Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 31, 2008

OT 08-06

News? Views?

Let us know ...

Posted by b on January 31, 2008 at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (95)

Winograd Report

The Winograd report on Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon is largely a whitewash for Olmert and the Israeli military. His government may survive after all.

But what did the writers think of when they wrote in the report's summary:

we regard the 2nd Lebanon war as a serious missed opportunity

A missed opportunity to do what? The report doesn't explain.

But it is quite truthful on who started the war:

Israel initiated a long war ...
...
... it was a limited war initiated by Israel itself

The report also states that the use of cluster bombs does not conform to international law.

But it does not recommend any punishment for those who ordered and committed the crime of dropping these. As UN mine clearance officials report, Israel is still withholding where such bombs were dropped.

Since the end of the war, over 30 Lebanese have been killed and over 200 injured, many permanently disabled from the loss of a limb after accidentally triggering an unexploded bomblet.

For the farmers in south Lebanon the war is still going on.

Posted by b on January 31, 2008 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

January 30, 2008

Edwards Throws The Towel

John Edwards to quit presidential race

The choice is now between Skyllarry Clinton and Baracharybdis Obama.

Posted by b on January 30, 2008 at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

On JFK

by Malooga
lifted from a comment

As the popular chestnut, often attributed to Emma Goldman, goes, "If voting could change anything, they would have made it illegal."

Kudos to r'giap, b real, and monolycus for rescuing this conversation from the cob-webbed corridors of the Camelot Memorial Hair Salon For Upper Class White Men.

While candidates like TR and Wilson were the first to employ modern propaganda techniques in a national candidacy, and Harding was the first to appear on mass media, Kennedy took image manipulation techniques to a new level. After the buck-stopping, bomb-dropping haberdasher from Kansas City and poor Bess, and the avuncular General assassin and dowdy Mamie, the media, particularly the newest media, TV, were positively starving for a way to increase their ratings. One could argue that the media sold itself (to advertisers) during the campaign of 1960, as much as Kennedy sold himself to the public, and that Kennedy was the perfect acutrement to enhance and clinch that sale.

Kennedy was ever-aware of the importance of image. (November's Vanity Fair carries reprints of the famous Avedon pre-inaugural photos of the publicly loving and glamorous family.) Kennedy, at 43, cut a fine figure despite the fact that he clearly looked gravely ill and ten years beyond the sticker date, and Jackie, at a mere 31 (imagine!), was more interested in veneer than machivellian machinations. If today the media talks about which candidate you would rather have a beer with, back then the electorate, male and female, secretly thought (and voted) for the candidate they would rather end up in the sack with. And with poverty rates hovering at 22.5% in 1960, perhaps a little fantasy was just what the ruling elite needed to burnish the charade for those who had not benefitted from the US's unparalleled post-war economic expansion.

(Even the doting VF article is bold enough to note that "given Kennedy's history of womanizing, was this -- the photo shoot -- also a way to insulate himself from public speculation?) Slick Willie should have paid better attention. Discussions of morals aside, Kennedy's endless womanizing, particularly with mob women, put himself at extraordinary risk of blackmail.

Looking back on Camelot, one finds the issues, the spectacle, the challenges, and the image projected, remarkably relevant to today.

Yes, as noted, the Kennedy's were a family a fascist thugs. Joe P. was a Nazi sympathizer, as most of corporate America was in those days right after the attempted US fascist coup was thwarted by Smedley Butler; but more to the point the entire family was close as crack with Senator McCarthy, who, of course, was Bobby's original mentor. But, it is well to remember that in the spectacle of politics, for the ruling elite, labels like conservative and liberal, are no more than clothing to be fitted to the candidate so that they should cut an appropriate sharp image, and to be discarded when no longer necessary. In any event, the Kennedy's, even then, with Joe's bootlegging, were small peanuts compared to the Bush crime clan, who as the actual bankers, along with Harriman, to Thyssen, the industrial muscle and money behind Hitler, tried to rip off their European shareholders when the German war effort went south -- a fitting start to an unparalleled stretch of financial chicanery. And the Kennedy's did put on the cloak of aristocratic social service that the Bush's never even bothered to pay lip service to. (The current generation -- Joe, Robert Jr. -- is pretty convincing, too.)

I remember a Time magazine cover in 1962, portraying the three brothers, with the dates of their respective eight year Presidencies encompassing an unbroken span, a 24 year Golden Era for America. It seemed so inevitable at that point in time... Well, Peter Phillips of Project Censored says that no more than 500 people rule the country, and hence, the world. Joe P. might have thought that he was one of them, but it seems like he was more like a number 6 or 700, a mere parvenue, and not to be welcomed to the feted table.

I was 6 1/2 at the time of the assassination, and like all others of my generation I still remember the defining day vividly. It was a grey, windy November afternoon in NYC, and I was playing on my fromt lawn with a friend. I saw the father across the street come home from work early and he was crying. I had never seen an adult cry before. He looked at me and said, "The President's been killed. Go home now!" I saw a lot of adults cry the next few days, and I remember being very scared that we had no one to run the country, and what would happen? At that point in time, I could not yet distinguished between the puppet and the puppeteer, nor had I learned to see and follow the almost invisible strings.

Yes, I too remember the unprecedented State funeral: long, slow, and oh-so-solemn, the close-ups of the family, and every footfall and teardrop dramatically revealed to us by the empathic camera eye of the media, who had not yet aquired the ill-manners of chattering and analyzing incessantly. But when I think back upon those events now, I think immmediately of 9/11. For even the day after the asassination, the storyline we were being fed had begun to stink worse than week-old fish -- and all of the adults I knew, knew it. That funeral provided the narrative which guided and beguiled the public, as surely as the instant attribution to Usama (in those days), and the miraculous identification of the nineteen hijackers less than 24 hours after the WTC was hit did for our generation.

Why he was killed and by who, I cannot say for sure. I have read the claims that he had signed an Executive Order empowering the government to print its own money, and taking the power away from the Fed. Whether that is a canard, or not, I cannot say. I can say is that he who controls the money supply, surely controls everything else.

In any event, if one dispenses with commentary on hairstyles and lifestyles, and examines the actual record, one finds, as Chomsky points out, a remarkable continuity of policy between our regnates. As George Kennan wrote in a Policy Planning Study of 1948, "We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth but only 6.3 percent of its population. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity."

That has always been the task -- to this day -- and analyzing whether a Presidency is "sucessful" or not, one must identify just who it was successful for: Cui bono.

It wasn't until 1969 that Isiah Berlin delivered his influential lecture, "Two Concepts of Liberty," but as noted in comments above, Kennedy's inaugural dictum, "Think not what your country..." was as clear an enunciation of the concept of positive liberty as could be, and despite Adam Curtis's adomitions in "The Trap," Berlin felt that such expressions always gave rise to abuses of power. A few short years later, those forced to go to Indochine found the once heroic exhortation bitter "draft" to swallow indeed. And of course, Neo-Conservatism can find no more direct expression: Look not to government to solve your problems, but you, yourself, are obligated to serve the state. Nothing noble there for me. Additionally, in his inaugural address, Kennedy made the ambitious pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty." In other words, we refuse to take any military option off the table in the pursuit of what we call free-trade (liberty) for our corporations. Sounds positively Obamaesque!

Kennedy -- the sixties, really -- represented the high point of American hegemony: The government was able to ease up the yoke on the governed a little. Kennedy, anxious to deflect attention from his Catholicism, and other divisive cultural issues, promoted a new concept: Government, not by craven ideologues, but by technocrats, "The best and the brightest," a government we can all agree with. Nixon countered by developing his "Southern Strategy" and forever altering the course of American electioneering, where irrelevant "wedge" issues would hold center stage, allowing the South to return to its traditional role of selector of the Chief Executive.

In any event, we soon found out how nice it was not having ideologues in office: instead we got Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara, men any bombardier could agree with. And of course that stuck-up bow-tied Harvard prig, Schlesinger, who never found an imperialism that he couldn't critique, couldn't execute better. What a loveable gang of murderers!

Well, let's go to the record:

Foreign affairs: If one attempts to argue that there was a slight lull in imperial adventures, one must concede that it is only because his predecessor had been so thorough in the preceeding year: Lebanon (Same as it ever was), Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, and the canal zone, too. Nevertheless, Kennedy did not shy away from American adventurism, either. In addition to the case of Cuba, which we are all familiar with and hence does not bear repeating, there is Brazil, where in 1962 the CIA engaged in campaign to keep João Goulart from achieving control of Congress, leading to a full blown coup, and the beginning of the miltary dictators' reign of terror in South America in 1964. In 1963, a CIA-backed coup overthrew elected social democrat Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic, and a far-right-wing coup in Guatemala, apparently U.S.-supported, forestalled elections in which "extreme leftist" Juan José Arévalo was favored to win. Also in 1963, CIA backed the military overthrow of President Jose Maria Valesco Ibarra in Ecuador. (Got to keep the backyard in shape!) Oh yes, and then there was British Guiana/Guyana where as William Blum reminds us, "Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths to prevent a democratically elected leader from occupying his office. Cheddi Jagan was another Third World leader who tried to remain neutral and independent. He was elected three times. Although a leftist -- more so than Sukarno or Arbenz -- his policies in office were not revolutionary. But he was still a marked man, for he represented Washington's greatest fear: building a society that might be a successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model. Using a wide variety of tactics -- from general strikes and disinformation to terrorism and British legalisms, the U.S. and Britain finally forced Jagan out in 1964. John F. Kennedy had given a direct order for his ouster, as, presumably, had Eisenhower. One of the better-off countries in the region under Jagan, Guyana, by the 1980s, was one of the poorest. Its principal export became people." So much for our own hemisphere.

In Africa there was the 1960-65 destabilization and rape of Congo/Zaire, the Eisenhower ordered 1961 assassination of Patrice Lumumba resulting in several more years of US-supported civil conflict and chaos, leading to the rise to power of kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko, a man not a stranger to the CIA.

On the other side of the world there was the 1962 CIA-backed military coup in Laos resulting finally in a negotiated settlement between the pro-Western government of Laos and the Pathet Lao communist movement, the destabilization of Cambodia, The Third Marine Expeditionary Unit landing with 5,000 troops in Thailand on May 17, 1962 to support that country during the "threat of Communist pressure from outside," and of course, Vietnam.

Kennedy was determined to 'draw a line in the sand' and prevent a communist victory in Vietnam saying to James Reston of the New York Times, "Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place." There, Kennedy increased the number of U.S. military advisers from 800 to 16,300 to cope with rising guerrilla activity. The advisers were embedded at every level of the South Vietnamese armed forces. The Kennedy administration sought to refocus U.S. efforts on pacification (now called counter-insurgency) and "winning over the hearts and minds" of the population. The Strategic Hamlet Program had been initiated in 1961. This joint U.S.-South Vietnamese program attempted to resettle the rural population into fortified camps (ethnic cleansing and ghettos). The aim was to isolate the population from the insurgents (sic), and strengthen the government's hold over the countryside. The Strategic Hamlets, however, were quickly infiltrated by the guerrillas. The peasants resented being uprooted from their ancestral villages (who knew?). The government refused to undertake land reform, which left farmers paying high rents to a few wealthy landlords (that's called free enterprise). Corruption dogged the program and intensified opposition. It seems that, despite his dying before Johnson's full-blown escalation, Kennedy, in Vietnam, was at least able to "make our power credible," a fact the Vietnamese were unable to ignore, and doubtless endeared him to them. During the summer of 1963 U.S. officials began discussing the possibility of a regime change. President Diem was overthrown and executed, along with his brother, on November 2, 1963, less than three weeks before Kennedy himself (what goes around...). South Vietnam entered a period of extreme political instability, as one military government toppled another in quick succession. Increasingly, each new regime was viewed as a puppet of the Americans. Quite a record of accomplishment!

