Seattle Activists Aim To Put Israel Divestment on City’s Agenda

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By Rebecca Spence
Wed. May 21, 2008

Los Angeles – If a local activist group has its way, Seattle could soon become the first major American city to divest from companies that provide material support to Israel.

Seattle Divest From War and Occupation, a citizens group, is angling to get an initiative on the ballot that would mandate city pension funds to divest from businesses that profit from the Iraq War, as well as from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Since late March, when initiative I-97 was approved for petition circulation by the City Attorney’s Office, local Seattle Jewish groups have coalesced to beat back the nascent effort.

The ballot initiative comes as Jewish groups and their supporters emerged victorious in recent weeks from a hard-fought Israel divestment battle with The United Methodist Church. Mainstream Jewish groups undertook a major lobbying effort – at both the grass-roots and leadership levels – to keep five anti-Israel divestment measures from passing at the Methodists’ plenum early this month. Previous efforts to stymie Israel divestment measures proposed by another mainline Protestant church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), also proved successful.

This latest battle, dealing at the local level, could prove to be a different sort of testing ground. While passage of the Seattle ballot initiative would not have significant economic consequences for the Jewish state, Jewish groups fear that its repercussions could be far-reaching.

“Its symbolic impact would be fairly large, because it’s a public body of civic employees taking a stand on an unresolved issue,” said Rabbi Anson Laytner, executive director of the Greater Seattle Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. “It could snowball to other cities, to other institutions. That is why we pushed very hard when first the Presbyterian Church, and later The United Methodist Church, also considered similar divestment activities.”

Already, Seattle-area Jewish groups have met with some initial success. A lawsuit filed May 13 by the Washington Israel Business Council, a statewide group, and StandWithUs, a national pro-Israel activist group that has been active on college campuses, resulted in the initiative’s language being amended. The coalition of Jewish groups – which also includes the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the AJCommittee – raised concerns that the language of the initiative’s title and preliminary text did not adequately make clear that I-97 targeted Israel in addition to Iraq.

“They clearly put Iraq up first, with the recognition that the Iraq War was very unpopular,” said Robert Jacobs, regional director of StandWithUs Northwest. “And they downplayed the anti-Israel aspect because they would get fewer signatures if people knew they were signing a petition against Israel.”

But the initiative’s backers contend that their intent was not to mislead. A spokeswoman for the group, Judith Kolokoff, who is Jewish, said that the initiative’s aim is simply to divest Seattle pension funds from companies turning a profit from the Iraq War and from Israel’s occupation.

“It is a single issue,” Kolokoff said. “It is really an issue of stopping investing in companies that are directly involved in the wars and occupations in the Middle East that have not been authorized by the United Nations.”

The initiative specifically targets Halliburton, the military contractor that has reaped billions from its work in Iraq, and Caterpillar, which has famously provided Israel with bulldozers, some of which have been used in the destruction of Palestinian homes, Kolokoff added. The proposed measure also calls for the city to withdraw any investment in Israeli bonds in the event that the Jewish state attacks Iran.

The initiative’s backers have six months to collect 18,000 signatures in order for the initiative to appear on the ballot. If sufficient signatures are collected quickly enough, I-97 could potentially appear on the November general election ballot. Thus far, Kolokoff said, the group has collected “several thousand” signatures.

Local Jewish leaders say that if the initiative makes it to the ballot, they are prepared to launch a large-scale campaign to defeat it. Already, StandWithUs is collecting donations to go toward such a campaign. “We’re hoping that the initiative supporters are unable to get their 18,000 signatures and that Seattle residents, by not signing the petition, make a statement that the Seattle community supports Israel,” Jacobs said. “But if they do get their signatures, then the community here is fully prepared to respond to the challenge and will try to make a case in opposition to the ballot.”

Homes foreclosure more than doubled in 1Q from 2007

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Tuesday April 29, 6:18 am ET, by Alex Veiga, AP Business Writer

Number of US homes facing foreclosure jumps 112 percent in first quarter from 2007 LOS ANGELES (AP) — The number of U.S. homes heading toward foreclosure more than doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier, as weakening property values and tighter lending left many homeowners powerless to prevent homes from being auctioned to the highest bidder, a research firm said Monday.

Among the hardest hit states were Nevada, Florida and, in particular, California, where Stockton led the nation with a foreclosure rate that was 6.6 times the national average, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. said.

Nationwide, 649,917 homes received at least one foreclosure-related filing in the first three months of the year, up 112 percent from 306,722 during the same period last year, RealtyTrac said.

The latest tally also represents an increase of 23 percent from the fourth quarter of last year.

RealtyTrac monitors default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions.

All told, one in every 194 households received a foreclosure filing during the quarter. Foreclosure filings increased in all but four states.

The most recent quarter marked the seventh consecutive quarter of rising foreclosure activity, RealtyTrac noted.

“What would normally alleviate the foreclosure situation in a normal market is people starting to buy properties again,” said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac’s vice president of marketing.

However, the unavailability of loans for people without perfect credit and a significant down payment is slowing the process, he said.

“It’s a cycle that’s going to be difficult to break, and we’re certainly not at the breaking point just yet,” Sharga added.

The surge in foreclosure filings also suggests that much-touted campaigns by lawmakers and the mortgage lending industry aimed at helping at-risk homeowners aren’t paying off.

Hope Now, a Bush administration-organized mortgage industry group, said nearly 503,000 homeowners had received mortgage aid in the first quarter. Most of the aid was temporary, however.

Pennsylvania was a notable standout in the latest foreclosure data. The number of homes in the state to receive a foreclosure-related filing plunged 24.4 percent from a year earlier.

Sharga credited the decline to the state’s foreclosure relief measures, noting that cities such as Philadelphia put in place a moratorium on all foreclosure auctions for April and implemented other measures aimed at helping slow foreclosures.

Nearly 157,000 properties were repossessed by lenders nationwide during the quarter, according to RealtyTrac.

The flood of foreclosed properties on the market has contributed to falling or stagnating home values, yet lenders have yet to implement heavy discounts on repossessed homes, Sharga said.

