Monday, June 30, 2008

US Congress approves Israel aid increase


Fri Jun 27, 1:35 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Congress has approved a 170 million dollar increase in security assistance to Israel as part of its new 10-year, 30 billion dollar defense aid commitment to the Jewish state.

The money for Israel was part of a larger supplemental spending bill that included 162 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation gained final approval in a 92-6 Senate vote late Thursday.

America's pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, welcomed the congressional action, saying it would increase US aid to Israel to 2.55 billion dollars in fiscal year 2009, up from 2.38 billion dollars this year.

"The US commitment to maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge is the cornerstone of American policy in the region," AIPAC said in a statement Friday.

"This year's package holds heightened significance for US security interests, as the US and Israel face new challenges from Iran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons as well as the growing influence of radical anti-western forces to Israel's south in Gaza and to the north in Lebanon."

The package was unveiled by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on July 30 as part of a new military pact with US allies in the Middle East in a bid to "counter the negative influences" of militant groups Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah as well as arch enemies Iran and Syria.

The aid includes a 20 billion dollar weapons package for Saudi Arabia, a 13 billion dollar package for Egypt, and reportedly arms deals worth at least 20 billion dollars for other Gulf states.

The military aid to Israel reflected an increase in value of more than 25 percent, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said, describing the package as a considerable improvement and very important element for national security.

UN official: Afghan civilian deaths up 60 percent

UN official: Afghan civilian deaths up 60 percent in first half of 2008

AP News, Jun 29, 2008 10:10 EST

A senior U.N. official says the number of civilians killed in fighting in Afghanistan has soared by nearly two-thirds.

The top U.N. humanitarian official, John Holmes, said Sunday that the world body has recorded 698 civilian deaths for the first half of this year, compared to 430 in the first six months of 2007.

Holmes said militants caused most of the civilian casualties this year and that the figures reflected efforts by foreign troops to reduce civilian deaths in military operations.

Source: AP News

Preparing the Battlefield

The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.

by Seymour M. Hersh | New Yorker, July 7, 2008

Operations outside the knowledge and control of commanders have eroded “the coherence of military strategy,” one general says.

Operations outside the knowledge and control of commanders have eroded “the coherence of military strategy,” one general says.

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.

Continued . . .

Chaos in Afghanistan

Bad and Getting Worse

By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY | Counterpunch, June 27, 2008

Can anyone state exactly why foreign troops are fighting in Afghanistan? What is the collective aim, the specific mission, the ultimate objective, of the 60,000 soldiers there? I ask this because as I write the total of US deaths in Afghanistan “and region” is over 450, and news has come in of the killing of more British and American soldiers. And I wonder what all of them have died for.

There are three separate foreign military organizations in Afghanistan, and they conduct operations entirely differently. The International Security and Assistance Force, the NATO countries’ military contingents, and the independent US forces have no single overall headquarters ; they have entirely unrelated Rules of Engagement (a preposterous and almost unbelievable situation) ; and do not have a combined mission statement. If a young captain at any military college in the world were told to produce a planning paper for direction of military operations in a foreign country and came up with such a harebrained cockamamie muddle he would be laughed at and sent packing.


The situation in Afghanistan is bad and getting worse, but before sketching the history of foreign military failure in that harsh and barbaric country it should be noted that its eastern neighbor, Pakistan, remains host to the largest number of refugees existing in any one country in our horrible world. There is no other nation that has accepted so many displaced people for so long – or has received less international gratitude for its generosity to foreign exiles. There has been attentive care, of course, from the saintly UN High Commission for Refugees whose staff around the world rarely receive the recognition they deserve. But Pakistan has not received any acknowledgment, either, for its hosting of millions of Afghans, some of whom are intent on wrecking the country that has given them haven.

Continued . . .

The ‘W.’ Stands for ‘War Criminal’

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

By Nat Hentoff | In a June 6 letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey—largely ignored by a press immersed in the future of Hillary Clinton—56 Democrats in the House of Representatives asked for “an immediate investigation with the appointment of a special counsel to determine whether actions taken by the President, his Cabinet, and other Administration officials are in violation of the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441) . . . and other U.S. and international laws.”

This isn’t front-page news?

The letter began with a brief account of the notorious facts about Abu Ghraib (”sexual exploitation and torture”) and Guantánamo (”an independent investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross documented several . . . acts of torture . . . including soaking a prisoner’s head in alcohol and lighting it on fire”). Nor was “coercive interrogation” in Afghanistan omitted: “In October 2005, The New York Times reported that three detainees were killed during interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq by CIA agents or CIA contractors.”

This is not a call for articles of impeachment. Bush will soon be gone, and the new president and Congress have far too much to do to get mired in that quicksand. These are grave criminal charges, and since international crimes are involved as well as the U.S. War Crimes Act and the Anti-Torture Act, other nations whose laws include “universal jurisdiction” could prosecute.

But why would House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers Jr. and Intelligence Committee members Jerrold Nadler (my congressional representative) and Jan Schakowsky—among other signers—make such dramatic and historic charges of “war crimes” now, after most congressional Democrats have not shown the same interest? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, is not on the list of signers; she and Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid have never, in their opposition to the administration, come anywhere near these shocking accusations.

Continued . . .

Sunday, June 29, 2008

U.S. escalating covert operations against Iran - report

Raw Story: Sunday June 29, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. congressional leaders agreed late last year to President George W. Bush’s funding request for a major escalation of covert operations against Iran aimed at destabilizing its leadership, according to a report in The New Yorker magazine published online on Sunday.

The article by reporter Seymour Hersh, from the magazine’s July 7 and 14 issue, centers around a highly classified Presidential Finding signed by Bush which by U.S. law must be made known to Democratic and Republican House and Senate leaders and ranking members of the intelligence committees.

“The Finding was focused on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” the article cited a person familiar with its contents as saying, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.”

Hersh has written previously about possible administration plans to go to war to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including an April 2006 article in the New Yorker that suggested regime change in Iran, whether by diplomatic or military means, was Bush’s ultimate goal.

Funding for the covert escalation, for which Bush requested up to $400 million, was approved by congressional leaders, according to the article, citing current and former military, intelligence and congressional sources.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. U.S. Special Operations Forces have been conducting crossborder operations from southern Iraq since last year, the article said.

These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in Bush’s war on terrorism, who may be captured or killed, according to the article.

But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which include the Central Intelligence Agency, have now been significantly expanded, the article said, citing current and former officials.

Many of these activities are not specified in the new finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature, it said.

Continued . . .

Defending the President as Tyrant

Robert Parry | Consortium News, June 27, 2008

All over the world down through history, political leaders who have engaged in torture and other grotesque crimes of state have justified their actions as necessary to protect their governments or their people or themselves.

It was true when England’s King Edward I had William Wallace – “Braveheart” – drawn and quartered in 1305 for resisting the crown’s rule in Scotland, and a gruesome death was what King George III foresaw for America’s Founding Fathers in 1776 when they stood up to his abuses in the Colonies.

