Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Unspoken War

Pakistan, The Media and The Politics Of Nuclear Weapons

Weekend Edition
September 27 / 28, 2008
Courtesy Of

"We're on the brink of war with Pakistan…the fact remains that American forces have and are violating Pakistani sovereignty…the Bush administration's decision to step up attacks in Pakistan is fatally reckless, because the cross-border operations' chances of capturing or killing al Qaeda's leadership are slim. American intelligence isn't good enough for precision raids like this, Pakistan's tribal regions are a black hole that even Pakistani operatives can't enter and come back alive. Overhead, surveillance and intercepts do little good in tracking down people in a backward, rural part of the world like this…our going into Pakistan, risking a full-fledged war with a nuclear power, isn't going to stop them…Finally, there is Pakistan itself, a country that truly is on the edge of civil war. Should we be adding to the force of chaos?"

- Robert Baer, September 17, 2008
As a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, Robert Baer has many important insights to add to American foreign policy deliberation. Too bad his warnings have been systematically ignored throughout the mainstream media. The comments above, cited from Time magazine, are the only commentary I've managed to find in all of the American press that warn about the dangerous game the U.S. is playing in destabilizing Pakistan.

The Pakistani political situation has heated up with the September 21st bombing of the Islamabad Hotel, which many suspect was undertaken by radical Islamists. The massive attack, detonating over one ton of explosives, killed at least 60 civilians, injured hundreds more, and may have been intended for Pakistan's Prime Minister, President, and military leaders (who had reportedly planned to meet for dinner at the Hotel).

This attack on Pakistan's government is merely one of many that have been attempted against major officials in recent months. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a suspected Islamist attack in December of 2007, while former President Pervez Musharraf was also the target of attempted assassination. Pakistan's political leaders are caught between the terrorist attacks of Islamist forces on one side, and the increasingly cavalier bombings of the United States, which have further inflamed hostility toward Pakistani officials close to American political leaders.

In recent years, the U.S. military has increased its aggressive attacks against Pakistan. These attacks have typically led to civilian casualties, rather than to the neutralization of Al Qaeda- affiliated or Islamist terrorists. The basis for this extended, low-intensity conflict arose in January 2006, when the U.S. attempted to assassinate Al Qaeda's number two political leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in an attack on the village of Damadola on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan. The attack failed in killing Zawahiri, instead resulting in the deaths of 18 civilians. The policy of U.S. aggression was formalized in July of 2007, when the Bush administration issued a presidential order that authorized American attacks inside Pakistan without the approval of Pakistan's government.

The enunciation of the Bush administration's Pakistan position was followed by numerous attacks on alleged terrorist targets, with dire results. Various attacks in recent years using unmanned predator drones resulted in dozens of deaths, and led thousands of Pakistanis to protest the attacks as unwarranted, terrorist incursions into their sovereign territory. Recent U.S. attacks in September 2008 in the mountainous Waziristan region in Northwest Pakistan have left dozens of civilians dead, consistently failing to kill suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives.

The U.S. has long treated Pakistani leaders as if they were commanded by Washington. Following 9/11, the Bush administration threatened to bomb Pakistan "back into the Stone Age" if it did not cooperate with the war against Afghanistan. Pakistan's assistance was demanded, considering the Pakistani Secret Intelligence's (the ISI) lengthy history of working with the Taliban and radical Islamists in Afghanistan. The cooperation of Pakistani presidents Musharraf and Zardari resulted in intense skepticism on the part of the country's public, which views them as corrupt figureheads serving the United States. It's not difficult to see why considering the United State's long history of opposing democracy in Pakistan. As Time magazine aptly admits:

"For much of Pakistan's history, Washington has preferred doing business with military dictators, who don't answer to voters and, at least on the surface, seem more eager than their citizenry is to cooperate with Washington." Popular discontent has become even further entrenched in light of Islamist terrorist attacks, increased political instability, a sluggish economy, and the escalated assault from the United States.

Media reactions to U.S. attacks against Pakistan have varied tremendously depending upon the country reporting the developments. Pakistani and American media coverage differ night-and-day in their framing of the issues. Pakistan's Nation newspaper condemned a September 4th border raid by the U.S. military as an act of "tyranny" and "ruthless aggression and crude pressure" against its people. The paper condemned the U.S. for its unmanned predator drone attacks as a "violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity" – and as part of a larger "killing spree" that has been undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism.

American media coverage, conversely, is driven by a warmongering that's remarkably indifferent to the dangers involved in escalating the conflict. U.S. attacks on Pakistan inevitably carry the risk of further inciting Pakistani anger against the U.S. Such anger takes on a renewed urgency in light of widespread political and military instability, and the recent emboldening of anti-governmental Islamist forces. All of this, we should remember, is happening in a country that possesses nuclear weapons. The U.S. has attacked this nuclear power with no regard for the consequences of the possible use of Pakistan's weapons, should they fall into the hands of anti-American forces.

Don't expect to hear about many of these warnings in the U.S. press, however. If political leaders refuse to address the concerns over U.S. aggression (and they haven't), then for all practical purposes these concerns may as well not exist. Short of occasional media coverage in papers such as the New Yorker, most of the American press has been hesitant to criticize the U.S. too heavily for unwittingly evacuating Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders from Pakistan during "Operation Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan. These leaders secretly fled Afghanistan, along with Pakistani intelligence officers when they were evacuated by the U.S. in late 2001 in a plan approved by the Bush administration and promoted by former President Musharraf. Rather than focusing on this embarrassing incident, blame for Islamist forces' operations in Pakistan has been placed squarely at the feet of the Pakistani government, which is attacked for "turning a blind eye as the militants organize their insurgency" from within the country.

Star reporters such as Bob Woodward have swallowed hook-line-and-sinker government claims that targets in Pakistan may be pin-point targeted with "newly developed techniques and operations." In the New York Times, editors depict the conflict in an Orwellian fashion, framing Pakistan, rather than the U.S., as the true threat. Illegal U.S. attacks are framed innocently as a response to terrorism, with the Pakistani government's promises of reprisals against invading troops seen as "threatening" the safety of U.S. troops. There is little room under this framework for condemnations of U.S. actions as illegal. While the New York Times has tactically criticized the Bush administration attacks in Pakistan as a "desperation move," it has also lent strong support to future attacks: "If an American raid captured or killed a top Qaeda or Taliban operative, the backlash might be worth it." CIA officer Baer's warnings about the severe dangers of such attacks (and their extraordinary likelihood of failure) are unsurprisingly ignored.

A systematic review of the Washington Post's coverage of U.S.-Pakistani relations further demonstrates the tremendous levels that American propaganda has reached. A review of the paper's coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the dangers of nuclear weapons in relation to North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan reveals a troubling pattern. From June 1-September 15, 2008 (the period in which American attacks in Pakistan dramatically escalated), coverage of U.S. responsibility for increasing the danger of a nuclear conflict with Pakistan have appeared in not a single story. In contrast, over thirty stories appeared (one story every three days) regarding U.S. foreign policy and Iran's alleged threat from developing nuclear weapons. In the case of North Korea, over 55 stories appeared (one story every two days) about U.S. foreign policy and the supposed threat from North Korea.

What is most striking about the examples of North Korea and Iran is that both countries have pursued a de-escalating of tensions with the U.S., engaging in various negotiations with the U.S. and other parties over the last year over the WMD issue. Iran itself was found not even to be developing nuclear weapons by the International Atomic Energy Agency and by the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. North Korea has recently begun the long process of dismantling its nuclear weapons program, disassembling its nuclear power plant in Yongbyon (in 2007 and 2008). These stories, regardless of the de-escalation, often condemned Iran and North Korea as nuclear rogues that only disarmed because of U.S. and allied actions.

What reporting has shown up in the Washington Post on Pakistan, the U.S., and nuclear weapons places blame solely on Pakistan's leaders, leaving U.S. officials free from skepticism. Attention is devoted almost exclusively to the actions of Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, who admitted to selling nuclear technology and secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya during the 1990s. The late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is also lambasted for having allegedly smuggling information on nuclear enrichment to North Korea. No stories are found criticizing the U.S. for destabilizing Pakistan, or warning about the dire consequences of such instability for Pakistan as a nuclear power. No attention is devoted to addressing U.S. recklessness in consistently attacking another nuclear power. In short, nuclear threats from Pakistan arise only from Pakistani actions, not from those of the U.S.