Nevada posted the worst foreclosure rate in the nation, with one in every 54 households receiving a foreclosure-related notice, nearly four times the national rate.

The number of properties with a filing increased 137 percent over the same quarter last year but only rose 3 percent from the fourth quarter.

California had the most properties facing foreclosure at 169,831, an increase of 213 percent from a year earlier. It also posted the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country, with one in every 78 households receiving a foreclosure-related notice.

California metro areas accounted for six of the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates in the first quarter, RealtyTrac said.

Many of the areas — including Stockton, Riverside-San Bernardino, Fresno, Sacramento and Bakersfield — are located in inland areas of the state where many first-time buyers overextend themselves financially to buy properties that have plunged in value since the market peak.

“California still hasn’t hit bottom,” Sharga said. “We have a lot of California homes that are in early stages of default that may not be salvageable because either there’s no market or financing available, or both.”

Arizona had the third-highest foreclosure rate, with one in every 95 households reporting a foreclosure filing in the quarter. A total of 27,404 homes reported at least one filing, up nearly 245 percent from a year ago and up 45 percent from the last quarter of 2007.

Florida had 87,893 homes reporting at least one foreclosure filing, a 178 percent jump from the first quarter of last year and a 17 percent hike from the fourth quarter last year. That translates into a foreclosure rate of one in every 97 households.

The other states among the top 10 with the highest foreclosure rates were Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

RealtyTrac Inc.: http://www.realtytrac.com

The Iraq War Morphs Into The Iranian War

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By Paul Craig Roberts

It is 1939 all over again. The world waits helplessly for the next act of naked aggression by rogue states. Only this time the rogue states are not the Third Reich and Fascist Italy. They are the United States and Israel.

The targeted victims are not Poland and France, but Iran, Syria, the remains of the Palestinian West Bank and southern Lebanon.

The American mass media is overjoyed. War coverage attracts viewers and sells advertising.

The neoconservatives are ecstatic. Hegemony uber alles is back on track.

The US Air Force can’t wait “to show what it can do.”

Defense contractors see no end of the profits.

Under cover of the mayhem and propaganda, Israel can grab the remains of the West Bank and have another go at grabbing the water resources of southern Lebanon.

Unlike the US and Israel, Iran is neither occupying any other country’s territory nor threatening to invade another country. Nevertheless, propaganda against Iran is spouting from US and Israeli mouths at an increasing rate. Lie after lie rolls off the tongues of leaders of the “two great democracies.”

On April 27 Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, blamed Iran for “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. Has Admiral Mullen forgot that it is the US, not Iran, that is responsible for as many as one million dead Iraqis and four million displaced Iraqis, the “collateral damage” of a “cakewalk war” now into its sixth year?

On April 26 the Washington Post reported that “the Pentagon is planning for potential military courses of action” against Iran. [U.S. Weighing Readiness for Military Action Against Iran, By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, April 26, 2008]

The Bush Regime’s national security advisor says Iran is a threat in Iraq, an accusation echoed endlessly by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Rice, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush. The US, which has 150,000 troops in Iraq, is not a threat. The US troops are protecting Iraq from Iran, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Just ask Fox “News.”

Doing its part to egg on war with Iran, the US TV news program, “60 Minutes,” gave air time to the commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Eliezer Shkedi, who declared in a special interview that Iranian president Ahmadinejad was the new Hitler and that we must not again make the mistake of disbelieving a Hitler.

There are better candidates for the role than Ahmadinejad.

Gen. Shkedi himself sounds like Hitler blaming Poland for the outbreak of the Second World War. Ahmadinejad has attacked no country, whereas Israel repeatedly invades its neighbors and continues 40-year occupations of Syrian and Palestinian territory.

As Noam Chomsky has written, the US government thinks that it owns the world (Chomsky could have added that Israel thinks it owns the Middle East and America). Americans can wallow in indignation over China’s occupation of Tibet, but be perfectly content with America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel can wax eloquently about “Palestinian terrorism” while its military and Zionist settlers terrorize Palestinians.

Americans see no hypocrisy in “their” government’s damning of Russia for opposing the incorporation of former Russian satellites and constituent parts in a US military alliance.

Americans see manifest destiny, not US aggression, when “their” government drops bombs on Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan. Americans do not think it is aggression for them to develop war plans to attack Iran or China or N. Korea or whomever, or to maintain hundreds of military bases all over the globe. The same Americans work themselves into hysterical frenzies over “Iranian influence in Iraq” and “al Qaeda plans to bring the war to America.”

As Chomsky says, we own the world. No one else counts.

Except Israel.

Israel counts so much that every presidential candidate has declared his and her willingness to expend whatever American blood and treasure are necessary “to protect Israel.” There are no limits on the promise “to defend Israel,” no matter what Israel does, no matter if Israel initiates (yet again) war with its neighbors, no matter if it continues to force Palestinians out of their homes and villages in order to “create living room” for Israelis.

With this sort of promise, why should Israel ever settle for anything less than “Greater Israel”?

Just as the US government launched its illegal invasion of Iraq on the back of lies about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, the US government claims it must attack Iran or Iran will build a nuclear weapon. The Bush Regime has learned never to discard a lie as long as it works.

The lie works for the US Congress, the US media and much of the US public, but it is breaking down abroad. On April 27 the British newspaper, the Independent, responded to the recent US government claim that the Syrian facility attacked last September by Israel in an act of naked aggression was a nuclear reactor built by N. Korea:

“There is no independent way to verify any of this, especially since the installation has now been destroyed. We must rely on the integrity of the Israeli and US intelligence. That is where we hit a problem. The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented similar evidence to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 showing what we were told was strong evidence of Iraqi storage of weapons of mass destruction. As we all know, that intelligence turned out to be bogus.”[Intelligence Or Propaganda, April 26, 2008]

A needless war, a country destroyed, all for bogus intelligence. Why must we repeat our crime in Iran?