Kings and tyrants often inflicted special pain on people they viewed as challenging their authority and – at such times – they wiped away the rules of justice. But the United States was supposed to be different.

Indeed, reaction to tyrannical monarchs was what compelled the Founders to establish a government of laws, not men, based on “unalienable rights” for all mankind, including protection against arbitrary detention and prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Which is why it was stunning to watch the June 26 hearing before the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution as two representatives of George W. Bush’s presidency responded with disdain when pressed on the administration’s extraordinary vision of an all-powerful Executive operating without legal limits.

While Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington treated the committee Democrats with haughty contempt, former State Department lawyer John Yoo expressed the ultimate arrogance of power with his muddled responses and evasions of direct questions.

The soft-spoken Yoo, who authored some of the key legal opinions justifying the abuse of detainees, wouldn’t even give a clear answer to the simple question of what atrocity might be beyond President Bush’s power to inflict.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, cited a news report quoting an ambiguous response from Yoo, who is now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, about whether the President could torture the child of a “war on terror” suspect to induce the suspect to talk.

The Judiciary Committee chairman asked: “Is there anything, Professor Yoo, the President cannot order to be done to a suspect if he believes it’s necessary for national defense?”

When Yoo dissembled, Conyers posed the question more pointedly: “Could the President order a suspect buried alive?”

Yoo continued to fence with the congressman, avoiding a direct answer.

“I don’t think I ever gave advice that the President could bury somebody alive,” Yoo said, adding he believed that “no American President would ever have to order that or feel it necessary to order that.”

Pointedly, however, Yoo avoided a direct response to the question of whether he believed the President had the authority to do it.

Continued . . .

America Is the Rogue Nation

by Charley Reese | Antiwar, June 28, 2008

One gets the impression that there are some people in Washington who believe that Israel or the U.S. can bomb Iran's nuclear reactors, fly home, and it will be mission complete.

It makes you wonder if perhaps there is a virus going around that is gradually making people stupid. If we or Israel attack Iran, we will have a new war on our hands. The Iranians are not going to shrug off an attack and say, "You naughty boys, you."

Consider how much trouble Iraq has given us. Some 4,000 dead and 29,000 wounded, a half a trillion dollars in cost and still climbing, and five years later, we cannot say that the country is pacified.

Iraq is a small country compared with Iran. Iran has about 70 million people. Its western mountains border the Persian Gulf. In other words, its missiles and guns look down on the U.S. ships below it. And it has lots of missiles, from short-range to intermediate-range (around 2,200 kilometers).

More to the point, it has been equipped by Russia with the fastest anti-ship missile on the planet. The SS-N-22 Sunburn can travel at Mach 3 at high altitude and at Mach 2.2 at low altitude. That is faster than anything in our arsenal.

Iran's conventional forces include an army of 540,000 men and 300,000 reserves, including 120,000 Iranian Guards especially trained in unconventional warfare. It has more than 1,600 main battle tanks and 21,000 other armored combat vehicles. It has 3,200 artillery pieces, three submarines, 59 surface warships and 10 amphibious ships.

It's been receiving help in arming itself from China, North Korea and Russia. Unlike Iraq, Iran's forces have not been worn down with bombing, wars and sanctions. It also has a new anti-aircraft defense system from Russia that I've heard is pretty snazzy.

So, if you think we or Israel can attack Iran and not expect retaliation, I'd have to say with regret that you are a moron. If you think we could easily handle Iran in an all-out war, I'd have to promote you to idiot.

Attacking Iran would be folly, but we seem to be living in the Age of Folly. Morons and idiots took us into an unjustified war against Iraq before we had finished the job in Afghanistan. Now we have troops tied down in both countries.

For some years now, I've worried that we seem to be more and more like Colonial England – arrogant, racist, overestimating our own capacity and underestimating that of our enemies. As the fate of the British Empire demonstrates, that is a fatal flaw.

The British never dreamed that the "little yellow people" could come ashore by land and take Singapore from the rear or that they would sink the pride of the British fleet, but they did both.

I suppose no one in Washington can imagine the Iranians sinking one of our carriers in the Persian Gulf. How'd you like to be the president who has to tell the American people that we've lost a carrier for the first time since World War II?

Exactly how the Iranians will respond to an attack, I don't know, but they will respond. In keeping with our present policy, our attack on Iran would be illegal, since under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

Who would have thought that we would become the rogue nation committing acts of aggression around the globe?

Zionism’s Dead End

Separation or ethnic cleansing? Israel’s encaging of Gaza aims to achieve both
By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth | Information Clearing House, June 27, 2008
The following is taken from a talk delivered at the Conference for the Right of Return and the Secular Democratic State, held in Haifa on June 21.

In 1895 Theodor Herzl, Zionism’s chief prophet, confided in his diary that he did not favour sharing Palestine with the natives. Better, he wrote, to “try to spirit the penniless [Palestinian] population across the border by denying it any employment in our own country … Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”
He was proposing a programme of Palestinian emigration enforced through a policy of strict separation between Jewish immigrants and the indigenous population. In simple terms, he hoped that, once Zionist organisations had bought up large areas of Palestine and owned the main sectors of the economy, Palestinians could be made to leave by denying them rights to work the land or labour in the Jewish-run economy. His vision was one of transfer, or ethnic cleansing, through ethnic separation.
Herzl was suggesting that two possible Zionist solutions to the problem of a Palestinian majority living in Palestine -- separation and transfer -- were not necessarily alternatives but rather could be mutually reinforcing. Not only that: he believed, if they were used together, the process of ethnic cleansing could be made to appear voluntary, the choice of the victims. It may be that this was both his most enduring legacy and his major innovation to settler colonialism.
In recent years, with the Palestinian population under Israeli rule about to reach parity with the Jewish population, the threat of a Palestinian majority has loomed large again for the Zionists. Not suprisingly, debates about which of these two Zionist solutions to pursue, separation or transfer, have resurfaced.
Today these solutions are ostensibly promoted by two ideological camps loosely associated with Israel’s centre-left (Labor and Kadima) and right (Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu). The modern political arguments between them turn on differing visions of the nature of a Jewish state orginally put forward by Labor and Revisionist Zionists.
To make sense of the current political debates, and the events taking place inside Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza, let us first examine the history of these two principles in Zionist thinking.

Continued . . .

RIGHTS-ZIMBABWE: Women Bear Brunt of Violence

By Ephraim Nsingo

HARARE, Jun 28 (IPS) - "We are too familiar with the violence that was meted upon numerous of us from 1890 when the colonialists came into our country right up to the most recent elections. Chief among these forms of violence is sexual violence, and it concomitant implication, HIV infection. Zimbabwean women now have the lowest life expectancy world wide because of HIV & AIDS -- 34 years."

This from statement issued by the Feminist Political Education Project (FePEP) on Apr. 10, when the country was still waiting for inexplicably-delayed results of the Mar. 29 presidential poll. FePEP expressed the view that regardless of who won, neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe could bring all sides together and move forward in the interests of the whole country.

Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, a former MDC parliamentarian and one of FePEP's coordinators, told IPS that Tsvangirai’s Jun. 22 withdrawal from the presidential run-off "was the right thing for him to do, albeit too late".

"Our position has been consistent; the current problems in Zimbabwe cannot be resolved through an election," said Misihairabwi-Mushonga. "Our society is divided right through the middle and any government would by nature have to be inclusive if we are to seriously work towards resolving the current impasse. The problems in this country will not go away. We should continue to press for dialogue."

While ZANU-PF hastily prepares to swear 84-year-old Robert Mugabe in as president, Zimbabweans continue to count the cost of the party's brutal fight to remain in power.

"Women have suffered most in this violence," said Netsai Mushonga, the Coordinator of the Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe, an umbrella body of Zimbabwean women's organisations. From what we have gathered so far, we expect the number of rape cases to treble. We are yet to sit down as an organisation to do a detailed analysis of the situation."

According to Alouis Chaumba, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Peace Project -- an NGO that documents incidents of political violence -- most male opposition supporters have fled rural areas; leaving women more vulnerable.

Continued . . .

Shadow of war looms as Israel flexes its muscle

Israeli fighter jets flew 1,500 kms across the Mediterranean this month, in a dry run for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Tehran has threatened to treat such a raid as a declaration of war. As the Middle East braces itself for a stand-off of epic proportions, how close is the region to that nightmare scenario?

The meeting at the home of Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not supposed to be public. The man invited into Olmert's official residence in Jerusalem was Aviam Sela, architect of Operation Opera in 1981, when Israel launched a long-range strike against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor. Regarded as a brilliant aviation tactician, in particular in the field of in-flight refuelling, Olmert's office tried to play down the meeting. But the rumours in Israel's defence establishment were already flying.

Sela, according to sources close to the meeting, had been called in so that Olmert could ask his opinion on the likely effectiveness of a similar raid to Opera on the nuclear installations of Iran.

Peace in the Middle East depends on Sela's and Israel's answer. Yesterday, responding to the Israel's increasingly bellicose language, Iran's top Revolutionary Guards Commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned that it would respond to any attack by hitting Israel with missiles and threatened to control the oil shipping passage through the Straits of Hormuz.

If Israel were to attack it would have to overcome considerable practical problems. There is no one who believes that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would be anything like Opera, when eight F-16s and a similar number of F-15s crept into Iraq. For one thing, in pursuing its nuclear ambitions, Iran took note of the Osirak lessons. Its facilities, including a light water reactor at Bushehr and the controversial uranium enrichment process at Natanz, are dispersed and, in the case of Natanz, protected by up to 23 metres of hardened concrete.

To destroy the uranium centrifuge halls at Natanz alone, analysts have argued, might require up to 80 5,000lb penetrating bombs dropped in almost simultaneous pairs to allow the second bomb to burrow through the crater of the first. Opera required just a handful of bombs.

To strike even the bare minimum of so-called target sets associated with Natanz and Bushehr without the assistance of US cruise missiles fired from their ships in the Persian Gulf would require a massive military effort and, according to the Israeli air force's own assessments, might risk the loss of large numbers of its aircraft for a temporary impact.

But the rumours keep circulating and the hushed briefings are multiplying. In the Israeli Prime Minister's traditional round of interviews on the eve of Passover earlier this year, Olmert vowed that Iran 'will not be nuclear'.

Continued . . .

West Bank torturers funded by Britain

June 29, 2008

Palestinian policemen

Millions of pounds of British government money is going to Palestinian security forces which use methods of torture including hanging prisoners by their feet and putting them in “stress” positions for hours at a time.

Evidence to be published next month in a report by Human Rights Watch was corroborated last week in interviews by The Sunday Times with victims in the West Bank, ruled by President Mahmoud Abbas’s western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Prisoners who have emerged from Palestinian Authority jails – many of whom have never been charged with any offence or even seen a lawyer – said they had been subjected to mock executions, kicked, punched and beaten with sticks, plastic pipes and hoses.

The disclosures came at the end of a week in which a Berlin conference of 40 donor nations, including Britain, pledged £121m over the next three years to bolster the Palestinian security forces and judicial system in the West Bank.

Of this total, about £20m will come from Britain, which is already committed to spending £2.7m on the training of Palestinian security forces this year. A British brigadier based in the West Bank city of Ramallah is involved in the training. Britain has set aside a further £4.5m for reform, civil justice and public prosecution over the next three years.

A total of £4 billion overall has been promised to the government of Abbas, who is the commander-in-chief of the Palestinian security forces.

Western support for Abbas’s security forces is part of a strategy to isolate Hamas fundamentalists who seized control of Gaza last year.

However, many of those detained on suspicion of links to Hamas described a form of torture called “shabah” in Arabic – being forced to hold stress positions for prolonged periods.

Some have been made to stand with one leg and one arm raised for hours. Others have had to sit on the edge of a chair with their hands tied to their feet.

Amar al-Masri, 43, a Nablus businessman who is married to Kholoud al-Masri, an elected Hamas municipal official, has been held since last month in al-Jenid prison in Nablus. Last Thursday, his son Abdullah, 13, crossed off day 54 on a calendar on the family’s refrigerator.

Continued . . .

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What is imperialism?

Events in Iraq - a major power dominating a much less developed one - seem to fit the popular image of imperialism.

This picture also reflects the form that imperialism took as it emerged in the late 19th century. From then into the first half of the 20th century, imperialism was characterised by military takeover and direct colonial control, the search for profitable investment opportunities and cheap labour, the ripping off of raw materials, and the use of the colonies as markets for the products of the imperial powers.

As capitalism developed, the boundaries of a single nation state had become too small and the search for raw materials and markets extended to encompass the entire world. States expanded their functions to protect and project the interests of the capitalists of their country over others.

The Russian revolutionary Lenin was one of the first to recognise that the rise of the great militarised states and the competition between them to carve up the world lay behind the slaughter of World War I.

He recognised that while economic, military and political domination by a small number of advanced economies over most of the world is the form that imperialism takes, it stems from something else - the rivalry between the powerful states. Sometimes this rivalry consists of economic competition for materials or markets, but ultimately it is backed up by military might.

Explaining in 1935 how the US military had extended US economic control over Central America, Major General Smedley D. Butler described his role like this:

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force - the Marine Corps…And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capital…

Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in… I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903.

US imperialism’s aims have changed little since then. Today, multinational corporations need the state not only to control and if necessary suppress the workers that they exploit. They also need the military might of the state to protect their interests from rival multinationals and the rival states that protect them.

The USA is the world’s biggest military power. It intends to use its military might to ensure its role as the world superpower for the indefinite future.

As the example of Iraqi oil shows, control of raw materials continues to be a priority for the imperialist powers in the 21st century. But this example also shows how the rivalry between the major powers is the central dynamic of imperialism. Europe and Japan are more dependent on Middle Eastern oil than is the US. A military occupation of Iraq would give the US increased leverage over its main economic competitors.

