Stalin, Mao And … Ahmadinejad?

Conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history's greatest mass murderers.

By Fareed Zakaria

Updated: 1:57 PM ET Oct 20, 2007

At a meeting with reporters last week, President Bush said that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." These were not the barbs of some neoconservative crank or sidelined politician looking for publicity. This was the president of the United States, invoking the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon.

The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism." For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence.

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

Keep Reading...

punditman says...Ever notice that whenever the US government wants to go to war, their newly designated enemy becomes the "new Hitler"? We saw it with Gaddafi, Hussein, Milosevic....I am so sick of this bogus act!

Thankfully, Fareed Zakaria and the article above represent a voice of sanity within the mainstream media. Unfortunately, it is a rare voice in the wilderness.


The Secret History of the Impending War With Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to Know

By John H. Richardson

Thursday 18 October 2007

Two former high-ranking policy experts from the Bush Administration say the US has been gearing up for a war with Iran for years, despite claiming otherwise. It'll be Iraq all over again.

In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm - not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years. That was what people didn't realize. It was just like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it couldn't wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps have been many and steady and all in the same direction. And now things are getting much worse. We are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they say.

"The hard-liners are upping the pressure on the State Department," says Leverett. "They're basically saying, 'You've been trying to engage Iran for more than a year now and what do you have to show for it? They keep building more centrifuges, they're sending this IED stuff over into Iraq that's killing American soldiers, the human-rights internal political situation has gotten more repressive - what the hell do you have to show for this engagement strategy?' "

But the engagement strategy was never serious and was designed to fail, they say. Over the last year, Rice has begun saying she would talk to "anybody, anywhere, anytime," but not to the Iranians unless they stopped enriching uranium first. That's not a serious approach to diplomacy, Mann says. Diplomacy is about talking to your enemies. That's how wars are averted. You work up to the big things. And when U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had his much-publicized meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad this spring, he didn't even have permission from the White House to schedule a second meeting.

The most ominous new development is the Bush administration's push to name the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.

"The U.S. has designated any number of states over the years as state sponsors of terrorism," says Leverett. "But here for the first time the U.S. is saying that part of a government is itself a terrorist organization."

This is what Leverett and Mann fear will happen: The diplomatic effort in the United Nations will fail when it becomes clear that Russia's and China's geopolitical ambitions will not accommodate the inconvenience of energy sanctions against Iran. Without any meaningful incentive from the U.S. to be friendly, Iran will keep meddling in Iraq and installing nuclear centrifuges. This will trigger a response from the hard-liners in the White House, who feel that it is their moral duty to deal with Iran before the Democrats take over American foreign policy. "If you get all those elements coming together, say in the first half of '08," says Leverett, "what is this president going to do? I think there is a serious risk he would decide to order an attack on the Iranian nuclear installations and probably a wider target zone."

This would result in a dramatic increase in attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, attacks by proxy forces like Hezbollah, and an unknown reaction from the wobbly states of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where millions admire Iran's resistance to the Great Satan. "As disastrous as Iraq has been," says Mann, "an attack on Iran could engulf America in a war with the entire Muslim world."

Mann and Leverett believe that none of this had to be.

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punditman says...This article is a highly recommended read. It is a fascinating behind the scenes glimpse that sets the record straight on recent US-Iranian relations. It is also a tale of how the neo-cons within the Bush administration have done everything in their power to derail any sort of accomodation between the two sides, and, like the Valerie Plame affair, it demonstrates the lengths that this administration will go to threaten and punish whistle blowers.

Regime Change Redux

by Patrick Foy

It is time to contemplate, post “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, the reality and the implications of “regime change” with respect to Iran. One fact has been made perfectly clear by the American reaction to the Iranian President’s recent visit to the UN and to Columbia University in New York. The de facto U.S. policy toward Iran is “regime change.” Nothing less. It has been that way for some time, of course, but now the White House policy is unambiguous. Concurrently the policy seems to have acquired support in the mass media to match that already evident on Capitol Hill. For all practical purposes, we are at war with Iran. The dauphin, as Maureen Dowd sometimes refers to G.W. Bush, has probably signed a secret executive order, at the direction of the Regent, Dick Cheney, spelling out the policy. Is it too much to ask our rulers to share this document with their subjects?

So far the war against Iran has taken the form of economic sanctions, an embargo on spare parts, the seizure of financial assets, psychological warfare, gratuitous calumny, and CIA support for the activities of the terrorist organization Mujahadeen el-Khalq (MEK), a secular Iranian group opposed to the Islamic regime, all of which is designed to destabilize Iran without actually invading the country.

These initial forays have been backed up with threats of a full-scale attack by supersonic B-2 stealth bombers stationed in the U.S., by Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the U.S. Navy armada in the Persian Gulf, and by B-52’s parked, locked and loaded with ordinance on Diego Garcia. Faced with a barrage of such magnitude, should it be unleashed by those in control of the lone surviving Superpower, Tehran has little to defend itself. Tehran also must be concerned about the four or five hi-tech, long-range, German-gifted U-boats which Tel Aviv has patrolling in the Indian Ocean and/or in the Persian Gulf, armed with American cruise missiles, possibly with nuclear warheads. The Middle East’s regional “superpower” is putting German and American tax dollars to work on behalf of Pax Israeliana. In effect, Iran is cornered.