Why do we persist in our crime in Iraq? On April 27 McClatchy Newspapers reported that 50 Iraqi political leaders representing numerous political groups including Sunnis went to Sadr City to protest the siege by the US military. Why is al Sadr under siege? He called for a halt to bloodshed between Iraqis, for a “liberation of ourselves and our lands from the occupier,” for “a real government and real sovereignty.” However, for the Bush Regime, rhetoric about “freedom and democracy” is but a mask behind which to impose a US puppet government. Real Iraqi leaders like al Sadr are “terrorists” who must be eliminated.

Why do the American people and “their” representatives in Congress continue to tolerate a criminal Bush Regime that uses lies and propaganda to mask its acts of naked aggression, war crimes under the Nuremberg standard?

Why does the rest of the world continue to receive political representatives from a war criminal government?

What if the rest of the world told the US to close its bases, its embassies, its CIA operations and to go home?

Self-righteous Americans would regard such demands as effrontery! We own the world.

Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

The cost of food: facts and figures

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Explore the facts and figures behind the rising price of food across the globe.

The World Bank has announced emergency measures to tackle rising food prices around the world.

World Bank head Robert Zoellick warned that 100 million people in poor countries could be pushed deeper into poverty by spiralling prices.

The crisis has sparked recent food riots in several countries including Haiti, the Philippines and Egypt.

The World Bank endorsed Mr Zoellick’s “new deal” action plan for a long-term boost to agricultural production.

Emergency help would include an additional $10m (£5m) to Haiti, where several people were killed in food riots last week, and a doubling of agricultural loans to African farmers.

Starvation risk

Mr Zoellick’s proposals were endorsed by the World Bank’s steering committee of finance and development ministers at a meeting in Washington.

We have to put our money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths
Robert Zoellick
World Bank head

The World Bank and its sister organisation, the IMF, have held a weekend of meetings that addressed rising food and energy prices as well as the credit crisis upsetting global financial markets.

The leader of the International Monetary Fund last week said hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of starvation because of food shortages.

Prices have risen sharply in recent months, driven by increased demand, poor weather in some countries that has ruined crops and reduced production area, thanks to an increase in the use of land to grow crops for transport fuels.

The price of staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn have all risen, leading to an increase in overall food prices of 83% in the last three years, the World Bank has said.

GLOBAL FOOD PRICE RISES
Wheat: 130%
Soya: 87%
Rice: 74%
Corn: 31%
Time: Year to March 2008
Source: Bloomberg

The sharp rises have led to protests and unrest in many countries, including Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

In Haiti, protests last week turned violent, leading to the deaths of five people and the fall of the government.

Restrictions on rice exports have been put in place in major producing countries such as India, China, Vietnam and Egypt.

Importers such as Bangladesh, the Philippines and Afghanistan have been hit hard.

Rich urged to act

“We have to put our money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths,” Mr Zoellick said. “It’s as stark as that.”

He called for more aid to provide food to needy people in poor countries and help for small farmers. He said the World Bank was working to provide money for seeds for planting in the new season.

He also urged wealthy donor countries to quickly fill the World Food Programme’s estimated $500m (£250m) funding shortfall.

Mr Zoellick’s “New Deal for Global Food Policy” also seeks to boost agricultural policy in poor countries in the longer-term.

On Saturday, the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned of mass starvation and other dire consequences if food prices continued to rise sharply.

“As we know, learning from the past, those kind of questions sometimes end in war,” he said.

He said the problem could lead to trade imbalances that may eventually affect developed nations, “so it is not only a humanitarian question”.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/business/7344892.stm

Published: 2008/04/14 11:02:54 GMT


Where American Tax Dollars are Spent?

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Do Americans know where their Tax Dollars are being spent? If 63% cannot find Iraq on the world map, probably safe to assume they cannot accurately answer this question.

How the Pie is Divided;

1. 42.2% = Military Spending

The biggest chunk of your money — 42.2 cents of every income-tax dollar — goes to fund the military. Over half of it, or 28.7 cents, goes to pay for the current war and military, 10 cents goes to interest payments on past and present military debt and 3.5 cents is allocated for Veterans’ benefits.

2. 22.1% = Health

The second largest amount is spent on health care initiatives, including Medicare

3. 10.2% Interest on non-Military Debt

About ten cents of every federal tax dollar is spent on interest for non-military related national debt.

4. 8.7% = Anti-Poverty Programs

These funds go to a variety of programs to help the underprivileged. They include food assistance, supplemental income for those with low incomes and assistance for foster care and adoption programs.

5. 4.4% = Education, Training & Social Services

These funds go towards paying for elementary, secondary and higher education. Other beneficiaries include employment training centers.

6. 3.9% = Government & Law Enforcement

This area covers a variety of programs, including the cost of running the justice system, the cost of running the Social Security program and federal employee retirement and disability.

7. 3.3% = Housing & Community Development

This money is spent on housing assistance and community development programs

8. 2.6% = Environment, Energy & Science

Spending in this area goes to environmental programs, energy exploration and any programs that deal with general science, technology and space.

9. 1.5% = Transportation, Commerce & Agriculture

One-and-a-half cents of every federal income tax dollar is going towards agriculture and transportation spending

10. 1.0% = International Affairs

The smallest amount of your tax dollars goes to foreign affairs, including foreign humanitarian assistance, conduct of foreign affairs and international financial programs.

The median income family in the United States paid $2,628 in federal income taxes in 2007. Here is how that money was spent:

  • Military $1,109
  • Health $581
  • Interest on Non-military Debt $269
  • Anti-Poverty Programs $228
  • Education, Training & Social Services $115
  • Government & Law Enforcement $102
  • Housing & Community Development $88
  • Environment, Energy & Science $69
  • Transportation, Commerce & Agriculture $40
  • International Affairs $27

uncle sam wants out

Read the Full Report from the The National Priorities Project

CNBC Slideshow

We Own the World, but We are Broke?