The American media's opposition to printing stories that are critical of the U.S. are not unexpected. If American political elites refuse to challenge America's dangerous initiatives in Pakistan, there is little reason to expect that the media will do so on its own. American reporters have long been known for their stenographic role, faithfully reflecting the official debate in Washington, rather than independently promoting their own reasoned, critical dialogue. Such reliance on, and dissemination of, official propaganda, however, has major effects on public opinion. In a recent poll released on September 22nd, 68% percent of Americans questioned supported taking military action in Pakistan to kill terrorists and Islamist figures "even if the [Pakistani] government does not give the permission to do so." Such a commitment to imperial aggression poses major problems, for reasons discussed above. American survival in a time of terror requires that we refrain from escalating threats with other nuclear powers. Whether the public will effectively take up this challenge remains an open question in an era of media spin and official propaganda.

Anthony DiMaggio is the author of Mass Media, Mass Propaganda: Understanding American News in the “War on Terror” (2008). He teaches American Government at North Central College in Illinois, and can be reached at: adimag2@uic.edu


Anil Dawar, "Pakistani President and PM Just Missed Hotel Bomb Blast," Guardian, September 22, 2008

Tariq Ali, "The American War Moves to Pakistan," TomDispatch, 16 September 2008

Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah, "U.S. Attack on Taliban Kills 23 in Pakistan," 9 September 2008; CNN.com, "Suspected U.S. Attack Kills 13 in Pakistan," 12 September 2008.

David Usborne, "Musharraf: U.S. 'Threatened to Bomb' Pakistan," 22 September 2006,

Bobby Ghosh, "The U.S. and Democracy in Pakistan," Time, 20 August 2008,

Editorial, "Defending Sovereignty," Nation, 16 September 2008; Mazhar Qayyum Khan, "Anger at War on Terror," Nation, 16 September 2008.

Javid Husain, "Impotent Rage," Nation, 16 September 2008; "The Killing Spree," Nation.

Seymour Hersh, "The Getaway," New Yorker, 28 January 2002.

Reuters, "Pakistan Condemns 'Cowardly' U.S. Attack," 11 June 2008.

Steve Weissman, "Bob Woodward's Not-so-Secret Weapon in Iraq," Truthout, 16 September 2008.

Editorial, "Running Out of Time," New York Times, 22 September 2008.

Glenn Kessler, "Bhutto Dealt Nuclear Secrets to North Korea, Book Says," Washington Post, 1 June 2008, 16(A); Joby Warrick, "Smugglers had Design for Advanced Warhead," Washington Post, 15 June 2008, 1(A); Joby Warrick, "Nuclear Ring was More Advanced than Thought, U.N. Says," Washington Post, 13 September 2008, A11.

"New Poll Shows Americans Support Major Changes in U.S. Foreign Policy," Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, September 22, 2008.

The Romance Of Laser Weapons

Visions Of Pinpoint Control

September 26, 2008
Courtesy Of

The US Senate "has embraced last year's Defense Science Board conclusion that directed-energy weapons -- such as high-, medium- and low-power lasers -- hold great potential and should be developed as soon as possible. In the fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill, which was approved Wednesday [17 September], the Senate included additional funds for laser programs and a provision requiring Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to accelerate work that would make directed-energy weapons operational in the near future." So reports The Washington Post.

The impetus behind this push is a vision of having invincible control by being able to project destructive power instantly along lines-of-sight onto objects identified as threats or obstacles.

This vision is as old as the Perseus myth, with Medusa's petrifying death-ray vision. Just over a century ago, during the birth of modern physics and electrical technology, the vision was updated by H. G. Wells to that of a Martian heat ray (in his novel "The War Of The Worlds"). For the last 48 years, the vision has been a fantasy halo around laser technology.

What is a laser? How can it be used as a weapon? What are the major obstacles to devising laser technology for realizing the vision of petrifying control?

A laser is an electro-optical devise that emits a beam of coherent light. "Coherent" means the light is like a single wave (the phases of many wavelets are aligned into a single entity), which does not disperse (spread out, dissipate) as it propagates. Another feature of laser light is that it is monochromatic, or made up of a very narrow band of frequencies (colors). The idea of a laser weapon is to produce a very powerful beam and to rely on its speed-of-light straight-line non-dispersing propagation to deposit energy on a distant target, where it is ultimately absorbed as heat.

The physics of lasers is based on the quantum physics of atoms (and molecules) and the statistical mechanics of large ensembles of atoms or molecules as fluids (gases or liquids) or solid-state materials, like crystals. Let us describe lasing by the use of simple analogies, which are suggestive but not quantitative.

An atom is the basic unit of matter for any of the 115 chemical elements (of which only 92 occur naturally). An atom can hold energy up to a maximum amount without changing its mass or charge (without emitting electrons or undergoing nuclear fission). One could imagine an atom to be analogous to a drinking glass, and the level of water in the glass analogous to the energy it holds. This is a continuous model of energy storage in an atom, and it is wrong. Atoms store energy in discrete bundles, or quanta, and the detailed description of this phenomenon is called quantum physics. We can imagine an atom as analogous to a macroscopic vertical pole along which a series of baskets is attached, and with the spacing between baskets diminishing as the height increases. Consider these baskets being numbered upward, 1, 2, 3, etc. A ball resting in a basket indicates the quantity of energy held by the atom. Were the atom a continuous system (the glass of water) then any incremental amount of energy could be poured into it, up to "the rim." However, for our quantum basket system, energy can only be absorbed if it is delivered in a bundle that exactly matches the spacing to a higher basket above the ball, for example from #3 to #4, or from #3 to #6.

Another feature is that the atomic energy level system is dynamic. Each energy level has a unique maximum lifetime; in general, maximum lifetimes diminish with height (energy level). The ball will remain in a particular basket until:

1. the maximum lifetime for that level has elapsed, so the ball falls to a lower level and a bundle of radiation called a photon, equal to the energy drop (e.g., from #6 to #1), is emitted; this is called spontaneous decay;

2. an incident photon excites the ball up to a higher level prior to spontaneous decay;

3. an incident photon whose energy matches a downward transition (e.g., from #3 to #1) causes the ball to drop and a second photon with the same energy, phase, frequency, polarization, and direction of travel is emitted along with the first photon; this is called stimulated emission;

4. a collision with another atom (or molecule, or ion) causes the ball to drop and the energy released to be parsed into some combination of a quantum of radiation and quanta of energy absorbed by the colliding particles.
Stimulated emission is the essence of the lasing process and was incorporated into the name "laser," Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

The laser medium is an ensemble of a vast number of the atoms or molecules whose energy levels are being exploited. The statistical mechanics of this process are -- very approximately -- as follows. Because the maximum lifetimes in energy levels generally diminish as they are "higher," most atoms are found to be in low energy levels at any given instant. As particles absorb and emit photons, and collide into one another in fluid media, or continuously vibrate into each other in solid-state material, they bump each other up and down in energy level so that on average most reside in low energy levels at any given instant, and decreasing fractions of the entire population are to be found at increasingly higher energy levels. This population distribution is stable over time, even though any single atom will jump chaotically from one state to another, over its entire sequence of possible states, as energy flows into and out of that atom from instant to instant. (In this regard population distributions of quantum energy systems are dynamically egalitarian in comparison to the stagnant population distributions of wealth in our national systems.)

Lasing is accomplished in four steps: 1, pumping a population inversion; 2, creating a cavity resonator; 3, coherently amplifying a selected frequency (color) of light by avalanching a matching stimulated transition, and; 4, depopulating the lower laser level and removing waste heat from the medium. Each of these steps is described in turn.

