Friday, March 02, 2007

Battlefield Australia

The New 51st State

John Pilger

02 March 2007

John Howard's servility to the US is even greater than Tony Blair's and has earned him the nickname Bush's deputy sheriff. The conspiracy between Washington, the media and politicians is eroding the country's freedoms.

In June this year, 26,000 US and Australian troops will take part in bombarding the ancient fragile landscape of Australia. They will storm the Great Barrier Reef, gun down "terrorists" and fire laser-guided missiles at some of the most pristine wilderness on earth. Stealth, B-1 and B-52 bombers (the latter alone each carry 30 tonnes of bombs) will finish the job, along with a naval onslaught. Underwater depth charges will explode where endangered species of turtle breed. Nuclear submarines will discharge their high-level sonar, which destroy the hearing of seals and other marine mammals.

Run via satellite from Australia and Hawaii, Operation Talisman Sabre 2007 is warfare by remote control, designed for "pre-emptive" attacks on other countries. Australians know little about this. The Australian parliament has not debated it; the media is not interested. The result of a secret treaty signed by John Howard's government with the Bush administration in 2004, it includes the establishment of a vast, new military base in Western Australia, which will bring the total of known US bases around the world to 738. No matter the setback in Iraq, the US military empire and its ambitions are growing.

Australia is important because of a remarkable degree of servility that Howard has taken beyond even that of Tony Blair. Once described in the Sydney Bulletin as Bush's "deputy sheriff", Howard did not demur when Bush, on hearing this, promoted him to "sheriff for south-east Asia". With Washington's approval, he has sent Australian troops and federal police to intervene in the Pacific island nations; in 2006, he effected "regime change" in East Timor, whose prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, had the nerve to demand a proper share of his country's oil and gas resources. Indonesia's repression in West Papua, where American mining interests are described as "a great prize", is endorsed by Howard.

This sub-imperial role has a history. When the six Australian states federated as a nation in 1901, "a Commonwealth . . . independent and proud", said the headlines, the Australian colonists made clear that independence was the last thing they wanted. They wanted Mother England to be more protective of her most distant colony which, they pleaded, was threatened by a host of demons, not least the "Asiatic hordes" who would fall down on them as if by the force of gravity. "The whole performance," wrote the historian Manning Clark, "stank in the nostrils. Australians had once again grovelled before the English. There were Fatman politicians who hungered for a foreign title just as their wives hungered after a smile of recognition from the Governor-General's wife, who was said to be a most accomplished snubber."

Australia's modern political class has the same hunger for the recognition of great power. In the 1950s, prime minister Robert Menzies allowed Britain to explode nuclear bombs in Australia, sending clouds of radioactive material across populated areas. Australians were told only the good news of being chosen for this privilege. An RAF officer was threatened with prosecution after he revealed that 400 to 500 Aborigines were in the target zones. "Occasionally we would bring them in for decontamination," he said. "Other times, we just shooed them off like rabbits." Blindness and unexplained deaths followed. After 17 years in power, Menzies was knighted by the Queen and made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

An undeclared maxim of Australian politics is that prime ministers become "statesmen" only when they serve imperial interests. (Honourable exceptions have been dealt with by smear and subversion). In the 1960s, Menzies connived to be "asked" to send Australian troops to fight for the Americans in Vietnam. Red China was coming, he said. Howard is more extreme; in his decade of power, he has eroded the very basis of Australia's social democratic institutions and cast his country as the model of a Washington-style democracy, where the only popular participation is that of voting every few years for two "opposing" parties which share almost identical economic, foreign and "cultural" policies.

For "cultural", read race, which has always been important in creating an insidious state of fear and compliance. In 2001, Howard was re-elected after manipulating the "children overboard affair", in which his senior advisers claimed that Afghan refugees had callously thrown their children into the sea in order to be rescued by an Australian naval vessel. They produced photographs that were proven false, but only after Howard had touched every xenophobic nerve in the white electorate and was duly re-elected. The two officials who brought the "crisis" to its fraudulent fever pitch were promoted after one of them admitted that the deception had "helped" the prime minister. In a more scandalous case, Howard claimed his defence department had been unaware of another leaking, stricken boat filled with Iraqi and Afghan refugees heading for Australia until after it had sunk. An admiral later revealed this, too, was false; 353 people were allowed to drown, including 146 children.

Above all, it is the control of dissent that has changed Australia. Rupert Murdoch's influence has been critical, far more so than in Britain. Whenever Howard or one of his more oafish ministers want to bend an institution or smear an opponent, they carry out the task in alliance with a pack of rabid mostly Murdoch commentators. As Stuart MacIntyre describes in a new book, Silencing Dissent, the Melbourne Herald-Sun columnist, Andrew Bolt, conducted a campaign of ridicule against the independent Australian Research Council which, he claimed, had fallen into the hands of a "a club of scratch-my-back-leftists" whose work was "hostile to our culture, history and institutions", as well as "peek-in-your-pants researchers fixated on gender and race". The then minister of education, Brendan Nelson, vetoed one project grant after another without explanation.