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Noam Chomsky, ZNet, January 1, 2008

You all know, of course, there was an election — what is called “an election” in the United States — last November. There was really one issue in the election, what to do about U.S. forces in Iraq and there was, by U.S. standards, an overwhelming vote calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces on a firm timetable.

As few people know, a couple of months earlier there were extensive polls in Iraq, U.S.-run polls, with interesting results. They were not secret here. If you really looked you could find references to them, so it’s not that they were concealed. This poll found that two-thirds of the people in Baghdad wanted the U.S. troops out immediately; the rest of the country — a large majority — wanted a firm timetable for withdrawal, most of them within a year or less.

The figures are higher for Arab Iraq in the areas where troops were actually deployed. A very large majority felt that the presence of U.S. forces increased the level of violence and a remarkable 60 percent for all of Iraq, meaning higher in the areas where the troops are deployed, felt that U.S. forces were legitimate targets of attack. So there was a considerable consensus between Iraqis and Americans on what should be done in Iraq, namely troops should be withdrawn either immediately or with a firm timetable.

Well, the reaction in the post-election U.S. government to that consensus was to violate public opinion and increase the troop presence by maybe 30,000 to 50,000. Predictably, there was a pretext announced. It was pretty obvious what it was going to be. “There is outside interference in Iraq, which we have to defend the Iraqis against. The Iranians are interfering in Iraq.” Then came the alleged evidence about finding IEDs, roadside bombs with Iranian markings, as well as Iranian forces in Iraq. “What can we do? We have to escalate to defend Iraq from the outside intervention.”

Then came the “debate.” We are a free and open society, after all, so we have “lively” debates. On the one side were the hawks who said, “The Iranians are interfering, we have to bomb them.” On the other side were the doves who said, “We cannot be sure the evidence is correct, maybe you misread the serial numbers or maybe it is just the revolutionary guards and not the government.”

So we had the usual kind of debate going on, which illustrates a very important and pervasive distinction between several types of propaganda systems. To take the ideal types, exaggerating a little: totalitarian states’ propaganda is that you better accept it, or else. And “or else” can be of various consequences, depending on the nature of the state. People can actually believe whatever they want as long as they obey. Democratic societies use a different method: they don’t articulate the party line. That’s a mistake. What they do is presuppose it, then encourage vigorous debate within the framework of the party line. This serves two purposes. For one thing it gives the impression of a free and open society because, after all, we have lively debate. It also instills a propaganda line that becomes something you presuppose, like the air you breathe.

That was the case here. This is a classic illustration. The whole debate about the Iranian “interference” in Iraq makes sense only on one assumption, namely, that “we own the world.” If we own the world, then the only question that can arise is that someone else is interfering in a country we have invaded and occupied.

So if you look over the debate that took place and is still taking place about Iranian interference, no one points out this is insane. How can Iran be interfering in a country that we invaded and occupied? It’s only appropriate on the presupposition that we own the world. Once you have that established in your head, the discussion is perfectly sensible.

You read a lot of comparisons now about Vietnam and Iraq. For the most part they are totally incomparable; the nature and purpose of the war, almost everything is totally different except in one respect: how they are perceived in the United States. In both cases there is what is now sometimes called the “Q” word, quagmire. Is it a quagmire? In Vietnam it is now recognized that it was a quagmire. There is a debate of whether Iraq, too, is a quagmire. In other words, is it costing us too much? That is the question you can debate.

So in the case of Vietnam, there was a debate. Not at the beginning — in fact, there was so little discussion in the beginning that nobody even remembers when the war began — 1962, if you’re interested. That’s when the U.S. attacked Vietnam. But there was no discussion, no debate, nothing.

By the mid-1960s, mainstream debate began. And it was the usual range of opinions between the hawks and the doves. The hawks said if we send more troops, we can win. The doves, well, Arthur Schlesinger, famous historian, Kennedy’s advisor, in his book in 1966 said that we all pray that the hawks will be right and that the current escalation of troops, which by then was approaching half a million, will work and bring us victory. If it does, we will all be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government for winning victory — in a land that we’re reducing to ruin and wreck.

You can translate that word by word to the doves today. We all pray that the surge will work. If it does, contrary to our expectations, we will be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the Bush administration in a country, which, if we’re honest, is a total ruin, one of the worst disasters in military history for the population.

If you get way to the left end of mainstream discussion, you get somebody like Anthony Lewis who, at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, wrote in retrospect that the war began with benign intensions to do good; that is true by definition, because it’s us, after all. So it began with benign intentions, but by 1969, he said, it was clear that the war was a mistake. For us to win a victory would be too costly — for us — so it was a mistake and we should withdraw. That was the most extreme criticism.

Very much like today. We could withdraw from Vietnam because the U.S. had already essentially obtained its objective by then. Iraq we can’t because we haven’t obtained our objectives.

And for those of you who are old enough to remember — or have read about it — you will note that the peace movement pretty much bought that line. Just like the mainstream discussion, the opposition of the war, including the peace movement, was mostly focused on the bombing of the North. When the U.S. started bombing the North regularly in February 1965, it also escalated the bombing of the South to triple the scale — and the South had already been attacked for three years by then. A couple of hundred thousand South Vietnamese were killed and thousands, if not tens of the thousands, had been driven into concentration camps. The U.S. had been carrying out chemical warfare to destroy food crops and ground cover. By 1965 South Vietnam was already a total wreck.

Bombing the South was costless for the United States because the South had no defense. Bombing the North was costly — you bomb the North, you bomb the harbor, you might hit Russian ships, which begins to become dangerous. You’re bombing an internal Chinese railroad — the Chinese railroads from southeast to southwest China happen to go through North Vietnam — who knows what they might do.

In fact, the Chinese were accused, correctly, of sending Chinese forces into Vietnam, namely to rebuild the railroad that we were bombing. So that was “interference” with our divine right to bomb North Vietnam. So most of the focus was on the bombing of the North. The peace movement slogan, “Stop the bombing” meant the bombing of the North.