External energy is used to impulsively excite an unnaturally large number of atoms from their typically low energy levels up to a significantly higher "upper laser level" (say, level #10). During the lifetime of this upper laser level there will be fewer atoms of lower energy at the "lower laser level" (say, level #9). This is a population inversion; it is analogous to a wealth profile in which all/most/many of the people who had been making $30K/year simultaneously win lotteries putting them at $30M/year, so that suddenly there are more people at this bracket than at, say, $10M/year. The energy to pump a population inversion is often in the form of photons from flashlamps or light-emitting diodes. For some fluid lasers, the energy can be introduced by chemical reactions, or by electric discharges freeing electrons that collide into atoms and molecules to excite them, or by the supersonic expansion of molecular gases whose rapid cooling and rarefaction stops particle collisions and allows an unnatural number of molecules to remain in a particular high energy state for its full lifetime, and thus exceed the population of some lower state.

Any population inversion has a finite lifetime, which might be quite short, and is spatially localized in a manner dependent on the medium and the pumping mechanism. A laser is designed so that the population inversion occurs within a cavity, generally a tube (real or virtual) with mirrored inside end-surfaces. The length of this cavity is carefully set so that the period of time over which a light wave bounces between the mirrors is smaller than the expected lifetime of the population inversion, or maximally, equal to it. This is a cavity resonator.

The lasing process is initiated by either the spontaneous occurrence or the intentional introduction of a small flux of photons whose frequency matches that of the desired laser de-excitation (from upper laser level to lower laser level). As these seed photons resonate between the mirrors, they stimulate an avalanche of emission from the selected laser transition. Because of the population inversion, downward transitions from the upper laser level (stimulated emission) outnumber upward transitions from the lower laser level (absorption). This avalanche occurs coherently, the phases of the emitted photons align because of the quantum physics of stimulated emission and because of their presence within the resonator. The seed wave or beam is amplified because it has absorbed the energy of the population inversion, which is destroyed in the process. The amplified, monochromatic, coherent beam can be emitted from the cavity by suddenly moving a mirror, or by allowing one of the mirrors to be partially reflecting and partially transmitting.

The final step to lasing is to return the medium to a condition where it can be reused. Whether a laser is a pulsed or continuously operating device, the population distribution of the medium must be returned to its initial state so that the pumping mechanism can produce another, or a continuing, population inversion. This means that the lower laser level must be depopulated to ensure that subsequent pumping produces a population inversion between the two laser levels. The energy held by molecules excited to the lower laser level must first be spread among even lower levels, and then removed entirely from the medium as waste heat. If this energy is not removed then the statistical mechanics of the medium (particle collisions) will push some of it back up into higher levels and work against the effort to produce a population inversion. Another detrimental effect of excess heat in the medium is that it can create pockets of varying density, which can spoil the passage of laser light through it in a manner quite similar to the "heat waves" and mirages one can see through unevenly heated air along desert terrain or hot asphalt roads. Excess heat can also crack crystalline media.

Lasing is an inefficient process, and lasers can require high precision components (mirrors, windows) in contact with energetic or corrosive environments (high ultraviolet flux, chemicals, electrical discharges, heat). Lasers require relatively large pump power supplies, and active cooling or long duty cycles; the output power of a laser is limited by its cooling needs. The reliability and robustness of a laser is limited by that of its high-precision and delicate components, usually its mirrors and windows. "Weaponizing" a laser system is an exercise of integrating all the necessary components into as compact and robust a package as possible. Obviously, this becomes more of a challenge as the laser become more powerful. We can surmise that the major obstacle to fielding lasers of the immense power desired by military planners is that their pump power supplies cannot yet be made small enough, or with sufficient energy storage capacity, to carry on small mobile platforms (tanks, trucks, patrol boats, fighter and ground attack aircraft, and individual troops).

How are lasers to be used "in combat?" Let's quote The Washington Post again, on: Lasers as anti-personnel devices,

Low-power lasers known as "dazzlers" are being used in Iraq, mounted on M-4 rifles, "to warn or temporarily incapacitate individuals," according to the Defense Science Board's report. Army, Special Forces and more recently Marine units are using them to warn or deter drivers approaching checkpoints and to "defuse potential escalation of force incidents," according to the report. Marines were given approval to use a green laser whose beam can temporarily reduce a person's vision when aimed from a distance of 1,000 yards, according to the report. These "laser optical incapacitation devices" were being procured on a case-by-case basis. Laser use remains controversial because a protocol of the Geneva Conventions bans their use in combat when they are designed to cause permanent blindness. Two years ago, when the lasers were introduced in Iraq, Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the devices were legal. "They don't blind people," he told reporters. "It's like shining a big light in your eyes," he said, adding that he did not know how long the "optical incapacitation" lasted.
Laser and electro-optical technology for spying and assassination,

A 2004 [Defense Science Board] report recommended a "Manhattan Project" approach to take "available and emerging technologies . . . to identify objects or people of interest from surveillance data and to verify a specific individual's identification." It suggested that "biometrics, tags, object recognition and identification tokens" be harnessed with sensors and databases "to overcome the shortcomings of conventional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems." Tags allow distant tracking or detection. Some tags are active, emitting radio waves that can be collected. Others are passive, including chemicals that give off a color when hit by an infrared beam. The board said these "represent a very important area for research and technology development..." A recent congressional report said Special Forces in Iraq are using newly developed "sophisticated capabilities to identify, find, track, and kill or capture high-value individuals."
Lasers as aerial ground-attack weapons,

The science board said tactical laser systems could be developed for broader use because they "enable precision ground attack to minimize collateral damage in urban conflicts." The report suggested, for example, that "future gunships could provide extended precision lethality and sensing."
Lasers as ground-to-ground and ground-to-air weapons,

The board also proposed using lasers to protect against rockets, artillery, mortars and unmanned airborne vehicles by blasting them out of the sky. Last month, the Army awarded Boeing $36 million to continue development of a high-energy laser mounted on a truck that could hit overhead targets. But deployment is not expected until 2016, even if all goes well.
Imperial impatience in realizing its vision of control,

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its report on the fiscal 2009 authorization bill, asked about the progress of lasers. "Years of investment have not resulted in any current operational high-energy laser capability," the committee noted in its report...The Senate committee was critical of the "airborne laser" program, a first-generation missile defense system. It held back $30 million from next year's budget and said funds for a second version would not be authorized until the first shoot-down test from a 747 aircraft is conducted at the end of 2009. More information is needed to determine whether the system "could eventually provide a militarily useful, operationally effective and affordable missile defense capability," the panel's report said.
It is probable that laser weapons and other military electronic and electro-optical identify-track-and-kill technology will be used to eliminate specifically targeted, usually poor, darker-skinned individuals in far-flung "low intensity" "war on terror" zones, at a cost per kill that will exceed the entire cost of sustaining that person's existence from conception, through maternal care while in utero, through family life, though education and maturation, to rebellion, to imperial inconvenience, to the moment of elimination. This is like the insanity in the homeland of sinking over $20,000/person/year for 1 percent of the population to be in prison, $60B/year. "Like many other states, California spends more on prisons than it does on higher education. Forty per cent of prisoners cannot read." I can imagine the assassinations our Special Forces and techno-warriors will carry out with GPS linked laser weapons, remotely piloted vehicles and electro-optical surveillance technology, will easily cost an order of magnitude more, hundreds of thousands of dollars per elimination, and perhaps many millions per hit if one divides the full cost of technical development and field operations across the actual number of subsequent eliminations.

Why are we planning for so many of today's homeland children to be tomorrow's convicts, by sinking money into more prisons yet refusing to sink that same money into the designated ill-fated youth: for education, for child-care, for supervised recreation, for job training, for mental health, for family support, for decent meals, for simple demonstrations of love for them? Why wait? Similarly, why are we willing to spend so much to kill off the most rebellious of foreign peasants and proletarians who oppose our imperialism, our obsession to control, when we could more easily have lifted their societies to greater prosperity, health and security with the same cost, and found ourselves surrounded by a world of friends instead of "terrorists?" Euripides wrote "whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad" (in Longfellow's rendition), and we in the US Imperium are truly mad, obsessed with our greed and lacking character, we can only run our economy as a pork barrel feeding frenzy while terrified by everything and everyone. Funding military technology and the prison industry slops many prized corporate hogs and trickles down to many grasping little constituencies, and the hard assets finally produced from these "building programs" can be thrown against the tribes of dark outsiders who frighten the "us" who have the self-bestowed right to be frightened, and thus the right to control everything in order to drape that fear with denial -- and to kill.