The National Museum of Australia, the national child benefits centre, Aboriginal policy bodies and other independent institutions have been subjected to similar intimidation. A friend who holds a senior university post told me: "You dare not speak out. You dare not oppose the government or 'the big end of town' [corporate Australia]."

As embarrassing corporate crime rises, the treasurer, Peter Costello, has blithely announced a ban on moral or ethical boycotts of certain products. There was no debate; the media was simply told. One of Costello's senior advisers, David Gazard, recently distinguished an American-run seminar in Melbourne, organised by the Public Relations Institute of Australia, at which those paying A$595 were taught the tricks of conflating activism with "terrorism" and "security threat". Suggestions included: "Call them suicide bombers . . . make them all look like terrorists . . . tree-hugging, dope-smoking, bloody university graduate, anti-progress . . ." They were advised on how to set up bogus community groups and falsify statistics.

Schoolteachers who do not fly the flag or music concert organisers who discourage the attendance of racist thugs wrapped in the flag are at risk of a dose of Murdoch poison. Equally, if you reveal the shame of Australia's vassal role you are deemed "anti-Australian" and, without irony, "anti-American". Few Australians are aware that Murdoch, who dominates the press, abandoned his own Australian citizenship so that he could set up the Fox TV network in the US. The University of Sydney is to open a United States Study Centre, backed by Murdoch after he complained about the inability of Australians to appreciate the benefits of the bloodbath in Iraq.

Stifling dissent

Having recently spoken at overflowing public meetings in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, I am left in no doubt that many are deeply worried that freedoms in their sunny idyll are slipping away. They were given a vivid reminder of this the other day when Vice President Dick Cheney came to Sydney to "thank" Howard for his support. The New South Wales state government rushed through a law that allowed Cheney's 70 secret service guards to carry live weapons. With the police, they took over the centre of Sydney and closed the Harbour Bridge and much of the historic Rocks area. Seventeen-vehicle motorcades swept theatrically here and there, as if Howard was boasting to Cheney: "Look at my control over this society; look at my compliant country." And yet his guest and mentor is a man who, having refused to fight in Vietnam, has brought back torture and lied incessantly about Iraq, who has made millions in stock options as his Halliburton company profits from the carnage and who has vetoed peace with Iran.

Almost every speech he gives includes a threat. By any measure of international law, Cheney is a major war criminal, yet it was left to a small, brave group of protesters to uphold the Aussie myth of principled rebellion and stand up to the police. The Labor Party leader, Kevin Rudd, the embodiment of compliance, called them "violent ferals"; one of the protesters was 70 years old. The next day, the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald read: "Terrorists have ambitions of empire, says Cheney." The irony was exquisite, if lost.

John Pilger's bestselling history of Australia, "A Secret Country", is available through

This article was first published at the New Statesman

Link to this page:

Samir Kassir's Big Ideas

Samir Kassir, even in death, radiates hope and self-confidence, anchored in that powerful, rich, irresistible combination of Arab-Islamic, Western and universalist values that still define most people in the Middle East.

Samir Kassir’s
Little Book of Big Ideas

Rami G. Khouri

Agence Global
March 2, 2007

Copyright ©2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global
[Republished at GRBlog with AG permission]

BEIRUT -- The one person whose photograph hangs in my office is the late Lebanese writer Samir Kassir. He was assassinated in 2005, but his ideas are more relevant than ever, as Lebanon, Palestine and the entire Arab world that defined his life embrace greater tension and violence practiced simultaneously by the state, opposition groups and foreign armies. The British publisher Verso has just put out an English translation of his small book, an extended essay really, entitled Being Arab.

Kassir's enduring power reflects two core aspects of his life and work: his insistence on challenging the oppression and indignities that many Arabs suffered at the hands of their own regimes or foreign powers, while at the same time rejecting the tendency to wallow in a sense of victimization. Instead, he affirms faith in the modern Arab world's capacity for national rejuvenation, cultural affirmation and humanistic progress.

Kassir touched so many people because these sentiments are not the lone thoughts of a maverick Arab writer. Rather, this conviction of one's worth and potential is a prevalent attitude in the heart of hundreds of millions of ordinary Arab men and women who, like him, refuse to submit to humiliation and powerlessness, and instead affirm their humanity and their rights as citizens.

The Arab people are “haunted by a sense of powerlessness” and widespread malaise, which he succinctly surveys in the sad condition of most Arab countries. He concludes that “the real crisis in the Arab world is the crisis of the state,” whose institutions lack credibility and whose internal unity is routinely challenged. Autocratic and vulnerable, Arab states offer their people cosmetic reforms and liberalization without any real change in government or policies, while relinquishing economic sovereignty and thus perpetuating foreign hegemony. The Arab world, Kassir laments, is the only “continent” where “the lack of democracy is allied to a foreign hegemony.”

The prevalent, almost reflexive, response in the region has comprised local Islamist movements that were born “in response to what were considered to be inefficient, iniquitous, or impious, governments, rather than a reaction to the culture of modernism.”