In the Middle East, the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine declared that the United States was "prepared to use armed forces to assist" any Middle Eastern country "requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism." U.S. officials feared that the new Iraqi regime might reassert its historical claim on Kuwait (sound familiar?), a tiny country created by British fiat in order to prevent any larger state from controlling what was then the biggest oil-producing area in the Gulf. A memorandum based on an emergency meeting between Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Nathan Twining, and CIA director Allen Dulles asserted that unless the United States intervened, "the U.S. would lose influence," its "bases" would be "threatened," and U.S. credibility would be "brought into question throughout the world." The U.S. was also concerned about the nationalist threat to what were very profitable oil concessions in Kuwait and Iraq.

Kennedy worked to covertly undermine the new government of Iraq by supporting anti-government Kurdish rebels (sounds familiar) and by attempting, unsuccessfully, to assassinate Iraq's leader, Abdul Karim Qassim (Kassem), an army general who had restored relations with the Soviet Union and lifted the ban on Iraq's Communist Party. Iraq’s formal withdrawal from the Baghdad Pact and simultaneous economic and technical aid agreement with the Soviet Union was in 1959. In quick succession Iraq withdrew from the sterling bloc, ordered British air force units out of the Habbaniya base, and cancelled the Point Four Agreement with the United States. Then in 1963, the U.S. supported a coup by the Ba'ath party (soon to be headed by Saddam Hussein) to overthrow the Qassim regime, including by giving the Ba'ath names of communists to murder. "Armed with the names and whereabouts of individual communists, the national guards carried out summary executions. Communists held in detention...were dragged out of prison and shot without a hearing... [B]y the end of the rule of the Ba'ath, its terror campaign had claimed the lives of an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 communists." Qasim was then  killed after a show trial.

Not bad for less than three years in office.

Meanwhile, in Europe Operation Gladio’s strategy of tension, begun after World War II, when the UK and the US decided to create "stay-behind" paramilitary organizations, intending to counter communists coming to power, and employing means such as internal subversion, the use of "false flag operations" (terror attacks attributed to the opposite side) continued without a hitch. "A briefing minute of June 1, 1959, reveals Gladio was built around 'internal subversion'. It was to play 'a determining role… not only on the general policy level of warfare, but also in the politics of emergency'. Secret cells and operations were conducted in practically every country in Europe, conducting assassinations as needed.

One should note, at this point, that America's only Irish Catholic President did nothing about the "Troubles" in Ireland, besides shaking a few hands and posing for a few photo ops. During President Kennedy’s historic visit to Ireland in June 1963, he remarked to the people of New Ross (nice town, been there), Ireland:

“When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great-grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”

Perhaps it is crass of me, but I can't help but imagine that John Jr.s inheritance on more then $10 Million was something he valued more. I could be wrong there, though....

The lunar program, as others have mentioned, was an audaciously conceived piece of propaganda, sheer "lunacy," one might say, convincing multitudes in the possibility of life on another planet, or the potential to mine the moon for minerals, or some such crap, while deflecting attention and concern for domestic problems like poverty, and concern for the limited resources of our own environment. Yes, it was over a decade before the Club of Rome produced "Limits to Growth" and accorded official recognication to the fragileness and finiteness of our environment, but books like "Silent Spring" (1962), and others, had been trying to get the message out to the general public for a decade by the early sixties. That money, billions upon billions of dollars, properly spent, could have saved millions of lives, changed humanity's expectations, and eased the way for the momentous transition mankind now faces. But of course it couldn't, since Kennedy, like Bush, ran on the "Big Lie," in his case, that there was a "missle gap" between the US and the Soviet Union, imperiling all of our lives. Kennedy, and the entire establishment knew that was a false claim, but money was wanted for missles and to militarize space. As Chomsky often notes, that bravado brought the planet to within five minutes of complete doomsday, only saved because a Soviet officer refused to follow orders and authorize a strike. (True story.)

Kennedy's signature international program was The Alliance for Progress initiated in 1961 to establish economic cooperation between North and South America in order to counter the perceived emerging communist threat from Cuba to U.S. interests and dominance in the region. It was chock full of arrays of handsome benchmarks and reams of fine prose and noble goals, in the best Kennedy fashion:

...we propose to complete the revolution of the Americas, to build a hemisphere where all men can hope for a suitable standard of living and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom. To achieve this goal political freedom must accompany material progress...(Watch out, you might get neither!) Let us once again transform the American Continent into a vast crucible of revolutionary ideas and efforts, a tribute to the power of the creative energies of free men and women, an example to all the world that liberty and progress walk hand in hand. Let us once again awaken our American revolution until it guides the struggles of people everywhere-not with an imperialism of force or fear but the rule of courage and freedom and hope for the future of man.

In small print were the small demand clauses of the business lobby, which committed the Latin American governments to the promotion "of conditions that will encourage the flow of foreign investments" to the region. U.S. industries lobbied Congress to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to ensure that US aid would not be furnished to any foreign business that could compete with US business "unless the country concerned agrees to limit the export of the product to the US to 20 percent of output". In addition the industries lobbied Congress to limit all purchases of AID machinery and vehicles in the US. A 1967 study of AID showed that 90 percent of all AID commodity expenditures went to US corporations. (It's called doing good by maintaining an industrial and developmental edge.) Sadly, the Alliance was a boat without a sail, alas...

And then there's the Peace Corps, established by Executive Order 10924 on March 1, 1961, and authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961, with passage of the Peace Corps Act (Public Law 87-293). which declares the purpose of the Peace Corps to be:

“to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.”

In reality, this small twig hiding behind the US's "Big Stick" was the nice face of American imperialism, with programs designed to keep "them" on the farm, dissuade them from industrializing, and introduce the "Green Revolution," precursor to today's GMO crops. It functions as a sort of prep school for the CIA -- learn the language and the culture -- before you earn. All one needs to do is place a map of the mineral resources of the world over Peace Corps postings and you get more of the idea of what "service" really means.

Kennedy's legacy in space is twofold: One, the increasing pollution of the atmosphere with all manner of astro-debris, which will one day make any type of atmospheric launch impossible. And secondly, the PNAC's goal of dominating all of space militarily. The US government, as Amy Worthington documents, is busy concoting all manner of energy rays and beams, and sprays -- Aerosol and Electromagnetic Weapons In The Age Of Nuclear War -- all of them lethal, in its quest for full spectrum dominance. Of course, they are all being experimented upon unwittingly, people both domestically and globally without our knowledge, because of the essential "national security" implications.

As far as the environment is concerned, The U.S. had conducted the equivalent of one nuclear weapons test every 17 days since its first test; far more than any other country. It is estimated that the total yield of all the atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted is 438 megatons. That's equivalent to 29,200 Hiroshima size bombs. In the 36 years between 1945 and 1980 when atmospheric testing was being conducted this would have been equivalent to exploding a Hiroshima size bomb in the atmosphere every 11 hours. Approximately 3,830 kilograms of plutonium has been left in the ground as a result of all underground nuclear testing and some 4,200 kilograms of plutonium has been discharged into the atmosphere as a result of atmospheric nuclear testing. There has also been a program of 'Peaceful Nuclear Explosions' conducted over the years by two of the five declared nuclear powers. The Soviet Union carried out the most extensive PNE program. Some 116 PNE's were conducted between 1965 and 1988. The U.S. carried out 27 PNE's between 1961 and 1973: one in Carlsbad, Colorado, one in Grand Valley, Colorado, one in Rifle, Colorado, one in Farmington, New Mexico, and 23 at the National Test Site in Nevada. Wherever nuclear weapons testing has occurred for whatever reasons there have been environmental problems. Radioactivity has leaked into the environment from underground nuclear tests, large areas of land are uninhabitable as a result of atmospheric and underground nuclear testing, and indigenous people, their children and their children's children's health and livelihoods have been affected by nuclear weapons tests. A visit to a map of US nuclear contamination is well worth one's time.

And finally, at home, the Kennedy administration showed its concern for its domestic populace by continuing the ongoing Project MKULTRA, or MK-ULTRA, the code name for a CIA mind-control research program that began in 1950, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence, and which involved the use of many types of drugs, as well as other methodology, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function. CIA documents suggest that "chemical, biological and radiological" means were investigated for the purpose of mind control as part of MKULTRA, a violation of the Nuremberg Code that the U.S. agreed to follow after WWII.

All in all, not a bad record for less than three years. But I prefer to remember the real Camelot: you know, all those touch football games on the lawn, sort of like Gore once did....

I guess it is all how you judge Presidents. If you look for something good to come from power, there is the White House redecoration, the interest in sailing, the pictures of John-John under the desk... I just don't happen to believe that power ever serves the ordinary person, so I take my sunglasses off, clear away the mythification, and see power as it really is, stark, implacable, and evil. It's easier to oppose that way.

Posted by b on January 30, 2008 at 08:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

January 29, 2008

Afghanistan Update - Kill Karzai

There are some interesting developments around Afghanistan where pipeline promoter Karzai, currently mayor of Kabul, is getting a bit uptidy.

Despite the wishes of the U.S. and UK he rejected 'Lord' Paddy Ashdown as viceroy.

His people claim this was not because of Ashdown's personality - as international "high representative" Ashdown ran Bosnia like a Raj -  but because of his envisioned role:

The Afghan government had however had concerns about the powers of the job, which had previously been that of special representative of the United Nations but which international circles had wanted to expand.

Initial suggestions that it would grow so the envoy would become the leading representative of the UN, NATO and the European Union were "not acceptable," [Afghan Foreign Minister] Spanta said.

Most likely both issues, Ashdown's proposed role and personality, are relevant here. Karzai certainly had reason to be concerned about each of those.

Newsweek spreads rumors that Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to the UN and former Unocal adviser, wants Karzai's job. This makes some sense because Karzai never got that pipeline deal done. Khalilzad is a pure neocon with a U.S. and an Afghan passport and may think he has better connections to bribe the right people to finally let the central asian spice flow into the U.S. economy.

The Financial Times adds to the fight by pointing to a "serious reason" why Karzai might want to resign:

Recently there have also been concerns about Mr Karzai's health with many believing he is politically isolated and overworked, particularly in the wake of two other big run-ins with the international community.

I am sure Karzai took note about such "concerns over his health" -  a barely covered threat of an imminent assassination. Just in case he didn't 'get it' the Telegraph reminds him:

Mr Karzai must live with the knowledge that every one of his predecessors for the past 107 years, whether kings or presidents, was overthrown violently. You have to go back to King Abdur Rahman, who died in 1901, to find an Afghan leader who managed to avoid being ousted or assassinated.

All of this is reckless imperial gambling over an already lost cause. Khalilzad running a deeply religious tribal society with a drug economy in the very backlands of the planet would even be funny to watch if not for all the people killed by further NATO and U.S. bombing before the Talibs would shut him off.

The Guardian reports today that "Senior UK Foreign Office Officials" combine the Ashdown, Khalilzad and Karzai stories and suggest that Khalilzad urged Karzai to reject Ashdown as a step to replacing him. (Did Khalilzad bet on the MI6 or CIA to kill Karzai over the Ashdown rejection?)