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Ill-informed Fox anchors spread fears of al Qaeda link to California fires

Questionable 4-year-old FBI memo presented as new to stoke terror fears

Did al Qaeda start the California wildfires?

As more than a million people escaped the flames, Fox News anchors couldn't help speculating about a terrorism link to the blazes ravaging southern California.

"I've heard some people talk about this a little bit to me, but have you heard anybody suggest that this could be some form of terrorism," Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked Wednesday morning.

Correspondent Adam Housley said he's received "hundreds of comments" from readers of his Fox News blog speculating about a link to terrorism.

Keep Laughing (I mean reading)...

punditman says: This is hilarious.


Polling Afghanistan: Questions and Contradictions

From: Canadian Peace Alliance

The Environics poll, conducted by D3 Systems in Afghanistan is being touted as "groundbreaking" research into the views of the Afghan people about the NATO occupation. The reality is that there are as many questions as answers arising from the poll results.

This new poll is not the first of its kind to be done in Afghanistan, but the results are striking because they contradict dozens of comprehensive studies conducted by other agencies. For example a remarkable 73 per cent of respondents in the D3 Systems study said that women's rights were improving in Afghanistan. This contradicts the NGO Womenkind Worldwide which found that attacks against women have actually been on the rise since 2001 and that there had been no improvement in the lives of Afghan women as a whole.

Likewise, a whopping 76 per cent of people said that they have "a lot" or "some" confidence in the Afghan National Army and 60 per cent have faith in the Afghan National Police (ANP). This contradicts countless documents from groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who have consistently found that a majority of Afghans cite the Army and ANP as a chief source of violence. In fact, poll results from December 2006 found 78 per cent of Afghan people believed that the ANP was corrupt and one in four Afghans had to pay bribes to local police for protection. So therefore, the numbers from D3 Systems either represent an astounding turnaround in public opinion or there was some type of flaw in the research.

These strange results aren't surprising given the history of the D3 Systems polling firm. The group, whose former clients include NATO and the RAND Corporation (a virtual who's who of the military industrial complex) is notorious for providing the results that are needed to advance a political agenda.

Tellingly, D3 Systems is the only polling form in the world that was able to consistently show that a majority of Iraqis felt their lives had improved since the invasion of 2003. In 2004 and 2005, D3 conducted polls for media outlets based in the US and found more than 50 per cent of Iraqis were exited about their future. As late as 2006 D3 found a miraculous 64 per cent of Iraqis who felt that their lives were improving.

There are still many other unanswered questions about this survey. For example, did security or military contingents escort the survey teams around the country? If so the results will be terribly skewed, as these types of escorts would have destroyed the impartiality of the surveyors. Also, if 75 per cent of respondents called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban (a number that has been omitted from most media reports on the survey) how do we reconcile that with the 64 per cent who want us to continue to fight the Taliban. Furthermore, if only 2 per cent of respondents knew that Canada was fighting the Taliban, how did that 64 per cent think that we were doing a good job.

This survey has come out at a particularly fortuitous time for the Conservative government, days after a throne speech advocating and extension of Canada's war in Afghanistan and a week before a pan-Canadian day of action against the war. But as with most of what we hear from the Conservatives, the numbers just don't add up.

punditman says: As the old saying goes, "there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics."


Steve Earle-Brampton Live-2007

Woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin' in
And I can't lay me down
And the drums are drummin' again
And I can't stand the sound

But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

The Politics of "Appeevement"

Is There a Method to Bush's Middle East Madness?


Over the past several weeks, the United States has gone out of its way to offend, irk and otherwise provoke a select group of leaders and nations. Through a series of deliberate and calculated actions intended to purposefully estrange those most likely to succeed at diplomacy with Iran, its failure has been ordained and the stage for military action set. For those who think the upcoming war will be another Bush-Cheney folly (as they believe Iraq to be), the collusion of the Democrats in the process again belies that assumption.

The groundwork was laid in September, when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging the State Department to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization"--the prerequisite term needed to justify the use of force and the first ever such characterization of a governmental entity.

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punditman says: Witness Bush style "diplomacy," where the intention is always to peeve as many nations as possible. In this case it is Iran (further antagonizing), Russia, China and Turkey, as part of the lead-up to further middle east mayhem.


Forgotten Faces of War

by James Carroll

One news story from Afghanistan last week told of two tragedies. In Paktika Province a young man, whose chest was wrapped with an explosive vest, was en route to the place where he would detonate himself. But then, he saw people at prayer in a mosque, and he changed his mind. He went to the police. He began removing his explosive vest, but it went off. He alone was killed.

In Uruzgan Province, a young man, recently home from Pakistan where he had attended a religious school, announced a similar intention to his family. He was going to kill the enemy by killing himself. The article said that he handed over $3,600, presumably a reward for what he was about to do. In front of his mother, brother, and two sisters, he displayed his explosive vest. The young man’s mother was horrified, and she immediately tried to remove the vest from his body. The bomb detonated. The young man, his mother, and his three siblings were killed instantly.

Reports from Afghanistan and Iraq have been numbingly discouraging, in part because, in the United States, they come as a steady stream of abstraction. We see the faces of American casualties on the evening news, and the fate of wounded GIs draws sympathy, but otherwise the human cost of the war is kept vague.

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Target Iran: where's Harper?

As we go through the numbing process of listening to what passes for news these days — Britney Spears losing custody of her kids, O.J. arrested for kidnapping and Pamela Andersen getting married — Canadians seem blissfully unaware of the increasing signs of a global catastrophe. There are extremely worrying indications that the U.S. is planning — and soon — to attack Iran.