Manuel Garcia, Jr. is a retired physicist. E-mail = mango@idiom.com

CIA ‘Backed’ Irish Battle Against Brussels Treaty

By Nicola Smith Brussels
September 28, 2008
Courtesy Of
The Sunday Times Online

FIRST it was the sheer ingratitude of the Irish, then it was the failure of the Dublin government to mount a successful yes campaign. Now Brussels has found a new explanation as to why Ireland voted down the European Union treaty in June - a CIA and Pentagon-backed plot, devised by American neoconservatives to weaken the EU.

The European parliament wants an inquiry into whether Declan Ganley, the multi-millionaire chairman of the Libertas group that campaigned against the treaty, could be in the pockets of US defence and intelligence services.

The calls have been led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the firebrand 1968 student leader turned Green MEP, who pointed to Irish press reports that “revealed there possibly exists a link between the financiers of the no campaign in Ireland and the Pentagon as well as the CIA.

“If proved true, this would clearly show there are forces in the US willing to pay people to destabilise a strong and autonomous Europe”, he said.

Cohn-Bendit’s suspicions were backed by Hans-Gert Pöttering, president of the European parliament: “The facts must be put on the table. We cannot allow Europe to be harmed by people who demand transparency but do not provide it themselves.”

Last week the parliament’s most senior MEPs discussed the issue and urged the Irish Standards in Public Office Commission to investigate Ganley’s finances.

“The suggestion is not only wrong but ludicrous,” said a CIA spokesman.

Speculation by MEPs appears to rest on the fact that Ganley’s company Rivada Networks has telecoms contracts with the US military worth more than €200m (£159m).

He disclosed last week that he loaned €200,000 of his own money to fund the Libertas campaign against the treaty. It is not clear on what terms the loan was given or if it breached rules on political donations.

Ganley said he considered Pöttering’s remarks to be “absolutely outrageous” and insisted that neither he nor Libertas had done anything wrong.

Cohn-Bendit pointed to the right-wing Heritage Foundation in Washington as the intellectual source for the CIA’s plans to derail European unity.

His claims were dismissed by Sally McNamara, a senior EU policy analyst at the foundation. “This administration is one of the most pro-European we have seen in a long time. There is no sinister antiEU conspiracy,” she said.

Why The West Is Negotiating With The Taliban

Why The West Thinks It Is Time To Talk To The Taliban

Negotiations Have Begun In Secret With The Enemy In Afghanistan.
Jason Burke Reveals The Back Channels Of Diplomacy That Led To The Controversial Talks

By Jason Burke
Sunday September 28 2008
Courtesy Of
The Observer - Guardian

For the past few months an incongruous figure has passed through the airports of the Middle East and Europe: a senior Afghan cleric who defected from the Taliban. Bearded and in traditional dress, he has unsurprisingly needed the help of the Saudi Arabian and British intelligence services - among others - to pass unhindered between capitals.

He has always travelled in great secrecy, his movements known only to a few individuals at the highest levels of the Afghan government, in Riyadh and among certain Western allies. His mission: to talk to the Taliban leadership about a possible peace deal.

The backing given by the West to these talks is a measure of how badly things have gone wrong in Afghanistan, and how far Western governments are prepared to go to stabilise a deteriorating situation which is costing more in men, money and political capital than they ever imagined. The equally worrying situation in Pakistan, where the Taliban are largely based and where a separate but related insurgency has broken out, has given the initiative a new urgency.

That the Saudi Arabians accepted the invitation of the Afghan government to sponsor the initiative this summer is a measure of how concerned those who govern the traditionally leading nation of the Sunni Muslim world are about Afghanistan and al-Qaeda and the consequences they might have for the rest of the Islamic world and beyond. It is also a measure of the esteem in which the Saudis are still held.

This is not the first time the Saudi Arabians have brokered talks with the Taliban, and Western powers have been keen to get Riyadh more involved in Afghanistan for some time. The Saudis, along with Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, were the only states to recognise the hardline Islamic militia as rulers of Afghanistan in the Nineties. In 1998 they also nearly concluded a deal with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the reclusive leader of the Taliban, to hand over Osama bin Laden.

For the West, the sponsorship of Riyadh is essential. Western efforts to negotiate with the Taliban have rarely brought any durable positive results. The reconciliation process launched by the Afghan government has brought in about 5,000 low-level fighters and a handful of mid-level commanders, but has never had the political backing or resources that was needed for it to become a genuine means of sapping the strength of the Taliban.

But these most recent talks also show that, at the very least, some of the Taliban senior command are getting tired. 'They've been fighting for nearly seven years, living undercover, moving regularly, unable to go back to Afghanistan without risking a violent death. Despite the bellicose rhetoric and the successes of recent months, they have lost a lot of people and there is a certain degree of fatigue,' said one experienced Pakistan-based observer.

The Saudi initiative has resulted in the submission of a list of demands by the Taliban to Kabul. One problem was that those demands keep changing, said one Afghan source. A second is the question of whether any potential agreement could be made to stick.

'We could agree something with the high command that won't be put into action at a grass-roots level,' said an adviser to the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai.

The Taliban demands are also unlikely to be acceptable to the Western powers, especially the US, which have bankrolled the effort to stabilise and reconstruct Afghanistan. Hekmat Karzai, director of a think tank in Kabul, said that although discussions with the Taliban 'might not be too difficult... getting the international community on board would be extremely hard'.

Another problem would be convincing other ethnic groups in Afghanistan who suffered heavily under the Taliban regime to accept any deal.

However, there is increasing acceptance among Western officials and strategists that some kind of political accommodation to at least divide the Taliban may be inevitable. There are also question marks over to what extent Taliban factions may be manipulated by elements within the Pakistani security establishment. However, Islamabad is unlikely to oppose moves to integrate senior Taliban figures into the political process in Kabul.

Previous attempts to negotiate with the Taliban have been problematic. A controversial truce in Helmand province, where British troops are deployed, was widely criticised for handing the key town of Musa Qala back to the militants and necessitating a major operation to recapture it.

In May, the former Afghan President Burnahuddin Rabbani said he had contacted the Taliban and received 'encouraging responses'. The Taliban published a statement on their website saying they would 'fight until the withdrawal of the last crusading invader', but added that 'the door for talks, understanding and negotiations will always be open' to 'mujahideen' such as Rabbani, who fought the Russians in the Eighties.

One problem with the Saudi-sponsored talks so far is that the go-between has been unable to speak directly to Mullah Omar. However, an Afghan source described the initiative as 'a step in the right direction', whatever the result. 'Anything that might be an ice-breaker and might take us forward is welcome,' he said.

Secret Taliban Peace Bid

Saudis Are Sponsoring A Peace Dialogue Involving A Former Senior Member Of The Hardline Group

By Jason Burke in Kabul
Sunday September 28 2008
Courtesy Of
The Observer - Guardian

The Taliban have been engaged in secret talks about ending the conflict in Afghanistan in a wide-ranging 'peace process' sponsored by Saudi Arabia and supported by Britain, The Observer can reveal.

The unprecedented negotiations involve a senior former member of the hardline Islamist movement travelling between Kabul, the bases of the Taliban senior leadership in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and European capitals. Britain has provided logistic and diplomatic support for the talks - despite official statements that negotiations can be held only with Taliban who are ready to renounce, or have renounced, violence.

Sources in Afghanistan confirmed the controversial talks, though they said that in recent weeks they had 'lost momentum'. According to Afghan government officials in Kabul, the intensity of the fighting this summer has been one factor. Another is the inconsistency of the Taliban's demands.