That doesn't make much sense to me, but it lays bare the "western" confusion, infighting and desperation over the lost war on Afghanistan.

There are some initiatives to "rescue" the certain strategic defeat. As Pakistan gets "hot" and is likely, at a point, to cut off the logistic line of support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Centcom commander Admiral Fallon bowed to the dictator of Uzbekistan to develop an alternative transport route. (He probably should have talked to Putin who has some real influence on that issue ...)

Meanwhile Canada is pissed that its soldiers die in Afghanistan to no avail and wants other NATO countries to have their people killed there too for the same reason. Or, the Canadian Prime Minister threatens, it will pull out. Harpers said something like: "If you don't finally start behaving as stupid as we do, we will have to stop doing so."

Somehow, that would be fine with me ....

Posted by b on January 29, 2008 at 04:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Kennedy Endorsement

A democracy should not cling to dynasty rule as a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton row would represent.

So there is Obama promissing Change.

But now he is endorsed by some Kennedys, Ted, Patrick and Caroline (other Kennedys, Cathleen, Robert F. and Kerry endorse Clinton) and Obama is even compared to JFK.

That is a big minus in my view.

John F. Kennedy was a mediocre President. His foreign policy record is a list of failures. He

  • ordered the CIA to proceed with the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba but denied the nessessary air and naval support that would have given the project a slight chance of success.
  • was outgamed by Khrushchev when he retracted U.S. missiles from Turkey in an exchange for Russian missiles retraction from Cuba.
  • didn't response but with polite protest when the Sowjets build the wall around West Berlin in violation of the postwar Potsdam Agreements.
  • escalated the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and assisted in the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem in a military coup.
  • backed the Baathist coup against the anti-imperialist Iraqi government.

In domestic policies there was much hopeful talk but little done in the two years of Kennedy's rule. He endorsed civil rights but was reluctant to act against Southern Democrats. He launched the program to put a man on the moon. A project that cost some $25 billion and had little scientific and strategic value.

So what did he achieve?

Do the U.S. people really want a president that will continue in that tradition?

Posted by b on January 29, 2008 at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (64)

January 28, 2008

Neocon Democracy

Max Boot and Bing West have detected Iraq's No. 1 problem. Its name is Nouri Maliki:

However, it is the government's ineffectiveness, not the insurgency, that is Iraq's biggest problem. Maliki has antagonized the Kurds, Sunnis and most of the Shiite parties.

To solve the problem, they propose to use a modern form of government selection, instead of clinging to specific personal.

The U.S. should support democracy in Iraq, not Maliki per se.

So what is their plan? A recall vote? New elections? Purple fingers?

Kind of.

This time Boot and West demand real imperial democracy in Iraq. The type where only one vote is relevant. That of the emperor himself.

If [Maliki] doesn't come through, the American president may have no choice but to cast his vote -- probably a decisive one -- against the Iraqi prime minister.

Since when does Bush carry an Iraqi passport?

Posted by b on January 28, 2008 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

January 26, 2008

OT 08-05

I'll be traveling the next two days, so there will be only light, if any, posting.

Please let us know your news & views here.

Open thread ...

Posted by b on January 26, 2008 at 03:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (96)

January 25, 2008

Still Worried About Iran

Some folks are still concerned about War on Iran.

Zbigniew Brzezinski interviewed by Laura Rosen in Mother Jones:

The president is determined to string [Iraq] out and hand this war over to his successor, but he is at the same time determined to try to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem before he leaves office, and I am afraid, very seriously afraid, that the conjunction of the two—continuous conflict in Iraq and impatience over Iran—may produce a situation whereby before he leaves office he plunges us into some sort of semi-accidental and semi-deliberate conflict with Iran.
...
I don't see the administration expanding the conflict the way it started the conflict with Iraq.  [..] I think far more likely is a series of incidents, aggravations, collisions, provocations which are mutual, a negotiating posture which doesn't give Iran any leeway, and then some explosion, some collision that creates a great deal of emotion in the country, conceivably even a terrorist act which is credibly blamed on the Iranians, and then there is a patriotic wave and a military action launched before the election, which actually inflames the country in a wave of kind of hysterical patriotism that benefits the Republicans.

Q: What about the potential for [an Al Qaida] surprise happening to the U.S.?

ZB: I wonder who knows that Al Qaeda in one of the strategic documents actually has said that an American-Iranian collision would be of great strategic benefit to Al Qaeda's cause. So here is a party that might even have an interest in provoking such a collision.

Leon Hadar, a research fellow with the Cato Institute, writes in Asia Times Online:

At the minimum, Bush wants to be recalled as someone who "kicked some ass" in the Persian Gulf before leaving office.

That doesn't mean an all-out war with Iran or even an attack on its suspected nuclear installations. If you followed the recent bizarre encounter between the US Navy and the Iranians in the straits of Hormuz, you get an idea of the opportunities that are opened to the Bushies if and when they decide to orchestrate or exploit a crisis in the Persian Gulf that could lead to an American retaliation against an Iranian "provocation".
[...]

Iran will hold parliamentary elections on March 14, 2008, and you don't have to be an expert in Iranian politics to figure out that the political parties associated with President Ahmadinejad who has been under attack at home for his mismanagement of the country's economy could benefit politically from rising tensions with between Tehran and Washington.

Interestingly enough, it's not inconceivable that by early March the Iranian political calendar will intersect with the American one, when we'll probably know by then who the Democrats and the Republicans have nominated as their presidential candidate. [..] Mix American nationalism aimed at long-time adversary, Revolutionary Iran, the threat of Islamo-Fascism and the support for Israel and the role of its American friends in US electoral politics, and you understand why Obama or Hillary won't allow themselves to sound less hawkish than John McCain or Mitt Romney.
[...]
[Israel is clearly] concerned that the Bush Administration and Congress may lack the will to confront Tehran over the nuclear military program which, they insist, is alive and well. So if you're in the shoes of the Israeli prime minister, you will probably conclude that Israel has a narrow window of opportunity extending until the end of 2008 - before Bushcheney, Likud's best friend in Washington, leaves office - to take military action against Iran.
[...]
If these scenarios sound improbable - like terrorist flying planes into the World Trade Center or the United States invading Iraq - it's probably a failure of imagination on your part.

A new crisis in the Gulf would be perfect to distract the voters from the economic mess.

One more year of Bushcheney - and it isn't over until it's over ...    

Posted by b on January 25, 2008 at 05:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

An International Security Rip-Off

A usual defense/security rip-off goes like this:

  • Find some tiny curious event that can be blown up to The Threat.
  • Personify The Threat by pinning it to Evil of the Day.
  • Urge action - gain support from sympathic media idiots like Fred Hiatt.
  • Propose the solution that makes the most for your interests.
  • Reap in the profits.

Never worry that the original event may turn out bogus. If that happens, it will inevitably be ignored. The Threat will never vanish and the profits will continue to flow.

The scheme is regularly used in a national context. Just think of all the stupid stuff the 'Hauptabteilung für die Sicherheit des Heimatlandes' is financing. Thinking bigger, tiny Estonia successfully managed to run the rip-off on an international scale.

We can follow the trail by simply listing news accounts:

Estonia hit by 'Moscow cyber war',
BBC, May 16, 2007
Estonia says the country's websites have been under heavy attack for the past three weeks, blaming Russia for playing a part in the cyber warfare.
Many of the attacks have come from Russia and are being hosted by Russian state computer servers, Tallinn says.

---

Estonia urges firm EU, NATO response to new form of warfare: cyber-attacks,
AFP, May 16, 2007
"Taking into account what has been going on in Estonian cyber-space, both the EU and NATO clearly need to take a much stronger approach and cooperate closely to develop practical ways of combatting cyber-attacks," Estonian Defence Minister Jaak Aaviksoo told AFP Tuesday.

---

Pushback for Mr. Putin,
WaPo Editorial, May 19, 2007
FOR THE past three weeks, Estonia, a small European country that is a member of both NATO and the European Union, has been under assault from neighboring Russia. The offensive is of a new kind: cyber-warfare. Computers serving Estonian government ministries, banks, schools and media have been vandalized via the Internet. Some of the attacks have been traced to Russian government servers, including that of the president's office in the Kremlin.
...

---

President Ilves met with the President of the United States
President of Estonia, June 25, 2007
President Ilves called upon the United States to participate in the NATO Center of Excellence, which the Estonian Government has proposed to establish in Tallinn.

---

Cyberwarfare threat is growing, say experts,
ComputerWeekly, Oct 24, 2007
The United States is to contribute a top Navy cyber defence expert to the Nato Centre of Excellence on Cooperative Cyber Defence that Estonia has formed with Germany and Spain. The centre aims to enhance Nato's cyber defence capability and to serve as an essential source for providing Nato with expertise on cyber defence.

Estonia won a permanent NATO installation, free access to first grade technology and specialist to train its own people. That packages is only a few million per year but then Estonia IS a small country.

Now nobody will really care anymore about the last news-clip.

Student fined for attack against Estonian Web site,
IDG, Jan 24, 2008
A 20-year-old Estonian student has been fined for participating in a cyberattack that paralyzed Estonian Web sites and soured the country's relationship with Russia, a government official said Thursday.

Dmitri Galushkevich used his home PC to launched a denial-of-service attack that knocked down the Web site for the political party of Estonia's prime minister for several days, said Gerrit Maesalu, spokesman for the Northeast District Prosecutor's Office in Tallinn, Estonia's capital. Galushkevich must pay 17,500 kroons ($1,642).
...
"He [Galushkevich] wanted to show that he was against the removal of this bronze statue," Maesalu. "At the moment, we don't have any other suspects."

Posted by b on January 25, 2008 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

January 24, 2008

What is behind the Societe Generale scandal?

by Debs is Dead
lifted from a comment

The news that a 33 year old junior shit kicker in France's Societe Generale Bank 'defrauded that institution for 5 billion euros' strikes as one of these stories which instantly splash around the world overwhelming every other piece of news, yet somehow too much of this tale doesn't add up.

How did he do it? Right towards the end of a rather obscure Reuters article we learn:

Five billion euros of losses is enormous. It represents a position of several dozens of billions of euros, perhaps 30 or 40 billion. How can one person all by themselves do that?

Indeed. How can one "junior trader" "certainly not a star" do this?

This is being compared to the Englishman Nick Leeson's 'one point something billion Euro' fraud on Barings Bank that 'broke' that bank but in the case of Leeson, senior bank executives knew he was their biggest earner. He had kept the bank ahead of the game in a year or more of tough times. When Leeson's luck finally ran out, he had been betting on Japan stock futures and their run finally foundered, the Barings execs ran a million miles from Leeson and had him thrown into jail. Typical capitalist perfidy. But SocGen exec's claim to have known nothing about young Jerome Kerviel's antics has an even fishier smell to it than the Barings bastards.

To have lost as much as he did he would have had to take a position of tens of billions of Euros on one of the most basic derivatives in an extremely complex market, futures contracts on European equity indices. No one noticed for over a year?

As one amerikan derivatives trader said:

Everyone is asking themselves .. how just one trader, all alone in the corner, could have beaten all those whiz kids who throng around in Societe Generale, ...

Of course SocGen has the answer to that, well an excuse they want us to believe anyhow. That is that Kerviel had been working in the back office for several years before he won the front of house gig and during his time down in the engine room he had come to thoroughly understand all SocGen's security measures which he then bypassed. Simple as that. Heh! well isn't it a bit unusual to move someone with that knowledge out the front? I mean to say if that were de rigeur in the banking world to have traders who know the security well enough to subvert it, why bother to have controls at all?