In 1967 the leading specialist on Vietnam, Bernard Fall, a military historian and the only specialist on Vietnam respected by the U.S. government — who was a hawk, incidentally, but who cared about the Vietnamese — wrote that it’s a question of whether Vietnam will survive as a cultural and historical entity under the most severe bombing that has ever been applied to a country this size. He was talking about the South. He kept emphasizing it was the South that was being attacked. But that didn’t matter because it was costless, therefore it’s fine to continue. That is the range of debate, which only makes sense on the assumption that we own the world.

If you read, say, the Pentagon Papers, it turns out there was extensive planning about the bombing of the North — very detailed, meticulous planning on just how far it can go, what happens if we go a little too far, and so on. There is no discussion at all about the bombing of the South, virtually none. Just an occasional announcement, okay, we will triple the bombing, or something like that.

If you read Robert McNamara’s memoirs of the war — by that time he was considered a leading dove — he reviews the meticulous planning about the bombing of the North, but does not even mention his decision to sharply escalate the bombing of the South at the same time that the bombing of the North was begun.

I should say, incidentally, that with regard to Vietnam what I have been discussing is articulate opinion, including the leading part of the peace movement. There is also public opinion, which it turns out is radically different, and that is of some significance. By 1969 around 70 percent of the public felt that the war was not a mistake, but that it was fundamentally wrong and immoral. That was the wording of the polls and that figure remains fairly constant up until the most recent polls just a few years ago. The figures are pretty remarkable because people who say that in a poll almost certainly think, I must be the only person in the world that thinks this. They certainly did not read it anywhere, they did not hear it anywhere. But that was popular opinion.

The same is true with regard to many other issues. But for articulate opinion it’s pretty much the way I’ve described — largely vigorous debate between the hawks and the doves, all on the unexpressed assumption that we own the world. So the only thing that matters is how much is it costing us, or maybe for some more humane types, are we harming too many of them?

post war iraq map oil companies

Getting back to the election, there was a lot of disappointment among anti-war people — the majority of the population — that Congress did not pass any withdrawal legislation. There was a Democratic resolution that was vetoed, but if you look at the resolution closely it was not a withdrawal resolution. There was a good analysis of it by General Kevin Ryan, who was a fellow at the Kennedy School at Harvard. He went through it and he said it really should be called a re-missioning proposal. It leaves about the same number of American troops, but they have a slightly different mission.

He said, first of all it allows for a national security exception. If the president says there is a national security issue, he can do whatever he wants — end of resolution. The second gap is it allows for anti-terrorist activities. Okay, that is whatever you like. Third, it allows for training Iraqi forces. Again, anything you like.

Next it says troops have to remain for protection of U.S. forces and facilities. What are U.S. forces? Well, U.S. forces are those embedded in Iraqi armed units where 60 percent of their fellow soldiers think that they — U.S. troops, that is — are legitimate targets of attack. Incidentally, those figures keep going up, so they are probably higher by now. Well, okay, that is plenty of force protection. What facilities need protection was not explained in the Democratic resolution, but facilities include what is called “the embassy.” The U.S. embassy in Iraq is nothing like any embassy that has ever existed in history. It’s a city inside the green zone, the protected region of Iraq, that the U.S. runs. It’s got everything from missiles to McDonalds, anything you want. They didn’t build that huge facility because they intend to leave.

That is one facility, but there are others. There are “semi-permanent military bases,” which are being built around the country. “Semi-permanent” means permanent, as long as we want.

General Ryan omitted a lot of things. He omitted the fact that the U.S. is maintaining control of logistics and logistics is the core of a modern Army. Right now about 80 percent of the supply is coming in though the south, from Kuwait, and it’s going through guerilla territory, easily subject to attack, which means you have to have plenty of troops to maintain that supply line. Plus, of course, it keeps control over the Iraqi Army.

The Democratic resolution excludes the Air Force. The Air Force does whatever it wants. It is bombing pretty regularly and it can bomb more intensively. The resolution also excludes mercenaries, which is no small number — sources such as the Wall Street Journal estimate the number of mercenaries at about 130,000, approximately the same as the number of troops, which makes some sense. The traditional way to fight a colonial war is with mercenaries, not with your own soldiers — that is the French Foreign Legion, the British Ghurkas, or the Hessians in the Revolutionary War. That is part of the main reason the draft was dropped — so you get professional soldiers, not people you pick off the streets.

So, yes, it is re-missioning, but the resolution was vetoed because it was too strong, so we don’t even have that. And, yes, that did disappoint a lot of people. However, it would be too strong to say that no high official in Washington called for immediate withdrawal. There were some. The strongest one I know of — when asked what is the solution to the problem in Iraq — said it’s quite obvious, “Withdraw all foreign forces and withdraw all foreign arms.” That official was Condoleeza Rice and she was not referring to U.S. forces, she was referring to Iranian forces and Iranian arms. And that makes sense, too, on the assumption that we own the world because, since we own the world U.S. forces cannot be foreign forces anywhere. So if we invade Iraq or Canada, say, we are the indigenous forces. It’s the Iranians that are foreign forces.

I waited for a while to see if anyone, at least in the press or journals, would point out that there was something funny about this. I could not find a word. I think everyone regarded that as a perfectly sensible comment. But I could not see a word from anyone who said, wait a second, there are foreign forces there, 150,000 American troops, plenty of American arms.

So it is reasonable that when British sailors were captured in the Gulf by Iranian forces, there was debate, “Were they in Iranian borders or in Iraqi borders? Actually there is no answer to this because there is no territorial boundary, and that was pointed out. It was taken for granted that if the British sailors were in Iraqi waters, then Iran was guilty of a crime by intervening in foreign territory. But Britain is not guilty of a crime by being in Iraqi territory, because Britain is a U.S. client state, and we own the world, so they are there by right.

What about the possible next war, Iran? There have been very credible threats by the U.S. and Israel — essentially a U.S. client — to attack Iran. There happens to be something called the UN Charter which says that — in Article 2 — the threat or use of force in international affairs is a crime. “Threat or use of force.”

