Monday, March 31, 2008

The Fox To Guard The Banking Henhouse

April Fools: The Fox To Guard The Banking Henhouse

By Dr. Ellen Brown
March 31, 2008
Courtesy Of:

[ author's website at WebOfDebt ]

The Federal Reserve, which has been credited with creating the current housing bubble and bust just as it created the credit bubble of the Roaring Twenties and the bust of 1929, is now to be given vast new powers to oversee regulation of the banking industry and promote "financial market stability." At least, that is the gist of a Treasury Department proposal to be presented to Congress on Monday, March 31, 2008.

Adrian Douglas wrote on, "I would like to think that this is some sort of sick April Fools joke, but, alas, they are serious! What happened to free markets?"1

In fact, what happened to regulating the banks? The Treasury's plan is not for the private Federal Reserve to increase regulation of the banking system it heads. Au contraire, regulation will actually be decreased. According to The Wall Street Journal:

"Many of the [Treasury's] proposals, like those that would consolidate regulatory agencies, have nothing to do with the turmoil in financial markets. And some of the proposals could actually reduce regulation. According to a summary provided by the administration, the plan would consolidate an alphabet soup of banking and securities regulators into a powerful trio of overseers responsible for everything from banks and brokerage firms to hedge funds and private equity firms. . . . Parts of the plan could reduce the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is charged with maintaining orderly stock and bond markets and protecting investors. . . . The blueprint also suggests several areas where the S.E.C. should take a lighter approach to its oversight. Among them are allowing stock exchanges greater leeway to regulate themselves and streamlining the approval of new products, even allowing automatic approval of securities products that are being traded in foreign markets."2
"securities products" include the mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and other forms of the great Ponzi scheme known as "derivatives" that have been largely responsible for bringing the banking system to the brink of collapse. But these suspect products are not to be more heavily scrutinized; rather, their approval will actually be "streamlined" and may be automatic if they are being traded in "foreign markets." The Journal observes that the Treasury's proposal was initiated last year by Secretary Henry Paulson not to "regulate" the banks but "to make American financial markets more competitive against overseas markets by modernizing a creaky regulatory system. His goal was to streamline the different and sometimes clashing rules for commercial banks, savings and loans and nonbank mortgage lenders." "streamlining" the rules evidently meant eliminating any that "clashed" with the Fed's goal of allowing U.S. banks to be more "competitive" abroad. The Journal continues:

"While the plan could expose Wall Street investment banks and hedge funds to greater scrutiny, it carefully avoids a call for tighter regulation. The plan would not rein in practices that have been linked to the housing and mortgage crisis, like packaging risky subprime mortgages into securities carrying the highest ratings. . . . And the plan does not recommend tighter rules over the vast and largely unregulated markets for risk sharing and hedging, like credit default swaps, which are supposed to insure lenders against loss but became a speculative instrument themselves and gave many institutions a false sense of security."
Regulating fraudulent, predatory and overly-speculative banking practices has been left to the States, not necessarily by law but by default. According to then-Governor Eliot Spitzer, writing in January of 2008, state regulators tried to regulate these shady practices but were hamstrung by federal authorities. In a February 14 Washington Post article titled "Predatory Lenders; Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States from Stepping in to Help Consumers," Spitzer complained:

"several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive 'teaser; rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.

"Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers. . . . [A]s New York attorney general, I joined with colleagues in the other 49 states in attempting to fill the void left by the federal government. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York's, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices . . . .

"Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye. . . . The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). . . . In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government's actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules. But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, when my office opened an investigation of possible discrimination in mortgage lending by a number of banks, the OCC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the investigation."
Less than a month after publishing this editorial, Spitzer was out of office, following a surprise exposé of his personal indiscretions by the Justice Department. Greg Palast observed that Spitzer was the single politician standing between a $200 billion windfall from the Federal Reserve guaranteeing the mortgage-backed junk bonds of the same banking predators that were responsible for the subprime debacle. While the Federal Reserve was trying to bail them out, Spitzer had been trying to regulate them, bringing suit on behalf of consumers.3

But Spitzer has now been silenced, and any other state attorneys general who might get similar ideas will be deterred by the federal oversight under which banking regulators are to be "consolidated."

The Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan deliberately enabled and permitted the derivatives debacle to take down the dollar and America's credibility. Greenspan is now lauded, feted and awarded at the White House and on network television, and takes a victory lap tour promoting and signing his book and celebrating his multimillion dollar book deal, enjoying his knighthood status in England and hero status on Wall Street.

And as the falling debris of the American economy still piles up around us, the very agency that enabled disaster is now seeking to consolidate ultimate authority and accountability to itself, and through centralization and arrogation of power, eliminate all those pesky little Constitutional and State regulations and agencies, recalcitrant governors and the last few whistle blowers, so that the further abuse of power can be streamlined through one agency only.

That agency is to consist of an alliance of the banking powers and the executive branch, a perfect formula for the institutionalization of continual abuse.

Perhaps Spitzer was lucky that he was the target only of a character assassination. When Louisiana Senator Huey Long challenged the Federal Reserve and fought for the State's right to oversee its own financial affairs in the 1930s, he was assassinated with bullets.

Long's local assertion of decentralized State powers, as provided for in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, enabled the State of Louisiana to loosen the grip of the corporations on the State's wealth and allowed the setting up of schools and public institutions that elevated the people of the State and placed its "common wealth" back into the hands of its citizens, while providing employment and education.

The Constitution reserves to the States and the people all those powers not specifically delegated to the federal government, arguably including the creation of money itself, which is nowhere specifically mentioned in the Constitution beyond creating coins. (See E. Brown, "Another Way Around the Credit Crisis: Minnesota Bill Would Authorize State Banks to Monetize; Productivity," , March 23, 2008.)

But in this latest attempt at expanding the Federal Reserve's already over-expansive powers, we see clear evidence that the Wall Street and global banking powers have no intention of allowing their plans to be reined in by the Constitutional powers of the States and the people. Instead, they intend to fill up the moat and pull up the draw bridge on their feudal powers, and let the serfs shiver outside the gates for as long as they will put up with it.


1. Adrian Douglas, "PPT to Come Out of the Closet," (March 29, 2008).

2. Edmund Andrews, "Treasury's Plan Would Give Fed Wide new Power," New York Times (March 29, 2008).

3. Greg Palast, "Eliot's Mess" (March 14, 2008).

Ellen Brown, J.D., developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest book, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and "the money trust." She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her eleven books include the bestselling Nature's Pharmacy, co-authored with Dr. Lynne Walker, which has sold 285,000 copies.

Her websites are WebOfDebt and EllenBrown .

Ellen Brown is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Global Research Articles by Ellen Brown

Control Oil, Water and Control The World

Those Who Control Oil and Water Will Control The World

New superpowers are competing for diminishing resources as Britain becomes a bit-player. The outcome could be deadly
By John Gray
Published on Sunday, March 30, 2008
Courtesy Of The
The Guardian/UK

History may not repeat itself, but, as Mark Twain observed, it can sometimes rhyme. The crises and conflicts of the past recur, recognisably similar even when altered by new conditions. At present, a race for the world’s resources is underway that resembles the Great Game that was played in the decades leading up to the First World War. Now, as then, the most coveted prize is oil and the risk is that as the contest heats up it will not always be peaceful. But this is no simple rerun of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, there are powerful new players and it is not only oil that is at stake.

It was Rudyard Kipling who brought the idea of the Great Game into the public mind in Kim, his cloak-and-dagger novel of espionage and imperial geopolitics in the time of the Raj. Then, the main players were Britain and Russia and the object of the game was control of central Asia’s oil.

Now, Britain hardly matters and India and China, which were subjugated countries during the last round of the game, have emerged as key players. The struggle is no longer focused mainly on central Asian oil. It stretches from the Persian Gulf to Africa, Latin America, even the polar caps, and it is also a struggle for water and depleting supplies of vital minerals. Above all, global warming is increasing the scarcity of natural resources. The Great Game that is afoot today is more intractable and more dangerous than the last.