Reuters say it nicer:  

A senior bank board member told Reuters that Kerviel "was not a star", but Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer told reporters that the rogue trader was a "genius of fraud".

Play that again, Sam.

Just by way of a coincidence at the same time that SocGen announced their $7Billion loss, as an afterthought they slipped in that they were down the tubes some 2.05 billion euros with a loss related to the credit crunch, ie. that old sub-prime scam.

Now even though it doesn't normally have a lot of friends and allies in the bitchy world of international wheeler dealing and has been regarded as an ideal takeover target for some time, the banking world has really rallied around SocGen on this. Everyone is sticking together, praising CEO Daniel Bouton who made some sort of token offer to resign which was "of course" refused.

They are sticking to the script because the news of this came less than a day after everyone was making pretend that Bush's lame parish pump prime and Bernacke's interest rate cut had engineered a 'turnaround' on the market.

The cry had been; "There is nothing to see here folks, its all over, y'all can go on home". Then during a pause in the chatter, SocGen dropped a big steaming log on the rug. As fast off as a bride's teddy, everyone went for the most unlikely finance yarn since the South Seas Bubble in their rush to clean the carpet.

The 'rally' story must be sold to the rubes. The new sceptics in Hong Kong, the poor buggers who have spent the last few days trying to explain the exigencies of a bear market to a mob of annoyed and anxious Chinamen, didn't buy the story and will have to be dragged into line.

Although a wise-ass in amerika did put the cat right into pigeon territory when he wondered whether the bank's maneuvers had contributed to Monday's market fall, and to the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to cut interest rates.

CNBC came to the rescue on that one and reported a Fed source saying the central bank had not been aware of SocGen's problems ahead of the emergency 75 basis point cut.

But that is getting closer to what probably happened, after all according to Reuters again:

One banking insider estimated that the losses were worth "just" one billion euros at the weekend, but these rapidly snowballed when SocGen moved to purge their books on Monday and Tuesday as European stock markets plunged.

Yeah right the bank finds itself long on European equities and just keeps on selling, right into the biggest fall in a couple of decades? I mean we don't know what the exact positions were but apart from the fact that some recovery from Monday's low would likely eventuate didn't it occur to the French Masters of the Universe that selling all those positions in one hit was going to push the market further down?

Disingenuous Bouton turned that around when he told a news conference

These losses could have been gains if the market had climbed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

Hell maybe the market wouldn't have fallen so far if you hadn't unloaded tens of billions of dollars worth of long positions Dan.

So why? Well the answer is in the question really. Undoubtedly the fool Kerviel did take some shortcuts to try and force his luck on the dealing desk. In doing so he provided slugs like Daniel Bouton an excellent get out of jail free card if their over-confidence ever caught up with them. Maybe they only found out about Kerviel's stupidity recently, maybe they have been saving it up for a rainy day but one thing is for sure, virtually every other bank which has lost billions on the sub-prime stupidity has had their CEO fall on his sword. Bouton didn't need to because at the same time he announced a loss of a couple billion in the sub prime saga he let slip about Kerviel's $7 billion fuck up. A fuck up that was only $1 billion before SocGen liquidated their position on Monday.

Kerviel is out there somewhere, he won't be dragged before a magistrate until the media have the public screaming for his head. That should prevent any 'underdog' blow back that could happen if he were dragged in front of a beak right now and had a laywer 'straightening a few facts out' to the worlds' cameras.

Bouton is fine, the world is fine, apart from the poor fuckers whose pension fund and life insurance is in the SocGen, and of course France's taxpayers all of whom have to ante up another $5 billion euros. That is straight after being told there is no dividend this year.

Say what you like about centralized demand economies, but the Russians would have put a bullet to the brain pan of everyone involved; from Politburo member Bouton, on down.

Posted by b on January 24, 2008 at 05:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

January 23, 2008

Gaza Ghetto Break-Out

Congratulations to the people of Gaza who broke out of the ghetto walls Israel and Egypt had erected around them.

Yesterday Egypt's cowardly dictator had his police use water cannons against hungry Gazans who tried to get through the border. Today they blew up the walls. Mubarak now claims he let them through because "they were starving". He certainly fears the wrath of the U.S. congress which might take away the yearly $1.7 billion bribe he gets.

For now the illegal total isolation of Gaza is broken and there is not yet any reaction from the Israeli side. For some stupid reason the border between Gaza and Egypt is supposed to be controlled by the Palestinians and the EU. But when Israel started the Gaza blockade after Hamas took over, the EU supported that policy by retracting its officers.

Hamas chief Khaled Meshal rightly points out that the border should be controlled only by Egypt and the Palestines and, of course, be open.

With the total blockade of Gaza Israel has again managed to shot itself into its foot. While the "west" is used to look away from the normal Israeli disregard of human rights and its strangeling of Gaza, the total blockade and the humanitarian catastrophy following the collective punishment has renewed the understanding for the Palestinian struggle.

Smart politicians would use the new situation for talks towards a solution of the conflict. But smart politics are rare in Israel and elsewhere. So I expect something dumb and utterly disgusting to happen next.

 

Posted by b on January 23, 2008 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

'Certainty' On the Neocon NATO Report

Yesterday's post speculated about neocon influence on the report that urges an imperial NATO strategy. There now is "an increase in certainty" that pure neocon thinking is at the base of the proposal.

While the media reported only yesterday about the report, it had been launched on January 10 at the US Center of Strategic Studies. The 150-page paper is titled Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World - Renewing Transatlantic Partnership (pdf).

The report by the five former NATO generals was financed through "generous sponsorship" of the Dutch Noaber Foundation. The foundation is the private fiefdom of the Christian fundamentalist Paul Baan, a failed 1990s "new market" entrepreneur. In 2000 Business Week portrayed The Fall of Baan :

[S]ales sextupled between 1994 and 1997, and the Baan brothers, both members of the conservative Dutch Reformed Church, flew in their jet between Barneveld, Silicon Valley, and a host of charities they sponsored around the world.
...
Pummeled by questions about its finances, blindsided by an industry downturn, and undermined by poor management, Baan's stock collapsed in 1998, and the company limped along without much hope of recovery. The Baan brothers departed two years ago and pocketed most of their profits before the final cave-in.
...
At the heart of Baan was a fatal split, one represented by the brothers and their dual fascinations: God and geld.
...
Baan [started] as a consulting firm in 1978. Most of Baan's engineers back then were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. They kept their labs free of swearing, mandated long skirts for women, and shut down on Sundays--even when customers were clamoring for help.

The Noaber Foundation Advisory Board is chaired by Henk van den Breemen, former Chief Defence Staff of the Dutch Armed Forces and one of the five generals that signed the study. He also chaired the 12 meetings the generals held to devise the report. But one can not write 150 pages in 12 committee meetings and the report acknowledges that it was written "With Benjamin Bilski and Douglas Murray".

Who are these guys?

The first of only few google entries for this "Benjamin Bilski" links to Make jokes about Islam!. Bilski is "a Fellow in the Department of Jurisprudence in the Law Faculty of the University of Leiden" who translated and published the Iranian ex-Muslim Afshin Ellian at the rightwing British Social Affairs Unit.

Douglas Murray is:

a bestselling author and commentator based in the UK and Director of the London-based Centre for Social Cohesion.

His most recent book is the critically acclaimed Neoconservatism: Why We Need It which Christopher Hitchens praised in the Washington Examiner as "a very cool but devastating analysis" and which caused Andrew Roberts to hail him 'The right's answer to Michael Moore', continuing, 'This book shows how to fight and win the War on Terror'.

Murray's "bestselling" book (no. 589,358 in Amazon's sales rank) was favorably reviewed by Iran royalist and neocon news fabricator Amir Taheri and in the Weekly Standard.

The London Centre For Social Cohesion, where Murray is director, publishes islamophobic papers like "Hate on the State: How British libraries encourage Islamic extremism".

Hitchens (rather lame) review of Murray's book provides this excerpt:

It is my contention throughout this book that neoconservatism provides answers to many of the problems facing America and the world today. On all these matters, not just the war on terror, I am aware that not everyone sees that these problems even exist. Among other things, there is always the easy expedient of avoiding a threat by pretending that it is not there … .

While one certainly can deny the existence of "threats", one can also construct "threats" that do not exist at all, but help to justify otherwise unjustifiable policies.

This is exactly what the generals' and Murray's report does. It starts from non-existent threats to devise policies that have no other legitimate reason. Here are three out of many examples:

On page 47 the paper claims:

At present, 25 countries possess WMD. Of these, 17 possess active offensive chemical weapons capabilities and 12 possess offensive biological weapons.

A knowledgeable commentator at the Arms Control Wonk site remarks:

Just sticking with the area that I know best, I don’t know how they’ve arrived at these unreferenced numbers. There are five declared chemical weapons possessor states under the CWC – India, Libya, Russia, South Korea and the US. The stockpiles in these countries are under international verification and are all at various stages of destruction. There are a further 12 countries that have not yet joined the CWC, but of those only four probably possess some kind of CW capability – Egypt, Israel, North Korea and Syria. So, five plus four makes nine, so which are the other eight countries the “manifesto” alleges have “active offensive chemical weapons capabilities”? Are they among the eight other CWC non-members (Guinea-Bissau, Bahamas et al) or is the “manifesto” saying that there are CWC states with “active offensive” capabilities that the OPCW has missed?

Finally, I would imagine that the “manifesto” was carefully worded, so why talk about “active offensive chemical weapons capabilities” but simply “offensive biological weapons”? And anyway, what does the latter mean? Wouldn’t any biological weapon be offensive? What is a defensive biological weapon? And again, which are the 12 countries claimed to possess “offensive biological weapons”?

It’s easy to paint a dire picture of the future when you simply pluck numbers out of the air with no evidence to back them up.

On page 40 the report asserts:

Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah was an armed conflict between a proxy non-state actor and a nation state, where the nation state was at a great disadvantage. Hezbollah did not shy away from war crimes: it positioned its militia in the midst of civilians and launched rockets from residential areas.

That claim is simply false:

Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director, said there were only "rare" cases of Hizbollah operating in civilian villages.

"To the contrary, once the war started, most Hizbollah military officials and even many political officials left the villages," he said. "Most Hizbollah military activity was conducted from prepared positions outside Lebanese villages in the hills and valleys around."

On page 51 the report accuses China of "Abuse of Financial Leverage" because:

it is investing in infrastructure projects, undercutting Western competitors and development banks, building hydropower dams in Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria and Congo-Brazzaville; railways in Angola, Zambia, Congo, Gabon and Sudan; and telephone networks in Morocco, Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, Angola and Zimbabwe.

The "western" capitalists see a "threat" in China actually paying for infrastructure development in foreign third world countries. They of course would never condone such "abuse" of their tax dollars.

The "threads" the report makes up are plucked out of thin air, simply false or obviously ridiculous. To avoid scrutinization of the "threat" assertions, the report is completely without footnotes and references.

Like most rightwing propaganda, the paper on the "uncertain world" and the made-up "threats" is aimed at people who feel basically insecure in the randomness of human life and history. Like all false prophets its writers offer "certainty" to them.

The authors believe that the proposed agenda could be a first step towards a renewal of the transatlantic partnership, eventually leading to an alliance of democratic nations and an increase in certainty.

Indeed the recommendations do deliver certainty.