According to the Guardian, the hawkish French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, recently stated “we must expect the worst, and the worst is war.” John Bolton, Bush's former UN ambassador, used a Tory conference in Britain to call for a strike against Iran. Rumours persist a strike could involve tactical, “bunker busting” nuclear weapons.

Keep Reading...

punditman says: Harper is busy getting his marching orders from his master, George. And if George says shut up about our plans to attack Iran, then Stephen knows exactly what to do and say: nothing.

Military Resistance Forced Shift on Iran Strike

The George W. Bush administration's shift from the military option of a massive strategic attack against Iran to a surgical strike against selected targets associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker earlier this month, appears to have been prompted not by new alarm at Iran's role in Iraq but by the explicit opposition of the nation's top military leaders to an unprovoked attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

The reorientation of the military threat was first signaled by passages on Iran in Bush's Jan. 10 speech and followed by only a few weeks a decisive rejection by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of a strategic attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.


Slaughter of the Innocents: Something is Rotten in Iraq and the Pentagon


Isn't it odd that in the air attack that the US military claims killed 19 high-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and 15 civilians, all the slain Al Qaeda members were men and all the men were Al Qaeda, while all the civilians were women (6) and children (9)?

Think about this a minute.

This means that no women were Al Qaeda--and yet we know that women also fight, and also blow themselves up as suicide bombers. Yet these women were all civilians. The children, of course, were children.

And we're to believe that there were no men who were innocent bystanders? All those adult males who were killed were "bad guys."

Yet there were innocent bystanders: the women and the children. Somehow, any innocent bystanding men managed to duck out of the way, or the bullets and bomb fragments (and I'm sure they were fragmentation bombs that were used, as well as a withering spray of machine-gun fire) that hit all those poor women and kids, just somehow (magically?) missed the men.

Pretty amazing huh?

Keep Reading...

punditman says: Just remember: When people are cut to pieces by shrapnel, it's never the fault of the Pentagon or the US or the Bush administration or the neo-cons and their illegal, immoral war of aggression.

Now drink your kool-aid like good little consumers.


'Many in the US Military Think Bush and Cheney Are Out of Control'

In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, the Amsterdam-based military historian Gabriel Kolko talks about the prospect of war with Iran and argues that many in the US military now view the White House as being 'out of control.'

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Kolko, editorials in US papers like the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and the National Review are pushing for military action against Iran. How does the leadership in the US military view such a conflict?

Gabriel Kolko: The American military is stretched to the limit. They are losing both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything is being sacrificed for these wars: money, equipment in Asia, American military power globally, etc. Where and how can they fight yet another? The Pentagon is short of money for procurement, and that is what so many people in the military bureaucracy live for. The situation will be far worse in the event of a war with Iran.

Many in the American military have learned the fundamental dilemma of modern warfare: More money and better weapons don't mean that you win. IEDs, which cost so little to make, are defeating a military which spends billions of dollars per month. IEDS are so adaptable that each new strategy developed by the United States to counter them is answered by the Iraqi insurgents. The Israelis were also never quite able to counter IEDs. One report quotes an Israeli military engineer who said the Israeli answer to IEDs was frequently the use of armored bulldozers to effectively rip away the top 18 inches of pavement and earth where explosive devices might be hidden. This is fantastic, as the cost of winning means destroying roads, which form the basis of a modern economy.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...Irrational people are prone to do irrational things.


Dodging Impeachment

by Ralph Nader

The meeting at the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts on July 5, 2007 was anything but routine. Seated before Cong. John Olver (D-MA) were twenty seasoned citizens from over a dozen municipalities in this First Congressional District which embraces the lovely Berkshire Hills.

The subject-impeachment of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney.

The request-that Cong. Olver join the impeachment drive in Congress.

More than just opinion was being conveyed to Cong. Olver, a then 70 year old Massachusetts liberal with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These Americans voted overwhelmingly during formal annual town meetings in 14 towns and two cities in the First District endorsing resolutions to impeach the President and Vice President.

Presented in the form of petitions to be sent to the Congress, the approving citizenry cited at least four “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

They included the initiation of the Iraq war based on defrauding the public and intentionally misleading the Congress, spying on Americans without judicial authorization, committing the torture of prisoners in violation of both federal law and the U.N. Torture Convention and the Geneva Convention, and stripping American citizens of their Constitutional rights by jailing them indefinitely without charges and without access to legal counsel or even an opportunity to challenge their imprisonment in a court of law.

punditman says...Nader theorizes that since many Democrats admit in private that Bush and Cheney are the most impeachable persons ever to inherit their respective offices, yet they still won't support impeachment, then perhaps they believe that Bush is so volatile that he may launch a diversionary war on Iran to distract attention away from any criminal investigation. This means that the Democrats are likewise neglecting their responsibility to uphold the constitution of the United States.


Hillary Clinton: Fooled Again or Neo-Conned?

Punditman welcomes guest columnist Donna Saggia, who has written for counterpunch and CommonDreams.

Hillary Clinton is fond of saying that, if she knew in 2002 what she knows now, she would not have voted to give Bush the power to invade Iraq. To this day Clinton does not regret her vote, she only regrets “the way the president used the authority that Congress gave him.” Her campaign mantra, “The mistakes were made by this president, who misled this country and this Congress,” is an attempt to draw a veil of innocence over her vote and implicate all of us in the Iraq swindle.