Kassir points out that Arab and Islamic cultures repeatedly generated, absorbed and accommodated a diversity of divergent systems of thought and identity. During the Renaissance the Muslim World “more than held its own against Europe,” until a technological gap opened up between the two societies in the second half of the 18th Century. The urban centers of the Arab and Middle Eastern Islamic world relentlessly copied and emulated many aspects of Europe, spurring the modernizing revolution the Arabs called the nahda.

That revolution failed for various reasons: superpower domination, the burden of Israel, Arab police states, and other maladies. Kassir calls us to restore this era to its proper place in Arab history, at least allowing us to reinterpret our current profound malaise as merely a moment in history that can be overcome and left behind. His writing and heart are full of hope, and riddled with pride, in the capacity of Arab-Islamic culture to revitalize its modernistic impulses with proven Western norms. He personally embodied that rich synthesis of Levantine and European identities and values, with his mixture of Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian and French identities and legacies.

He reviews how the nahda's impulses for regeneration comprised a beacon for progress that failed on the political-national level shortly after World War I, but “lived on as an attitude and an outlook on the world,” manifested in art, poetry, theater, music, cinema, the role of women and other dimensions of life and culture. Yet this was all crushed by the onset of the Arab malaise in the last third of the 20th Century, when Israel defeated the Arabs, oil wealth prompted a new American hegemony and spread the backwardness of the energy-rich states, and new Arab regimes “wasted no time putting their societies behind bars.”

Radical Islamism or “Islamic nationalism” will not solve this dilemma, he says boldly, if it perpetuates a sense of Arab victimhood or explicitly sets out to differentiate itself from the universal. We must avoid the danger of wallowing so deeply in the Arab malaise that we replace it with something similar: “the culture of death which the union of fossilized Arab nationalism and political Islam calls resistance.”

He concludes: “We must replace Arabs’ customary assumption of victim status not by cultivating a logic of power or a spirit of revenge, but by recognizing the fact that, despite bringing defeats, the 20th Century has also brought benefits that can enable Arabs to participate in progress.”

Samir Kassir, even in death, radiates hope and self-confidence, anchored in that powerful, rich, irresistible combination of Arab-Islamic, Western and universalist values that still define most people in the Middle East. If you are perplexed by the turbulence of the Arab-Islamic Middle East, and seek signs of hope amidst the bombs, read this little book of big ideas.

Rami G. Khouri
is an internationally syndicated columnist, the director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star, and co-laureate of the 2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award.

Copyright ©2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global

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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein

Losing America

Americans Have
Lost Their Country
By Paul Craig Roberts

The Bush-Cheney regime is America's first neoconservative regime. In a few short years, the regime has destroyed the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, the Geneva Conventions, and the remains of America's moral reputation along with the infrastructures of two Muslim countries and countless thousands of Islamic civilians. Plans have been prepared, and forces moved into place, for an attack on a third Islamic country, Iran, and perhaps Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon as well.

This extraordinary aggressiveness toward the US Constitution, international law, and the Islamic world is the work, not of a vast movement, but of a handful of ideologues ­ principally Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Lewis Libby, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Zalmay Khalilzad, John Bolton, Philip Zelikow, and Attorney General Gonzales. These are the main operatives who have controlled policy. They have been supported by their media shills at the Weekly Standard, National Review, Fox News, New York Times, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page and by "scholars" in assorted think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute.

The entirety of their success in miring the United States in what could become permanent conflict in the Middle East is based on the power of propaganda and the big lie.

Initially, the 9/11 attack was blamed on Osama bin Laden, but after an American puppet was installed in Afghanistan, the blame for 9/11 was shifted to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who was said to have weapons of mass destruction that would be used against America. The regime sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to tell the lie to the UN that the Bush-Cheney regime had conclusive proof of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Having conned the UN, Congress, and the American people, the regime invaded Iraq under totally false pretenses and with totally false expectations. The regime's occupation of Iraq has failed in a military sense, but the neoconservatives are turning their failure into a strategic advantage. At the beginning of this year President Bush began blaming Iran for America's embarrassing defeat by a few thousand lightly armed insurgents in Iraq.

Bush accuses Iran of arming the Iraqi insurgents, a charge that experts regard as improbable. The Iraqi insurgents are Sunni. They inflict casualties on our troops, but spend most of their energy killing Iraqi Shi'ites, who are closely allied with Iran, which is Shi'ite. Bush's accusation requires us to believe that Iran is arming the enemies of its allies.

On the basis of this absurd accusation ­ a pure invention ­ Bush has ordered a heavy concentration of aircraft carrier attack forces off Iran's coast, and he has moved US attack planes to Turkish bases and other US bases in countries contingent to Iran. In testimony before Congress on February 1 of this year, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said that he expected the regime to orchestrate a "head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large." He said a plausible scenario was "a terrorist act blamed on Iran, culminating in a 'defensive' US military action against Iran." He said that the neoconservative propaganda machine was already articulating a "mythical historical narrative" for widening their war against Islam.

Why is the US spending one trillion dollars on wars, the reasons for which are patently false. What is going on?