A certain way to further proliferation of nuclear weapons is the threat of preemptive use of such against non-nuclear states. A certain way towards wider wars is NATO under "directorate" control dropping bombs wherever the "directorate" policies see advantage in doing so. And a certain way to madness is to get neoconned by this report.

Posted by b on January 23, 2008 at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

January 22, 2008

A Neocon Grasp for NATO

As Rick pointed out in the comments, today's Guardian previews a curious report on NATO's future five former senior generals from the U.S., UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands delivered to the Pentagon and NATO. The report was not officially requested.

This news comes the same day as other news on NATO and there may well be a deeper relation.

According to the Guardian the report argues for lunatic politics like preemptive nuclear strikes against "imminent" WMD proliferation. But such nonsense only sets the general tone.

Coming up with a list of "threats" the report prescribes a completely de-nationalized imperial NATO force under control of a "directorate": 

The five commanders argue that the west's values and way of life are under threat, but the west is struggling to summon the will to defend them. The key threats are:

  • Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.
  • The "dark side" of globalisation, meaning international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Climate change and energy security, entailing a contest for resources and potential "environmental" migration on a mass scale.
  • The weakening of the nation state as well as of organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.

A fast-check of that "threat" list:

  • Fanatists and religious fundamentalists exist in every society at all times. That is a social problem, not a military issue.
  • International terrorism and organised crime are police problems. Where has any foreign military ever been successful against these?
  • WMD can spread because knowledge spreads. But astonishingly, WMD do not spread. Only few countries beyond the original five have aquired nuclear weapons even while many others could. Those who did aquire nukes, Israel, Pakistan and India, developed these with the knowledge and support of NATO countries. Chemical weapons are ineffective in wars and as terrorist weapons. The only biological terror attack with an elaborate biological agent happened 2001 in Washington DC.
  • Climate change is a problem and we need to find political, not military solutions to lessen the severity of the outcome. The best way to reach energy security is to generate it locally. If troops can secure energy access, why isn't Iraq producing more oil?
  • The weakening of the nation state? Yes, a severe problem. But look around and tell me who has worked to weaken and split Yugoslavia. Who has faciliated the overthrow of the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan leading to weak states? Who is constantly violating Westphalian sovereignty and disregarding the UN?

The action items the report draws from the fake "threat" list are even more problematic:

To prevail, the generals call for an overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods, a new "directorate" of US, European and Nato leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU "obstruction" of and rivalry with Nato. Among the most radical changes demanded are:

  • A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.
  • The abolition of national caveats in Nato operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.
  • No role in decision-taking on Nato operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations.
  • The use of force without UN security council authorisation when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings".

These demands are against International Law, against the existing NATO contracts, against the constitutions of several NATO states and in the interest of whom?

The EU "obstruction" line lets assume that the origin is either in the U.S. or the UK.

Neither the Guardian nor the Telegraph, which also runs the story, tell us who paid for the tripe. Someone must have put money into the writeup of those 150 pages. The list of "threats" and the recipes against those smell like a neocon central product.

Indeed the generals did not come up with these ideas themselves. As the Telegraph notes:

The report was compiled after authors were briefed by senior serving military officials who are unable to speak publicly about their concerns with Nato's military strategy.

So some active military officials dictated this stuff and the former generals gave their names (and took how much for that?)

But why does this report appear now?

The NYT yesterday and the Washington Post today report 'rumors' of General "Holy" Petraeus to become the next military head of NATO. Petraeus, the second most influential U.S. conservative, "is said to favor the move."

So the same day the Petraeus trial balloon goes up, a radical imperial concept for NATO, dictated by "senior serving military officials", is launched.

This is no coincidence. Either the White House itself or some influential conservatives in a DC think-tank came up with this. Petraeus gave the talk to the former generals and they signed (and took the check).

NATO outside of national political supervision and in service of an imperial agenda under control of a "directorate." That must be a wet dream for neocon extremists and imperial fundamentalists.

It is time for NATO to act against these.

Posted by b on January 22, 2008 at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

January 21, 2008

Coup In Kenya: Part II

[You may want to read Coup in Kenya - Part I and the comments to that piece first]
---

Exploring U.S. influence in the Kenyan Elections

by b real

The U.S. contribution to the crisis:

Seeing it as a key ally in the “war on terror,” the Bush Administration has built a close military relationship with the Kibaki government; The U.S. has played a central role in building up Kenya’s weaponry and internal security apparatus, now being deployed in the crisis. Current U.S.-Kenyan relations are a product of 24 years of U.S. support to the Daniel arap Moi dictatorship that jailed, exiled or disappeared those opposed to the regime. The legacy of these politics remains institutionalized within the political process itself and creates huge barriers to democratic freedom and political participation. Overall, the current turmoil in Kenya is the clear result of colonial rule, external intervention, and detrimental foreign aid policies.
-- Association of Concerned Africa Scholars,
Press Statement on the Crisis in Kenya, January 5, 2008

It was a quick mention that was almost swallowed in a larger, more pressing narrative, but -- for those who did pick up on it -- has since proved to be an omnious foreshadowing of how the elections have played out in Kenya over the past weeks. Last April, in an interview with the independent syndicated news program Democracy Now discussing the events taking place to Kenya's north in Somalia, of which the former nation was very much involved, Kenyan Daily Nation columnist Salim Lone stated that "one leading opposition ... candidate in Kenya, said that the US has promised to support the government in the elections at the end of this year in exchange for the terrible things it has been doing" as a favored partner nation in the so-called global war on terror (GWOT).

Considering the holiday wrath the U.S., along with its proxy partners, brought down upon the citizens of Somalia in December of 2006, ringing in a new year that saw thousands dead, one-and-a-half million displaced, and more than a year of continuing military occupation by a hostile neighbor, the citizens of Kenya, by and large, could regard themselves as lucky. That's small consolation though, for those suffering in Kenya. Conservative figures put the current deaths there between 600 to 700 people, with roughly 500,000 uprooted by violence throughout the country following the presidential coup by the incumbents.

While the role of the United States in destabilizing the Horn of Africa (HOA) has been documented widely over the last year, little has been written on its role in the 2007 presidential election controversy. It certainly merits closer scutiny and investigation.

A Regional Anchor for Maintaining Order

Interestingly enough, Kenya is not even in the HOA -- it's an East African nation -- though that doesn't stop the U.S., and especially the Department of Defense (DOD), from quite often grouping it as such.

In his December 7th remarks to the conference Working Toward A Lasting Peace in the Ogaden, the director of the Office for East Africa, Bureau of African Affairs, James Knight offered the following points on U.S. policy in the HOA specifically regarding Kenya:

Kenya’s Northeast Province is home to ethnic Somalis with ties to clans in Somalia. Kenya's Somali community is a magnet for Somali refugees fleeing violence in Somalia and Ethiopia's Ogaden. Kenya closed its border with Somalia in January, but more than 1,000 refugees still arrive each month. A significant number of Oromos reside in northern Kenya as well. Oromos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, which further ties northern Kenya to Ethiopia.

Kenya’s 2002 elections were an important step on Kenya’s path to full democracy. This year's national elections on December 27 should consolidate those gains. The U.S. is providing elections training to civil society organizations, political parties, and youth and women candidates, as well as supporting the Electoral Commission of Kenya [to] ensure that these elections are smooth, free, fair, and transparent.

Viewing a stable Kenya as a frontline bulwark against the Somali communities, which are universally Muslim, the U.S. has made Kenya a key partner in the GWOT.

From a Washington Times article dated January 7, entitled Kenya 'critical' to U.S. military:

"For the eastern portion of Africa, Kenya is critical," said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, a former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations on the Horn of Africa.

"They are strategically located in the area bordering Somalia," he said. "They were critical for us in Somalia in the early 1990s. Without them, we could not have operated. They allowed us to use their bases while we were conducting operations in and out of Somalia, and they still allow us to use those bases today."

Not surprisingly the Washington Times article omits the role of Kenya in the current U.S. actions in Somalia, though plenty of other sources are available.

For instance, on Kenya's role in sealing off their borders to all Somali's fleeing the ruthless invasion (done in violation of all international laws), according to Thomas Barnett's largely unbalanced Esquire feature, The Americans Have Landed, from June:

When the invading Ethiopians quickly enjoyed unexpected success, Centcom's plan became elegantly simple: Let the blitzkrieging Ethiopian army drive the CIC, along with its foreign fighters and Al Qaeda operatives, south out of Mogadishu and toward the Kenyan border, where Kenyan troops would help trap them on the coast. "We begged the Kenyans to get to the border as fast as possible," the Centcom source says, "because the targets were so confused, they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off."

Once boxed in by the sea and the Kenyans, the killing zone was set and America's first AC-130 gunship went wheels-up on January 7 from that secret Ethiopian airstrip. After each strike, anybody left alive was to be wiped out by successive waves of Ethiopian commandos and Task Force 88, operating out of Manda Bay. The plan was to rinse and repeat "until no more bad guys," as one officer put it.

As Human Rights Watch, among many others, later drew attention to in a March 2007 press release People Fleeing Somalia War Secretly Detained:

(New York, March 30, 2007) - Kenya, Ethiopia, the United States and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia cooperated in a secret detention program for people who had fled the recent conflict in Somalia, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a March 22 letter to the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Human Rights Watch detailed the arbitrary detention, expulsion and apparent enforced disappearance of dozens of individuals who fled the fighting between the Union of Islamic Courts and the joint forces of the Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopia from December 2006 through January 2007. 

“Each of these governments has played a shameful role in mistreating people fleeing a war zone,” said Georgette Gagnon, deputy Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “Kenya has secretly expelled people, the Ethiopians have caused dozens to ‘disappear,’ and US security agents have routinely interrogated people held incommunicado.” 

Human Rights Watch’s recent research in Kenya indicates that since late December 2006, Kenyan security forces arrested at least 150 individuals from some 18 different nationalities at the Liboi and Kiunga border crossing points with Somalia. The Kenyan authorities then transferred these individuals to Nairobi where they were detained incommunicado and without charge for weeks in violation of Kenyan law. 

Human Rights Watch recognizes that Kenya may have valid security concerns regarding people seeking refuge within its borders. Nonetheless these concerns must be addressed through a fair process in accordance with international law, not arbitrarily at the expense of fundamental human rights. 

US and other national intelligence services interrogated several foreign nationals in detention in Nairobi, who were denied access to legal counsel and their consular representatives. At least 85 people were then secretly deported from Kenya to Somalia in what appears to be a joint rendition operation of those individuals of interest to the Somali, Ethiopian, or US governments.

And quoting Salim Lone, who now serves as spokesperson for Kenya's opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), from that same Democracy Now interview:

... this whole enterprise-the kidnappings on Kenyan streets, the grabbing refugees coming across the border-has a “Made in America” stamp on it, because you’ve seen it all happen before. And these secret prisons, the US denies any responsibility in this whole operation. And yet, we know that CIA and FBI officials are in those prisons interviewing the inmates.

We also know, by the way, that many of the people who have disappeared are not in those secret prisons. Where are those people? Have they be killed? Are they being tortured somewhere else? This is, you know, utter lawlessness.

So Kenya has been intricately involved in the ongoing destabilization of the HOA, allowing external, rogue powers to operate freely inside its borders. ODM, in the runup to the December elections, was able to utilize much of the opposition to the Kenyan government's actions in uniting various factions on these issues. Several Muslim communities in Somalia, very well-aware of the context and victims of the GWOT, endorsed ODM's platform for change. Obviously, though, it was not in everyone's interest to see a popular regime change threaten existing relationships with the risk of instability - "stability" implying an established order & accountability.