Does anybody care? No, because we’re an outlaw state by definition, or to be more precise, our threats and use of force are not foreign, they’re indigenous because we own the world. Therefore, it’s fine. So there are threats to bomb Iran — maybe we will and maybe we won’t. That is the debate that goes on. Is it legitimate if we decide to do it? People might argue it’s a mistake. But does anyone say it would be illegitimate? For example, the Democrats in Congress refuse to put in an amendment that would require the Executive to inform Congress if it intends to bomb Iran — to consult, inform. Even that was not accepted.

The whole world is aghast at this possibility. It would be monstrous. A leading British military historian, Correlli Barnett, wrote recently that if the U.S. does attack, or Israel does attack, it would be World War III. The attack on Iraq has been horrendous enough. Apart from devastating Iraq, the UN High Commission on Refugees reviewed the number of displaced people — they estimate 4.2 million, over 2 million fled the country, another 2 million fleeing within the country. That is in addition to the numbers killed, which if you extrapolate from the last studies, are probably approaching a million.

It was anticipated by U.S. intelligence and other intelligence agencies and independent experts that an attack on Iraq would probably increase the threat of terror and nuclear proliferation. But that went way beyond what anyone expected. Well known terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimated — using mostly government statistics — that what they call “the Iraq effect” increased terror by a factor of seven, and that is pretty serious. And that gives you an indication of the ranking of protection of the population in the priority list of leaders. It’s very low.

So what would the Iran effect be? Well, that is incalculable. It could be World War III. Very likely a massive increase in terror, who knows what else. Even in the states right around Iraq, which don’t like Iran — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — even there the large majority would prefer to see a nuclear armed Iran to any U.S. military action, and they are right, military action could be devastating. It doesn’t mean we won’t do it. There is very little discussion here of the illegitimacy of doing it, again on the assumption that anything we do is legitimate, it just might cost too much.

Is there a possible solution to the U.S./Iran crisis? Well, there are some plausible solutions. One possibility would be an agreement that allows Iran to have nuclear energy, like every signer of the non-proliferation treaty, but not to have nuclear weapons. In addition, it would call for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. That would include Iran, Israel, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and any U.S. or British forces deployed in the region. A third element of a solution would be for the United States and other nuclear states to obey their legal obligation, by unanimous agreement of the World Court, to make good-faith moves to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely.

Is this feasible? Well, it’s feasible on one assumption, that the United States and Iran become functioning democratic societies, because what I have just quoted happens to be the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the populations in Iran and the United States. On everything that I mentioned there is an overwhelming majority. So, yes, there would be a very feasible solution if these two countries were functioning democratic societies, meaning societies in which public opinion has some kind of effect on policy. The problem in the United States is the inability of organizers to do something in a population that overwhelmingly agrees with them and to make that current policy. Of course, it can be done. Peasants in Bolivia can do it, we can obviously do it here.

Can we do anything to make Iran a more democratic society? Not directly, but indirectly we can. We can pay attention to the dissidents and the reformists in Iran who are struggling courageously to turn Iran into a more democratic society. And we know exactly what they are saying, they are very outspoken about it. They are pleading with the United States to withdraw the threats against Iran. The more we threaten Iran, the more we give a gift to the reactionary, religious fanatics in the government. You make threats, you strengthen them. That is exactly what is happening. The threats have lead to repression, predictably.

Now the Americans claim they are outraged by the repression, which we should protest, but we should recognize that the repression is the direct and predictable consequence of the actions that the U.S. government is taking. So if you take actions, and then they have predictable consequences, condemning the consequences is total hypocrisy.

Incidentally, in the case of Cuba about two-thirds of Americans think we ought to end the embargo and all threats and enter into diplomatic relations. And that has been true ever since polls have been taken — for about 30 years. The figure varies, but it’s roughly there. Zero effect on policy, in Iran, Cuba, and elsewhere.

So there is a problem and that problem is that the United States is just not a functioning democracy. Public opinion does not matter and among articulate and elite opinion that is a principle — it shouldn’t matter. The only principle that matters is we own the world and the rest of you shut up, you know, whether you’re abroad or at home.

So, yes, there is a potential solution to the very dangerous problem, it’s essentially the same solution: do something to turn our own country into a functioning democracy. But that is in radical opposition to the fundamental presupposition of all elite discussions, mainly that we own the world and that these questions don’t arise and the public should have no opinion on foreign policy, or any policy.

Once, when I was driving to work, I was listening to NPR. NPR is supposed to be the kind of extreme radical end of the spectrum. I read a statement somewhere, I don’t know if it’s true, but it was a quote from Obama, who is the hope of the liberal doves, in which he allegedly said that the spectrum of discussion in the United States extends between two crazy extremes, Rush Limbaugh and NPR. The truth, he said, is in the middle and that is where he is going to be, in the middle, between the crazies.

NPR then had a discussion — it was like being at the Harvard faculty club — serious people, educated, no grammatical errors, who know what they’re talking about, usually polite. The discussion was about the so-called missile defense system that the U.S. is trying to place in Czechoslovakia and Poland — and the Russian reaction. The main issue was, “What is going on with the Russians? Why are they acting so hostile and irrational? Are they trying to start a new Cold War? There is something wrong with those guys. Can we calm them down and make them less paranoid?”

The main specialist they called in, I think from the Pentagon or somewhere, pointed out, accurately, that a missile defense system is essentially a first-strike weapon. That is well known by strategic analysts on all sides. If you think about it for a minute, it’s obvious why. A missile defense system is never going to stop a first strike, but it could, in principle, if it ever worked, stop a retaliatory strike. If you attack some country with a first strike, and practically wipe it out, if you have a missile defense system, and prevent them from retaliating, then you would be protected, or partially protected. If a country has a functioning missile defense system it will have more options for carrying out a first strike. Okay, obvious, and not a secret. It’s known to every strategic analyst. I can explain it to my grandchildren in two minutes and they understand it.