Well, “all of us” really can’t continue to buy this argument. George Bush may have pulled the trigger, but Republicans and too many Democrats were holding the gun. Iraq was and continues to be a bipartisan war, and Hillary Clinton, until only recently, has been a vociferous cheerleader. Had events in Iraq taken a different turn, Clinton would be first in line to congratulate Bush on a job well done.

So, was Hillary “fooled” on Iraq? And what about her recent vote to give Bush an opening to attack Iran? Was she “fooled again”? If she indeed was misled by Bush, we’d expect her speeches to be filled with alternative strategies and policies, but they’re not. In fact, if we look at Clinton’s words and votes regarding the Middle East, it becomes clear what a foreign policy under “President Hillary Clinton” would look like – indistinguishable from Bush’s and bearing a strong resemblance to the neocon agenda.

The ABC’s of the neocon agenda

At first glance, the neocon agenda for the Middle East appears to be based on three transparent convictions:

The US has a duty to promote democracy around the world, using its unrivaled power if necessary. Since the Middle East is a region of despotic Muslims, democratic transformation must begin there. And, since Israel is the only democratic outpost in the region, we must protect Israel’s right to defend itself.

But if we read between the lines, where the neocon agenda really lies, we can break the code with a few simple substitutions:

A. for “promote democracy around the world” substitute establish free markets; for “unrivaled power” substitute preemptive military force;

B. for “despotic Muslims” substitute Islamic terrorists; for “democratic transformation” substitute regime change;

C. for “Israel’s right to defend itself” substitute the right to continue the military occupation of Palestine and bomb Lebanon, Syria, and Iran if necessary.

The deciphered neocon agenda thus reads:

The United States has the duty to establish free markets around the world, and to do so by preemptive military force if necessary. The Middle East is a hotbed of Islamic terrorism and needs to undergo regime change in order for free markets to survive. Israel’s aggressive use of military force was successful at containing Muslim terrorists for almost 40 years and is a shining example of how democracy can be spread throughout the entire region.

Hillary Clinton and the neocon agenda -- how to “negotiate” like a neocon

That the neocon agenda places Israel’s security in such a prominent position, and that Hillary Clinton is on board with that agenda, have been evident for many years. The neocon perspective sees Israel as a valiant little nation defending itself against a Muslim monolith. It’s the David versus Goliath myth, with a twist: neocons also see the US as vulnerable to that same Goliath. National Review's Larry Kudlow summed it up nicely: “Israel is doing the Lord’s work. They are defending their own homeland and very existence, but they are also defending America’s homeland as our frontline democratic ally in the Middle East.”

To the neocon mind, the fate of the US is tied to the survival of Israel.

Although the right-wing talking heads have been slow to see Hillary’s inner neocon, there are signs that some of the neocon elite are becoming very comfortable with her foreign policy positions. They see her foreign policy goals as being very consistent with their own, and Clinton’s vigilant defense of Israel’s security bears this out.

The last time Clinton had anything hopeful to say to the Palestinian people was in May 1998, when she told a group of Arab and Israeli youth that the eventual emergence of a Palestinian state was “very important for the broader goal of peace in the Middle East.” When Clinton was severely criticized by Jewish groups for her early support for a Palestinian state, she began to shift her support away from Palestinians and towards Israel, even commenting on what would later be a critical final status issue for peace negotiations, the division of Jerusalem, about which she stated in 1999: “I personally consider Jerusalem the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel.”

Since being elected as the Senator from New York in 2000, Clinton’s support for Israel has become entrenched to the point where now, as Clinton supporter Steve Rabinowitz recently stated, she “has personally proved herself to the Jewish community on Israel, on which she was once questioned.”

Hillary continued to “prove” herself by lashing out at the Palestinian leadership and adopting neocon talking points and strategies in her Middle East positions. After Bill Clinton’s July 2000 Camp David Summit failed to broker an accord to end the military occupation of Palestinian territory, the neocons had a field day blaming Arafat for “missing the opportunity” to negotiate a peace. In reality, the Summit is a neocon model for how to negotiate with your enemies when you really don’t want to negotiate.

The Summit failed, but not for the reasons the neocons thought. It failed partly due to Clinton’s one-sided diplomacy, but mainly due to the tactical sabotage that passed as “negotiations.” Apart from the details of the final status issues, which leaned heavily in favor of the Israelis, the major stumbling block – and one that continues to undermine every negotiation the US or Israel are involved in – was Israel’s tactic of imposing “unacceptable preconditions”: Israel demanded that the Palestinians dismantle the militias as a precondition to Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories. In other words, the Israelis would agree to end the occupation only after the Palestinians ended their resistance to the occupation. Arafat, of course, refused and was blamed for sinking the summit.

The neocon lesson from the Camp David summit was simple: never agree to talk to your enemies without first establishing unacceptable preconditions, and only negotiate peace based on threats and fear. This model is evident in Bush’s foreign policy approach to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, where first Powell and then Rice either ignored offers to talk or set such absurd preconditions that talks were impossible. It’s also evident in the Israeli refusal to talk to Hamas or seriously negotiate with Palestinian leaders without deal-killing preconditions.