'They keep changing what they are asking for. One day it is one thing, the next another,' one Afghan government adviser with knowledge of the negotiations said. One aim of the initiative is to drive a wedge between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Last week the French Prime Minister, François Fillon, referred indirectly to the talks during a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan. 'We must explore ways of separating the international jihadists from those who are acting more for nationalist or tribal motives. Efforts in this direction are being led by Sunni [Muslim] countries such as Saudi Arabia,' he said.

This summer's fighting season in Afghanistan has been the most violent since the invasion of 2001. The deterioration of the situation has provoked a major review of strategy among the 40-nation international coalition pitted against an increasingly confident and effective insurgency.

Although there have been low-level contacts with individual Taliban commanders at district level before, the Saudi initiative is the first attempt to talk to the Taliban leadership council based in or around the south-west Pakistan city of Quetta, known as the 'Quetta Shura'.

The talks started in the summer and have been brokered by Saudi Arabia at the invitation of the Afghan government. The go-between has spent weeks ferrying lists of demands and counter-demands between the Afghan capital, Riyadh and Quetta. He has also visited London to speak to Foreign Office and MI6 personnel. A delegation from Saudi intelligence has also visited Kabul.

The Taliban are understood to have submitted a list of 11 conditions for ending hostilities, which include demands to be allowed to run key ministries and a programmed withdrawal of western troops.

In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai's national security adviser, Zalmay Rasul, has been in charge of the negotiations. It is understood that Karzai has yet to make a formal response to the demands, leading to frustration among some western officials.

The Observer has also learnt of a separate exchange of letters in the summer between Karzai and the Taliban ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The dialogue proved fruitless.

Late last year Karzai said he would welcome the chance to speak directly to Hekmatyar and to Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's leader and one of the most wanted men in the world, promising that if the Taliban demanded a 'department in this or in that ministry or ... a position as deputy minister' in exchange for ending violence, he would give them the posts.

Previously Taliban spokesmen have said that only the departure of foreign troops, the institution of a fiercely rigorous interpretation of sharia law and a share of government would be acceptable to them as the basis for any deal.

A Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday that he had no knowledge of the 'Saudi initiative', as it is known in diplomatic circles, but that the British government 'actively supported the Afghan government's reconciliation process', which was 'part and parcel of the counter-insurgency campaign'.

In another development, The Observer has learnt that the British government is considering increasing the length of tours served by troops in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence confirmed last week that tours for senior soldiers in key command positions are set to be extended from six months to a year.

'We are looking at increasing tour lengths for a small number of headquarters posts ... with the aim of creating greater continuity in key positions,' an MoD spokesman said.

Although the MoD denied any plans to extend other service personnel's combat tours in Afghanistan, the idea of troops deployed to the area serving nine months was raised recently by the army's director of infantry, Brigadier Richard Dennis, in a speech to senior commanders.

Washington is putting pressure on Nato allies such as Britain to match American troop increases.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"I Accuse Those Jews"

I Accuse

By Carlo Strenger
Last update - 12:36 28/09/2008
Courtesy Of

On the night between September 24 and 25, it happened again. Prof. Zeev Sternhell, an internationally acclaimed political scientist and historian, recipient of this year's Israel Prize for political science, was wounded by explosives put at his doorstep. As yet, we do not know who the perpetrators were, but whoever they will turn out to be, there are those who should wonder what is their part of the responsibility for this despicable act.

I accuse those Jews, inside Israel and outside, who run websites that track "dangerous left-wing intellectuals" in Israel. They call people like Zeev Sternhell "anti-Semitic," "self-hating Jews" and "enemies of Israel."

I accuse those in the Israeli right who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to those among them who say that the law does not apply to them; to the settlers who break Israeli and international law and moral values on a daily basis, who harass Palestinians, beat them and sometimes murder them. The right-wing establishment is forgiving toward them. "Aren't they idealists? Don't they do what they do because of lofty ideals, because of the holiness of the Land of Israel?"

I accuse not only those who performed religious rituals condemning Yitzhak Rabin to death; not only those who carried posters of Rabin clad in SS uniform at demonstrations. I also accuse those who created the atmosphere that allowed for it, continued to speak at the demonstrations, and after Rabin was killed said they hadn't seen the posters.

I accuse those who claim that they - and they alone - represent Israel, its true interests and the Jewish-Israeli soul; who claim that anybody who has a different view of what is good for Israel are enemies who endanger Israel. To them applies the verse from Deuteronomy 33:9: "Who said of his father, and of his mother: 'I have not seen him;' neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew he his own children; for they have observed Thy word, and keep Thy covenant."

This verse attacks the fanaticism of the tribe of Levi, that like its mythical forefather, thought it could kill in the name of ideals that it had given absolute validity.

I accuse those who implicitly condone the acts of extremists by not saying that they are out of the question. They create the atmosphere that leads people like Yona Avrushmi and Yigal Amir to their murderous acts, and the perpetrators of last week's terror act to attack Zeev Sternhell.

Israel is a young democracy torn apart by conflicting values, by conflicting views about religion, a country that has yet to find its identity. Trenchant disputes, searching discussion and hard criticism of those on the opposing side are part and parcel of a liberal democracy.

Hate-speech that legitimizes blood-feud and rituals that condemn to death those who think differently are neither part of legitimate democratic discourse, nor part of a civilization that we want to belong to (never mind whether the prime minister or an academic who voices his views).
Let us not forget that Israel, rightly, demands of the Palestinians to stop its schools from inculcating hatred for Israel. The West, rightly, demands that Islamic authorities condemn the hate speeches of Imams who call for the extinction of Israel and conquest of the infidel world. We demand this, because we know that words create reality; injunctions to violence in the end find their ways into the hearts of fanatics who will put these words into practice.

So why should we apply a different standard to Jews who do the same thing? Why should we accept that Jews who call for violence, Jews who in the name of their ideals allow for the blood of their ideological opponents to be shed?

For too long the Israeli Right has taken a forgiving attitude toward its 'wild weeds.' For too long it has used extremists to present its own views as acceptable mainstream.

Who is Zeev Sternhell? He is a holocaust survivor who called himself a 'super-Zionist' in a recent interview; an IDF officer who fought in three of Israel's wars. Yes, he thinks that the occupation is a cancer that eats the soul of Israel; yes, he said that Palestinians should only attack Israelis who live in the West Bank and not inside the Green Line. He has said, time and again, that he is afraid Israel will not survive because of the occupation, and that he is worried for his children and grandchildren, because he wants them to be able to live in Israel. And he expressed empathy for the Palestinian struggle. That's why he was attacked.

It has happened again; I wish Professor Sternhell quick recovery and a happy New Year. But I may not be able to express such wishes to the next victim.

I accuse!
Prof. Carlo Strenger, a philosopher and psychoanalyst, teaches at the psychology department of Tel Aviv University and is a member of the Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists.

Also Of Note:

Jewish Terrorists Blamed For Sternhell Attack

Why Is A COMBAT Brigade Assigned To Homeland?

Why Is A U.S. Army Brigade Being Assigned To The "Homeland"?

(Updated Below - Update II)

By Glenn Greenwald
Wednesday Sept. 24, 2008 12:26 EDT
Courtesy Of

Several bloggers today have pointed to this obviously disturbing article from Army Times, which announces that "beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the [1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division] will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North" -- "the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities." The article details:

They'll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack. . .

The 1st BCT's soldiers also will learn how to use "the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded," 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

"It's a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they're fielding. They've been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it."

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

"I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered," said Cloutier, describing the experience as "your worst muscle cramp ever -- times 10 throughout your whole body". . . .

The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced "sea-smurf").
For more than 100 years -- since the end of the Civil War -- deployment of the U.S. military inside the U.S. has been prohibited under The Posse Comitatus Act (the only exceptions being that the National Guard and Coast Guard are exempted, and use of the military on an emergency ad hoc basis is permitted, such as what happened after Hurricane Katrina). Though there have been some erosions of this prohibition over the last several decades (most perniciously to allow the use of the military to work with law enforcement agencies in the "War on Drugs"), the bright line ban on using the U.S. military as a standing law enforcement force inside the U.S. has been more or less honored -- until now. And as the Army Times notes, once this particular brigade completes its one-year assignment, "expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one."

After Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration began openly agitating for what would be, in essence, a complete elimination of the key prohibitions of the Posse Comitatus Act in order to allow the President to deploy U.S. military forces inside the U.S. basically at will -- and, as usual, they were successful as a result of rapid bipartisan compliance with the Leader's demand (the same kind of compliance that is about to foist a bailout package on the nation). This April, 2007 article by James Bovard in The American Conservative detailed the now-familiar mechanics that led to the destruction of this particular long-standing democratic safeguard:

The Defense Authorization Act of 2006, passed on Sept. 30, empowers President George W. Bush to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist "incident," if he or other federal officials perceive a shortfall of "public order," or even in response to antiwar protests that get unruly as a result of government provocations. . . .

It only took a few paragraphs in a $500 billion, 591-page bill to raze one of the most important limits on federal power. Congress passed the Insurrection Act in 1807 to severely restrict the president's ability to deploy the military within the United States. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 tightened these restrictions, imposing a two-year prison sentence on anyone who used the military within the U.S. without the express permission of Congress. But there is a loophole: Posse Comitatus is waived if the president invokes the Insurrection Act.

Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 changed the name of the key provision in the statute book from "Insurrection Act" to "Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act."

The Insurrection Act of 1807 stated that the president could deploy troops within the United States only "to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy." The new law expands the list to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition" -- and such "condition" is not defined or limited. . . .

The story of how Section 1076 became law vivifies how expanding government power is almost always the correct answer in Washington. Some people have claimed the provision was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night. In reality, the administration clearly signaled its intent and almost no one in the media or Congress tried to stop it . . . .

Section 1076 was supported by both conservatives and liberals. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, co-wrote the provision along with committee chairman Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). Sen. Ted Kennedy openly endorsed it, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), then-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was an avid proponent. . . .

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned on Sept. 19 that "we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law," but his alarm got no response. Ten days later, he commented in the Congressional Record: "Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy." Leahy further condemned the process, declaring that it "was just slipped in the defense bill as a rider with little study. Other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals."
As is typical, very few members of the media even mentioned any of this, let alone discussed it (and I failed to give this the attention it deserved at the time), but Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein wrote an excellent article at the time detailing the process and noted that "despite such a radical turn, the new law garnered little dissent, or even attention, on the Hill." Stein also noted that while "the blogosphere, of course, was all over it . . . a search of The Washington Post and New York Times archives, using the terms 'Insurrection Act,' 'martial law' and 'Congress,' came up empty."

Bovard and Stein both noted that every Governor -- including Republicans -- joined in Leahy's objections, as they perceived it as a threat from the Federal Government to what has long been the role of the National Guard. But those concerns were easily brushed aside by the bipartisan majorities in Congress, eager -- as always -- to grant the President this radical new power.

The decision this month to permanently deploy a U.S. Army brigade inside the U.S. for purely domestic law enforcement purposes is the fruit of the Congressional elimination of the long-standing prohibitions in Posse Comitatus (although there are credible signs that even before Congress acted, the Bush administration secretly decided it possessed the inherent power to violate the Act). It shouldn't take any efforts to explain why the permanent deployment of the U.S. military inside American cities, acting as the President's police force, is so disturbing. Bovard:

"Martial law" is a euphemism for military dictatorship. When foreign democracies are overthrown and a junta establishes martial law, Americans usually recognize that a fundamental change has occurred. . . . Section 1076 is Enabling Act-type legislation—something that purports to preserve law-and-order while formally empowering the president to rule by decree.
The historic importance of the Posse Comitatus prohibition was also well-analyzed here.

As the recent militarization of St. Paul during the GOP Convention made abundantly clear, our actual police forces are already quite militarized. Still, what possible rationale is there for permanently deploying the U.S. Army inside the United States -- under the command of the President -- for any purpose, let alone things such as "crowd control," other traditional law enforcement functions, and a seemingly unlimited array of other uses at the President's sole discretion? And where are all of the stalwart right-wing "small government conservatives" who spent the 1990s so vocally opposing every aspect of the growing federal police force? And would it be possible to get some explanation from the Government about what the rationale is for this unprecedented domestic military deployment (at least unprecedented since the Civil War), and why it is being undertaken now?

UPDATE: As this commenter notes, the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act somewhat limited the scope of the powers granted by the 2007 Act detailed above (mostly to address constitutional concerns by limiting the President's powers to deploy the military to suppress disorder that threatens constitutional rights), but President Bush, when signing that 2008 Act into law, issued a signing statement which, though vague, seems to declare that he does not recognize those new limitations.

UPDATE II: There's no need to start manufacturing all sorts of scare scenarios about Bush canceling elections or the imminent declaration of martial law or anything of that sort. None of that is going to happen with a single brigade and it's unlikely in the extreme that they'd be announcing these deployments if they had activated any such plans. The point is that the deployment is a very dangerous precedent, quite possibly illegal, and a radical abandonment of an important democratic safeguard. As always with first steps of this sort, the danger lies in how the power can be abused in the future.

Army COMBAT Brigade For U.S. DOMESTIC Ops



Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations (martial law coming after economic collapse and/or coming attack on Iran?)

Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency.

The 3rd Infantry Divisions 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations.

The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command.

The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control.

The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.

From the Army Times:

3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping ‘people at home’ may become a permanent part of the active Army
..."It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it."
The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

Also: Army Training for Homeland Duties Set to Begin

More background info on the 3rd Infantry Division.

Muslim View On American Markets Meltdown

The Wall Street has noticed that Shariah-compliant investments - which avoid speculative risk and debt-ridden greed- -have fared much better in these troubled markets. In the past few years, Shariah-compliant investments in Western markets have grown to more than half a trillion dollars.
By Ali Khan.
First Published 2008-09-27
Courtesy Of

Call it the consequences of irresponsible American invasions, call it the irrational exuberance of short sellers, call it the catastrophe of subprime lending, call it the mismanagement of leveraged products, blame it as you may, American markets are facing unprecedented meltdown and doomsayers see little promise in the federal bailout package. Ironically, the Wall Street has noticed that Shariah-compliant investments--which avoid speculative risk and debt-ridden greed--have fared much better in these troubled markets. In the past few years, Shariah-compliant investments in Western markets have grown to more than half a trillion dollars.

Islamic financing is attracting huge academic curiosity. Many experts participating in the 8th Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance held this past April wondered if Islamic financing could have prevented the meltdown that American markets are facing primarily due to mortgage debt and mortgage-backed securities—now known as "toxic investments." This legal commentary highlights the two fundamental principles of Islamic financing that I presented at the Forum.

High Risk Investments

The Quran prohibits al-Maysir or speculative risk, warning the faithful to avoid games of chance in which the probability of loss in is much higher than the probability of gain (2:219). Shariah-compliant investments, therefore, avoid speculative risk, including interest rate options, naked equity options, futures, derivative and numerous leveraged products purportedly designed to hedge investments. Many of these financial products attract speculators in hopes of making quick money. When trusted fund managers, under institutional pressures to show profit, resort to speculative risk, hedge investments turn into suicidal strategies for financial destruction.

In pursuit of greed and thrill, straightforward investments in companies engaged in socially useful activity has become unattractive, even boring, because of their presumably lower rate of return—frequently a self-fulfilling prophecy. Billions of dollars are dumped into companies that promise huge profits but produce nothing. While Islam would allow risking investments in socially beneficial research projects, it prohibits investments in companies peddling alcohol, tobacco, pornography, debt, and weapons—products that undermine our health and safety.

Some investment strategies rampant in the markets are not only morally corrupt but socially harmful. Short sellers, for example, make money when companies collapse and close. Turning the conventional logic of investment on its head, short sellers wish companies to crash rather than prosper for they make most money when companies go bankrupt, workers and employees lose jobs, and pension funds evaporate through declining company stock. Such cynical investments, touted as useful forces that balance the market, are contrary to Islamic law.