There are several parts to the answer. Like their forebears among the Jacobins of the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks of the communist revolution, and the National Socialists of Hitler's revolution, neoconservatives believe that they have a monopoly on virtue and the right to impose hegemony on the rest of the world. Neoconservative conquests began in the Middle East because oil and Israel, with which neocons are closely allied, are both in the Middle East. The American oil giant, UNOCAL, had plans for an oil and gas pipeline through Afghanistan, but the Taliban were not sufficiently cooperative. The US invasion of Afghanistan was used to install Hamid Karzai, who had been on UNOCAL's payroll, as puppet prime minister. US neoconservative Zalmay Khalilzad, who also had been on UNOCAL's payroll, was installed as US ambassador to Afghanistan.

Two years later Khalilzad was appointed US ambassador to Iraq. American oil companies have been given control over the exploitation of Iraq's oil resources.

The Israeli relationship is perhaps even more important. In 1996 Richard Perle and the usual collection of neocons proposed that all of Israel's enemies in the Middle East be overthrown. "Israel's enemies" consist of the Muslim countries not in the hands of US puppets or allies. For decades Israel has been stealing Palestine from the Palestinians such that today there is not enough of Palestine left to comprise an independent country. The US and Israeli governments blame Iran, Iraq, and Syria for aiding and abetting Palestinian resistance to Israel's theft of Palestine.

The Bush-Cheney regime came to power with the plans drawn to attack the remaining independent countries in the Middle East and with neoconservatives in office to implement the plans. However, an excuse was required. Neoconservatives had called for "a new Pearl Harbor," and 9/11 provided the propaganda event needed in order to stampede the public and Congress into war. Neoconservative Philip Zelikow was put in charge of the 9/11 Commission Report to make certain no uncomfortable facts emerged.

The neoconservatives have had enormous help from the corporate media, from Christian evangelicals, particularly from the "Rapture Evangelicals," from flag-waving superpatriots, and from the military- industrial complex whose profits have prospered. But the fact remains that the dozen men named in the second paragraph above were able to overthrow the US Constitution and launch military aggression under the guise of a preventive/preemptive "war against terrorism."

When the American people caught on that the "war on terror" was a cloak for wars of aggression, they put Democrats in control of Congress in order to apply a brake to the regime's warmongering. However, the Democrats have proven to be impotent to stop the neoconservative drive to wider war and, perhaps, world conflagration. We are witnessing the triumph of a dozen evil men over American democracy and a free press.

March 1, 2007
Copyright © 2007 Creators Syndicate

Thursday, March 01, 2007

PM, Dion dumb down public discourse - opinion - PM, Dion dumb down public discourse
March 01, 2007
James Travers

OTTAWA–Stéphane Dion is positioning Liberals dead centre in Conservative crosshairs. That's recklessly dangerous, but not necessarily fatal. With two controversial anti-terrorism provisions formally declared dead today, the unsteady new Liberal leader is locking his party into an argument Conservatives are confident they will win.

This week, and in the months ahead, Stephen Harper and his chorus will chant that Dion and Liberals are, among other horrid lefty things, soft on terrorism.

Tactically, Harper is doing to Dion on terrorism what Dion is doing to Harper on Kyoto: Each is putting the other on the defensive side of an inflamed and often irrational debate.

That shouldn't surprise anyone. Wrong-footing an opponent is as pivotal to partisan politics as spin and the pithy TV clip.

In fact, both leaders are scripting for television. It's no more possible to make a coherent 30-second case for or against extraordinary police powers than it is to weigh the benefits and costs of climate change.

Instead, politicians offer props and theatrics. In all senses of the word, Harper is using the families of Air-India and 9/11 victims to tilt public opinion toward national security and away from individual rights.

Equally mischievously, Dion is using imperfect Kyoto to demonize any who question its late application as synonymous with the flat Earth society.

Voters should be insulted. Conservative and Liberal alike are making unflattering assumptions about the collective IQ as well as the national capacity to separate wheat from chaff.

Harper is behaving as if Canadians are susceptible to the same scare tactics Joe McCarthy used to terrify Americans into believing Reds were under every bed. Whispers and innuendo are now the Conservative weapons of choice against Dion's defence of civil liberties.

In the same way, Dion is counting on Canadians to forget or forgive that after finally signing Kyoto, Liberals did so little that Canada's performance is among the worst. To now cast Harper as a climate-change denier is, at best, disingenuous.

Buried in both campaigns is just enough truth to trap the unwary. While hardly alone, Liberals have a history of dabbling in diaspora politics. And even if Liberals weren't environmental activists, there's no doubt Conservatives are 11th-hour converts to save-the-planet evangelism.

So what's the anticipated result of this ugliness?

Harper hopes to be seen as Horatio at the bridge and that Dion will be dismissed as a weak leftover from a gentler era. Dion hopes to be seen as safeguarding core values and that Harper will be cast into political darkness.

But in constructing images from suspect material, both leaders are carelessly deconstructing a democratic foundation. Even though citizens delegate responsibility for wise governance, there remains a civic duty to reach considered conclusions on issues that matter.

By any reasonable standard, locating the sweet spot between individual rights and national security is one of those. So, too, is finding the fulcrum between a sustainable environment and a sustaining economy.