The biggest new player in the game is China and it is there that the emerging pattern is clearest.

China’s rulers have staked everything on economic growth. Without improving living standards, there would be large-scale unrest, which could pose a threat to their power. Moreover, China is in the middle of the largest and fastest move from the countryside to the city in history, a process that cannot be stopped.

There is no alternative to continuing growth, but it comes with deadly side-effects. Overused in industry and agriculture, and under threat from the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers, water is becoming a non-renewable resource. Two-thirds of China’s cities face shortages, while deserts are eating up arable land. Breakneck industrialisation is worsening this environmental breakdown, as many more power plants are being built and run on high-polluting coal that accelerates global warming. There is a vicious circle at work here and not only in China. Because ongoing growth requires massive inputs of energy and minerals, Chinese companies are scouring the world for supplies. The result is unstoppable rising demand for resources that are unalterably finite.

Although oil reserves may not have peaked in any literal sense, the days when conventional oil was cheap have gone forever. Countries are reacting by trying to secure the remaining reserves, not least those that are being opened up by climate change. Canada is building bases to counter Russian claims on the melting Arctic icecap, parts of which are also claimed by Norway, Denmark and the US. Britain is staking out claims on areas around the South Pole.

The scramble for energy is shaping many of the conflicts we can expect in the present century.

The danger is not just another oil shock that impacts on industrial production, but a threat of famine. Without a drip feed of petroleum to highly mechanised farms, many of the food shelves in the supermarkets would be empty. Far from the world weaning itself off oil, it is more addicted to the stuff than ever. It is hardly surprising that powerful states are gearing up to seize their share.

This new round of the Great Game did not start yesterday. It began with the last big conflict of the 20th century, which was an oil war and nothing else. No one pretended the first Gulf War was fought to combat terrorism or spread democracy. As George Bush Snr and John Major admitted at the time, it was aimed at securing global oil supplies, pure and simple. Despite the denials of a less honest generation of politicians, there can be no doubt that controlling the country’s oil was one of the objectives of the later invasion of Iraq.

Oil remains at the heart of the game and, if anything, it is even more important than before. With their complex logistics and heavy reliance on air power, high-tech armies are extremely energy-intensive. According to a Pentagon report, the amount of petroleum needed for each soldier each day increased four times between the Second World War and the Gulf War and quadrupled again when the US invaded Iraq. Recent estimates suggest the amount used per soldier has jumped again in the five years since the invasion.

Whereas Western countries dominated the last round of the Great Game, this time they rely on increasingly self-assertive producer countries. Mr Putin’s well-honed contempt for world opinion might grate on European ears, but Europe is heavily dependent on his energy. Hugo Chávez might be an object of hate for George W Bush, but Venezuela still supplies around 10 per cent of America’s imported oil. President Ahmadinejad is seen by some as the devil incarnate, but with oil at more than a $100 a barrel, any Western attempt to topple him would be horrendously risky.

While Western power declines, the rising powers are at odds with each other. China and India are rivals for oil and natural gas in central Asia. Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia have clashed over underwater oil reserves in the South China Sea. Saudi Arabia and Iran are rivals in the Gulf, while Iran and Turkey are eyeing Iraq. Greater international co-operation seems the obvious solution, but the reality is that as the resources crunch bites more deeply, the world is becoming steadily more fragmented and divided.

We are a long way from the fantasy world of only a decade ago, when fashionable gurus were talking sagely of the knowledge economy. Then, we were told material resources did not matter any more - it was ideas that drove economic development. The business cycle had been left behind and an era of endless growth had arrived. Actually, the knowledge economy was an illusion created by cheap oil and cheap money and everlasting booms always end in tears. This is not the end of the world or of global capitalism, just history as usual.

What is different this time is climate change. Rising sea levels reduce food and fresh-water supplies, which may trigger large-scale movements of refugees from Africa and Asia into Europe.

Global warming threatens energy supplies. As the fossil fuels of the past become more expensive, others, such as tar sands, are becoming more economically viable, but these alternative fuels are also dirtier than conventional oil.

In this round of the Great Game, energy shortage and global warming are reinforcing each another. The result can only be a growing risk of conflict. There were around 1.65 billion people in the world when the last round was played out. At the start of the 21st century, there are four times as many, struggling to secure their future in a world being changed out of recognition by climate change. It would be wise to plan for some more of history’s rhymes.

John Gray is author of Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, published by Allen Lane in paperback on 24 April

© 2008 The Guardian

The Pentagon's Battle Bugs

By Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt
March 31, 2008
Courtesy Of:

We at TomDispatch love anniversaries. So how could we have forgotten DARPA's for so many months? This very year, the Pentagon's research outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), turns 50 years old. Happy birthday, DARPA! You were born as a response to the Soviet Union's launching of the first Earth-girdling satellite, Sputnik, which gave Americans a mighty shock. To prevent another "technological surprise" by the Soviets – or anybody else, any time, ever – the agency has grown into the Pentagon's good right arm, always there to reach into the future and grab another wild idea for weaponization. Each year, DARPA now spends about $3 billion on a twofold mission: "to prevent technological surprise for us and to create technological surprise for our adversaries."

Next month, the agency will celebrate its anniversary with a conference that aims to "reflect on [its] challenges and accomplishments … over the past 50 years and to consider the Agency's goals for the next 50 years." What a super idea! Think of that. The next 50! If only TomDispatch is still around – my brain well-preserved and renewed (thanks to some nifty cutting-edge science from the TD Advanced Research Projects Lab) – to see War 2058 arrive and blow out those 100-year anniversary candles on the planet.

In the meantime, the future is now and Pentagon expert Nick Turse is at work – see below – on the latest developments in DARPA's plans to help an overstretched military by reaching into the insect kingdom for its newest well weaponized recruits. The first larval Marines, perhaps. Ten-HUT! Unlike Americans at present, they should simply swarm to the recruiting offices.

It's a strange (not to say hair-raising) subject for a journalist who has lately been covering the air war in Iraq and elsewhere for TomDispatch. But the Pentagon's urge to weaponize the wild kingdom is a topic Turse has long been familiar with and that he deals with powerfully in his remarkable new book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives. It is – believe me – the single most powerful look yet at all the subtle and complicated ways American lives have been militarized during the last decades. (For a short video discussion I had with Turse, click here.)

Oh, and here's a suggestion for DARPA from a New Yorker. When you're recruiting those bugs, don't forget the roaches in my kitchen. They've been idle too long. Tom

Weaponizing The Pentagon's Cyborg Insects

A futuristic nightmare that just might come true

By Nick Turse

Biological weapons delivered by cyborg insects. It sounds like a nightmare scenario straight out of the wilder realms of science fiction, but it could be a reality, if a current Pentagon project comes to fruition.

Right now, researchers are already growing insects with electronics inside them. They're creating cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be remotely controlled. One day, the U.S. military may field squadrons of winged insect/machine hybrids with onboard audio, video, or chemical sensors. These cyborg insects could conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, or maybe even in cities closer to home, and transmit detailed data back to their handlers at U.S. military bases.

Today, many people fear U.S. government surveillance of e-mail and cell phone communications. With this program, the Pentagon aims to exponentially increase the paranoia. Imagine a world in which any insect fluttering past your window may be a remote-controlled spy, packed with surveillance equipment. Even more frightening is the prospect that such creatures could be weaponized, and the possibility, according to one scientist intimately familiar with the project, that these cyborg insects might be armed with "bio weapons."