Interest-Bearing Debt

In addition to prohibiting high risk investments, the Quran also prohibits no risk investments. The prohibition against riba, interest on loans, is strictly forbidden. Islam does not prohibit passive investments. Nor does it prohibit giving interest-free loans. Debt is not contrary to Islamic law. Charging interest is. Although some experts argue that usury, and not interest, is prohibited under Islamic law. Most Muslim scholars agree, however, that interest on loans is contrary to the Shariah.

Refuting arguments that money has time value or that interest is analogous to profit, the Quran offers a categorical principle that “trade is permitted but interest is not.” (2:275). The prohibition against interest was revealed not only to save the poor from unscrupulous lenders but also to deter investors who demand a set return on their investments and decline to take the risk of engaging in useful trade.

Contrary to Islamic principles, lending in general and subprime lending in particular was predestined to harm American financial markets for two distinct reasons. First, debt braced with high interest was being extended to persons who simply could not afford to pay back loans. This was usury. Second, the real estate mortgage was no longer a prudent investment decision, since numerous investors were trading in real estate with inflated prices. Investment bankers and other geniuses on Wall Street were securitizing mortgage debts, turning them into interest-bearing securities. These fancy securities began to fail when their underlying assets were foreclosed or deflated. The debt turned deadly and its holders bankrupt.

Shared Destruction

Between the prohibited limits of maysir (speculative risk) and riba (no risk), however, Islamic Law permits creativity in financial markets where investors mobilize surplus monies for the production and distribution of halal (Kosher) goods and services. These permissible markets are neither risk-free nor prone to irresponsible risk. Though innovative and authentic, the markets are infused with the values of fairness, transparency, and reasonable profits. They are free of predatory practices that corrupt transactions with greed and inflict hardship on the poor, the elderly, and the novice.

The federal bailout package that the Bush Administration is selling as a quick cure of all problems will only aggravate the underlying cancer of interest-bearing debt. It is unlikely that the infusion of more money will reform institutions and companies built on layers of interest-bearing debt. When the best and the brightest are engrossed in finding ways to make money with money, and no more, the system may look creative and intelligent but it is geared toward shared destruction.
Ali Khan is Professor of Law at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

American Economic Terrorism: Love It Or Leave It!

The choice for Congress is clear: accede to the wishes of a greed-infested and corrupt Wall Street or let the present system implode and set up a new, regulated system, in its place.
By Ben Tanosborn.
First Published 2008-09-26,
Last Updated 2008-09-26 11:53:19
Courtesy Of

How many times have those of us of the non-conformist breed been told… if you don’t love America as it is, why don’t you leave it?! Well, let me turn the tables in a different way… why don’t most of us become true patriots, instead of ugly jingoes, and say no to economic terrorism as it is being perpetrated in the United States? Not just say love it or leave it; but instead, reform this predatory capitalism under whose thumb we exist.

Bail out of Wall Street? Are we nuts? Is this Bush’s final chapter of “Fear for America”?

The choice for Congress is clear: accede to the wishes of a greed-infested and corrupt Wall Street or let the present system implode and set up a new, regulated system, in its place. A trillion dollar oxygen tank will only make the clean-up later more difficult, and probably ensure capitalism’s demise; maybe next year, perhaps five years from now.

As dire as the consequences may be in the short term, they are much more preferable to the no-cure cure which is being offered by both a dishonest Fed, which knowingly allowed the bubble to grow without sounding the appropriate alert, and an inept – and definitely unscrupulous – administration, the most “anti-people” government this nation has ever known. Bush, Paulson and Greenspan II (Bernanke) are as trustworthy as the progeny engendered by the village idiot and the Main Street whore.

Congress must not get caught in the trap of passing unwarranted regressive legislation just because of some changes, compromise masking the problem; or to accommodate a few special interests, even if some of those changes appear as just and punitive (such as forcing compensation limits for CEO’s of bailed-out firms)… or be helpful to the lower rungs in the economic ladder, such as people who bought houses they couldn’t afford.

If legislators are scared into believing that we have a do or die situation, that Wall Street (its financial sector) cannot be allowed to collapse, may God save us from their idiocy. If Main Street needs credit to keep the economy going, one does not need to be a genius, or much of an innovator, to know that a parallel banking system for passing on funds to the non-toxic, smaller banks can be created in a short time. Let all the corrupt financial houses, and their worthless derivate excrement, go under! If the Oracle has great faith that Goldman is worthy enough to bring good profits to his five billion dollar investment, without taxpayers’ help, good for Warren Buffett… more power to him! Personally I think he is counting on the bailout, or he wouldn’t be investing a red cent.

No, it isn’t Main Street that our elite are thinking about; it is saving the system in its present state, or close to it; save the predatory capitalist system, and not just save face. The fishing nets must be kept in good repair! A great system to impoverish the lil’ guy!

After a quarter of a century of economic terrorism initiated by Reagan Bin Laden, we would be fools not to admit that such terrorism is far worse than that brought about by Osama’s jihadist response to our insane foreign policy in the Middle East.

American economic terrorism… wouldn’t we be better off by burying it once and for all? The choice for Congress is clear: regulate a predatory capitalism which is out of control or let it perish on its own. Capitalism, at least as practiced in these United States, has shown us little virtue and much vice at the top corporate echelons. It’s not a few apples that are rotten, the entire barrel is! It’s the system, stupid! And the status of our present economy is just the result.

True fiscal conservatives repudiate a bailout for Wall Street just as much as the true progressive left does, or even the populist sentiment. We need to let the house of cards fall as a new system is built, one that people can believe in... with the appropriate safeguards to keep greed in check. And as we design and put a system in place, simultaneously, we need to create and empower a prosecutorial office to bring to justice the criminals principally responsible for this utter economic disaster.

No, not the penny ante greedy crooks in housing: Realtors, mortgage brokers, appraisers, title companies, house flippers or greedy homeowners. A proper capital gains tax system would have taken care of that. [I proposed one some years ago based on how long property was held so as to curb excessive speculation in residential housing.] No, those that need to be prosecuted are the government policy-makers, the Fed Board of Governors and the Wall Street patrons to “creative financing.”

As George W. Bush appeared last night on television to sell the American public on the corporate bailout, one couldn’t help but see the greatest irony of all: Here is the greatest economic terrorist in the world since Reagan, calling Americans idiots; just as he did prior to the invasion of Iraq, using good old reliable fear-mongering. Congress bought into that fear in 2002… will it be fooled by another dosage of fear six years later?
© 2008 Ben Tanosborn


Sunday, September 28, 2008

"How Major U.S. Neo-Imperialist Wars End"

By Robert Higgs
Courtesy Of

On June 6, 2008, Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, author of Crisis and Leviathan and Neither Liberty nor Safety, and editor of The Independent Review, delivered the following speech,

"How Major U.S. Neo-imperialist Wars End," to the second Future of Freedom Foundation conference, "Restoring the Republic," held in Reston, Virginia.

What must be done to make those in power believe that their interests are best served by stopping the killing?

"ONLY Flag In My Office" Is ISRAELI

Palin: 'Only Flag in My Office' Is Israeli

By Staff Reporter of the Sun
September 26, 2008
Courtesy Of
The New York Sun

President Peres of Israel yesterday met for the first time with Governor Palin and with Senator McCain, who called the veteran Israeli statesman "my old friend." The warm handshake and exchange of broad smiles occurred during an international gathering known as the Clinton Global Initiative, hosted by President Clinton. "I wanted to meet you for many years," Ms. Palin told Mr. Peres, according to an aide to the president. "The only flag at my office is an Israeli flag," she was quoted as saying, "and I want you to know and I want Israelis to know that I am a friend."

US Deploys Radar, Troops To Israel

EuCom Deploys Radar, Troops To Israel

By Gayle S. Putrich - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Sep 27, 2008 7:18:28 EDT
Courtesy Of The

U.S. European Command has deployed to Israel a high-powered X-band radar and the supporting people and equipment needed for coordinated defense against Iranian missile attack, marking the first permanent U.S. military presence on Israeli soil.

More than a dozen aircraft, including C-5s and C-17s, helped with the Sept. 21 delivery of the AN/TPY-2 Transportable Radar Surveillance/Forward Based X-band Transportable, its ancillary components and some 120 EuCom personnel to Israel’s Nevatim Air Base southeast of Beersheba, said sources here and in Stuttgart, Germany.