The U.S. has a lot of interests on the line in Kenya, which is listed in the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), along with Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia, as one of four "anchors for regional engagement." According to a study, U.S. Arms Exports and Military Assistance in the “Global War on Terror, compiled by the Center for Defense Information at the World Security Institute last September:

Kenya is considered a vital U.S. ally in the war on terror and has supported U.S. counterterrorism efforts by sharing intelligence, providing overflight rights and granting access to airfields and bases. The State Department considers Kenya to be a “front-line state” in the war on terror and this counterterrorism cooperation has yielded an increase in U.S. military assistance for Kenya since Sept. 11, 2001.

In the five years after Sept. 11, Kenya received nearly eight times the amount of military assistance it received in the five years prior to Sept. 11.

In addition to the figures listed in that study, Daniel Volman, Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC, while pointing out that "the US is heavily invested in stability in Kenya", has summarized some of this assistance in his January 5 article, U.S. Military Activities in Kenya, posted on the website of the Association of Concerned African Scholars.

Indeed, Kenya is "a major African recipient of U.S. miltary assistance."

Democracy Promotion and the ECK

Returning to the remarks of James Knight outlining U.S. policy in the HOA, he mentioned that:

"The U.S. is providing elections training to civil society organizations, political parties, and youth and women candidates, as well as supporting the Electoral Commission of Kenya ensure that these elections are smooth, free, fair, and transparent."

This is almost exactly the same message delivered by Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs James Swan four months earlier to the 4th International Conference on Ethiopian Development Studies on August 4, 2007:

The U.S. is providing election-related training to civil society organizations, political parties, and youth and women candidates, as well as supporting the work of the Electoral Commission of Kenya to ensure that these elections are free, fair, and transparent.

From public records, it is clear that, overtly, the State Department works most closely with the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI),  the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in thier "democracy promotion" programs throughout the world.

A RightWeb profile of IRI explains, its reach is vast:

The IRI is the indirect product of a democratic globalism effort spearheaded in the late 1970s by neoconservatives and their allies in the AFL-CIO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and in the two main U.S. political parties. This project, which aimed to create a quasi-governmental instrument for U.S. political aid that could replace the CIA's controversial efforts to do the same, came to fruition in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan proposed a new organization to promote free-market democracies around the world, the NED. In 1983 Congress approved the creation of NED, which was funded primarily through the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) and secondarily through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Designed as a bipartisan institution, NED channels U.S. government funding through four core grantees: IRI, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDIIA), Center for International Private Enterprise, and the Free Trade Union Institute-the AFL-CIO's international operations institute that is currently known as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity.
...
Like NED and the other core grantees, the early focus of IRI was Central America and the Caribbean-a region that in the 1980s was the cutting edge of the Reagan administration's revival of counterinsurgency and counter-revolutionary operations. After the Soviet bloc began to disintegrate in 1989, according to IRI's website, the institute "broadened its reach to support democracy around the globe." The IRI has channeled U.S. political aid to partners-which like itself are often creations of U.S. funding-in some 75 countries, and it currently has operations in 50 countries. Most recently, it has expanded its operations into Central Asia, having opened offices in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. In Latin America, IRI has offices in Guatemala, Peru, and Haiti. In Africa, IRI has offices in Kenya, Nigeria, and Angola. IRI's offices in Asia are found in Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, and Mongolia. In Central and Eastern Europe, IRI has offices in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Turkey. There is also an IRI office in Moscow.

IRI's leadership spans the center right, far right, and neoconservative factions of the Republican Party.

Both USAID and IRI have been actively involved in preparations surrounding the 2007 Kenyan elections, however a general search does not uncover much information linking NED.

From a A Report to Members of the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate titled Nongovernmental Organizations and Democracy Promotion: "Giving Voice To The People"' from December 2006, the U.S. agencies are openly listed as:

KENYA

U.S. Embassy: Ambassador Michael Ranneberger
Deputy Political Counselor Craig White
USAID Stephen Haykin, Mission Director
USAID Jaidev "Jay'' Singh, Sr. Regional Conflict, Democracy and Governance Advisor
...
U.S. NGOs:
Peter Meechem, Director, IRI
Sioghan Guiney, Resident Program Officer, IRI, Parliamentary Strengthening and Reform
Moses Owuor, IFES, Program Officer--Capacity building programs with the Electoral Commission
Fred Matiangi, Country Director, State University of New York, Parliamentary Strengthening and Reform
...
Democracy NGOs are prevalent and are not hampered significantly by government regulation or restrictions.
...
The majority of U.S.-funded democracy efforts are coordinated through the USAID office in Nairobi.
...
U.S. democracy promotion programs work to a great degree in building political party capacity.

An idea of the funding involved is available from USAID's Congressional Budget Justification FY07: Kenya [pdf]:

Program Title: Democracy and Governance

FY 2006 Program:

Promote and Support Credible Elections Processes ($448,200 DA; $2,425,000 ESF). USAID provides technical assistance, commodities, and training to the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK). USAID anticipates supporting domestic and international observations, including training for both party agents and domestic observers, allowing them to assess whether the presidential and parliamentary elections are non-violent, transparent, and competitive. USAID further anticipates monitoring media bias in the run up to the 2007 elections. Principal contractors and grantees: ECK, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), local CSOs (primes).

FY 2007 Program:

Promote and Support Credible Elections Processes ($460,200 DA; $1,455,000 ESF). USAID will continue to support local election observers, political party agents, and strengthening the ECK. Principal contractors and grantees: Same as FY 2006.

The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) is another name that is closely associated with U.S. democracy promotion electioneering. The IFES profile at RightWeb is from 1989 but details its early rightwing & CIA connections. A Kenya project webpage on their site informs the reader that:

The communications network has assisted the Commission in its general operations and in results reporting. In May 2003, the ECK used the equipment successfully in the collation and transmission of results in three by-elections in the Naivasha, Wajir West and Yatta constituencies. The by-elections served as an opportunity for IFES and the ECK to improve the performance of the communication network used during the December 2002 presidential elections. The use of satellite phones improved communication between poll workers and the computerized tabulation of votes enabled election results to be announced the same day. Overall, the equipment has greatly improved communication and efficiency between the ECK headquarters and its district offices.

Current activities focus around the implementation of the ECK’s Strategic Plan and Organizational Development, computerization of the Commission’s operations, review of the Commission’s structure and policies, assistance with the polling station infrastructure study, and support to the improvement and implementation of the Communications Protocol.

IFES and IRI both began working in Kenya in 1992, the first year of multiparty elections, and appear to have been involved in some capacity in each 5-year election since then. In 2002, IRI was credited with accurately predicting the presidential elections results from polling "3,000 Kenyan registered voters in the eight provinces". (see IRI Poll Correctly Predicts New Kenyan President.) It was also the first year that IRI conducted exit polls in a presidential election.

On the U.S. role in nurturing the ECK, from USAID's webpage on the 2002 elections:

In 2000, the ECK was widely perceived as lacking credibility and independence and no bilateral donors were willing to take a risk and provide any substantial direct funding.  However, the U.S. decided that this risk was worth taking and embarked on a substantial program that not only included technical assistance and commodities, but intensive diplomatic efforts to ensure that certain safeguards were in place to level the electoral playing field.  Through the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), USAID began implementing this program in March 2001.  One significant element was the design and provision of a communication system that enhanced the ECK’s ability to ensure public security and provide secure transit of ballots and electoral results.  As the perception of the independence and credibility of the ECK increased, other bilateral donors became willing to provide some support, leveraging USAID’s funding.

Current partners, domestic and foreign, are listed on the ECK's Partner-Relationship web page:

Foreign Partners/International NGOs

ECK collaborates with various national and international organizations especially those that lay emphasis on matters of governance and democracy in her various activities such as voter education, training of election officials, funding of voter education programmes e.t.c. These organizations include the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), USAID, IFES, the Royal Netherlands Embassy (RNE), DFID, CIDA, National Democratic Institute (NDI), the European Union (EU), the Carter Centre, International Republican Institute (IRI), African Union (AU), and other Foreign based missions, and donor agencies in Kenya.

A controversy recently arose when it was revealed that IRI had conducted exit polls during the 2007 election which showed that Raila Odinga won the presidency by an 8 percent margin.

Kenyan president lost election, according to U.S. exit poll:

An exit poll carried out on behalf of a U.S. government-backed foundation indicates that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was defeated in last month's disputed election rather than being re-elected as he claims, according to officials with knowledge of the document.

The poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute - which hasn't been publicly released - further undermines an election result that many international observers have described as flawed.
...
Opposition leader Raila Odinga led Kibaki by roughly 8 percentage points in the poll, which surveyed voters as they left polling places during the election Dec. 27, according to one senior Western official who's seen the data and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. That's a sharp departure from the results that Kenyan election officials certified, which gave Kibaki a margin of 231,728 votes over Odinga, about 3 percentage points.
...
The head of the International Republican Institute - a nonpartisan democracy-building organization whose work in Kenya was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development - said the data weren't released because of concerns about their validity.

The institute contracted an experienced Kenyan polling firm, Strategic Public Relations and Research, which had done two previous national-opinion polls for the institute last year. But on election day the institute's staff found that pollsters weren't gathering information in some areas.
...
The senior Western official, who reviewed partial results, described them as credible. The survey included a sufficient sample of voters from around the country, and Odinga's lead was comfortably outside the expected margin of error for a poll of that size, the official said.

Strategic Public Relations & Research Limited is the same firm commissioned by IRI in 2002 when they took credit for successfully predicting that year's presidential elections by polling 3000 voters. The IRI issued a press release on January 15th stating that "For IRI to rush to release a poll that was incomplete and very likely inaccurate would have been irresponsible and dangerous given the situation in Kenya." What may have changed between 2002 and 2005 was not addressed.

At a minimum, the role of all of these organizations need to be included in any investigation of the "voting irregularities" in the 2007 presidential elections. Were the sponsored polls used at all in adjusting the outcome? Do they contain data that paints a picture no longer helpful to certain interests? Which was more rigged - the final totals or the entire system? And how do all of these pieces fit together? These questions, among many others, need to be raised and addressed.

"The US confidence in Kenya as a regional strategic partner has not been threatened by the crisis and will not be"

Finally, there are the machinations of the diplomatic front - the public face put on by state officials. By now everyone is familiar with the U.S. State Department's rush to congratulate Mr. Kibaki on Sunday after it looked like he was able to pull off the coup:

”We obviously congratulate the president on his election," department spokesman Rob McInturff told AFP.

"Again we would call on the people of Kenya to accept the results of the election and to move forward with the democratic process," he said.
-- AFP, US congratulates Kenyan president on re-election, December 30, 2007

"The United States congratulates the winners and is calling for calm, and for Kenyans to abide by the results declared by the election commission. We support the commission's decision."
-- Reuters, Kibaki wins Kenya's presidential election, December 30, 2008

This was followed by the about-face on Monday morning:

"We do have serious concerns, as I know others do, about irregularities in the vote count, and we think it's important that those concerns... be resolved through constitutional and legal means," department spokesperson Tom Casey said.