Why does it matter if we think imperialism is about big powers dominating small ones and ripping off their resources, or if it is about the competition between the big powers themselves?

The first explanation makes sense of the attack on oil-rich Iraq, but how can we explain the US war on Afghanistan in 2001, or the projected attack on the resource-poor state of North Korea?

If we are looking for resource explanations for imperialism, it’s hard to make sense of the US’s war on Vietnam. Vietnam had no resources of value to the US. The millions of deaths did however have a strategic purpose in the imperialist rivalry between the US and the USSR, just as the Korean War of the early 1950s had.

As George W. Bush promises a century of war, he has his eyes on the major European powers, on Japan and on China, rather than on the particular impoverished country on which he may next unleash the US military machine.

Imperialism means the murder of thousands in countries like Iraq, and attacks on living standards and civil liberties in the imperialist powers, including small ones like Australia.

But imperialism is not invincible. At every stage of its bloody history, it has provoked revolt from below. As an international anti-war movement takes to the stage, the chance to once again organise and fight opens up.

Ex-weapons inspector says Iran not pursuing nukes, but U.S. will attack before ‘09

By Jason Leopold

Online Journal Contributing Writer, June 27, 2008

In 2002, Scott Ritter, the former chief United Nations weapons inspector In Iraq, publicly accused the Bush administration of lying to Congress and the public about assertions that Iraq was hiding a chemical and biological weapons arsenal.

By speaking out publicly, Ritter emerged as one of the most prominent whistleblowers since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in the early 1970s.

Ritter’s criticisms about the Bush administration’s flawed prewar Iraq intelligence have been borne out by numerous investigations and reports, including one recently published by the Senate Armed Services Committee that found President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other senior administration officials knowingly lied about the threat Iraq posed to the United States.

Now Ritter, who was a Marine Corps intelligence officer for 12 years, is speaking out about what he sees as history repeating itself regarding U.S. policy toward Iran and the inevitability of a U.S.-led attack on the country, which he believes will happen prior to a new president being sworn into office in January 2009.

“We’re going to see some military activity before the new administration is sworn in.” Ritter said. But he added that “Iran is not a threat to the United States and Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. That’s documented.” Ritter teamed up with the Los Angeles-based U.S. Tour of Duty’s Real Intelligence, a nonprofit organization that represents former intelligence officials who openly discuss domestic and foreign policy issues. Ritter went on the road nearly a year ago to promote his recently published book, Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement. But over the past several months, issues related to Iran have dominated his discussions.

Continued . . .

Officials: 30,000 troops heading to Iraq in 2009

LOLITA C. BALDOR | AP News, June 27, 2008 20:05 EST

The Pentagon is preparing to order roughly 30,000 troops to Iraq early next year in a move that would allow the U.S. to maintain 15 combat brigades in the country through 2009, The Associated Press has learned.

The deployments would replace troops currently there. But the decisions could change depending on whether Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, decides in the fall to further reduce troop levels in Iraq.

Several officials familiar with the deployments spoke on condition of anonymity because the orders have not yet been made public.

According to the officials, three active-duty Army brigade combat teams, one Army National Guard brigade and two Marine regimental combat teams are being notified that they are being sent to Iraq in early 2009. Officials would not release the specific units involved because the soldiers and Marines and their families have not all been told.

The Guard unit, however, is the 56th Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, from the Pennsylvania National Guard. Members of that unit — a large brigade with heavily armored Stryker vehicles — were told last October that they should be prepared to deploy to Iraq early in 2009. The order this week is the formal notice that includes a more specific time frame.

Currently, the final brigade involved in the military buildup in Baghdad last year is pulling out of Iraq. That departure will leave 15 combat brigades there — compared to a high of 20 for much of the past year. Other smaller units are also there, including troops doing security, logistics, air assaults, intelligence and medical aid.

Overall, there are about 146,000 forces in Iraq, and that number is expected to dip to about 142,000 by mid-July when that last unit is all out. That total is at least 7,000 more than the number of troops in Iraq before the buildup began early last year.

Petraeus told Congress in May that he is likely to recommend further troop reductions in Iraq, but he did not provide any details. If he decides in the fall that fewer brigades will be needed in Iraq during the next year, there is the chance that brigades could simply be directed to the war in Afghanistan instead.

There is a broad consensus that more troops are needed in Afghanistan, to both train the security forces and fight the insurgents. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush, earlier this year, told NATO allies that they would increase troop levels in Afghanistan in 2009 in response to the growing violence.

US Senate Approves Iraq, Afghanistan War Funding

WASHINGTON - The US Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a much-disputed bill alloting 162 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.0627 06 1 2

The bill gives funding for the conflicts through to mid-2009 after President George W. Bush, who must now sign the bill into law, has left office.

The legislation passed 92 votes to six in the Senate after its approval by the House of Representatives June 19 topped weeks of haggling between Democrats and Republicans.

Bush has indicated he will sign the legislation despite opposing some of the measures included in it.

The deal was reached after Democrats agreed to drop a withdrawal timetable from the bill. The majority party has repeatedly failed to force Bush’s hand on Iraq since taking over Congress in 2006 elections.

Democrats insisted on inserting a modern version of the post-World War II GI Bill in order to expand education benefits to veterans, a plan that Senate Republicans and the White House had opposed.

The House passed the war funding section of the bill by a 268-155 vote, with only 80 Democrats voting in favor along with 188 Republicans.

The veterans’ benefits part of the legislation, which also included a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and aid for Midwest flood victims, was overwhelmingly approved, 416 to 12.

The legislation calls on the Iraqi government to spend as much money as US taxpayers for reconstruction and bars the Bush administration from using the funding to establish permanent bases in Iraq.

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd noted that with this new funding, Congress will have approved over 656 billion dollars for the war in Iraq.

But he expressed frustration that Bush repeatedly threatened to veto the measure unless a troops withdrawal timetable was removed.

“Despite the positive measures for struggling Americans, our veterans, and their families included in this amendment, I deeply regret that this legislation will go to President Bush without the necessary checks to ensure that the war in Iraq is not open-ended,” Byrd said in a statement to the Senate.

“The majority of the American people have come to see this war as a costly mistake that needs to be brought to a close. This legislation brings us no closer to that goal.

“However, with this legislation, we will once again take care of our troops. We also invest in America here at home.”

Republican White House hopeful John McCain, a staunch backer of the war in Iraq, hailed the bill last week when it passed the House, while his Democratic rival Barack Obama has vowed to withdraw troops from Iraq.

“This bill is about giving the men and women of our military the same education benefits that all of America’s veterans have received since World War II,” said Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who cosponsored the bill’s post 9/11 Veterans Assistance Act with Virginia Democrat Jim Webb.

“In rotating forward these earned benefits into the 21st century, making them relevant to the realities of the cost of education today, we are fulfilling a commitment that we have all made to our veterans,” he added.

“By investing in education we are investing in America’s future and continuing to build a society worthy of the sacrifices of our veterans. … This was the ri

© 2008 Agence France Presse

State-Sponsored Terror: British and American Black Ops in Iraq

Global Research, June 25, 2008

Shining Light on the “Black World”

In January of 2002, the Washington Post ran a story detailing a CIA plan put forward to President Bush shortly after 9/11 by CIA Director George Tenet titled, “Worldwide Attack Matrix,” which was “outlining a clandestine anti-terror campaign in 80 countries around the world. What he was ready to propose represented a striking and risky departure for U.S. policy and would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history.” The plan entailed CIA and Special Forces “covert operations across the globe,” and at “the heart of the proposal was a recommendation that the president give the CIA what Tenet labeled “exceptional authorities” to attack and destroy al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the rest of the world.” Tenet cited the need for such authority “to allow the agency to operate without restraint — and he wanted encouragement from the president to take risks.” Among the many authorities recommended was the use of “deadly force.”

Further, “Another proposal was that the CIA increase liaison work with key foreign intelligence services,” as “Using such intelligence services as surrogates could triple or quadruple the CIA’s effectiveness.” The Worldwide Attack Matrix “described covert operations in 80 countries that were either underway or that he was now recommending. The actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks,” as well as “In some countries, CIA teams would break into facilities to obtain information.”[1]

P2OG: “Commit terror, to incite terror… in order to react to terror”

In 2002, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board (DSB) conducted a “Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism,” portions of which were leaked to the Federation of American Scientists. According to the document, the “War on Terror” constitutes a “committed, resourceful and globally dispersed adversary with strategic reach,” which will require the US to engage in a “long, at times violent, and borderless war.” As the Asia Times described it, this document lays out a blueprint for the US to “fight fire with fire.” Many of the “proposals appear to push the military into territory that traditionally has been the domain of the CIA, raising questions about whether such missions would be subject to the same legal restraints imposed on CIA activities.” According to the Chairman of the DSB, “The CIA executes the plans but they use Department of Defense assets.”

Continued . . .

Kucinich: We went to Iraq for oil

RINF. Com, Friday, June 27th, 2008

Press TV | Rep. Dennis Kucinich has accused the US of forcing Iraq to privatize its oil fields and keeping US troops at war to protect Iraqi oil reserves. Kucinich, who has introduced measures to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, said Thursday that oil executives who secretly met with the vice president in 2001 should be held criminally liable for pushing an illegal war.

“In March of 2001, when the Bush Administration began to have secret meetings with oil company executives from Exxon, Shell and BP, spreading maps of Iraq oil fields before them, the price of oil was USD 23.96 per barrel. Then there were 63 companies in 30 countries, other than the US, competing for oil contracts with Iraq,” the Ohio Democrat said during a speech on the House floor.

“Today the price of oil is $135.59 per barrel, the US Army is occupying Iraq and the first Iraq oil contracts will go, without competitive bidding to, surprise, (among a very few others) Exxon, Shell and BP.”

In March 2001, two years before Iraq was invaded, Cheney met with top executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., BP America Inc. and others on his infamous secret Energy Task Force.

Kucinich seemed to accuse participants in that meeting of plotting the invasion of Iraq. There’s no indication that the participants discussed military action, although documents later released showed they did eye Iraq’s oil fields.

“Our nation’s soul is stained because we went to war for the oil companies and their profits. There must be accountability not only with this administration for its secret meetings and its open illegal warfare but also for the oil company executives who were willing participants in a criminal enterprise of illegal war, the deaths of our soldiers and innocent Iraqis and the extortion of the national resources of Iraq,” he said.

“We have found the weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. It is oil,” Kucinich continued. “As long as the oil companies control our government Americans will continue to pay and pay, with our lives, our fortunes our sacred honor.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Big Outcome of the '60s: The Triumph of Capitalism

By Slavoj Zizek, In These Times. Posted June 27, 2008.

After the social tumult of the '60s capitalism usurped resistance itself, turning attempts at subversion into commodities.

In 1968 Paris, one of the best-known graffiti messages on the city's walls was "Structures do not walk on the streets!" In other words, the massive student and workers demonstrations of '68 could not be explained in the terms of structuralism, as determined by the structural changes in society, as in Saussurean structuralism. French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's response was that this, precisely, is what happened in '68: structures did descend onto the streets. The visible explosive events on the streets were, ultimately, the result of a structural imbalance.

There are good reasons for Lacan's skeptical view. As French scholars Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello noted in 1999's The New Spirit of Capitalism, from the '70s onward, a new form of capitalism emerged.

Capitalism abandoned the hierarchical Fordist structure of the production process -- which, named after auto maker Henry Ford, enforced a hierarchical and centralized chain of command -- and developed a network-based form of organization that accounted for employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace. As a result, we get networks with a multitude of participants, organizing work in teams or by projects, intent on customer satisfaction and public welfare, or worrying about ecology.

In this way, capitalism usurped the left's rhetoric of worker self-management, turning it from an anti-capitalist slogan to a capitalist one. It was Socialism that was conservative, hierarchic and administrative.

The anti-capitalist protests of the '60s supplemented the traditional critique of socioeconomic exploitation with a new cultural critique: alienation of everyday life, commodification of consumption, inauthenticity of a mass society in which we "wear masks" and suffer sexual and other oppressions.

The new capitalism triumphantly appropriated this anti-hierarchical rhetoric of '68, presenting itself as a successful libertarian revolt against the oppressive social organizations of corporate capitalism and "really existing" socialism. This new libertarian spirit is epitomized by dressed-down "cool" capitalists such as Microsoft's Bill Gates and the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

What survived of the sexual liberation of the '60s was the tolerant hedonism readily incorporated into our hegemonic ideology. Today, sexual enjoyment is not only permitted, it is ordained -- individuals feel guilty if they are not able to enjoy it. The drive to radical forms of enjoyment (through sexual experiments and drugs or other trance-inducing means) arose at a precise political moment: when "the spirit of '68" had exhausted its political potential.

At this critical point in the mid-'70s, we witnessed a direct, brutal push-toward-the-Real, which assumed three main forms: first, the search for extreme forms of sexual enjoyment; second, the turn toward the Real of an inner experience (Oriental mysticism); and, finally, the rise of leftist political terrorism (Red Army Faction in Germany, Red Brigades in Italy, etc.).

Continued . . .

The Nuclear Expert Who Never Was

AP photo / Henry Arvidsson / United Nations

An Iraqi Scud missile awaits destruction by United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq in this undated file photo.

By Scott Ritter | Truthdig, June 26, 2008

I am a former U.N. weapons inspector. I started my work with the United Nations in September 1991, and between that date and my resignation in August 1998, I participated in over 30 inspections, 14 as chief inspector. The United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM, was the organization mandated by the Security Council with the implementation of its resolutions requiring Iraq to be disarmed of its weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities. While UNSCOM oversaw the areas of chemical and biological weapons, and ballistic missiles, it shared the nuclear file with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA. As such, UNSCOM, through a small cell of nuclear experts on loan from the various national weapons laboratories, would coordinate with the nuclear safeguards inspectors from the IAEA, organized into an “Action Team” dedicated to the Iraq nuclear disarmament problem. UNSCOM maintained political control of the process, insofar as its executive chairman was the only one authorized to approve a given inspection mission. At first, the IAEA and UNSCOM shared the technical oversight of the inspection process, but soon this was transferred completely to the IAEA’s Action Team, and UNSCOM’s nuclear staff assumed more of an advisory and liaison function.

In August 1992 I began cooperating closely with IAEA’s Action Team, traveling to Vienna, where the IAEA maintained its headquarters. The IAEA had in its possession a huge cache of documents seized from Iraq during a series of inspections in the summer of 1991 and, together with other U.N. inspectors, I was able to gain access to these documents for the purpose of extracting any information which might relate to UNSCOM’s non-nuclear mission. These documents proved to be very valuable in that regard, and a strong working relationship was developed. Over the coming years I frequently traveled to Vienna, where I came to know the members of the IAEA Action Team as friends and dedicated professionals. Whether poring over documents, examining bits and pieces of equipment (the IAEA kept a sample of an Iraqi nuclear centrifuge in its office) or ruminating about the difficult political situation that was Iraq over wine and cheese on a Friday afternoon, I became familiar with the core team of experts who composed the IAEA Action Team.

I bring up this history because during the entire time of my intense, somewhat intimate cooperation with the IAEA Action Team, one name that never entered into the mix was David Albright. Albright is the president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS, an institute which he himself founded), and has for some time now dominated the news as the “go-to” guy for the U.S. mainstream media when they need “expert opinion” on news pertaining to nuclear issues. Most recently, Albright could be seen commenting on a report he authored, released by ISIS on June 16, in which he discusses the alleged existence of a computer owned by Swiss-based businessmen who were involved in the A.Q. Khan nuclear black market ring. According to Albright, this computer contained sensitive design drawings of a small, sophisticated nuclear warhead which, he speculates, could fit on a missile delivery system such as that possessed by Iran.

I have no objection to an academically based think tank capable of producing sound analysis about the myriad nuclear-based threats the world faces today. But David Albright has a track record of making half-baked analyses derived from questionable sources seem mainstream. He breathes false legitimacy into these factually challenged stories by cloaking himself in a résumé which is disingenuous in the extreme. Eventually, one must begin to question the motives of Albright and ISIS. No self-respecting think tank would allow itself to be used in such an egregious manner. The fact that ISIS is a creation of Albright himself, and as such operates as a mirror image of its founder and president, only underscores the concerns raised when an individual lacking in any demonstrable foundation of expertise has installed himself into the mainstream media in a manner that corrupts the public discourse and debate by propagating factually incorrect, illogical and misleading information.

In his résumé Albright prominently advertises himself as a “former U.N. weapons inspector.” Indeed, this is the first thing that is mentioned when he describes himself to the public. Witness an Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post which he jointly authored with Jacqueline Shire in January 2008, wherein he is described as such: “David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, is president of the Institute for Science and International Security.” His erstwhile U.N. credentials appear before his actual job title. Now, this is not uncommon. I do the same thing when describing myself, noting that I was a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. I feel comfortable doing this, because it’s true and because my résumé is relevant to my writing. In his official ISIS biography, Albright details his “U.N. inspector” experience as such: “Albright cooperated actively with the IAEA Action Team from 1992 until 1997, focusing on analyses of Iraqi documents and past procurement activities. In June 1996, he was the first non-governmental inspector of the Iraqi nuclear program. On this inspection mission, Albright questioned members of Iraq’s former uranium enrichment programs about their statements in Iraq’s draft Full, Final, and Complete Declaration.”

Continued . . .

UN: Israel violated truce 7 times in one week

Roi Mandel, YNet, June 26, 2008

UN records 7 incidents of IDF soldiers attempting to drive Palestinian farmers away from border fence by shooting at them. Only one offence marked against Palestinians for firing on Sderot; report does not include most recent rocket fire

Since it went into effect last week, at least eight violations of the new ceasefire agreement with Hamas and the Palestinian factions have been recorded, a UN source told Ynet on Thursday. According to the source, seven violations were committed by the IDF, while the Palestinians are responsible for just one.

However the UN report does not include the Qassam fire launched towards the Negev during the day. "It is important that both sides honor the ceasefire, in order for it to be the first constructive step towards a wider and more extensive peace process between the sides," the source said.

Most of the offences committed by the IDF include shots fired by soldiers at Palestinian farmers attempting to reach their land near the border security fence. According to the UN, on June 20 an IDF patrol shot at Palestinian farmers near the fence east of Rafah. The soldiers fired for ten minutes in order to drive the farmers away, but no injuries were reported.

During the evening of the same day a similar incident was recorded, in which IDF forces shot at Palestinian farmers near the Maghazi refugee camp. Soldiers reportedly fired for five minutes, and no injuries were reported. An hour later soldiers fired towards fisherman near the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya in an attempt to drive them away.

Early on June 21 Navy forces opened fire in the same area, and later the same morning forces fired towards Palestinians near the Maghazi refugee camp. No injuries were reported in either case.

70-year old Jamil al-Gahoul was injured from IDF fire two days later, when an army patrol opened fire on a group of Palestinians reportedly gathering wood near Beit Lahiya at 7 am.

Only one Palestinian offence

The first violation committed by the Palestinians was recorded a day later, on June 24, when Islamic Jihad fired three rockets at Sderot from the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.

On Wednesday morning IDF forces opened fire towards Palestinian farmers near the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. An 82-year old man was seriously injured from the fire, which lasted a few minutes.

Regarding the accusations against Israel the IDF stated that no attacks had been carried out in the Gaza Strip during the past few days, but that some incidents had occurred in which IDF soldiers had carried out operations.

Israel and Hamas have accused each other of violating the ceasefire agreement. Following the rocket fire at Sderot, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the fire constitutes a blatant violation of the truce. Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided that the Gaza border crossings would remain closed following the fire, causing Hamas to accuse Israel of infringement of the agreement.

Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report.

Bush is trying to impose a classic colonial status on Iraq

US efforts to force Iraqis to swallow permanent vassal status and give up control of their oil echoes British imperial history

Whatever the Iraq war was about, we were assured, it definitely wasn't about oil. Tony Blair called the idea a "conspiracy theory". It was about democracy and dictatorship, weapons of mass destruction and human rights, anything but oil. Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence secretary, insisted the conflict had "literally nothing to do with oil". When Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, wrote last autumn, "Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil," he was treated as if he were some senile old gent who'd embarrassingly lost the plot.

That argument is going to be a good deal harder to make from next week, when four of the western world's largest oil corporations are due to sign contracts for the renewed exploitation of Iraq's vast reserves. Initially, these are to be two-year deals to boost production in Iraq's largest oilfields. But not only did the four energy giants - BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell and Total - write their own contracts with the Iraqi government, an unheard-of practice: they have also reportedly secured rights of first refusal on the far more lucrative 30-year production contracts expected once a new US-sponsored oil law is passed, allowing a wholesale western takeover. Big Oil is back with a vengeance.

It's a similar story when it comes to the future of the US occupation itself. The last thing on anyone's mind, we were told when the tanks rolled in, was permanent US control, let alone the recolonisation of Iraq. This was about the Iraqis finally getting a chance to run their own affairs in freedom. But five years on, George Bush and Dick Cheney are putting the screws on their Green Zone government to sign a secret deal for indefinite military occupation, which would effectively reduce Iraq to a long-term vassal state.

Continued . . .

Elections, Capitalism, And Democracy

By Charles Sullivan

26/06/08 "
ICH" -- - Because so many of the people on the political left fear that John McCain will become the next president, they have allowed themselves to see the very moderate democratic candidate, Barach Obama, as a desirable alternative to the decidedly ghoulish McCain, rather than supporting a genuine progressive like Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, or Ralph Nader. They thus perceive Obama to be far more progressive than he really is. Such comparisons lead us down a dichotomous pathway that assures a continuous drift to the right.

Each election cycle the people on the left find themselves out-flanked by those on the right by allowing them to frame the debate and to define who we are. So each election we end up supporting a very moderate candidate rather than a truly progressive one. Because all of the mainstream candidates are intensively influenced by corporate lobbyists and the electoral system is owned by capital, democracy has remained as elusive as capturing the ghost of a saint with a piece of duct tape.

According to Ambrose I. Lane Sr., host of Pacifica radio’s “We Ourselves,” John McCain has the third most conservative voting record of anyone in the senate. Running an extremist from the opposite end of the political spectrum forces the democratic candidate further to the right than he or she already is. So when progressives fall into this trap, as they so often do, it is a win-win for the corporate lobbyists pulling the strings behind the curtain. They end up supporting a candidate they think can compete against extremists rather than one who actually represents their values. If you have to become like your opponent in order to defeat them, what can you honesty say has been won?

Continued . . .

The Pentagon's merchants of war

By Nick Turse |, June 24, 2008

The top Pentagon contractors, like death and taxes, almost never change. In 2002, the massive arms dealers Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman ranked one, two and three among Department of Defense (DoD) contractors, taking in US$17 billion, $16.6 billion and $8.7 billion.

Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman did it again in 2003 ($21.9 billion, $17.3 billion and $11.1 billion); 2004 ($20.7 billion, $17.1 billion and $11.9 billion); 2005 ($19.4 billion, $18.3 billion and $13.5 billion); 2006 ($26.6 billion, $20.3 billion and $16.6 billion); and, not surprisingly, 2007 as well ($27.8 billion $22.5 billion and $14.6 billion).

Other regulars receiving mega-tax-funded payouts in a similarly

clockwork-like manner include defense giants General Dynamics, Raytheon, the British weapons maker BAE Systems and former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, as well as BP, Shell and other power players from the military-petroleum complex.

With the basic Pentagon budget now clocking in at roughly $541 billion per year - before "supplemental" war funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and President George W Bush's "war on terror", as well as national security spending by other agencies, are factored in - even Lockheed's hefty $28 billion take is a small percentage of the massive total. Obviously, significant sums of money are headed to other companies. However, most of them, including some of the largest, are all but unknown even to Pentagon-watchers and antiwar critics with a good grasp of the military industrial complex.

Last year, in a piece headlined "Washington's $8 billion shadow", Vanity Fair published an expose of one of the better-known large stealth contractors, SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation). SAIC, however, is just one of tens of thousands of Pentagon contractors. Many of these firms receive only tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Pentagon every year. Some take home millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

Continued . . .

Kashmiri Pandits as victims of Kashmir conflict

A Daniel Came to Judgement

By Badri Raina

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark;
O cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right.


In an act of historic courage (some might say ‘audacity’) the young, bright, and fiercely upright Omar Abdullah has breached the pall of silence in which the Valley has remained suffocated since the exodus of the Pandits in 1990.

In a statement recorded on his blog, (also 1717 hrs IST, PTI, 15 May, 2008), Omar has made the following candid aversions that interrogate Kashmiri Muslims as a whole:

“It is so easy to say that we will lay down our lives to bring Kashmiri

Pandits back to the Valley and I appreciate the sentiment as I am sure

the Kashmiri Pandits reading it will. Pity that the sentiment was missing

when our mosques were being used to drive these people out.. .

None of us was willing to stand up and be counted when it mattered.

None of us grabbed the mikes (microphones) in the mosques and said

‘this is wrong and the Kashmiri Pandits had every right to continue

living in the Valley. . .

Our educated, well-to-do relatives and neighbours were spewing venom

24 hours a day and we were mute spectators, either mute in agreement or

mute in abject fear but mute none the less. . .

And talking about mosques—what a great symbol of mass uprising they

proved to be. While I can’t claim to have lived through it, I have enough

friends who did and they tell me about the early 90’s where attendance

was taken in mosques to force people to pray.”

Questioning the spontaneity of processions taken out in 1990, Omar said people were forced out of their homes to participate in “mass upsurges” against “Indian occupation” and the same enforcement committees went from door to door.

Do recall that not long after, the rath-yatra to Ayodhya was to beat a similar drum of hate-filled, exclusionary cultural politics.

Indeed, this writer was to point out that the yatra was curiously a mirror image of what it sought to confront, as its thrust was to semitise Hinduism (see my “Tenth Avatar of Vishnu, TOI, 17th Feb., 1991) and be like its so-called “other.”


Subsequent years and events have shown that the transient attractions of such exclusionary projects notwithstanding (some more seats in the legislatures and in parliament?) Indians overwhelmingly reject such constructions of culture. Immediately after the rath-yatra, the party that led it lost elections in five states, one after the other. And, it is some further irony that in a recent country-wide poll conducted by an electronic channel (ndtv, May 21st, ’08), the projected prime- ministerial candidate of that same party was the country’s fourth choice at a dismal 9.8%, about the same as that still-green Gandhi! Some snub that!

The pity is that a state that had stood rock-like as an example of loving, inter-community existence during the shameful killings of 1946/47, taking on aggression with collective resolve, was to be rendered self-alienated by the events of 1990, not only in social terms but as a spiritual/cultural space.


Over the last year or more, increasing numbers of Pandits have been revisiting the Valley chiefly to perform puja and pilgrimage. Media reports on these visits, as well as coverage undertaken daily for a half hour each evening by ETV Urdu Channel have repeatedly shown proof of how heart-rending these renewed contacts between Pandits and Muslims have been.

Pandits have been profoundly moved to discover for themselves how many Hindu shrines are tended by local Muslims, and how close the inter-community inter-face still is among Pandits who have stayed in the Valley and Muslims, the latter most of the time arranging, assisting and conducting Pandit weddings and cremations.

Just the other day, as nine Pandit families returned to their old homes in Verinag to save their houses from being demolished to make way for parking space, these families were astonished at not just the warmth with which their erstwhile Muslim neighbours greeted them, but the bold stand taken by the latter in defence of the right of the Pandits to retain their houses, and the desire expressed by the Muslims to live again next door to them as of old. (What a contrast to Gujarat, you might say.)