One indication that Hillary has learned this lesson well is found in her own recently released campaign statement, in which Richard Holbrooke, former UN ambassador in Bill Clinton's administration, states:

“As she has said many times, Senator Clinton believes we need to engage in vigorous diplomacy after the cowboy approach of the Bush years. She has said she would initiate serious, responsible dialogue with nations with whom we don’t agree in order to further the national security interest of the United States. But she is right not to risk the prestige of the presidency by unconditionally committing to meet with leaders of adversarial nations.” [My emphasis.]

Clinton and neocon/AIPAC talking points

Since her earlier tactical error in supporting a Palestinian state, Clinton has been working hard to cultivate Jewish support, and it’s really paying off. The Jewish Daily Forward recently reported that she is going to get the lion’s share of donations from the Jewish community for her 2008 presidential campaign. Unfortunately, that support comes at a price – total commitment to Israeli government positions regarding Israel’s security – and Clinton seems eager to pay it. She is a regular at AIPAC functions and her speeches invariably weave together the mutuality of US and Israeli security. Her speech at the 2005 AIPAC conference shows how in synch she is with the neocon belief about a democratic Israel and the mutuality of US and Israeli security:

Now, Israel is not only, however, a friend and ally for us, it is a beacon of what democracy can and should mean…. So if people in the Middle East are not sure what democracy means, let them look to Israel, which has been and remains a true, faithful democracy.”

But we know that the goal, the important, essential goal of a democratizing Middle East is complex, and it is not without risks….So there is no doubt that America has started down a path [the Iraq war, author], with blood and treasure, to try to create the condition for democracy and freedom in the Middle East -- which has consequences for the entire region, for our security, and certainly for Israel's.

Clinton and the separation wall

One of the least reported consequences of the Israeli military occupation is the separation wall that Israel began building in 2002, ostensibly for security reasons. The major grievance Palestinians have with the wall is that much of it is built on Palestinian land, violating the 1967 borders that were supposed to become the boundary of the eventual Palestinian state. On a three-day visit to Israel in the fall of 2005, the Clintons toured the separation wall.

The wall is mainly concrete, but some sections include electrified fencing, two-meter-deep trenches, electronic ground/fence sensors, thermal imaging and video cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), sniper towers, and razor wire. As of May 2004, construction of the wall had already uprooted an estimated 102,320 Palestinian olive and citrus trees, demolished 75 acres of greenhouses and 23 miles of irrigation pipes, and confiscated 3,705 acres of land from Palestinians.

In 2004, just a year before Clinton’s visit to the wall, the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall was a violation of international law. At that time, Clinton, along with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), stood in front of UN headquarters with the Israeli ambassador and denounced the International Court of Justice ruling. “It makes no sense for the United Nations to vehemently oppose a fence which is a non-violent response to terrorism rather than opposing terrorism itself,” Clinton said.

In 2004, the World Council of Churches demanded that Israel halt and reverse construction on the barrier and strongly condemned it as a violation of human rights. Amnesty International condemned the wall as a violation of international humanitarian law, and Human Rights Watch has protested Israel’s confiscation of land to build the wall. The Red Cross declared the wall to be in violation of the Geneva Convention and, in 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the Israeli barrier “causes serious humanitarian and legal problems” and goes “far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power.”

So, it’s safe to say that, by the time Hillary and Bill Clinton visited the wall in November 2005, its devastating impact on the Palestinian people was clear, as was its illegal and immoral standing in the eyes of most of the world. Yet, Clinton’s reaction to the wall, as reported in Haaretz, was no different than her initial reaction a year before. Clinton stated that she “supports the separation fence Israel is building along the edges of the West Bank, and that the onus is on the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism.” Haaretz also quoted Clinton saying, “This is not against the Palestinian people. This is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism.”

Clinton and the bombing of Lebanon

Clinton’s hammering at the security issue to constantly justify Israel’s actions has produced some ridiculous contortions in her speeches. On July 12, 2006, Israel bombed Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure and killed over 1000 civilians, including four unarmed UN peacekeepers – supposedly in response to the border crossing and kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. However, according to the business magazine Forbes (July 12, 2006), the French news service AFP (July 12, 2006), the Asia Times (July 15, 2006) and the Lebanese police, the Israeli soldiers were captured within Lebanon in the area of Ai’tu Al-Chaarb, a Lebanese village a few kilometers from the Israeli border. That would make Israel’s bombing of Lebanon a war crime. The bombing lasted almost two months because the US refused to call for a halt, while most of the world looked on, appalled at Israel’s “disproportionate” use of force.

According to sociologist James Petras, “The Jewish networks and lobbies were able to secure 98% support from Congress for a resolution supporting Israel’s invasion of Lebanon” and the Lobby “pressured and threatened the White House” to prolong the bombing.

On July 13, 2006, a day after the Israeli attack, Hillary Clinton issued a statement condemning Hezbollah and Hamas: “The unprovoked attacks on innocent Israelis and the killing and abduction of Israeli soldiers by the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah are dramatic escalations of violence against Israel. The United States must stand by Israel as she defends herself.”

Five days later, Clinton addressed an AIPAC crowd of several thousand in New York, calling for solidarity and support for Israel. Responding to worldwide criticism of Israel’s disproportionate response to the border skirmish, Clinton said she supported “whatever steps are necessary” to defend Israel against Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. Deliberately distorting events and playing to the paranoia and frenzy of the crowd, Clinton screamed, “I want us here in New York to imagine, if extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?”