So on NPR it is agreed that a missile defense system is a first-strike weapon. But then comes the second part of the discussion. Well, say the pundits, the Russians should not be worried about this. For one thing because it’s not enough of a system to stop their retaliation, so therefore it’s not yet a first-strike weapon against them. Then they said it is kind of irrelevant anyway because it is directed against Iran, not against Russia.

Okay, that was the end of the discussion. So, point one, missile defense is a first-strike weapon; second, it’s directed against Iran. Now, you can carry out a small exercise in logic. Does anything follow from those two assumptions? Yes, what follows is it’s a first-strike weapon against Iran. Since the U.S. owns the world what could be wrong with having a first-strike weapon against Iran. So the conclusion is not mentioned. It is not necessary. It follows from the fact that we own the world.

Maybe a year ago or so, Germany sold advanced submarines to Israel, which were equipped to carry missiles with nuclear weapons. Why does Israel need submarines with nuclear armed missiles? Well, there is only one imaginable reason and everyone in Germany with a brain must have understood that — certainly their military system does — it’s a first-strike weapon against Iran. Israel can use German subs to illustrate to Iranians that if they respond to an Israeli attack they will be vaporized.

The fundamental premises of Western imperialism are extremely deep. The West owns the world and now the U.S. runs the West, so, of course, they go along. The fact that they are providing a first-strike weapon for attacking Iran probably, I’m guessing now, raised no comment because why should it?

You can forget about history, it does not matter, it’s kind of “old fashioned,” boring stuff we don’t need to know about. But most countries pay attention to history. So, for example, for the United States there is no discussion of the history of U.S./Iranian relations. Well, for the U.S. there is only one event in Iranian history — in 1979 Iranians overthrew the tyrant that the U.S. was backing and took some hostages for over a year. That happened and they had to be punished for that.

But for Iranians their history is that for over 50 years, literally without a break, the U.S. has been torturing Iranians. In 1953 the U.S. overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal tyrant, the Shah, and kept supporting him while he compiled one of the worst human rights records in the world — torture, assassination, anything you like. In fact, President Carter, when he visited Iran in December 1978, praised the Shah because of the love shown to him by his people, and so on and so forth, which probably accelerated the overthrow. Of course, Iranians have this odd way of remembering what happened to them and who was behind it. When the Shah was overthrown, the Carter administration immediately tried to instigate a military coup by sending arms to Iran through Israel to try to support military force to overthrow the government. We immediately turned to supporting Iraq, that is Saddam Hussein, and his invasion of Iran. Saddam was executed for crimes he committed in 1982, by his standards not very serious crimes — complicity in killing 150 people. Well, there was something missing in that account — 1982 is a very important year in U.S./Iraqi relations. That is the year in which Ronald Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states supporting terrorism so that the U.S. could start supplying Iraq with weapons for its invasion of Iran, including the means to develop weapons of mass destruction, chemical and nuclear weapons. That is 1982. A year later Donald Rumsfeld was sent to firm up the deal. Well, Iranians may very well remember that this led to a war in which hundreds of thousands of them were slaughtered with U.S. aid going to Iraq. They may well remember that the year after the war was over, in 1989, the U.S. government invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to come to the United States for advanced training in developing nuclear weapons.

What about the Russians? They have a history too. One part of the history is that in the last century Russia was invaded and practically destroyed three times through Eastern Europe. You can look back and ask, when was the last time that the U.S. was invaded and practically destroyed through Canada or Mexico? That doesn’t happen. We crush others and we are always safe. But the Russians don’t have that luxury. Now, in 1990 a remarkable event took place. I was kind of shocked, frankly. Gorbachev agreed to let Germany be unified, meaning join the West and be militarized within a hostile military alliance. This is Germany, which twice in that century practically destroyed Russia. That’s a pretty remarkable agreement.

There was a quid pro quo. Then-president George Bush I agreed that NATO would not expand to the East. The Russians also demanded, but did not receive, an agreement for a nuclear-free zone from the Artic to the Baltic, which would give them a little protection from nuclear attack. That was the agreement in 1990. Then Bill Clinton came into office, the so-called liberal. One of the first things he did was to rescind the agreement, unilaterally, and expand NATO to the East.

For the Russians that’s pretty serious, if you remember the history. They lost 25 million people in the last World War and over 3 million in World War I. But since the U.S. owns the world, if we want to threaten Russia, that is fine. It is all for freedom and justice, after all, and if they make unpleasant noises about it we wonder why they are so paranoid. Why is Putin screaming as if we’re somehow threatening them, since we can’t be threatening anyone, owning the world.

One of the other big issues on the front pages now is Chinese “aggressiveness.” There is a lot of concern about the fact that the Chinese are building up their missile forces. Is China planning to conquer the world? Big debates about it. Well, what is really going on? For years China has been in the lead in trying to prevent the militarization of space. If you look at the debates and the Disarmament Commission of the UN General Assembly, the votes are 160 to 1 or 2. The U.S. insists on the militarization of space. It will not permit the outer space treaty to explicitly bar military relations in space.

Clinton’s position was that the U.S. should control space for military purposes. The Bush administration is more extreme. Their position is the U.S. should own space, their words, We have to own space for military purposes. So that is the spectrum of discussion here. The Chinese have been trying to block it and that is well understood. You read the most respectable journal in the world, I suppose, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and you find leading strategic analysts, John Steinbrunner and Nancy Gallagher, a couple of years ago, warning that the Bush administration’s aggressive militarization is leading to what they call “ultimate doom.” Of course, there is going to be a reaction to it. You threaten people with destruction, they are going to react. These analysts call on peace-loving nations to counter Bush’s aggressive militarism. They hope that China will lead peace-loving nations to counter U.S. aggressiveness. It’s a pretty remarkable comment on the impossibility of achieving democracy in the United States. Again, the logic is pretty elementary. Steinbrunner and Gallagher are assuming that the United States cannot be a democratic society; it’s not one of the options, so therefore we hope that maybe China will do something.