"I'm not offering congratulations to anybody, because we have serious concerns about the vote count," he added after another State Department spokesperson on Sunday had congratulated Kibaki.
...
"What's clear to us is that there are some real problems here and that those need to be resolved in the Kenyan system, in accordance with their constitution, in accordance with their legal system"
-- AFP, US withdraws congratulations, December 31, 2007

In these seemingly contradictory messages one can observe two themes that now, more than two weeks later, have become easily recognizable as orchestrated talking points -- moving on, and, in an incomplete interpretation of the legal standings on the matter, the election results have been announced, so the law says if you want to challenge them, take it to court.

Both of these fit into the U.S. efforts to prevent a recount or rerun.

As the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ratteberger told the audience at a CSIS forum [transcript and audio available] on January 16th, "our position so far is to say that Kibaki was named winner by the ECK regardless of how flawed the election was, and so he’s the president." It should be pointed out that when Kibaki was declared the winner and then immediately sworn in, there was a precedent for it -- two actually -- in 1992 and 1997, the last two terms of Daniel arap Moi's "re-election". As mentioned earlier, not only was 1992 the first year that multiparty elections were held in Kenya, but it was the first year that both IRI and IFES became involved in that country. For obvious reasons, neither of these two items gets mentioned in the "free" press.

On the talking point that Kibaki was sworn in by the ECK and thus any challenges must go through the courts - it is patently false. As explained in an article on the Mars Group Kenya Blog:

On receiving [the counts] the ECK gives all parliamentary and presidential candidates 24 hours to lodge complaints, if any, including demanding a recount or retallying.

The ECK is obliged to, within 48 hours, allow the recount or retallying. All candidates and the ECK therefore have 72 hours to resolve any disputes. It is only after the period that the ECK can announce the winners of each of the 210 parliamentary seats and issue a certificate known as Form 17 to each elected MP and Form 18 to the elected president. The results are then gazetted.

With due respect to Mr Kivuitu, it was irregular, unlawful and void in law to announce the results on December 30 and swear in the President on the same day. The ECK boss announced the results when he did not have the original Forms 16, 16A and 17A from each constituency, refused to allow the 24-hour period for candidates to lodge complaints and declined to allow retallying. He told the world that his returning officers had gone underground, and that he did not have powers to order retallying.

On the day the results were being announced, Special Gazette Notice No. 12612 was issued declaring Mr Kibaki the president. Mr Kivuitu deliberately misled the world and subverted the law.

Section 5 of the Constitution states that the president shall be elected in accordance with the Constitution and the National Assembly and Presidential Elections Act, Cap 7. Non-compliance with the mandatory provisions vitiates the process.

In law, the fundamental principle is that a void process does not confer legitimacy. A public officer acting in compliance with the law must comply with the substantive, formal and procedural conditions laid down and at all times act in good faith and for the public good.

The Law Society of Kenya, "the premier bar association and legal development agency in Kenya," is only one organization among many that makes up the coalition Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice which has just released documentation, titled Count Down to Deception: 30 Hours that Destroyed Kenya, detailing many of the issues which made the election results null and void:

We provide a table of these anomalies, malpractices and illegalities committed in at least 49 constituencies across the country. Instructively, in the constituencies these electoral offences occurred, the presidential election results announced by the ECK do not tally with those released at the constituency tallying centres as reported on Kenya Television Network (KTN) and/or observed by the Kenyan Election Domestic Observers Forum (KEDOF).

Again, we reiterate that the electoral anomalies, malpractices and illegalities noted were sufficient to alter the outcomes of the Presidential election. To this extent, the counting and tallying process for the Presidential election cannot be called free and fair. And the incumbent cannot be said to be in office legitimately or legally. An independent investigation into this process is necessary to bring the country to closure on this issue. Such an investigation must be a priority for the mediation process.

However, the talking point about taking any complaints to court began almost immediately following the swearing in and consecutive ban on live media coverage in the country -- which just happend to cut off a live broadcast of an ODM press conference -- and continues to get parroted in certain circles. On January 15th, an article in the East African Standard, on the nonsense that the hardliner John Michuki spit out last week, couldn't help but stating the obvious:

Michuki’s tune fell in line with what appears to be a well-choreographed tune in Government that goes thus: "Kibaki won the elections fairly; any aggrieved party should go to court".

Others who have adopted this line in the past include Justice minister Ms Martha Karua and Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua, who went to the extent of saying Kufuor jetted in "to have tea" with his longtime friend, President Kibaki.

Of course, the list is longer than that. For instance,  there's the Foreign Affairs Minister on the 14th -- "President Kibaki was voted for by Kenyans, declared a winner by a competent Electoral Commission, sworn in and has formed Government. Any challenge to that has to be made by a court of law. The claims are untenable and illegal" -- or, better still, in an article on January 8 from the same paper,  on statements by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Jendayi Frazer during her extended stay in Nairobi:

Asked about the options during negotiations and whether a presidential run off was expected, Frazer responded that it was up to the two leaders to hammer out a compromise.

However, she noted that the law stipulated that once the ECK had announced results, any party contesting the outcome should seek remedy in the courts.

Further inquiry into where this talking point originating would be illuminating. However, the fact that the PNU and the US are using the very same language suggests more than just a harmonious coincidence.

Publicly, the U.S. has insisted that it is a neutral mediator in this crisis yet its positions show otherwise and, in fact, display solid backing for Kibaki.

Both are firmly against any recounting or re-running of the elections. In an interview with the Daily Nation that ran on the same day Ambassador Ranneberger told the CSIS forum that it is the U.S. position that Kibaki is legitimately the President, he also explained that "[t]he idea of a recount is not feasible because documents have gone missing or been altered. A fresh election is not feasible either. It’s not the best thing to put this country through this kind of trauma so soon again." At the CSIS event he opined: "Neither side has the money for it"

Rather than allowing a re-run, the U.S. agenda is to promote the idea of a power-sharing arrangement. A January 9 article in the East African Standard, Frazer opposes fresh polls, describes Asst. Secretary Frazer's press briefing immediately following her meeting with the Catholic Kisumu Archdiocese wherein the Archbishop advanced the position that "Kibaki has no authority to govern and he should immediately step aside for fresh presidential elections."

US Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Africa, Ms Jendayi Frazer, said she believes a re-run of the elections was not the way forward.
...
"I don’t support calls for a re-run of the elections as the way forward. It is not my responsibility to decide for Kenyans on the matter. It is up to political leaders," she said.
...
She said the way forward was for the politicians to accommodate each other in a power-sharing strategy.

She said the proposed power-sharing plan should also be constitutionalised.

On the very same day, another article ran with the headline, "We oppose poll re-run, says PNU"

The Party Of National Unity (PNU) is against a re-run of the disputed General Elections.

Finance Minister, Mr Amos Kimunya, said the PNU was against the use of the ballot box to sort out the political crisis.

"A re-run is not practical because it would not enable the country to achieve its social and economic designs," he said.

This view, however, appears to be in the minority. In the strongest international pressure yet, the European Parliament resolution of 17 January 2008 on Kenya declares the EU position as follows:

3. Regrets that, despite the broadly successful parliamentary elections, the results of the presidential elections cannot be considered credible owing to widespread reports of electoral irregularities;

4. Deplores the fact that Mwai Kibaki, appointed his cabinet unilaterally, which severely undermined mediation efforts;

5. Calls on Mwai Kibaki, to respect his country’s democratic commitments as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya, the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, and to agree to an independent examination of the presidential vote; urges the Kenyan authorities, in addition, to facilitate such an investigation in order to redress the situation and make the perpetrators of the electoral irregularities accountable for their actions;
...
8. ... calls on the Commission to offer to the Kenyan authorities all necessary technical and financial assistance in the process of an independent examination of the presidential elections, as well as in the steps deemed necessary to redress the situation;
...
12. Calls for fresh presidential elections should it prove impossible to organise a credible and fair recount of the votes cast in the presidential election by an independent body;

This is similar to the ODM position, which has requested international assistance to obtain mediation that results in a coalition government for three months until the elections can be conducted again. The mass protests that took place last week were part of that effort, acknowledged by ODM Party Secretary-General, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o as reported by the East African Standard, "The aim of the rallies to is to make a point to the public and the world that the presidential vote was stolen and we are ready for a re-run."

The U.S. explanations for why a re-run is not possible do not hold water and therefore appear calculated to protect Kibaki and the PNU.

In an article, Kufuor’s whistle-stop diplomacy was only to pave way for Annan, in the East African on January 14, one can find more confirmation of this:

What is emerging ... is that the United States and European countries appear to be pulling in different directions in the conflict.
...
Washington’s overriding concern in Kenya is stability. Indeed, ODM stalwarts say US top diplomat Jendayi Frazer, who was last Friday still in the country, has been pushing them to accept Cabinet positions in Kibaki’s government and ignore the genesis of the conflict.

In contrast, the Europeans, through the European Union, are pushing for a re-tallying of the presidential vote and, finally, a re-run of the presidential election.

In Ambassador Ranneberger's remarks during last week's CSIS event, he quickly gave his take on both parties positions:

on Kibaki’s side, his people have told him, of course, that time is on their side, that if they simply proceed unilaterally, in essence, all this is going to go away; the country will calm down and they’ll muddle along. On Odinga’s side, he’s counting on international pressure and the threat to make the country ungovernable to force Kibaki to step down or make major concessions.

We told both of them that those kinds of assumptions are dead wrong. The country’s not just going to return to normal and on Odinga’s side we’ve told him that the international community is not going to ride to the rescue and at some point, you know, people will get tired of sort of mass action.

Realising that it's going to be difficult to get Kibaki and Odinga to agree on a power-sharing structure -- as Ranneberger admits, "to be frank about it, I don’t think ... it’s inconceivable that [Odinga] would simply want to stay in the opposition and continue to make things difficult for the government" since he's been burned by Kibaki previously and has little to gain from any permanent power-sharing arrangement -- the Ambassador continued on:

So our efforts are sort of directed at trying to corral them or trap them, if you will, into a face-to-face meeting to launch a – (audio break) – and the idea would be that the process would be launched – that by getting a process launched you have to stop the immediate violence and then provide the space that’s needed to address these fundamental institutional issues which, of course, will take time.

Evidently, one of those schemes to "trap them" involved the World Bank and its Kenyan official Colin Bruce in behind-the-scenes attempts to get a power-sharing agreement signed during the visit from Ghana's John Kufuor. From the January 14 East African article cited earlier:

It was during discussion of the Harambee House meeting that the controversial agreement on power-sharing that eventually caused the talks to collapse came up.

The meeting agreed that the controversial document would form the basis of the truce and consequently the face-to-face meeting between Raila and Kibaki.

Where did this controversial document come from and did President Kibaki know about its contents? Did the president commit to implementing the controversial agreement at any point during the negotiations?

What we have been able to establish is that at the height of the ethnic violence that gripped Rift Valley Province, a group of Mombasa-based businessmen and allies of Pentagon member Musalia Mudavadi joined hands with World Bank country director Colin Bruce apparently to offer freelance secret mediation between Mwai Kibaki and Raila.

We have also confirmed from the diplomatic community that all major diplomatic missions in Nairobi were aware of the parallel mediation process that had begun long before Kufuor came into town.
...
One senior Western diplomat, speaking to The EastAfrican under conditions of anonymity, admitted having been shown the document by Mr Bruce as early as Saturday last week.

It has also emerged that the document was widely circulated to Western diplomatic missions.

Did Colin Bruce have the mandate from Kibaki to work on the agreement?