Beyond semantic contortions, Clinton’s allegiance to Israel often forces her into blatant hypocritical positions. Just last month, when Israel bombed Syria, did Clinton demand a Senate resolution condemning this blatant act of aggression? Hardly. Instead, the neocons cheered and Clinton endorsed the attack. At the Democratic debates at Dartmouth College she stated: “We don't have as much information as we wish we did. But what we think we know is that with North Korean help, both financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that…. I think it is fair to say what happened in Syria, so far as we know, I support.”

Clinton and Iraq

Perhaps no other issue has given Clinton more of a headache on the campaign trail than her 2002 vote to give George Bush the power to attack Iraq. Her entire defense of that vote rests on the claim that she was misled by Bush into believing that Iraq had WMD and was an imminent threat – the “Hillary fooled” argument.

But Andrew Cockburn has convincingly demonstrated that, not only did Hillary Clinton know Saddam had no WMD, but her husband’s political maneuvering during his presidency had suppressed that fact and gave birth to the WMD myth that Bush and the neocons later used to sell the pre-emptive strike on Iraq.

Cockburn explains that, back in 1997, the Clinton administration deliberately sabotaged UN weapons inspections in Iraq. The inspectors had been investigating Saddam’s weapons for six years and were about to declare Iraq in compliance with Security Council Resolution 687 (which required Iraq to destroy all WMD) and recommend lifting sanctions. Feeling the neocon pressure, Clinton had Secretary of State Madeleine Albright deliver a major policy speech at Georgetown University on March 26, 1997, in which she stated: "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted." Sanctions would remain unless or until Saddam was driven from power.

Bill Clinton’s switch of focus from compliance to regime change neatly removed any incentive for Saddam to work with the UN inspectors, and in 1998, all the inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq. Clinton then launched nearly 400 cruise missile strikes and flew 650 air attacks against Iraq. His strategy proved successful, from a neocon perspective: Iraq remained under sanctions; Saddam grew progressively weaker; and the neocon dream of a US empire dominating the Middle East came closer to realization.

Now, fast forward to 2002 and Hillary Clinton’s vote to give Bush authority to bomb Iraq. In “Hillary's War,” Jeff Gerth and Don Van Vatta Jr. offer some interesting insights into Clinton’s distortion of the facts about Saddam that helped to sell the war.

On October 10, 2002 – the day before the war powers vote – Hillary Clinton argued before the Senate that Iraq was an imminent threat to the US. Many politicians delivered pro-war speeches on that day, but Clinton went far beyond other pro-war Democrats, warning that, “Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability and his nuclear program,” and arguing that Saddam gave “aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members.”

Both of these statements were false, contradicted not only by the National Intelligence Estimate report, which was available to every senator (whether they read it or not) but also by the intelligence from Bill Clinton’s administration that Saddam no longer had WMD. Hillary certainly was privy to that intelligence, yet she still voted for war.

And she continues to support the war, notwithstanding her lame attempts to convince us otherwise. While her war position has wiggled over the years, it has never firmly supported a full troop withdrawal. In a revealing moment, Clinton recently joined three other Democratic candidates in refusing to state that they would guarantee to pull all US combat troops from Iraq by the end of the next presidential term in 2013.

The neocon influences that got us into this war are keeping us there, working side-by-side with pressure from the Israeli government. Reporting on an AIPAC meeting held in March 2007, Ray McGovern states:

Those taking part in last month's meeting of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington heard stern warnings from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that America not show "weakness" on Iraq -- warnings that a U.S. troop withdrawal would make the neighborhood far more dangerous for Israel.

Once again, Israel’s security – the focal point of the neocon agenda – steers American foreign policy. In this light, it can be argued that Clinton’s claim that she was mislead by Bush about Iraq, though ingenuous, is more politically acceptable than the alternative – that she is and has been promoting the neocon agenda.

Clinton and Iran

While “Hillary fooled” can now be laid to rest, we still have to deal with “Hillary fooled again.” Will someone be asking Clinton why, if she has learned her lesson from the Iraq war vote, she recently voted to make it easier for Bush to bomb Iran?

This September, the US Senate passed the Kyl-Lieberman sense of the Senate amendment that designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization.” This is the first time a military arm of a sovereign nation has been so designated, and the repercussions could be grave.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Virginia), who opposed the amendment, cautioned that the amendment could be used to declare war on Iran, since the Revolutionary Guard is part of the Iranian government – if the Guard attacks us, it would mean that Iran is attacking us. Webb argued that the amendment would, for all practical purposes, mandate the military option against Iran: “It could be read as tantamount to a declaration of war. What do we do with terrorist organizations? If they are involved against us, we attack them….At worst, it could be read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action, without one hearing and without serious debate.” Thus, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment is the Iranian twin of the Iraq War Resolution. The amendment passed 76-22, which is almost identical to the 77-23 Iraq war vote. Hillary Clinton (and 29 other slow-learning Democrats) voted for it.

Hillary has always been antagonistic towards Iran, calling it one of Israel's greatest threats, demanding that sanctions be imposed, and threatening that no option can be taken off the table when dealing with Iran. She has consistently parroted the distorted reporting that the Iranian president has denied the holocaust and calls for Israel and the United States to be wiped off the map. When Ahmadinejad recently spoke at Columbia University, Clinton supported the AIPAC-organized Stop Iran Now Rally, repeating again the accusations against Ahmadinejad – who actually has little power in the Iranian political system – as a basis for a bellicose and aggressive policy towards Iran.