If war is too important to leave to generals then surely these decisions are too significant to leave exclusively to politicians.

Current antics make contrary arguments null and void.

In treating fellow citizens with no more respect than a talk-show audience, Harper and Dion are dumbing down the national conversation and making it disturbingly uncivil.

The scurrilous Conservative suggestion that Liberals are flip-flopping on anti-terrorism to protect extremists combined with Liberal environmental fear-mongering are pushing the quality of debate to new lows.

Blending a little truth with a lot of fiction has defined U.S. politics for a long time. But dismissing what's happening here as just catching up would be to ignore the obvious pitfall.

Politicians who get too far out in front of reality lose credibility and ultimately support when voters catch up to them after finally catching on. Dion and Harper are making themselves vulnerable to that phenomenon.

Dion's exaggerated case against Harper collapses the moment Conservatives unveil a reasonable environment plan.

Harper's fantasy about terrorism's new best friend will evaporate if – and it's a big if – Dion can articulately explain that it was his party that responded to extraordinary times with intrusive measures and that it now has good reasons to reconsider the worst of them.

Allowing Harper to position the Liberal leader in the soft-on-terror crosshairs is dumb politics.

But the targeting is so crude and the defence of human rights so central to democracy that Dion might just duck the bullet.

James Travers's national affairs column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Terror: Canada Sun-Downing Hysteria

MPs vote against extending anti-terrorism measures
CBC News
February 27, 2007 |

Opposition parties banded together Tuesday to defeat a controversial Conservative proposal to extend two anti-terrorism measures contained in the Criminal Code.

The proposal to keep the measures in place for three more years was voted down 159-124 in the House of Commons.

Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion receives a standing ovation Tuesday after voting against a bill to extend the anti-terrorism measures.
(Tom Hanson/Canadian Press) Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion led off the No votes as fellow Liberals clapped and cheered him on. All but two Liberals present voted against the proposal, as did all Bloc Québécois and NDP members in the House.

One of the anti-terrorism measures allows police to arrest suspects without a warrant and detain them for three days without charges, provided police believe a terrorist act may be committed. The other measure allows judges to compel witnesses to testify in secret about past associations or pending acts. The witnesses could go to jail if they don't comply.

The two measures, introduced by a previous Liberal government in 2001, have never been used.

"These two provisions especially have done nothing to fight against terrorism," Dion said Tuesday. "[They] have not been helpful and have continued to create some risk for civil liberties."

Continue Article

All Conservatives present, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, voted to extend the anti-terrorism measures, which expire Thursday.

Harper said the move not to extend the measures would have long-term consequences.

"The Liberals chose internal caucus politics over the national security of Canadians," he said Tuesday. "This isn't going away … This will haunt the Liberal party."

Liberal Cotler abstains from vote
The proposal to extend the measures has somewhat divided Liberals in recent weeks, but MP Tom Wappel was the only Liberal who voted alongside the Conservatives Tuesday. He was a member of the subcommittee that reviewed the anti-terrorism measures.

Former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler abstained from voting Tuesday. He was present in the House, but never rose from his seat during the vote.

Before the vote, Cotler said he could not comfortably support either side. He said the position could be taken that the provisions have never been implemented and therefore they should be sunsetted.

"Or you can take the position as I've taken," he said. "The fact that [the provisions] have not been used means that they have not been abused, but they may still be needed."

Leading up to Tuesday's vote, Conservatives labelled Liberals soft on terror and accused them of flip-flopping on a law they'd written themselves.

Liberals have responded that governments cannot be trusted with too free a hand over people's rights, especially the current Conservative government.

The anti-terrorism rules became law on Dec. 18, 2001, in the chaotic aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The rules, known as the Anti-terrorism Act, were introduced by Jean Chrétien's Liberal government and fast-tracked through the House of Commons and the Liberal-dominated Senate.

The act was hotly debated, as it defines what terrorism is and makes it a punishable offence within Canada's Criminal Code.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Seymour Hersh: Bush Funding al Qaida

Bush Funding Jihadists Connected to al Qaeda
as Part of Iran War He Has ALREADY STARTED

by Rob Kall

OpEd News
February 25, 2007

We know that at least nine months before the official "Shock and Awe" day when the big attack was started against Iraq-- NINE MONTHS-- the US had already begun the war, with almost daily bombing raids and covert operations.

While Bush and his surrogates, the latest being his new Secretary of Defense Gates, are denying planning a war against Iran, all the signs indicate that this war has already begun, is under way and that Bush is partnering with Saudi Arabia to run covert operations using jihadist Sunni groups that are either close to or actually part of Al Qaeda.

That's the message I took from the latest Sy Hersh blockbuster article in the New Yorker and an interview of him on CNN by Wolf Blitzer.

He told Blitzer,
"The Bush Administration has decided to put as much pressure as possible on Shiites."

"Sinora (elected leader of Lebanon) is putting money into Sunni jihadist groups opposed to Hezbollah."