Well, China finally did something. It signaled to the United States that they noticed that we were trying to use space for military purposes, so China shot down one of their satellites. Everyone understands why — the mili- tarization and weaponization of space depends on satellites. While missiles are very difficult or maybe impossible to stop, satellites are very easy to shoot down. You know where they are. So China is saying, “Okay, we understand you are militarizing space. We’re going to counter it not by militarizing space, we can’t compete with you that way, but by shooting down your satellites.” That is what was behind the satellite shooting. Every military analyst certainly understood it and every lay person can understand it. But take a look at the debate. The discussion was about, “Is China trying it conquer the world by shooting down one of its own satellites?”

About a year ago there was a new rash of articles and headlines on the front page about the “Chinese military build-up.” The Pentagon claimed that China had increased its offensive military capacity — with 400 missiles, which could be nuclear armed. Then we had a debate about whether that proves China is trying to conquer the world or the numbers are wrong, or something.

Just a little footnote. How many offensive nuclear armed missiles does the United States have? Well, it turns out to be 10,000. China may now have maybe 400, if you believe the hawks. That proves that they are trying to conquer the world.

It turns out, if you read the international press closely, that the reason China is building up its military capacity is not only because of U.S. aggressiveness all over the place, but the fact that the United States has improved its targeting capacities so it can now destroy missile sites in a much more sophisticated fashion wherever they are, even if they are mobile. So who is trying to conquer the world? Well, obviously the Chinese because since we own it, they are trying to conquer it.

It’s all too easy to continue with this indefinitely. Just pick your topic. It’s a good exercise to try. This simple principle, “we own the world,” is sufficient to explain a lot of the discussion about foreign affairs.

I will just finish with a word from George Orwell. In the introduction to Animal Farm he said, England is a free society, but it’s not very different from the totalitarian monster I have been describing. He says in England unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. Then he goes on to give some dubious examples. At the end he turns to a very brief explanation, actually two sentences, but they are to the point. He says, one reason is the press is owned by wealthy men who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed. And the second reason — and I think a more important one — is a good education. If you have gone to the best schools and graduated from Oxford and Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled in you the understanding that there are certain things it would not do to say; actually, it would not do to think. That is the primary way to prevent unpopular ideas from being expressed.

The ideas of the overwhelming majority of the population, who don’t attend Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge, enable them to react like human beings, as they often do. There is a lesson there for activists.

Cheney Makes makes his War Plans

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It’s The ‘Oh Shit!’ Moment On Iran
By Dave Lindorff, 3-15-8

(This Can’t Be Happening) — Every horror movie has that “Oh Shit!” moment, when the hero or heroes are huddled in some creepy hideout, and suddenly something happens that tells you that the monster is just around the corner, or just about to attack. In “Jurassic Park” it was the pulsing ripples in a cup of water, heralding the arrival of a T-Rex. In “Jaws” it was the deep base music, letting you know that a monstrous shark was about to attack.

Well, we just got our “Oh Shit!” moment with the just-announced resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, the military commander of US Middle East operations.

Adm. Fallon, 63, famously said that an attack on Iran would not happen “on my watch,” and is widely believed to have already threatened, along with a number of other top generals and admirals, to quit the service if the Bush administration were to launch an air attack on Iran.

Put the pieces together. We know that the vice president is obsessed with a desire to attack Iran, and has been since before he even took office. Bush has repeatedly stressed that Iran cannot be permitted to continue with its nuclear processing (he calls it their “nukular” bomb program, though there is no evidence that the country has a nuclear bomb development program, and in fact the last National Intelligence Estimate on Iran said there was not and hadn’t been since 2003). And Fallon has now quit.

The Eisenhower nuclear aircraft carrier strike force has departed for stationing off Iran, joining forces already in place there, and loaded to the brim with strike aircraft, Tomahawk missiles, and even nuclear weapons. It was long ago reported that stealth bombers had been put in place in come of the countries of the old Soviet Union north of Iran, as well as on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

All the elements, that is to say, are in place for a massive air assault on Iranian targets, designed to destroy its nuclear program, cripple its military command and control, and–at least this is a stated Cheney goal–to lead to the overthrow of the Iranian government by its own people.

It is, of course, the strategy of madmen.

The US has no forces to send into Iran. All they can do is bomb it. And bombing a country doesn’t lead its people to rise up. It leads them to rally ’round the flag. Especially when the civilian casualties of our not-so-“smart” bombs start to soar.

If such an attack were to happen, we can kiss goodbye to six years of domestic peace, such as we’ve had. The Iranians have considerable capability to inflict damage on US targets of interest, both overseas and here in the domestic US using assymetrical warfare techniques. The worse part is, they’d be completely justified in doing so, since any attack on them would be a crime against peace–the gravest of all international crimes.

American troops already mired and pinned down in a war in Iraq, would find themselves suddenly under attack by Shia forces there, who for several years now have been largely leaving them alone.

And oil, which just bumped up against $110 a barrel, an all-time record, will double in price overnight, as the whole Persian Gulf becomes a war zone.

We can expect massive launches of small boats armed with missiles and torpedoes, as well as sophisticated anti-ship missiles from shore batteries, all fired at US ships in the Gulf, and it would be astounding if some or even many vessels of the US fleet weren’t sunk.

Meanwhile, tanker traffic in the Gulf, which accounts for 20% or more of the world’s oil, will cease as insurance rates for those vessels goes through the roof.

The monster of war will be unleashed, and will not easily be defeated. That’s why Adm. Fallon was so opposed to the whole idea. He knows that it will be a disaster for the US militarily, economically and politically.

The worst part is that Cheney knows this, too. He just doesn’t care. This is the man’s parting shot as he leaves office–to put the country into the throes of a war so vicious that no one will think of pursuing him for his long list of crimes against the nation and the Constitution.

He is guessing–and he may be right–that the American public will, sheep-like as always, rally to the cause, with a new round of yellow magnet “ribbons” on their cars. He is hoping–and he may be right– that war will be a boon for the candidacy of Republican John McCain and for embattled Republicans running for Congress.

It’s a kind of political Hail Mary.

Oh Shit! Here it comes…

middle east map of war theatre of upcoming iran invasion

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