For the past 50 years, work by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – the Pentagon's blue skies research outfit – has led to some of the most lethal weaponry in the U.S. arsenal: from Hellfire-missile-equipped Predator drones and stealth fighters and bombers to Tomahawk cruise missiles and Javelin portable "fire and forget" guided missiles. For the last several years, DARPA has funneled significant sums of money into a very different kind of guided missile project, its Hybrid Insect MEMS (HI-MEMS) program. This project is, according to DARPA, "aimed at developing tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems [MEMS] inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis." Put simply, the creation of cyborg insects: part bug, part bot.

Bugs, Bots, Borgs and Bio-Weapons

This past August, at DARPA's annual symposium – DARPATech – HI-MEMS program manager Amit Lal, an associate professor on leave from Cornell University, explained that his project aims to transform "insects into unmanned air-vehicles." He described the research this way: "[T]he HI-MEMS program seeks to grow MEMS and electronics inside the insect pupae. The new tissue forms around the insertions, making the bio-electronic interface long-lasting and reliable." In other words, micro-electronics are inserted at the pupal stage of metamorphosis so that they can be integrated into the insects' bodies as they develop, creating living robots that can be remotely controlled after the insect emerges from its cocoon.

According to the latest reports, work on this project is progressing at a rapid pace. In a recent phone interview, DARPA spokesperson Jan Walker said, "We're focused on determining what the best kinds of MEMS systems are; what the best MEMS system would be for embedding; what the best time is for embedding."

This month, Rob Coppinger, writing for the aerospace trade publication Flight International, reported on new advances announced at the "1st U.S.-Asian Assessment and Demonstration of Micro-Aerial and Unmanned Ground Vehicle Technology" – a Pentagon-sponsored conference. "In the latest work," he noted, "a Manduca moth had its thorax truncated to reduce its mass and had a MEMS component added where abdominal segments would have been, during the larval stage." But, as he pointed out, Robert Michelson, a principal research engineer, emeritus at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, laid out "on behalf of DARPA" some of the obstacles that remain. Among them were short insect life-spans and the current inability to create these cyborgs outside specialized labs.

DARPA's professed long-term goal for the HI-MEMS program is the creation of "insect cyborgs" capable of carrying "one or more sensors, such as a microphone or a gas sensor, to relay back information gathered from the target destination" – in other words, the creation of military micro-surveillance systems.

In a recent e-mail interview, Michelson – who has previously worked on numerous military projects, including DARPA's "effort to develop an 'Entomopter' (mechanical insect-like multimode aerial robot)" – described the types of sensor packages envisioned, but only in a minimalist fashion, as a "[w]ide array of active and passive devices." However in "Insect Cyborgs: A New Frontier in Flight Control Systems," a 2007 article in the academic journal Proceedings of SPIE, Cornell researchers noted that cyborg insects could be used as "autonomous surveillance and reconnaissance vehicles" with onboard"[s]ensory systems such as video and chemical."

Surveillance applications, however, may only be the beginning. Last year, Jonathan Richards, reporting for The Times, raised the specter of the weaponization of cyborg insects in the not-too-distant future. As he pointed out, Rodney Brooks, the director of the computer science and artificial intelligence lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, indicated that the Pentagon is striving toward a major expansion in the use of non-traditional air power – like unmanned aerial vehicles and cyborg insects – in the years ahead. "There's no doubt their things will become weaponized," he explained, "so the question [is]: should they [be] given targeting authority?" Brooks went on to assert, according to The Times, that it might be time to consider rewriting international law to take the future weaponization of such "devices" into account.

But how would one weaponize a cyborg insect? On this subject, Robert Michelson was blunt: "Bio weapons."

Cyborg Ethics

Michelson wouldn't elaborate further, but any program using bio-weapons would immediately raise major legal and ethical questions. The 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention outlawed the manufacture and possession of bio-weapons, of "[m]icrobial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin … that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes" and of "[w]eapons, equipment, or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict." In fact, not only did President George W. Bush claim that Iraq's supposed production and possession of biological weapons was a justification for an invasion of that nation, but he had previously stated, "All civilized nations reject as intolerable the use of disease and biological weapons as instruments of war and terror."

Reached for comment, however, DARPA's Jan Walker insisted that her agency's focus was only on "fundamental research" when it came to cyborg insects. Although the focus of her agency is, in fact, distinctly on the future – the technology of tomorrow – she refused to look down the road when it came to weaponizing insect cyborgs or arming them with bio-weapons. "I can't speculate on the future," was all she would say.

Michelson is perfectly willing to look into future, especially on matters of cyborg insect surveillance, but on the horizon for him are technical issues when it comes to the military use of bug bots. "Surveillance goes on anyway by other means," he explained, "so a new method is not the issue. If there are ethical or legal issues, they are ones of 'surveillance,' not of the 'surveillance platform.'"

Peter Eckersley, a staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights and civil liberties group, sees that same future in a different light. Cyborg insects, he says, are an order of magnitude away from today's more standard surveillance technologies like closed-circuit television. "CCTV is mostly deployed in public and in privately owned public spaces. An insect could easily fly into your garden or sit outside your bedroom window," he explained. "To make matters worse, you'd have no idea these devices were there. A CCTV camera is usually an easily recognizable device. Robotic surveillance insects might be harder to spot. And having to spot them wouldn't necessarily be good for our mental health."

Does Michelson see any ethical or legal dilemmas resulting from the future use of weaponized cyborg insects? "No, not unless they could breed new cyborg insects, which is not possible," he explained. "Genetic engineering will be the ethical and legal battleground, not cybernetics."

Battle Beetles and Hawkish Hawkmoths

Weaponized or not, moths are hardly the only cyborg insects that may fly, creep, or crawl into the military's future arsenal. Scientists from Arizona State University and elsewhere, working under a grant from the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, "are rearing beetle species at various oxygen levels to attempt to produce beetles with greater-than-normal size and payload capacity." Earlier this year, some of the same scientists published an article on their DARPA-funded research titled "A Cyborg Beetle: Insect Flight Control Through an Implantable, Tetherless Microsystem." They explained that, by implanting "multiple inserted neural and muscular stimulators, a visual stimulator, a polyimide assembly, and a microcontroller" in a 2 centimeter long, 1-2 gram green June beetle, they were "capable of modulating [the insect's] flight starts, stops, throttle/lift, and turning." They could, that is, drive an actual beetle. However, unlike the June bug you might find on a porch screen or in a garden, these sported onboard electronics powered by cochlear implant batteries.

DARPA-funded HI-MEMS research has also been undertaken at other institutions across the country and around the world. For example, in 2006, researchers at Cornell, in conjunction with scientists at Pennsylvania State University and the Universidad de Valparaiso, Chile, received an $8.4 million DARPA grant for work on "Insect Cyborg Sentinels." According to a recent article in New Scientist, a team led by one of the primary investigators on that grant, David Stern, screened a series of video clips at a recent conference in Tucson, Ariz., demonstrating their ability to control tethered tobacco hawkmoths through "flexible plastic probes" implanted during the pupae stage. Simply stated, the researchers were able to remotely control the moths-on-a-leash, manipulating the cyborg creatures' wing speed and direction.


Cyborg insects are only the latest additions to the U.S. military's menagerie. As defense tech-expert Noah Shachtman of Wired magazine's Danger Room blog has reported, DARPA projects have equipped rats with electronic equipment and remotely controlled sharks, while the military has utilized all sorts of animals, from bomb-detecting honeybees and "chickens used as early-warning sensors for chemical attacks" to guard dogs and dolphins trained to hunt mines. Additionally, he notes, the DoD's emphasis on the natural world has led to robots that resemble dogs, monkeys that control robotic limbs with their minds, and numerous other projects inspired by nature.

But whatever other creatures they favor, insects never seem far from the Pentagon's dreams of the future. In fact, Shachtman reported earlier this year that "Air Force scientists are looking for robotic bombs that look – and act – like swarms of bugs and birds." He went on to quote Col. Kirk Kloeppel, head of the Air Force Research Laboratory's munitions directorate, who announced the Lab's interest in "bio-inspired munitions," in "small, autonomous" machines that would "provide close-in [surveillance] information, in addition to killing intended targets."