"Nasrullah says he sees this as 'fitna' (arabic word used to mean "insurrection and fragmentation within islam") a kind of civil war... that the US is trying to foment in Lebanon what's been happening in Iraq."
Hersh discussed how easy it it to get money, with all of it spilling, by the billions, in Baghdad, to use for covert operations. He reports that Bush and Cheney have been coordinating with Prince Bandar, former Ambassador to the US from Saudi Arabia and Bush buddy, to provide money for covert operations, done by Sunni extremist groups to stop Shiite expansion. The expansion, feared by many Sunni leaders, is called the "Shiite Crescent."

Hersh reports that
"Money has gotten into jihadist hands-- groups that want to take on Hezbollah"

"America is using money not appropriated, without telling congress... Running covert operations, supporting groups, indirectly that were involved indirectly with 9/11.

In the New Yorker article, Hersh cites a former senior intelligence officer,
"...we're financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don't have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don't like. It's a very high-risk venture."

American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda.

The article reports that the majority leader of the Lebanese Parlaiment, Saad Hariri paid tens of thousands of dollars to bail out four members of an Islamic militant group from Dinniyeh-- a group in which "many of the militants 'had trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.'"

Hersh reports,
In an interview in Beirut, a senior official in the Siniora government acknowledged that there were Sunni jihadists operating inside Lebanon. "We have a liberal attitude that allows Al Qaeda types to have a presence here," he said. He related this to concerns that Iran or Syria might decide to turn Lebanon into a "theatre of conflict."

...The Bush Administration has portrayed its support of the Siniora government as an example of the President's belief in democracy, and his desire to prevent other powers from interfering in Lebanon.

Hersh tells Blitzer, "Under Rumsfeld we've been running operations all over the world..." and explains that Bush and Rumsfeld claimed these were military and the president has the war power to do this.

The article reports that the US is working closely with Saudis, who see any enemy of a Shia as a friend, even extremist Sunni groups that have terrorist history or even connections with al Qaeda.

Hersh also speculated that former spy Chief Negroponte may have left his spy job to become assistant Secretary of State because there is a repeat of the Iran Contra happening and he wanted to avoid trouble-- since he was involved in Iran Contra and knew the risks.

The article reports that US military or covert operators have already made repeated excursions into Iran. and that Bush has a new special planning group at the pentagon, gearing up so if Bush orders an attack, within 24 hours the US military can be bombing Iran.

On CNN, Hersh told Blitzer that this "project is very far along., that they've been studying this forever. ...It's pretty obvious what's going on. The president has been talking more and more about attacks and threats on American lives (by Iranians.)

"For months there has been a lot of aggressive cross border activity--- more than just casual.

"The current contingency plans allow for an attack this spring.

Fortunately, not everyone in the military leadership agrees, and Hersh reports, "Much of the senior leadership do not think this is a wise thing to do. "

Hersh reported that one expert had envisioned a scenario in which an aircraft carrier in the Straits of Hormuz could be attacked by the hundreds of PT boats Iran has, which could be on suicide missions.

The Iranians also have more powerful weapons, like the one that did serious damage to the Israeli ship during the war with Lebanon last summer.

In response to statement by Secretary of War, Gates, where he denied that US was planning to go to war with Iran, Hersh said, "I guess Mr. Cheney did not get that message. In Australia, he said that all options are on the table."

As this article opened, with a description of the early start of the Iraq war, we have to ask the question, is doing a Clinton here, saying, it depends what the meaning of 'war' is. If you are sending in covert missions, sending in overt chase teams, flying into their space, arresting hundreds of Iranians in Iraq, just for being Iranian, and placing a massive war flotilla off the shores, does that count as war?

Back in 2003, the same behavior could easily be seen now as early war actions before the big frontal attack.

Now, Hersh tells us, "One of the contingency assignments would be to enable the president to be able to say, 'I want a hit,' and within 24 hours, it would be operational."

While there has been some speculation that Bush will encourage or authorize Israel to launch an attack on Iran, like it did on Iraq Osirus reactor 25 years ago, Hersh rejects that idea, saying,
"There's no thought of letting Israel bomb nuclear facilities. If Israel thinks they have to do it, then WE will do it.

"My own instinct is that this president is not going to leave office without doing something about Iran. And he keeps on refusing to negotiate and keeps talking tough."

Ironically, just as Bush and Cheney lied about connections between Saddam and al Qaeda, Bush and Cheney are again ginning the story now, by accusing the Iranians of causing deaths of hundreds of GIs in Iraq. But this is not true. Hersh cites Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official,
"The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when-- if you look at the actual casualty numbers-- the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude," Leverett said. "This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them."

Of course, we know how the Bushes work. His father claimed that Saddam's forces had done horrible things to infants in a hospital ward in Kuwait-- which was a totally fabricated story. That was the emotional trigger that handed Bush senior the support of the American people. It is highly likely that the apple will not fall far from the tree-- Dubya will report some horrific offense, based on a tiny bit of truth, maybe, and that will be stenographically reported by all the media except for a few, like Keith Olbermann and maybe one or two CNN anchors like Lou Dobbs and Jack Cafferty. Depend on Wolf Blitzer and most of the rest of the high pay anchors to fail to ask tough questions and to just echo chamber the Bush version of the story and build the hysteria, fear and anger-- an excuse to activate the 24 hour bombing option.