Among the U.S. personnel is at least one representative from the Missile Defense Agency, although officials said the agency had little to no say in the deployment decision. MDA involvement has been confined to providing equipment and advice on technical aspects of its deployment, one official said.

The Raytheon-built FBX-T system is the same phased-array radar that was deployed to northern Japan with the U.S. Pacific Air Forces in 2006. The high-powered, high-frequency, transportable X-band radar is designed to detect and track ballistic missiles soon after launch.

Its ancillary gear included cooling systems, generators, perimeter defense weaponry, logistics supplies and dozens of technicians, maintenance specialists and security forces to operate and defend the U.S. installation.

EuCom has repeatedly deployed troops and Patriot air defense batteries for joint exercises and Iraq-related wartime contingencies but has never before permanently deployed troops on Israeli soil.

A EuCom spokesman declined to comment. MDA officials referred to the U.S. State Department, which did not provide comment Friday.

An Israeli military spokesman said the Israel Defense Forces enjoys long-standing strategic cooperation with all branches of the U.S. military.

“This cooperation is varied and comes in multiple forms, and it is not our practice to discuss details of our bilateral activities,” he said.

Nevertheless, in previous interviews, U.S. and Israeli officials confirmed that the X-band deployment plan was approved in July, first by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi; and then by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Shaving Minutes From Reaction Time

The radar will be linked to the U.S. Joint Tactical Ground Station, which receives and processes threat data transmitted by U.S. Defense Support System satellites. According to U.S. and Israeli sources, JTAGS will remain in Europe, but its essential cueing data will stream into the forward-deployed X-band radar, where it instantaneously shares information with Israel’s Arrow Weapon System.

Once operational, the combined U.S. and Israeli system is expected to double or even triple the range at which Israel can detect, track and ultimately intercept Iranian missiles, according to Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the MDA.

During a visit to Israel in early August, Obering said the X-Band radar could add precious minutes to the time in which Israel has to respond to incoming missile attacks.

“The missile threat from Iran is very real, and we must stay ahead of the threat ... that’s why we’re working so hard with all our allies to put the most optimized, effective, anti-missile capabilities in place,” Obering said.

“In the context of Israel, if we can take the radar out here and tie it into the Arrow Weapon System, they’ll be able to launch that interceptor way before they could with an autonomous system,” he added.

Brig. Gen. Ilan Biton of the Israel Air Force reserves, a former commander of the nation’s air defense forces, could not comment on the latest developments associated with the X-band radar.

However, he said that an IAF air defense brigade established during his 2003-06 tenure has continuously demonstrated its ability to interoperate well with American forces.

“We advanced tremendously on multiple levels and have developed very impressive cooperation,” Biton said at a Sept. 22 conference in Herzliya. Referring to bilateral Juniper Cobra air defense exercises and the 2003 deployment of Patriot batteries prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Biton noted, “At the human level, we’ve developed a common language and at the technical level, we’ve put in place the interfaces that allow our systems to speak to one another.”

The end result, according to Biton, is a combined ability “to manage battles, execute debriefs and implement corrections, all in real time.”

Twin Messages

As U.S. public affairs officers last week debated whether to publicly disclose the Israel deployment, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, continued to defend his country’s nuclear enrichment and missile development program.

“Iran’s [nuclear] activities are peaceful,” Ahmadinejad said Sept. 23, adding that in Israel, “the Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse.”

A U.S. government source said the X-band deployment and other bilateral alliance-bolstering activities send parallel messages: “First, we want to put Iran on notice that we’re bolstering our capabilities throughout the region, and especially in Israel. But just as important, we’re telling the Israelis, ‘Calm down; behave. We’re doing all we can to stand by your side and strengthen defenses, because at this time, we don’t want you rushing into the military option.’”

But in Israel, frustration is mounting at what is roundly perceived as a lack of international resolve to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons drive. At a Sept. 21 meeting of the Israeli Cabinet, an Israeli military intelligence officer reported that Iran is accelerating the pace at which it enriches uranium, and that Tehran already possesses possibly half of the fissionable material needed to produce its first nuclear warhead.

Reflecting Israeli concern about the ineffectiveness of sanctions against Tehran, Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence’s research department, reported, “The international front against Iran is weak and not consolidated, and isn’t putting enough pressure on the regime to stop enriching uranium.”

According to selected excerpts from the briefing released by the Israeli prime minister’s office, Baidatz warned that Iran is “galloping toward a nuclear bomb.”

“The sanctions have very little influence and are far from bringing to bear a critical mass of pressure on Iran,” he added.
Vago Muradian contributed to this report from Washington, Barbara Opall-Rome from Tel Aviv.

Deconstructing Shimon Peres

For the last 60 years, Israelis have been killing Palestinians in the name of Jewish suffering. Consequently, Israelis are regarded by many as the ‘Nazis of our time’.
By Gilad Atzmon.
First Published 2008-09-26,
Last Updated 2008-09-26 23:50:06
Courtesy Of

Truth must be said, I do admire fierce President Ahmadinejad almost as much as I despise war criminal Shimon Peres.

However reading the rant Peres gave Wednesday during the UN’s General Assembly is a rather amusing experience. The man who has more blood on his hands than any living Israeli politician was rather daring.

“The Iranian people are not our enemies,” declares Peres. This is a pretty interesting statement, bearing in mind that Israeli Minister Mofaz threatens to nuke Iran on a daily basis. “Their leader (Ahmadinejad) is a danger to his people, the region and the world.” Again, a very bold statement considering the established statistical fact that the vast majority of Europeans actually see Israel and the USA as the leading threat to world peace.

But Peres wouldn’t stop just there. Peres, the Yiddishe Mullah, knows what Islam is all about:

“He (Ahmadinejad) is a disgrace to the ancient Iranian people. He is a disgrace to the values of Islam.”

But it isn’t just Islam’s values Peres specializes in. He also knows better than the assembly of nations what is good and what is bad. This allows him to decide what the UN is all about and who should be allowed to speak on its platform. “He (Ahmadinejad) is a disgrace to this very house, the United Nations, its basic principles and values. His appearance here is already a shame.”

Whether Peres was himself successful in addressing the nations is a question that will be left to historians and analysts, however, he himself wasn’t totally convinced by his own shallow arguments. Thus he ended up employing the most tedious overused Hasbara propaganda.

The last Zionist weapon of mind destruction is there to be launched, the Shoah and its denial:

“Their despicable denial of the holocaust is a mockery of indisputable evidence, a cynical offense to survivors of the horror. Contradictory to the resolutions adopted by this assembly.”

For the last 60 years, Israelis have been killing Palestinians in the name of Jewish suffering. Consequently, Israelis are regarded by many as the ‘Nazis of our time’. In other words, his present sinister ugliness is far more concerning for all of us than the Nazi crimes that happened 65 years ago.

“Iran,” he says “continues to develop enriched uranium and long range missiles. They introduce a religion of fear, opposing the call of the Lord in respect of life.”

Wasn’t it Peres himself who launched the Israeli nuclear project? Wasn’t it Peres who introduced the entire region to the nuclear threat? Peres is no doubt a disgrace to human intelligence. No wonder the Israelis themselves never voted for him in his entire political career.

However, once he starts to spread Israeli Hasbara lies, no one can really stop him:

“Iranian support for Hezbullah divided Lebanon. Its support for Hamas split the Palestinians and postpones the establishment of the Palestinian State.”

I was always sure that Israel loves to see the Arabs divided, was I wrong? And if Iran indeed divides Lebanon and the Palestinians Peres should really support Iran, am I wrong again? Peres is obviously lying.

Peres should never be worried about the Palestinian people being split. As split as they may look, they are far from being divided. They all see the victory at the end of the dark Zionist tunnel!
Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of two novels: A Guide to the Perplexed and My One and Only Love. Atzmon is also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. His CD, Exile, was named the year's best jazz CD by the BBC. He now lives in London and can be reached through his website: gilad.co.uk.