Ironically, Hillary’s views on Iran contradict those expressed by her husband just two years ago. At a 2005 meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Bill Clinton stated: “Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency. It is there that the ideas that I subscribe to are defended by a majority.”

But the neocon and Israeli pressure to bomb Iran – and their influence on Clinton and other Democrats – cannot be underestimated. In a recent interview with Seymour Hersh, Jon Wiener asked, “Who wants to bomb Iran?” Hersh replied:

Ironically there is a lot of pressure coming from Democrats. Hillary Clinton, Obama, and Edwards have all said we cannot have a nuclear-armed Iran. Clearly the pressure from Democrats is a reflection of - we might as well say it - Israeli and Jewish input….a lot of money comes to the Democratic campaigns’ from Jewish contributors.

The question that begs to be asked is, If elected, will Clinton continue the neocon agenda under the cover of a legitimately-elected Democratic president? If so, Clinton’s foreign policy will be as much a failure as is Bush’s. Her neocon bias will preclude any “honest broker” approach to Middle East problems, and her presumption to negotiate only with unacceptable preconditions will mean many more decades of stalemate and bloodshed.

There are some who dismiss Clinton’s neocon policies as simply “pandering” to AIPAC for votes and contributions. They believe that, once elected, Clinton will shed her bias and negotiate from a more balanced position. This is hopeful, but naïve thinking. Hillary Clinton has spent the last seven years building up a constituency that now determines her foreign policy approach. If elected, she’ll need to “stay the neocon course” through her first term in order to get the votes and contributions for a second term. In her second term she’ll have to reward her supporters. Liberal pundits often refer to Hillary as “Bush-lite,” but they’re wrong. Honestly, there’s nothing “lite” about her.

Donna Saggia is a freelance writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota. She can be reached at: donnasaggia@msn.com


Oil, Israel, and America: The Root Cause of the Crisis

by Scott Ritter

There is no shortage of examples of historical points of friction between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States to draw upon in order to illustrate the genesis of the current level of tension. One can point to the Islamic revolution that cast aside America’s staunch ally, Reza Shah Pahlevi, the period of reactionary exportation of Islamic “revolution” that followed, the take over of the US Embassy and subsequent holding of Americans hostage (replete with a failed rescue mission), the Iranian use of proxies to confront American military involvement in Lebanon, inclusive of the bombing of the Marine barracks and US Embassy compounds, America’s support of Saddam Hussein during the 8-year war between Iran and Iraq, the ‘hot’ conflict between Iran and the United States in the late 1980s, or Iran’s ongoing support of the Hezbollah Party in Lebanon. The list could continue.

With the exception of the current situation in Lebanon, most of these “friction points” are dated, going back nearly three decades past. And when one examines the ‘root’ causes of these past points of friction, we find that there is no simple ‘black and white’ causal relationship which places Iran firmly in the wrong. Much of the early animosity between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States was derived from the resentment most Iranians felt over American support for a brutal, repressive regime. This resentment, coupled with an uncompromising approach taken by the United States towards maintaining cordial relations with a post-Shah Iran, manifested itself in the furtherance of anti-American activity in Iran, which in turn hardened the posture of the US government against Iran, leading to a cycle of devolution that ultimately resulted in the severance of all ties between the two nations.

The animosity between the United States and Iran was further exacerbated by the US support for Saddam Hussein during the bloody 8-year war between Iran and Iraq.

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Scott Ritter was a Marine Corps intelligence officer from 1984 to 1991 and a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of numerous books, including “Iraq Confidential” (Nation Books, 2005) , “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2006) and his latest, “Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement” (Nation Books, April 2007).


The Big Lie: ‘Iran Is a Threat’

by Scott Ritter

Iran has never manifested itself as a serious threat to the national security of the United States, or by extension as a security threat to global security. At the height of Iran’s “exportation of the Islamic Revolution” phase, in the mid-1980’s, the Islamic Republic demonstrated a less-than-impressive ability to project its power beyond the immediate borders of Iran, and even then this projection was limited to war-torn Lebanon.

Iranian military capability reached its modern peak in the late 1970’s, during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlevi. The combined effects of institutional distrust on the part of the theocrats who currently govern the Islamic Republic of Iran concerning the conventional military institutions, leading as it did to the decay of the military through inadequate funding and the creation of a competing paramilitary organization, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command (IRGC), and the disastrous impact of an eight-year conflict with Iraq, meant that Iran has never been able to build up conventional military power capable of significant regional power projection, let alone global power projection.

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Shut It Down October 17, 2007

Shut It Down October 17, 2007

punditman says...This idea needs to go beyond the blogosphere and go international as well.

U.S. peace activists say Canada setting dangerous precedent keeping them out

WASHINGTON - Canada is setting a "dangerous" precedent by refusing entry to Americans convicted of misdemeanours during peaceful anti-Iraq protests, say two women who couldn't cross the border this week.

The high-profile activists, who are listed in an FBI database called the National Crime Information Center, say they were detained for more than two hours Wednesday at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, Ont., before being turned away.

"First, the FBI should not have put us on that list," Ann Wright, a retired army veteran, told a news conference Thursday outside the Canadian Embassy.

"And secondly, the Canadian government should not be doing the dirty political intimidation work for the Bush administration by using that database."

Full article...

punditman says...In the name of security, this type of abuse of power and misdirection of resources is happening on both sides of the US-Canadian border. It will continue unless people get off their keesters and stand up for their rights.


Free Burma 4 October 2007

Free Burma!

October 4 is International Bloggers Day for Burma.
For more information, click on the image.


Beating the Drums for the Next War

Scott Horton | Harpers
October 1, 2007

Last week brought heads of state and senior diplomats in number to New York for the opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations. It also brought President Bush and President Ahmadinejad to the podium. For the larger audience in the world community, however, one of the most important questions of the day remains whether the verbal blows traded between these two pugnacious leaders will turn in the fullness of time into bullets and bombs. And the sense of the best-informed was clear: yes.

I spoke with a number of European diplomats who are keeping track of the issue, and I found a near uniform analysis. These diplomats believe that the United States will launch an air war on Iran, and that it will occur within the next six to eight months. I am therefore moving the hands of the Next War clock another minute closer to midnight and putting the likelihood of conflict at 70%. It’s still not certain, and it’s still avertable, but at this point it has to be seen as conventional wisdom to say that America is headed for another war in the Islamic world—it’s fourth since Bush became president, if we include the proxy war in Lebanon. And this time it will be a war against a nation with vastly greater military resources, as well as a demonstrated ability to wield terrorism as a tactic—Iran.

Let’s take quick stock of the further indicators from the last week or so.

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punditman says:

The article summarizes the "rollout" campaign that has already begun as a lead-up to an air attack against Iran. Thus far, the mainstream media has played their part as collaborators, just as they did last time regarding Iraq (witness their ludicrous subservience and lack of balanced analysis during the Ahmadinejad visit last week).


UN: Violence in Afghanistan up almost 25 percent in '07

Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, according to an internal United Nations report that sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai.

"The security situation in Afghanistan is assessed by most analysts as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007," said the report compiled by the Kabul office of the U.N. Department of Safety and Security.

There were 525 security incidents — attacks by the Taliban and other violent groups, bombings, terrorism of other kinds, and abductions — on average every month during the first half of this year, up from an average of 425 incidents per month in 2006.

Last year was the most violent since the U.S. post-September 11 offensive that ousted the hard-line Taliban Islamic militia from power and drove Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida terrorists into neighboring Pakistan.

The U.N.'s Half-Year Review of the Security Situation in Afghanistan underscored the continuing resurgence of the Taliban, which many experts attribute to Bush's decision to shift troops and resources to Iraq, the U.S. failure to capture the militia's top leaders, and the refuge the militia has secured in the lawless tribal region of neighboring Pakistan.

There are currently about 40,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

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Senior Bush Official: "I hate all Iranians."

By Simon Walters

Global Research, October 1, 2007
Daily Mail - 2007-09-29

Britsh MPs visiting the Pentagon to discuss America's stance on Iran and Iraq were shocked to be told by one of President Bush's senior women officials: "I hate all Iranians."

And she also accused Britain of "dismantling" the Anglo-US-led coalition in Iraq by pulling troops out of Basra too soon.

The all-party group of MPs say Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defence Secretary Robert Gates, made the comments this month.

The six MPs were taken aback by the hardline approach of the Pentagon and in particular Ms Cagan, one of Mr Bush's foreign policy advisers.

She made it clear that although the US had no plans to attack Iran, it did not rule out doing so if the Iranians ignored warnings not to develop a nuclear bomb.

It was her tone when they met her on September 11 that shocked them most.

The MPs say that at one point she said: "In any case, I hate all Iranians."

Although it was an aside, it was not out of keeping with her general demeanour.

"She seemed more keen on saying she didn't like Iranians than that the US had no plans to attack Iran," said one MP. "She did say there were no plans for an attack but the tone did not fit the words."

Another MP said: "I formed the impression that some in America are looking for an excuse to attack Iran. It was very alarming."

Tory Stuart Graham, who was on the ten-day trip, would not discuss Ms Cagan but said: "It was very sobering to hear from the horse's mouth how the US sees the situation."

Ms Cagan, whose job involves keeping the coalition in Iraq together, also criticised Britain for pulling out troops.

"She said if we leave the south of Iraq, the Iranians will take it over," said one MP.

Another said: "She is very forceful and some of my colleagues were intimidated by her muscular style."

The MPs also saw Henry Worcester, Deputy Director of the Office of Iranian Affairs, who said he favoured talks with Iran.

The Pentagon denied Ms Cagan said she "hated" Iranians.

"She doesn't speak that way," said an official.

But when The Mail on Sunday spoke to four of the six MPs, three confirmed privately that she made the remark and one declined to comment. The other two could not be contacted.


punditman says: Witness the quality of character for this Bush administration diplomat.

US, Israel Poised to Repeat Saddam's Error

October 1, 2007
by Uri Avnery

A respected American paper posted a scoop this week: Vice President Dick Cheney, the King of Hawks, has thought up a Machiavellian scheme for an attack on Iran. Its main point: Israel will start by bombing an Iranian nuclear installation, Iran will respond by launching missiles at Israel, and this will serve as a pretext for an American attack on Iran.

Far-fetched? Not really. It is rather like what happened in 1956. Then France, Israel, and Britain secretly planned to attack Egypt in order to topple Gamal Abdel-Nasser ("regime change" in today's lingo.) It was agreed that Israeli paratroops would be dropped near the Suez Canal, and that the resulting conflict would serve as a pretext for the French and British to occupy the canal area in order to "secure" the waterway. This plan was implemented (and failed miserably).

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