Is it possible to stop this train? In my opinion, we're already at war with Iran, the way Bush and his Iran-Contra buddies do war. Can we stop them from doing a major escalation-- an Iranian "shock and awe attack?" It's possible. Not very, but slightly, if enough people talk about his patterns, and anticipate the use of ploys similar to those used to sell Iraq one and two. If enough people ask tough questions of enough high level generals and Bush appointees, maybe the truth will come out.

The Democratic congress has had enough time to get their investigational committees set up. They've begun asking some good questions. It's time for them to tear into Hersh's report and start asking questions on all the details and more. It's time to start jailing Bush adminstration officials who refuse to answer congressional inquiries.

These revelations put a whole new light on the levels of unauthorized, illegal, war criminal activities that Bush and Cheney and others have engaged in and cast a bright new light on reasons to impeach.

If I were heading a congressional committee (like congressmen Conyers, Rangel, Rockefeller, Waxman,) I'd start with Negroponte, Rumsfeld and all the generals Bush has dumped. Then I'd start talking to members of the diplomatic corps in the middle east and any employee who has ever worked for Cheney.

See the full article in the New Yorker.

Rob Kall is executive editor and publisher of, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and organizer of several conferences, including StoryCon, the Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story and The Winter Brain Meeting on neurofeedback, biofeedback, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology. He is a frequent Speaker on Politics, The art, science and power of story, heroes and the hero's journey, Positive Psychology, Stress, Biofeedback and a wide range of subjects.

The US psychological torture system is finally on trial

America has deliberately driven hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners insane.
Now it is being held to account in a Miami court

Naomi Klein
Friday February 23, 2007
The Guardian

Something remarkable is going on in a Miami courtroom. The cruel methods US interrogators have used since September 11 to "break" prisoners are finally being put on trial. This was not supposed to happen. The Bush administration's plan was to put José Padilla on trial for allegedly being part of a network linked to international terrorists. But Padilla's lawyers are arguing that he is not fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government.

Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born former gang member, was classified as an "enemy combatant" and taken to a navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a cell 9ft by 7ft, with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a "truth serum", a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.
According to his lawyers and two mental health specialists who examined him, Padilla has been so shattered that he lacks the ability to assist in his own defence. He is convinced that his lawyers are "part of a continuing interrogation program" and sees his captors as protectors. In order to prove that "the extended torture visited upon Mr Padilla has left him damaged", his lawyers want to tell the court what happened during those years in the navy brig. The prosecution strenuously objects, maintaining that "Padilla is competent" and that his treatment is irrelevant.

The US district judge Marcia Cooke disagrees. "It's not like Mr Padilla was living in a box. He was at a place. Things happened to him at that place." The judge has ordered several prison employees to testify on Padilla's mental state at the hearings, which began yesterday. They will be asked how a man who is alleged to have engaged in elaborate anti-government plots now acts, in the words of brig staff, "like a piece of furniture".

It's difficult to overstate the significance of these hearings. The techniques used to break Padilla have been standard operating procedure at Guantánamo Bay since the first prisoners arrived five years ago. They wore blackout goggles and sound-blocking headphones and were placed in extended isolation, interrupted by strobe lights and heavy metal music. These same practices have been documented in dozens of cases of "extraordinary rendition" carried out by the CIA, as well as in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many have suffered the same symptoms as Padilla. According to James Yee, a former army Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo, there is an entire section of the prison called Delta Block for detainees who have been reduced to a delusional state. "They would respond to me in a childlike voice, talking complete nonsense. Many of them would loudly sing childish songs, repeating the song over and over." All the inmates of Delta Block were on 24-hour suicide watch.

Human Rights Watch has exposed a US-run detention facility near Kabul known as the "prison of darkness" - tiny pitch-black cells, strange blaring sounds. "Plenty lost their minds," one former inmate recalled. "I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors."

These standard mind-breaking techniques have never faced scrutiny in an American court because the prisoners in the jails are foreigners and have been stripped of the right of habeas corpus - a denial that, scandalously, was just upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington DC. There is only one reason Padilla's case is different - he is a US citizen. The administration did not originally intend to bring Padilla to trial, but when his status as an enemy combatant faced a supreme court challenge, the administration abruptly changed course, charging Padilla and transferring him to civilian custody. That makes Padilla's case unique - he is the only victim of the post-9/11 legal netherworld to face an ordinary US trial.

Now that Padilla's mental state is the central issue in the case, the government prosecutors are presented with a problem. The CIA and the military have known since the early 1960s that extreme sensory deprivation and sensory overload cause personality disintegration - that's the whole point. "The deprivation of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact with an outer world and thus forcing it in upon itself. At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure." That comes from Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation, a declassified 1963 CIA manual for interrogating "resistant sources".

The manual was based on the findings of the agency's notorious MK-ULTRA programme, which in the 1950s funnelled about $25m to scientists to carry out research into "unusual techniques of interrogation". One of the psychiatrists who received CIA funding was the infamous Ewen Cameron, of Montreal's McGill University. Cameron subjected hundreds of psychiatric patients to large doses of electroshock and total sensory isolation, and drugged them with LSD and PCP. In 1960 Cameron gave a lecture at the Brooks air force base in Texas, in which he stated that sensory deprivation "produces the primary symptoms of schizophrenia".