The quality and substance of these syncretic cultural reassertions are precisely the sort that this writer has consistently experienced in my visits to the valley (see my “Valley of Love,” Frontline, Aug.1, 2003).


Yet, something has been missing—a major expression of culpability and complicity, coerced or not, in the events of 1990. Kashmir has been waiting for its Hamlet, a whistle-blower who would speak the word of cathartic shame, letting the genie out that would begin to scatter the dark cobwebs of guilt and suppression. Omar Abdullah has come forward as that angel that blows the conch of confession and return.

In saying what he has said, Omar recalls the imperishable truth that cruelties and inhumane distortions notwithstanding, the demons of the culture of hate-filled exclusion remain alien to the heart of Kashmiris. And he also recalls a legacy that in modern times was enunciated by that towering human being, his grand father, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.

Recall that in late 1947 when Sardar Patel invoked the Nawabs of Junagarh and Hyderabad to follow the will of the people in the matter of accession, the Sheikh, agreeing with that view, posed himself the question: what should Kashmir do?

And, weeks before the aggression from across the line, or the accession and the coming of the Indian army, answered that question in a public speech on October 4, 1947; and this is what he said:

“We shall not believe . . .the two-nation theory which has spread so much

Poison. Kashmir showed the light at that juncture. When brother kills

brother in the whole of Hindustan, Kashmir raised its voice of Hindu-

Muslim unity. I can assure the Hindu and Sikh minorities that as long as

I am alive their life and honour will be quite safe.”(see M.J. Akbar,

Kashmir: Behind the Vale, p.xiv)

And, speaking to the U.N. General Assembly on Feb. 5, 1948, this is what the Sheikh said:

I and my organization never believed in the formula that Muslims and

Hindus form separate nations. We do not believe in the two-nation

theory, nor in communal hatred or communalism itself. We believed that

religion has no place in politics. Therefore when we launched our ‘Quit

Kashmir’ movement it was not only Muslims who suffered but our Hindu

and Sikh comrades as well.”(Association of Communal Harmony in

Asia—ACHA, Archive of Kashmir Resources).

Thus, as Hamlet was moved by the noble example of his deceived father-king, Omar speaks today the noble legacy of the Sheikh yet again. And not a day too soon.


The question might be asked as to what are the resources from whence the unique Kashmiri Weltanschauung of love and humanism derives. This history is by now made familiar by many scholars. Let me only leave you with the following citations that bear on the theme from the ancient to the modern:

Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit but never

by the force of soldiers” (Kalhana)

“Shiv chuy thali thali rozan; Shiv lives everywhere; do not

Mo zan Hindu ta Musalman. divide Hindu from Muslim. . .

Truk ay chuk pan panun prazanav,

Soy chay sahibas zaniy zan.” (Lal Ded)

“Do not go to the Sheikh or priest or mullah; do not feed the cattle on

poisonous leaves. Do not shut yourselves up in mosques or forests.

Enter your own body, control your breath, and commune with

Gods” (Sheikh Noor-u-din, alias Nund rishi).

The most respectable class in this country is that of the Rishis who,

notwithstanding their need of freedom from the bonds of tradition and

custom, are true worshippers of God. They do not loosen the tongue

of calumny against those not of their faith. . . (Abul Fazl, Ain-e-Akbari)

Mohammed…radiates light all around;

Pujari lost his wits,

While offering flowers,

Iswara showered rain,

Come let us blow the sankh

Around Sankara. . . (Ahad Zargar)

(see Riyaz Punjabi, Kashmiriyat: Mystique of an Ethnicity” Miraas, Vol.1, No.1, ed., Pankaj Bhan at the Kasheer Foundation, Gulmohar Park, ND., for a more extensive discussion of the overlap between Hindu and Muslim mysticism in the Valley from the earliest times to the twentieth century.)


Yet, the problem remains with us. Subsequent to the schism of 1990, many Pandits look for a cultural tradition exclusive to them, and in so doing, revisit the earliest Sharda literatures, beginning with the Nilamat Purana, etc., as they seek to reinvent an exclusively Hindu-aboriginal identity. Conversely, some Sunni Muslim groups propagate that syncretism was always a false construction, and that Muslims are enjoined, as in Arab countries, to follow the pristine Salafi/Wahabi path which forbids the notions of a personal discovery of godhead, the ethic of eros, music, idol-worship, ecstatic ritual, commingling with non-believers, and so on.

It is another matter that some eighty percent of Muslims actually live outside the Arab world—some seventy percent in Asia—and that in each national culture and history religions have always acquired features all their own.

Be that as it may, there is evidence that the people of Kashmir continue to internalize syncretism in ways that no theoretical formulations of an imposed nature are about to dislodge. Omar Abdullah’s call to confession and reconciliation indeed would have been either unthinkable or already severely castigated had that not been so.

A striking evidence of that truth is, for example, to be found in the pages of the book, Eighty Three Days: The Story of a Frozen River, by Dr. S.N.Dhar, a highly reputed Pandit physician.

Dr. Dhar was picked up by militants early in 1992, constantly moved from location to location but held captive for eighty three days. The book recounts what he suffered and what he learnt: among other things, he was to conclude: “in spite of the atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion, I found most of the young gunmen innocent and caring, some of whom held the Kashmiri Pandits in high esteem.”

And upon his release and return home: “within no time my neighbours, then more people and then even more people arrived, greeting me with showers of almonds and shireen. . .I was overwhelmed by this spontaneous expression of love and concern. . . . Something had happened, somehow an ordinary Kashmiri’s emotions of love hitherto suppressed, burst like a volcano, transforming into touching and dramatic scenes, for which a Kashmiri is known anyway. The more I saw of this, the more I resolved to be where I belonged---losing my freedom once again---this time to the chains of love” (pp.viii and 180).

An old college senior and cricketing friend, Dr. Dhar invited me to his home in Rajya Bagh in 2004 along with other Kashmiri friends of all denominations. There I had further proof that what we had lost was both recoverable and poignantly desirable of recovery.

Kashmiri Pandits who say they want to go back but to a sequestered “homeland” must introspect just as much as Omar Abdullah and Dr. Dhar do in what I have cited. Apart from taking in with open minds the experiences of those others, besides Dr. Dhar, who never left the valley and whose lives remain watched over by their fellow Muslim Kashmiris.

What, then, must now be discussed among all groups is how are ways to be found to extend the Omar initiative into a more embracing collective endeavour directed at exorcising the ghosts of the unnatural events of 1990. Other states and nations have done so with inspiring successes, although without chasing the faultless perfections of utopia.

For it is that sort of effort which alone can guarantee the safe and willing return of Pandits to their homeland, the reinstallation of ways of living that have had to yield to unlovely distortions, and to once again set an example to the nation and the world of how desirable macro-identities can be constructed from unstable, violent and sectarian ones.

It is also the only sure way in which the demons of communalism in the heartland of India and Pakistan can be shamed and defeated.