This month, researcher Robert Wood wrote in IEEE Spectrum about what he believes was "the first flight of an insect-size robot." After almost a decade of research, Wood and his colleagues at the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory are now creating small insect-like robots that will eventually be outfitted "with onboard sensors, flight controls, and batteries … to nimbly flit around obstacles and into places beyond human reach." Like cyborg insect researchers, Wood is DARPA-funded. Last year, in fact, the agency selected him as one of 24 "rising stars" for a "young faculty awards" grant.

Asked about the relative advantages of cyborg insects compared to mechanical bugs, Robert Michelson noted that "robotic insects obey without innate or external influences" and "they can be mass produced rapidly." He cautioned, however, that they are extremely limited power-wise.

Insect cyborgs, on the other hand, "can harvest energy and continue missions of longer duration." However, they "may be diverted from their task by stronger influences"; must be grown to maturity and so may not be available when needed; and, of course, are mortal and run the risk of dying before they can be employed as needed.

The Future Is Now

There is plenty of technical information about the HI-MEMS program available in the scientific literature. And if you make inquiries, DARPA will even direct you to some of the relevant citations. But while it's relatively easy to learn about the optimal spots to insert a neural stimulator in a green June beetle ("behind the eye, in the flight control area of the insect brain") or an electronic implant in a tobacco hawkmoth ("the main flight powering muscles … in the dorsal-thorax"), it's much harder to discover the likely future implications of this sci-fi sounding research.

The "final demonstration goal" – the immediate aim – of DARPA's HI-MEMS program "is the delivery of an insect within five meters of a specific target located at a hundred meters away, using electronic remote control, and/or global positioning system (GPS)." Right now, DARPA doesn't know when that might happen. "We basically operate phase to phase," says Walker. "So, it kind of depends on how they do in the current phase and we'll make decisions on future phases."

DARPA refuses to examine anything but research-oriented issues. As a result, its Pentagon-funded scientists churn out inventions with potentially dangerous, if not deadly, implications without ever fully considering – let alone seeking public or expert comment on – the future ramifications of new technologies under production.

"The people who build this equipment are always going to say that they're just building tools, that there are legitimate uses for them, and that it isn't their fault if the tools are abused," says the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Eckersley. "Unfortunately, we've seen that governments are more than willing to play fast-and-loose with the legal bounds on surveillance. Unless and until that changes, we'd urge researchers to find other projects to work on."

Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of He has written for Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Adbusters, the Nation, the Village Voice, and regularly for TomDispatch. His first book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, has just been published in Metropolitan Books' American Empire Project series. His Web site is

Copyright 2008 Nick Turse

Sunday, March 30, 2008

U.S. Lacks Roadmap For Space Security

By Jim Wolf
Thu Mar 27, 2008 5:17pm EDT
Courtesy Of: Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military and U.S. intelligence have failed to produce an overarching roadmap for spending billions of dollars on the use of space to protect national security, congressional auditors said on Thursday.

Without such an integrated guide to decision-making, the United States faces possible "gaps in some areas of space operations and redundancies in others," the Government Accountability Office said.

The Air Force, the Defense Department's lead buyer and operator of space systems, is seeking $11.9 billion for its space efforts in the coming budget year, not including classified projects, up from $11.3 billion in fiscal 2008, service officials said in February.

Total Pentagon spending on space paired with the intelligence community's may be as high as $30 billion a year, including "black," or classified programs, according to Theresa Hitchens, who heads the private Center for Defense Information in Washington and its space-security project.

She said friction over control of key space assets such as a constellation of radar satellites may help explain the lack of a top-level architecture.

The absence of a plan has taken on new importance since China used an aging satellite for target practice in January 2007 and the United States shot apart a satellite of its own last month, boosting fears that space could one day become a battleground.

An overall roadmap could entail big trade-offs for multibillion-dollar programs carried out by such companies as Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, and Northrop Grumman Corp.

GAO, Congress's investigative arm, said the military and the intelligence community did not always see eye to eye on how to put into effect a revised national policy that governs the conduct of U.S. space activities. The so-called National Space Policy was issued by President George W. Bush in October 2006 after it went through more than 30 drafts.

Differences of opinion between the military and intelligence communities plus their "cultural differences" have delayed a joint plan, said the GAO report for the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.

"Until a national security space strategy is issued, the defense and intelligence communities may continue to make independent decisions and use resources that are not necessarily based on national priorities," it said.

Davi D'Agostino, GAO's director of defense capabilities and management and the report's author, said the two were on "separate tracks" even though the Defense Department includes the National Reconnaissance Office, which designs, buys and operates space systems for intelligence-gathering, and three other major intelligence agencies.

"That means they may be missing opportunities for efficiencies and integrated solutions that would boost national security," she said in a telephone interview.

John Pike, a space expert at, a research group, said the absence of an overall plan was not the sole reason for schedule delays and performance shortfalls that have dogged many big-ticket U.S. efforts in space in recent years.

"The programs themselves are perfectly capable of doing that on their own," he said.

(Editing by Toni Reinhold)

© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

How Lethally Stupid Can One Country Be?

Presidents and Prime Ministers Will Lie Their Countries Into Wwar -- But Why Do We The People Keep Buying It?

By David Michael Green,
March 28, 2008.
Courtesy Of:

Watching George W. Bush in operation these last couple of weeks is like having an out-of-body experience. On acid. During a nightmare. In a different galaxy.

As he presides over the latest disaster of his administration (No, it's not a terrorist attack -- that was 2001! No, it's not a catastrophic war -- that was 2003! No, it's not a drowning city -- that was 2005! This one is an economic meltdown, ladies and gentlemen!) bringing to it the same blithe disengagement with which he's attended the previous ones, you cannot but stop and gaze in stark comedic awe, realizing that the most powerful polity that ever existed on the planet twice picked this imbecilic buffoon as its leader, from among 300 million other choices.

Seeing him clown with the Washington press corps yet once again -- and seeing them fawn over him, laugh in all the right places, and give him a standing ovation, also yet once again -- is the equivalent of having all your logic circuits blown simultaneously.

Truly, the universe has a twisted and deeply ironic sense of humor. Monty Python is about as funny -- and as stiff -- as Dick Nixon, by comparison.

It's simply incomprehensible. It's not so astonishing, of course, that a country could have a bad leader whose aims are nefarious on the occasions when they are competent enough to rise to that level of intentionality.

Plenty of countries have managed that feat, especially when -- as was the case with Bush -- every sort of scam is employed to steal power, and then pure corruption and intimidation used to keep it. History is quite littered indeed with bimbos and petty criminals of this caliber.

What is harder to explain is how the citizens of a country of such remarkable achievements in other domains, and with the capacity to choose, allow this to happen. And then stand by silently watching for eight years as the tragedy unfolds before their eyes.
But let's give credit where credit is due. This is precisely by design. This is exactly the outcome intended by the greatest propaganda-promulgating regime since Hermann Göring set fire to the Reichstag.

It was Göring himself who famously reminded us that, "Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
Sure worked in Germany. And it worked even better here, because these guys were so absolutely careful to avoid exposing the costs of their war to those who could demand its end. For example, by some counts, there are more mercenaries in Iraq, at extremely high cost, than there are U.S. military personnel.

There's only one reason for that:

If the administration implemented the draft that is actually necessary to supply this war with adequate personnel, the public would end both the war and the careers of its sponsors, post haste.

For the same reason, this is the first American war ever which has not only not been accompanied by a tax increase, but has in fact witnessed a tax cut.

Likewise -- to "preserve the dignity" of the dead, of course -- you are no longer permitted to see photographs of flag-draped caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base. And the press are embedded with forces who are also responsible for their safety, which is just a fancy way of saying that they're so censored they make Pravda look good.

It is, in short, quite easy for average Americans to get through their day, every day, without the war impacting their lives in any visible respect, and that is precisely what hundreds of millions of us are doing, week in and week out. All of this is courtesy of an administration that couldn't run a governmental program to save its own life -- but, boy, it sure as hell knows how to market stuff.
Perhaps Americans and American democracy are no wiser or better than any other people or political system, even today, even after the worst century of warfare in human history, even after the mirror-image experience of Vietnam.

Maybe the experience of Iraq hasn't even changed them, and they'll once again follow like lemmings when led to war by pathetic creatures such as George W. Bush, 50 years from now. Or five years from now. Or even five months from now, as Dick Cheney tees up a confrontation with Iran in order keep Democrats out of the White House and himself out of jail.

Sure, presidents and prime ministers, no less than kings and führers, will lie their countries into war. Sure, they're very good at it and getting better all the time. Definitely a frightened people are more prone to stupidity than those lucky enough to contemplate in the luxury of quiet safety. Without question, it helps an awful lot -- if you're just Joe Sixpack, out there trying to figure out international politics in between a long day's work, helping the kids with their algebra homework, and the Yankee game -- to have a checking-and-balancing Congress, a responsible opposition party, and/or a critical media helping you to understand the issues accurately, rather than gleefully capitulating to executive power at every opportunity.

But that by no means excuses a public who was fundamentally far more lazy than they were ignorant or confused. And lazy is one thing when you're talking about a highway bill or even national healthcare. But when it comes to war, lazy is murder.
I don't think it took a giant leap of logic to understand that this war was bogus from the beginning, even based on what was known at the time.

The war was sold on three basic arguments, each of which could have been easily dismantled even then with a little thoughtful consideration:

The first was WMD, of course:

So, OK, perhaps your average American didn't know that the United States government (including many in the current administration) had actually once supplied Saddam Hussein the material to make these evil weapons and had covered for him at the United Nations and elsewhere when he used them.

This historical myopia is very much part of the problem, of course. Americans are so ready to denounce supposed enemies without doing the slightest bit of historical homework to make sense of the situation.

If you don't know that the United States actually canceled elections and helped assassinate a "democratic" president in Vietnam, of course you're going to support war there.

If you don't know that the United States toppled a democratically elected Iranian government to steal the country's oil and then installed a brutal dictatorship in its place, of course you're going to be angry at U.S. diplomats being held hostage.

And if you don't bother to learn the true history of Iraq, perhaps you'll find the WMD argument quite persuasive.

But, in fact, even without the historical background information, it never made a damn bit of sense:

Iraq had been pulverized by war and sanctions for over 20 years prior to 2003. Two-thirds of its airspace was controlled by foreign militaries. Its northern region was effectively autonomous, a separate country in all but name. It was in no position to attack anyone. Moreover, it hadn't attacked anyone -- not the United States or anyone else. Indeed, it hadn't even threatened to attack anyone. Shouldn't that be part of the calculation in determining whether to go to war? Do we really want to give carte blanche to any dry (we hope) drunkard in the White House who today wants to bomb Norway ("They're stealing our fish!") or tomorrow wants to invade Burkina Faso ("They dress funny!")?

Too often, of course, the historical answer to that question has unfortunately been yes, we apparently do want to do that.

But let's consider the massive warning signs in this case, even apart from what could be known about the administration's lies at the time:

Shouldn't it have been enormously problematic that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11?

Even the administration never had the gall to make that claim. Wasn't it transparent to anyone that America had plenty on its plate already in dealing with the enemy we were told we had, rather than adding a new adventure to the pile?

And why wasn't this thing selling throughout the world, or even amongst the traitorous half of the Democratic Party in Congress?

Remember how everyone at home and abroad -- yes, including the French -- supported the United States and its military actions in Afghanistan only 12 months before?

Shouldn't it have been a warning sign of epic proportions that these same folks wouldn't countenance a war in Iraq just a year later?

That the administration had to yank its Security Council resolution off the table, even after breaking both the arms of every member-state around the horseshoe table, because it could still only get Britain and two other patsies to lie down for this outrage, out of a total of 15, and nine needed to pass?

And how about the logic of that whole WMD thing, after all?

Did anyone ever stop to think that 36 other countries were thought to have clandestine WMD programs, including around a dozen that are pretty hostile to the United States?

Did anyone not remember that the Soviets once had nearly 25,000 strategic nuclear warheads pointed in our direction?

What ever happened to the logic of deterrence? To mutually assured destruction?

And what about the mad rush to go to war, preempting the U.N. weapons inspectors from doing their job?

Are we really OK with the notion that instead of "risking" whatever would have been at risk by giving the inspectors another six or eight weeks to finish up, we've instead bought this devastating war down on our own heads for no reason at all?

The second rationale for war was the bogus linkage between Iraq and al Qaeda:

The extent and ramifications of this lie are so significant that the White House, it was just recently revealed, squelched a Pentagon report showing no connections between the two.

Remember how definitive Cheney and the rest were of this supposed al Qaeda linkage, based pretty much entirely on a meeting between two operatives in Prague which likely didn't even take place?

Now we find out that the Department of Defense has spent the last five years combing through a mere 600,000 documents, and found zero evidence of such a link. Not some evidence. Not mixed evidence. Zero evidence.

Then, once again, there's the matter of that whole pesky logic thing:

Pay attention now, class. What do we know about al Qaeda?

They are devoted to religious war -- jihad -- in the name of replacing governments across the Middle East with theocracies, or better yet recreating the old Islamic caliphate stretching across the region, right? Right.

Now if this vision could have more thoroughly contradicted Saddam's agenda for a secular dictatorship seeking regional domination on his own Stalinist terms, it is hard to imagine how. You don't need a Ph.D. in international politics to see that these two actors were about as antithetical to each other as the Republican Party is to integrity.

Lastly, Bush's little adventure in Mesopotamia was supposed to bring democracy to the region, remember?

Never mind, of course, that there has long already been a fairly thriving Islamic democracy, right next door. Oops! It's called Turkey.

And let's not forget Mr. Bush's long-standing devotion to democracy, as he amply demonstrated in the American election of 2000.

Or as he has continually manifested by bravely and publicly pushing the Chinese to democratize.

Just as he has with his pals in Egypt and especially the family friends running Saudi Arabia, the recipient of more American foreign aid than nearly any other country in all the world.

What is clear is that the reasons given to the American public for the war in Iraq were entirely bogus.

This much is already on the public record, from the Downing Street memos and beyond. Even if we can only speculate on why they actually invaded -- oil, glory, personal insecurity, Israel, clobbering Democrats, Middle Eastern dominance -- what we know for sure is that the rationale fed to the public was a knowingly fabricated pack of scummy lies.

It wasn't about WMD, it wasn't about links to al Qaeda, and it sure wasn't about democracy.
But even if we can't identify the true motivations within the administration for invading, we can surely begin to see the costs:

Probably a million Iraqi civilians are dead.

Over 4 million are displaced and now living as refugees. Together, these equal a staggering one-fifth of the population of the entire country.

Meanwhile, the remaining four-fifths are living in squalor, fear and a psychological damage so extensive that it is hard to grasp.

America has lost 4,000 soldiers, with perhaps another 30,000 gravely wounded.

Hundreds of thousands more will be scarred for life from their experiences in the hell of Mr. Bush's war.

Our military is broken and incapable of responding to a real emergency, at home or abroad.

Our economy will sustain a blow of perhaps $3 trillion before all is said and done.

Our reputation in the world is in the toilet. We have turned the Iranian theocracy into a regional hegemon.

And we have massively proliferated our own enemies within the Islamic community.

That would be one hell of an expensive war, even if the reasons given for it were legitimate. It is nearly incomprehensible considering that they were not.
This week, a man died in France, the last surviving veteran of World War I, a devastating conflict that -- even a century later -- nobody can really explain to this day.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney, John McCain and Joe "Make-me-SecDef-Mac-oh-please-pick-me-Mac" Lieberman parachuted into Iraq for photo-ops to sustain the war they don't have the integrity or the guts to abandon.

Never mind that their visits had to be by surprise, and that they stroll around the Green Zone wearing armored vests -- surely the most powerful measures of the war's success imaginable.

Of course, to be fair, we've only been at it for five years now.

Perhaps after the remaining 95 on McCain's agenda go by, Americans will finally be safe enough in Iraq to announce their visits in advance.
So, happy anniversary, America!

You put these people in charge, and then -- after seeing in explicit in detail what they were capable of -- you actually did it again in 2004!

You stood by in silence watching the devastation wrought upon an innocent people, produced in your name and financed by your tax dollars. And you continue to do just that again, now in Year Six.
Brilliant! Put on your party hat, America. You won the prize.

You've successfully answered the musical question, "How lethally stupid can one country be?"
David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles ( ) but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at

"Death To The Arabs!"

The second way says: Israel belongs to all its citizens, and only to them. Every citizen is an Israeli, much as every US citizen is an American. As far as the state is concerned, there is no difference between one citizen and another, whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian, Arab or Russian, much as, from the point of view of the American state, there is no difference between white, brown or black citizens, whether of European, African or Asian descent, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim. In Israeli parlance, this is called "a state of all its citizens".
By Uri Avnery
(Saturday, March 29, 2008)
Courtesy Of:

TOMORROW WILL BE the 32nd anniversary of the first "Day of the Land" - one of the defining events in the history of Israel.

I remember the day well. I was at Ben Gurion airport, on the way to a secret meeting in London with Said Hamami, Yasser Arafat's emissary, when someone told me: "They have killed a lot of Arab protestors!"

That was not entirely unexpected. A few days before, we - members of the newly formed Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace - had handed the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, an urgent memorandum warning him that the government's intention of expropriating huge chunks of land from Arab villages would cause an explosion. We included a proposal for an alternative solution, worked out by Lova Eliav, a veteran expert on settlements.

When I returned from abroad, the poet Yevi suggested that we make a symbolic gesture of sorrow and regret for the killings. Three of us - Yevi himself, the painter Dan Kedar and I - laid wreaths on the graves of the victims. This aroused a wave of hatred against us. I felt that something profoundly significant had happened, that the relationship between Jews and Arabs within the state had changed fundamentally.

And indeed, the impact of the Day of the Land - as the event was called - was stronger than even the Kafr Kassem massacre of 1956 or the October Events killings of 2000.
THE REASONS for this go back to the early days of the state:

After the 1948 war, only a small, weak and frightened Arab community was left in the state. Not only had about 750 thousand Arabs been uprooted from the territory that had become the State of Israel, but those who remained were leaderless. The political, intellectual and economic elites had vanished, most of them right at the beginning of the war. The vacuum was somehow filled by the Communist Party, whose leaders had been allowed to return from abroad - mainly in order to please Stalin, who at the time supported Israel.

After an internal debate, the leaders of the new state decided to accord the Arabs in the "Jewish State" citizenship and the right to vote. That was not self-evident.

But the government wanted to appear before the world as a democratic state. In my opinion, the main reason was party political: David Ben-Gurion believed that he could coerce the Arabs to vote for his own party.

And indeed: the great majority of the Arab citizens voted for the Labor Party (then called Mapai) and its two Arab satellite parties which had been set up for that very purpose. They had no choice: they were living in a state of fear, under the watchful eyes of the Security Service (then called Shin Bet).

Every Arab Hamulah (extended family) was told exactly how to vote, either for Mapai or one of the two subsidiaries. Since every election list has two different ballot papers, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic, there were six possibilities for faithful Arabs in every polling station, and it was easy for the Shin Bet to make sure that each Hamula voted exactly as instructed. More than once did Ben Gurion achieve a majority in the Knesset only with the help of these captive votes.

For the sake of "security" (in both senses) the Arabs were subjected to a "military government". Every detail of their lives depended on it. They needed a permit to leave their village and go to town or the next village. Without the permission of the military government they could not buy a tractor, send a daughter to the teachers' college, get a job for a son, obtain an import license. Under the authority of the military government and a whole series of laws, huge chunks of land were expropriated for Jewish towns and kibbutzim.

A story engraved in my memory: my late friend, the poet Rashed Hussein from Musmus village, was summoned to the military governor in Netanya, who told him:

Independence Day is approaching and I want you to write a nice poem for the occasion. Rashed, a proud youngster, refused. When he came home, he found his whole family sitting on the floor and weeping. At first he thought that somebody had died, but then his mother cried out: "You have destroyed us! We are finished!" So the poem was written.

Every independent Arab political initiative was choked at birth:

The first such group - the nationalist al-Ard ("the land") group - was rigorously suppressed. It was outlawed, its leaders exiled, its paper proscribed - all with the blessing of the Supreme Court. Only the Communist Party was left intact, but its leaders were also persecuted from time to time.

The military government was dismantled only in 1966, after Ben Gurion's exit from power and a short time after my election to the Knesset. After demonstrating against it so many times, I had the pleasure of voting for its abolition. But in practice very little changed - instead of the official military government an unofficial one remained, as did most of the discrimination.

"THE DAY OF THE LAND" changed the situation. A second generation of Arabs had grown up in Israel, no longer timidly submissive, a generation that had not experienced the mass expulsions and whose economic position had improved. The order given to the soldiers and policemen to open fire on them caused a shock. Thus a new chapter started.

The percentage of Arab citizens in the state has not changed: from the first days of the state to now, it had hovered around 20%. The much higher natural rate of increase of the Muslim community was balanced by Jewish immigration. But the numbers have grown significantly: from 200 thousand at the beginning of the state to almost 1.3 million - twice the size of the Jewish community that founded the state.

The Day of the Land also dramatically changed the attitude of the Arab world and the Palestinian people towards the Arabs in Israel. Until then, they were considered traitors, collaborators of the "Zionist entity". I remember a scene from the 1965 meeting convened in Firenze by the legendary mayor, Giorgio la Pira, who tried to bring together personalities from Israel and the Arab world. At the time, that was considered a very bold undertaking.

During one of the intermissions, I was chatting with a senior Egyptian diplomat in a sunny piazza outside the conference site, when two young Arabs from Israel, who had heard about the conference, approached us. After embracing, I introduced them to the Egyptian, but he turned his back and exclaimed: "I am ready to talk with you, but not with these traitors!"

The bloody events of the Day of the Land brought the "Israeli Arabs" back into the fold of the Arab nation and the Palestinian people, who now call them "the 1948 Arabs".

In October 2000, policemen again shot and killed Arab citizens, when they tried to express their solidarity with Arabs killed at the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem.

But in the meantime, a third generation of Arabs had grown up in Israel, many of whom, in spite of all the obstacles, had attended universities and become business people, politicians, professors, lawyers and physicians. It is impossible to ignore this community - even if the state tries very hard to do just that.

From time to time, complaints about discrimination are voiced, but everybody shrinks back from the fundamental question: What is the status of the Arab minority growing up in a state that defines itself officially as "Jewish and democratic"?

ONE LEADER of the Arab community, the late Knesset member Abd-al-Aziz Zuabi, defined his dilemma this way: "My state is at war with my people". The Arab citizens belong both to the State of Israel and to the Palestinian people.

Their belonging to the Palestinian people is self-evident. The Arab citizens of Israel, who lately tend to call themselves "Palestinians in Israel", are only one part of the stricken Palestinian people, which consists of many branches: the inhabitants of the occupied territories (now themselves split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), the Arabs in East Jerusalem (officially "residents" but not "citizens" of Israel), and the refugees living in many different countries, each with its own particular regime. All these branches have a strong feeling of belonging together, but the consciousness of each is shaped by its own particular situation.

How strong is the Palestinian component in the consciousness of the Arab citizens of Israel? How can it be measured? Palestinians in the occupied territories often complain that it expresses itself mainly in words, not deeds. The support given by the Arab citizens in Israel to the Palestinian struggle for liberation is mainly symbolic. Here and there a citizen is arrested for helping a suicide bomber, but these are rare exceptions.

When the extreme Arab-hater Avigdor Liberman proposed that a string of Arab villages in Israel adjoining the Green Line (called "the Triangle") be turned over to the future Palestinian state in return for the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, not a single Arab voice was raised in support. That is a very significant fact.

The Arab community is much more rooted in Israel than appears at first sight. The Arabs play an important part in the Israeli economy, they work in the state, pay taxes to the state. They enjoy the benefits of social security - by right, since they pay for it. Their standard of living is much higher than that of their Palestinian brethren in the occupied territories and beyond. They participate in Israeli democracy and have no desire at all to live under regimes like those of Egypt and Jordan. They have serious and justified complaints - but they live in Israel und will continue to do so.

IN RECENT YEARS, intellectuals of the third Arab generation in Israel have published several proposals for the normalization of the relations between the majority and the minority.

There exist, in principle, two main alternatives:

The first way says: Israel is a Jewish state, but a second people also live here. If Jewish Israelis have defined national rights, Arab Israelis must also have defined national rights. For example, educational, cultural and religious autonomy (as the young Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky demanded a hundred years ago for the Jews in Czarist Russia). They must be allowed to have free and open connections with the Arab world and the Palestinian people, like the connections Jewish citizens have with the Jewish Diaspora. All this must be spelled out in the future constitution of the state.

The second way says: Israel belongs to all its citizens, and only to them. Every citizen is an Israeli, much as every US citizen is an American. As far as the state is concerned, there is no difference between one citizen and another, whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian, Arab or Russian, much as, from the point of view of the American state, there is no difference between white, brown or black citizens, whether of European, African or Asian descent, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim. In Israeli parlance, this is called "a state of all its citizens".

It goes without saying that I favor the second alternative, but I am ready to accept the first. Either of them is preferable to the existing situation, where the state pretends that there is no problem except some traces of discrimination that have to be overcome (without doing anything about it).

If the courage is lacking to treat a wound, it will fester.

At football matches, the riffraff shout: "Death-to-the-Arabs!" and in the Knesset far right deputies threaten to expel Arab members from the House, and from the state altogether.

On the 32nd anniversary of the Day of the Land, with the 60th Independence Day approaching, it is time to take this bull by the horns.

Source: by courtesy & © 2008 Uri Avnery

"Your Turn Is Next"

'Your Turn Is Next,' Gadhafi Warns Arab Leaders After US Toppling Of Saddam

Source: The Associated Press
Published: March 29, 2008
Courtesy Of The

DAMASCUS, Syria: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi poured contempt on fellow Arab leaders at a summit Saturday and warned that they might be overthrown like former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein:

"How can we accept that a foreign power comes to topple an Arab leader while we stand watching?" he said. He said Saddam had once been an ally of Washington, "but they sold him out."

"Your turn is next," Gadhafi told the leaders, some of whom looked stunned while others broke into laughter at his frankness. "Destruction will be yours."
In his speech, Gadhafi slammed Arab disunity and inaction on the region's multiple crises:

"Where is the Arabs' dignity, their future, their very existence? Everything has disappeared," he said. "Our blood and our language may be one, but there is nothing that can unite us"

"If they (Arabs) will not reorganize themselves, they will turn into protectorates. They will be marginalized and turn into garbage dumps," he said.
Gadhafi also mocked a plan by the Arab League to start Arab cooperation on a joint nuclear program:

"How can do we that? We hate each other, we wish ill of each other and our intelligence services conspire against each other. We are our own enemy."
Gadhafi has angered other Arab leaders with his sharp remarks at past summits:

Last year, he boycotted the summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but gave a televised speech saying "Liza" — referring to Rice — had dictated the gathering's agenda.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Risks Of Defeating Al Qaeda In Iraq

Experts Warn That Jihadist Fighters Could Carry Their Fight To Other Nations

US News & World Report
Kevin Whitelaw
Posted March 28, 2008
Courtesy Of:

President Bush claimed on Thursday that U.S. forces and Iraqi tribesman have "systematically dismantled" the terrorist group Al Qaeda in Iraq in the long-troubled Anbar Province. And indeed, while Al Qaeda in Iraq remains dangerous and active, particularly in parts of northern Iraq, the terrorist group is having increasing difficulty pulling off its signature type of attack, deadly car bombings.

But terrorism experts are warning that defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq could bring a whole new set of risks.

For one thing, as U.S. intelligence agencies have told Congress, its operatives could shift their efforts to plotting outside the country if it becomes significantly more dangerous for Al Qaeda in Iraq to stage attacks in Iraq.

"Defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq could actually lead to the spread of violence to other places because those guys could be leaving to find other safe havens to continue their fight," says Mohammed Hafez, the author of Suicide Bombers in Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom. "They are likely to go to places where there are existing conflicts."

The two most obvious destinations are Afghanistan or Pakistan, where they could potentially link up with other jihadists who have been carrying out a growing number of suicide attacks.

Fighters could be drawn to the relative lawlessness of Yemen, the total anarchy of Somalia, or to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Writing in the current issue of CTC Sentinel, the monthly journal of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Hafez analyzes the experiences of Arab jihadists who went to Afghanistan in the 1980s to the fight the Soviet Union and later formed the backbone of al Qaeda, the terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden.

Thousands of Arab volunteers were trained to fight the Soviets, but when the conflict ended, many migrated to other conflict zones around the world to continue the fight. They also had forged close ties with each other, helping them to put together a global jihadi network that allowed al Qaeda to spread its tentacles into Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Today's jihadists in Iraq are getting even more hands-on combat experience than their predecessors in Afghanistan.

"What's just as important as the fighting skills are the logistical skills—the back administration office work that needs to be done for terrorism to take place," says Hafez.

He is talking about skills like raising money for operations, forging documents, and smuggling fighters across international borders.

It is unclear how much U.S. officials or Iraq's neighbors have done to prepare for this threat.

Hafez says that border controls must be strengthened and that American and Iraqi officials need to share intelligence on these militants with all of Iraq's neighbors to prevent them from escaping Iraq.

Of particular concern is Syria, through which the bulk of foreign fighters entered Iraq.

"But they won't be willing to host the jihadis in the way Pakistan did" in the 1990s, says Hafez. "They will probably have to cross multiple borders, which increases their chances of being caught."

One other key factor could also limit how many Al Qaeda in Iraq members end up fighting elsewhere in the future. The bulk of these foreign fighters came to Iraq to be suicide bombers. "That means," says Hafez," many won't be around."

This discussion, of course, could be premature. Al Qaeda in Iraq has not yet been defeated and could still regroup successfully.

Iraq is also experiencing a new surge of violence in several Shiite cities and in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad.

For now, most of the fighting appears to be between Shiite factions, but if it spreads, it has the potential to reignite some of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian bloodletting that paralyzed the country last year.

"Reach Out To The Taliban & Hezbollah"

'Reach Out To The Taliban': Defence Secretary

Source: Agence France-Presse
Fri Mar 28, 7:52 PM ET
Courtesy Of:

LONDON (AFP) - Britain should reach out to elements of the Taliban militia in Afghanistan who can be won over to the side of democracy, Defence Secretary Des Browne said in a newspaper interview published Saturday.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Browne said conflict resolution was about persuading people who believe that violence is the way to achieve their aims to try to fulfil their ambitions through politics instead.

And that meant engaging with individuals or groups, even if their views were disagreeable.

He applied the argument to Taliban insurgents -- whom British troops are fighting in southern Afghanistan -- as well as Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Browne said there was currently "no basis of negotiation" with Al-Qaeda, but added: "The Taliban is a collective noun. There are some people who are driven by their own self interest rather than ideology.

"There's no question that we should try to reach them. People have been switched. We have to get people who have previously been on the side of the Taliban to come onto the side of the (Afghan) government."

His comments come after Jonathan Powell, who was former prime minister Tony Blair's top adviser, said in a March 15 interview with The Guardian that Western nations should talk to the likes of the Taliban, Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

Powell argued that opening up channels of communication had proved to be successful in ending three decades of bloody sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics in the British province of Northern Ireland.
But efforts to engage elements of the Taliban saw Kabul expel two senior United Nations and European Union diplomats -- one from Britain and the other from Ireland -- for contacting insurgents in southern Helmand province.

According to a Financial Times report from the Afghan capital on February 4, President Hamid Karzai was furious at the proposal to set up a military training camp for 2,000 Taliban militants who wanted to switch sides.

Clinton: "Limited Talks With HAMAS"

Clinton Says Would Consider Limited Talks With Hamas

US presidential hopeful discusses Mideast with commentators in Jewish media, calls for low-level talks with Iran on nuclear issue

By Yitzhak Benhorin
23:37 , 03.28.08
Courtesy Of:

WASHINGTON – US presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton has said that she would consider entering limited talks with Hamas should Israel be interested in such a move.

In a telephone interview with commentators in the Jewish media, the Democratic candidate described Hamas and Hizbullah as constituting an existential threat on Israel, but said she would consider such limited talks if elected president.
Clinton harshly criticized US President George W. Bush for allowing Hamas to take part in the Palestinian Authority general elections in 2006.

"It was a mistake for the Bush administration to take a hands-off approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel is more vulnerable today that it was eight years ago," she said.

She said that the moves undertaken by her husband (former US President Bill Clinton) resulted in a drop in the number of terror attacks.

"I think what we did in the '90s was beneficial in a strategic way and led to a period where, at times, there were no attacks being made, no suicide bombings and no deaths," she noted.

Weak Leaders

Clinton went on to say that the Bush administration returned to the right track with the Annapolis peace conference last December, but expressed her concern that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were not strong enough leaders to advance the process.

Addressing the Iranian nuclear issue, the senator refused to say how she would act as president should it become clear that Iran has obtained a nuclear weapons.

According to Clinton, the right policy against the Iranian threat would be a combination of increased sanctions and low-level talks.

As opposed to her rival, Senator Barack Obama, who has said he may meet with the Iranian president should he be elected, Clinton believes that talks should only be held at a low level.

"If we did ever have to take action against Iran, we would have demonstrated to the rest of the world that we had exhausted other possibilities," she noted.

Pentagon Using Gitmo Trials To Influence Election

Lawyer: Gitmo Trials Pegged To '08 Campaign

Posted on Fri, Mar. 28, 2008
Courtesy Of The

The Navy lawyer for Osama bin Laden's driver argues in a Guantánamo military commissions motion that senior Pentagon officials are orchestrating war crimes prosecutions for the 2008 campaign.
The Pentagon declined late Friday to address the defense lawyer's allegations, noting that the matter is under litigation.

The brief filed Thursday by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer directly challenged the integrity of President Bush's war court.

Notably, it describes a Sept. 29, 2006, meeting at the Pentagon in which Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, a veteran White House appointee, asked lawyers to consider Sept. 11, 2001, prosecutions in light of the campaign.

''We need to think about charging some of the high-value detainees because there could be strategic political value to charging some of these detainees before the election,'' England is quoted as saying.
A senior Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, declined to address the specifics, saying ``the trial process will surface the facts in this case.''

''It has always been everybody's desire to move as swiftly and deliberately as possible to conduct military commissions,'' he added. ``But I can tell you emphatically that leadership has always been extraordinarily careful to guard against any unlawful command influence.''

The brief quotes England as a stipulation of fact and cites other examples of alleged political interference, which Mizer argues makes it impossible for Salim Hamdan, 37, to have a fair trial.

It asks the judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, to dismiss the case against Hamdan as an alleged 9/11 co-conspirator on the grounds that Bush administration leadership exercises ``unlawful command influence.''
Allred has set hearings at Guantánamo for April 30.

Hamdan is the former Afghanistan driver of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden whose lawyers challenged an earlier war court format to the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down the war court as unconstitutional.

Pentagon prosecutors call him a war criminal for driving bin Laden in Afghanistan before and during the 9/11 attacks and allegedly working as his sometimes bodyguard. Even if he didn't help plot the suicide attacks, they argue, he is an al Qaeda co-conspirator.

As described the Hamdan brief, the England meeting came three weeks after President Bush disclosed in a live address that he had ordered the CIA to transfer ''high-value detainees'' from years of secret custody to Guantánamo for trial.

Bush also disclosed that the CIA used ''an alternative set of procedures'' to interrogate the men into confessing -- since revealed by the CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, to include waterboarding.
They included reputed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other men against whom the Pentagon prosecutor swore out death-penalty charges in a complex Sept. 11, 2001, conspiracy case on Feb. 11.

The proposed 90-page charge sheets list the names of 2,973 victims of the 9/11 attacks. The men have not been formally charged. Instead they are in the control of a White House appointee, Susan J. Crawford, whose title is the war court's convening authority, and her legal advisor, Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann.

Under the law governing the commissions, the alleged 9/11 conspirators would formally be charged 30 days after Crawford approves them.

That currently leaves a seven-month window during the 2008 election campaign.

An expert on military justice, attorney Eugene Fidell, said the Hamdan motion brings into sharp relief the problem of Pentagon appointees' supervisory relationship to the war court.

''It scrambles relationships that ought to be kept clear,'' said Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

The quote attributed to England is ``enough that you'd want to hold an evidentiary hearing about it, with live witnesses. It does strike me as disturbing for there to be even a whiff of political considerations in what should be a quasi-judicial determination.''
England is a two-term White House appointee. He joined the Bush administration in 2001 as Navy secretary, briefly served as deputy Homeland Security secretary and then returned to the Pentagon, where he supervised the prison camps' administrative processes.

Crawford was a Republican attorney appointee in the Pentagon when Vice President Dick Cheney was defense secretary.

Hamdan's military lawyer argues that standard military justice has barriers that separate various functions, which he contends Pentagon appointees have crossed in the war court.

In April the defense team plans to call the former chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who recounted the England remark since submitting his resignation, claiming political interference.

Davis, who had approved charges against Hamdan, served as former chief Pentagon prosecutor until he resigned over what he called political interference by general counsel William J. Haynes.

Haynes has since quit.

They also want to call as a witness the deputy chief defense counsel, a retired Army lawyer named Michael Berrigan, who, according to the filing, was mistakingly sent a draft copy of 9/11 conspiracy charges being prepared by the prosecution.

In the filing, Hartmann, the legal advisor, orders Berrigan to return it, which the defense team claims illustrates the muddied role of the legal advisor.

He supervised the prosecution, announced the 9/11 conspiracy charges on Feb. 11, then said he would evaluate them independently and recommend to Crawford how to proceed.
The Mizer motion is also the latest attack on the legitimacy of war-court prosecutions by a variety of feisty uniformed defense attorneys, who have doggedly used civilian courts and courted public opinion against the process since the earliest days.

Mizer sent the brief directly to reporters for major news organizations, rather than leave it to the Office of Military Commissions to post it on a Pentagon website.
The Pentagon has been releasing motions for the public to read after they have been argued -- and ruled on by the judge.

With delays in other cases, the Hamdan case is now on track to be the first full-blown U.S. war-crimes tribunal since World War II.

The current time frame would put the trial before the Supreme Court rules on an overarching detainee rights case in June.