There is no need to go so far back to prove that the US military knew full well that it was driving Padilla mad. The army's field manual, reissued just last year, states: "Sensory deprivation may result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, depression, and antisocial behaviour" - as well as "significant psychological distress".

If these techniques drove Padilla insane, that means the US government has been deliberately driving hundreds, possibly thousands, of prisoners insane around the world. What is on trial in Florida is not one man's mental state. It is the whole system of US psychological torture.

· Naomi Klein's book on disaster capitalism will be published this spring; a version of

The Worst of Two Centuries

The Arab region suffers the mass self-abuse of police states and soft autocracies that are the legacy of the post-colonial period, alongside the renewed abuse of foreign armies that march into the region today.

The Worst of the
19th and 21st Centuries

Rami G. Khouri

February 25, 2007
Agence Global

Copyright ©2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global
[Republished at GRBlog with AG permission]

DUBAI -- I had the pleasure last week of spending a few days in Doha and Dubai, two booming Gulf emirates that contrast sharply with the tensions and occasional turbulence of my home in Beirut. Without exception, on this trip and during our daily lives throughout the Middle East, the one theme that continuously reasserts itself -- especially in discussions among Arabs themselves -- is: Why is this region so volatile, violent, unstable, prone to extremist rhetoric and actions, and riddled with instability and militarism?

The opportunity to engage in long conversations with learned people and a few slightly more suspect political types in the heady, hyper-growth atmosphere of the emirates of Dubai and Qatar also offers a useful perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of the entire Arab region. Qatar and Dubai have planned and implemented impressive developmental programs that have started to catch the attention of the world for more than only their dramatic architecture or occasional eccentricities. The order, excitement and ongoing expansion of these cities contrast starkly with the ravages and tensions that define much of the rest of the Arab world.

We are all well aware of the problems of grief-stricken lands like Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Algeria, Yemen and Somalia, plagued by war, civil strife and perpetual stagnation. Even countries that are renowned for their stability and strict security, like Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia, suffer a combination of intermittent political violence and terror attacks, alongside pent-up domestic political and social tensions. The latest example was last week's shootout between police and terrorists in Tunisia, which should only heighten our acknowledgement that even the most efficient police states ultimately generate their own forms of instability, insurrection and incoherence.

Why is this so? Why is the entire Arab world -- even some Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain -- susceptible to chronic tension that manifests itself in regular outbursts of terrorism or domestic strife? Simple and occasionally sinister minds in faraway lands would explain this by culture, religion or values, or by claiming that masses of ordinary Arabs have simply allowed their emotions to overcome them and thus have not permitted themselves to engage in the joys of modernity, democracy and liberty.

I think there is a better explanation, which will not please those far away who accuse us of blaming all our ailments on foreigners and history. I suspect that much of the Arab world is a chronic mess because it is the only region in the world that simultaneously suffers the debilitating consequences of two of the most wretched and wrenching forces in modern history: the distress and distortions of post-colonial societies the Europeans manufactured and then abandoned in the 20th Century, and the new stresses and dysfunctionalism of the neo-colonial policies the United States is spearheading in this region -- and only in this region -- in the wake of the Cold War and the advent of the post-9/11 “global war on terror”. For some reason, we in the Arab world must endure the worst of the 19th and 21st Centuries combined.

Only the Arab region in the entire world suffers the mass self-abuse of police states and soft autocracies that are the legacy of the post-colonial period in the 20th Century that brought into being the modern Arab political order, alongside the renewed abuse of foreign armies that march into the region today to repeat the state-making, regime-crafting mistakes of their imperial predecessors a century ago. The British, of course, get the prize here, having come into Iraq and other lands several times in the past century, and always with similarly negative consequences of chronic instability and national incoherence. Their shameful hallmark legacies are visible today in Palestine, Sudan, Iraq and other tortured lands. The Americans under George W. Bush seem to be learning the same awful game.

It is hard enough trying to sort out the lingering distortions and problematic legacies of 19th and 20th Century European colonialism, as some Arab societies are trying to do. It is impossible to attempt this, though, when these societies simultaneously are subjected again to military attacks, long-term occupations and strategies for regime change and social values reconfigurations by the American, British, Israeli and Micronesian political establishments. It is no wonder that our region is such a mess.

The single most important difference between this round of foreign assaults on the Arab world and the experience last century is that the natives are more aware, less willing to passively accept their fate, and more inclined to resist and fight back. This makes for a long period ahead of turmoil and confrontation, as we have witnessed in the past few years.

Will the Arab world be able one day soon to look forward to a century, even just a few decades, without foreign invasions, imperial conquests, colonial state-crafting, post-colonial police states, and neo-colonial threats, assaults and regime changes?

Rami G. Khouri is an internationally syndicated columnist, the director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star, and co-laureate of the 2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award.

Copyright ©2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global

Released: 26 February 2007
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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein.