bid contracts." The FT, for its part, offers a few more specifics from the report: "Of particular concern ... were contracts with sometimes billions of dollars that were awarded to US companies such as Halliburton from Iraqi funds without competitive tender."

Last month Bush gave Uncle Sam's highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, to L Paul Bremer III, the US civilian proconsul who oversaw it all, and to General Tommy Franks, who led the invasion that made it all possible in the first place. George Tenet, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that provided all the bogus information to "legitimate" the whole enterprise to begin with and has since been discredited and forced to resign was not forgotten either and received the third award. The IHT published a ceremonial photograph of the three, all smiles with George W, who was smiling too. We may rest pretty well assured that of the recipients of their beneficence and service to "freedom" (for whom and what, we may ask?), 99.99% were among the ones at whom the US Federal Reserve's Alan Greenspan had already pointed his finger as the most privileged over-consumers who are totally responsible for US under-saving and whom he labeled simply as the upper 20% of US income earners. It is also they, he said, who are the most responsible also for the growing trade deficit about which the Doctor recently complained in Berlin. If we examine US income distribution, we may well learn also that among these 20%, the lion's share of this money, like most of that from the Pentagon, ended up in the pockets or accounts of the upper 2% most super-privileged, so they can over-consume yet still more of the fat of the whole Earth. Who would deny that this is a worthy cause?

But as Bush himself told the world, it is only right that "we" exclude other countries from the trough and till in Iraq. After all, he explained, when the Iraqis accepted his invitation, it was "our boys who put their lives on the line". Alas, the personification of Uncle Sam neglected also to explain for what and for whom.