Who were the other shadowy characters working with the World Bank representative? Is it conceivable that a senior World Bank official should have involved himself in the negotiations so intimately without the knowledge of his hosts? These questions still lack answers.
...
Apparently, Colin Bruce intimated to many Western diplomats that everything was to be done secretly to prevent the hardliners in Kibaki’s Cabinet knowing what was going on.

From the Daily Nation interview with Ranneberger:

Q: One of the reasons leading to the meeting planned for last Thursday between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga being cancelled is said to have been President Kibaki’s refusal to sign the controversial agreement negotiated by representatives of both sides. You were listed alongside your British and French counterparts as witness to the agreement. What exactly was your role?

Ranneberger: We had no role whatsoever in negotiation of that document. I understand what happened is that representatives of PNU and ODM approached the World Bank and asked them to facilitate negotiation of a document that could set agenda for the way forward. That document was negotiated between PNU and ODM representatives.

They said they were in direct touch with President Kibaki and Mr Odinga. At a certain point, ODM asked President Kufuor to present to document to President Kibaki to confirm that he was in agreement with it. It was at that point that it became apparent that President Kibaki had never seen the document. 

So I don’t know exactly what happened but there was a huge misunderstanding in regard to that document. We had indicated to President Kufuor that we were prepared to witness the signing of it if the two sides wanted us to. That is how our names appeared on the document.

And from Ranneberger's remarks at the CSIS forum on the 16th:

The U.S. has been very much at the center of trying to promote dialogue, both by supporting the African Union but also directly, of course. We are uniquely positioned, I think, with credibility on both sides.
...
[On ODM objections to a power-sharing structure]
I certainly don’t think he’s going to be signing any documents without an international witness but, you know, it’s absolutely true that the level of mistrust is tremendous. That’s where I think we, particularly the U.S., comes in, in indicating a willingness to witness. And we’ve sort of avoided the term guaranteed, but I think we’re willing to go pretty far to some sort of an agreement between them.

So that's where things stand now. The U.S. has sided with the PNU in rejecting calls for a recount -- which in all likelihood is no longer possible given the time elapsed since the election, the lax security measures that allowed the inflated counts, and the general mistrust of the ECK's impartiality -- and using its influence to prevent a re-run.

Kibaki so far remains an international pariah, having received official recognition from only a handful of governments (Uganda, Swaziland, Somalia and Morocco), after such a blatant auto-coup literally following in the footsteps of the corrupt and brutal regime of Moi. (The message that will be understood from this has yet to be determined. Autocrats like Yoweri Museveni, Paul Kagame, and Meles Zenawi would probably rather not see a popular democracy movement succeed in Kenya and encourage similar ideas in their own nations.) Odinga, who was imprisoned and tortured under the Moi, knows all too well what is at stake. As do many other.

As the ACAS press release quoted at the outset of this report states:

The U.S. has played a central role in building up Kenya’s weaponry and internal security apparatus, now being deployed in the crisis. Current U.S.-Kenyan relations are a product of 24 years of U.S. support to the Daniel arap Moi dictatorship that jailed, exiled or disappeared those opposed to the regime.

During last week's mass protests, the world became increasingly aware of the brutality of that internal security apparatus as reports poured in of the regular police, the GSU, and paramilitaries, operating under an informal "shoot to kill" policy, firing live ammunition indiscriminately and killing scores of civilians, including those not even involved in demonstrations.

Under the larger context of the GWOT, Kenya is slipping into a national security state, which, from a historical perspective, fits in with the ideological rationale of the old cold warriors behind the U.S. institutions heavily involved in "democracy promotion" and electioneering in Kenya.

The current U.S. push for a "stable" Kenya involves (1) protecting the imperial presidency of Kibaki, first and foremost, and then (2) calling for internal reforms. Ranneberger described these reforms to the audience at CSIS -- "a package that needs to include a commitment to an agenda for institutional reform, meaning constitutional, electoral commission, land reform, the three key areas..."

In her thesis laid out in "Dictatorships and Double Standards", the neconservative academic Jeane Kirpatrick distinguished between left-wing and right-wing dictatorships, arguing that "right-wing 'authoritarian' governments are more amenable to democratic reform than left-wing 'totalitarian' states," thus providing the "intellectual" justification for continued U.S. support for authoritarian regimes, however brutal they may be. The idea, still accepted in the neoconservative worldview, is that their dictators are more open to external influence than the other guy's.

How seriously one wants to consider the notion that ODM represents a "left-wing" government, let alone one having totalitarian designs, is of lesser importance than the reality that it does pose a threat to "business as usual." ODM campaigned on the slogan of bringing change, accountability, and a more equitable distribution of the benefits that Kenya's economical advances have been reaping over the past years. It managed to unite many of the underrepresented and unrepresented populations of a very diverse nation. And therein lay the real threat - maintaining the established order of things. In terms of U.S. interests, which override all other considerations wherever the United States is involved, ODM represents instability.

The current Kenyan government and its foreign partners have much to answer for. Much blood has been shed needlessly. The chaos in the HOA has now spread into East Africa. Obscene amounts of money and efforts will be required just to provide a modicum of humanitarian assistance & subsistance for those displaced and affected by this latest, entirely avoidable, tragedy. Undelivered promises of "free and fair" elections are not to be taken lightly. Blame must be placed accordingly.

Perhaps more light will be shed on the Kenyan government's roles earlier last year in the secret detentions and other violations of international law and human rights. And perhaps, as more information comes out on the connections of the Kibaki regime in the U.S. GWOT, a fuller understanding and awareness of the U.S. role in the unfolding tragedies that have betrayed all meaningful definitions of the words democracy and sovereignty will develop and attempts at true accountability can begin.

But for the meantime, as Jendayi Frazer confidently announced to the press during her recent trip to Nairobi:

"The US confidence in Kenya as a regional strategic partner has not been threatened by the crisis and will not be.”

[You may also want to read Coup in Kenya - Part I and the comments to that piece]

Posted by b on January 21, 2008 at 11:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (136)

A Black Monday?

Current ticker numbers:

Nikkei   -3.86%
FTSE   -3.35%
DAX   -5.86%
CAC   -4.73%
DOW   -4.73%
S&P   -4.73%

As I wrote yesterday - You ain't seen nothing yet ...

Posted by b on January 21, 2008 at 08:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (71)

January 20, 2008

MSM Exposes The Lobby

This WaPo piece about the rightwing Freedom's Watch could likely not have been published, if not for Walt/Mearsheimer's work about the Israel Lobby. That book revealed a can of worms and now more and more people dare to peak inside.

Freedom's Watch will have money -- a lot of money. While initial reports suggested a budget of $200 million, people who have talked to the group in recent weeks say the figure is closer to $250 million, more than double the amount spent by the largest independent liberal groups in the 2004 election cycle.
...
The organization was conceived at a Florida meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition last spring with the initial aim of defending Bush's policies in Iraq and Iran. But like its inspiration and antagonist, it has moved on.

The aggressively negative anti-illegal-immigration ads that ran during the Ohio special election race strayed far from Middle East policy, but the ad campaign -- like the group itself -- was bankrolled largely by Sheldon G. Adelson, a Las Vegas casino executive who last year pledged an unprecedented $200 million to Jewish and Israeli causes.
...
As an appetizer, Freedom's Watch took out full-page ads last fall in the local newspapers of seven freshman House Democrats from rural districts, targeting their antiwar votes and linking them to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Many in Freedom Watch's donor base -- including Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Sembler, the strip-mall magnate from St. Petersburg, Fla. -- have always been strong supporters of Israel. The group's initial ad blitz in defense of Bush's troop buildup in Iraq came naturally out of those interests. [emphasis added]

Expressed shorter: War on Iraq and Iran is naturally in Israel's interests and pressure for those wars is financed and organized by very rich U.S. Zionists.

Such was obvious to many for years but hardly ever published in mainstream media.

But the U.S. people are for now somewhat done with further wars in Israel's interest and the result of Freedom's Watch millions will be a surge in anti-semitism.

In who's interest is that?

Posted by b on January 20, 2008 at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

January 19, 2008

Open Thread 08-04

The "paper of record" wants you to know that an Inquiry Finds Power Failure in London Jumbo Jet Crash.

A 'Jumbo Jet' is a four-engine Boeing 747 while the plane that crashed in London was a twin-engine 'Triple Seven'. A trivial mistake one may think but for the fact that the crash landing was likely a result of engine problems.

If the NYT gets even such banalities wrong, how about other stuff? Yes, a rhetorical question ...

News accounts are often misleading - intentionally or by mistake - and one has to read from multiple sources to know what really happens.

In the last open thread Bea documents the Israeli attempts to derail the current 'peace process'. b real keeps watch on AFRICOM and on the aftermath of the Coup in Kenya.

Please help their efforts and contribute your news & views here.

This is an open thread.

Posted by b on January 19, 2008 at 05:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (124)

January 18, 2008

Various Issues

1. Sorry for not posting. There was a family emergency I needed to attend and the place had no intertubes connectivity. Fortunately the emergency had a happy ending. I am an uncle now.

2. Spam filter: Dear Uncle$cam, one of your comments was caught about ten times. The problem should(!) be fixed now. Just in case you'd like to continue your valuable contributions.

3. As I am still on the road I can not write the piece on Afghanistan I had in mind. The situation  for the imperial NATO/US invaders there is quite hopeless. This diary by Ben Anderson in the London Review of Books gives some impressions on the military and "reconstruction" situation.

Posted by b on January 18, 2008 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

January 17, 2008

Pot-Kettle-Black - People Die

Gates' views, however, reflect those expressed recently by senior U.S. military officials with responsibility for Afghanistan. Some have said that an overreliance on heavy weaponry, including airstrikes, by NATO forces in the south may unwittingly be contributing to rising violence there.
...
"The wide view there, which I hear from Americans, is that the NATO military forces are taking on a Soviet mentality," said one senior U.S. military veteran of Afghanistan. "They're staying in their bases in the south, they're doing very little patrolling, they're trying to avoid casualties, and they're using air power as a substitute for ground infantry operations, because they have so little ground infantry."
Gates faults NATO force in southern Afghanistan, Jan 16, 2008

---

The U.S. military conducted more than five times as many airstrikes in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, targeting al-Qaeda safe houses, insurgent bombmaking facilities and weapons stockpiles in an aggressive strategy aimed at supporting the U.S. troop increase by overwhelming enemies with air power.
...
"Part of this is announcing our presence to the adversary," said Kahl, who recently returned from a trip to the air operations center. "Across this calendar year you will see a reduction in U.S. forces, so there will be fewer troops to support Iraqi forces. One would expect a continued level of airstrikes because of offensive operations, and as U.S. forces begin to draw down you may see even more airstrikes."
U.S. Boosts Its Use of Airstrikes In Iraq, Jan 17, 2008

Posted by b on January 17, 2008 at 03:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

January 16, 2008

War is Peace

I'm a war president.  I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind.  Again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true.  And the American people need to know they got a president who sees the world the way it is.  And I see dangers that exist, and it's important for us to deal with them.
Bush Interview on 'Meet the Press', February 8, 2004

---

"I'm sure people view me as a warmonger and I view myself as peacemaker," the president said.
..
When asked to respond to the fact that many Americans do not view him as a peacemaker, the president replied, "We'll see what history says. I happen to believe that the actions I've taken were necessary to protect ourselves and lay the foundation for peace. That's what I believe.
Bush Interview on 'Nightline', January 15, 2008

Posted by b on January 16, 2008 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

January 15, 2008

The 'Gift' of Weapons for Saudi Arabia

Timeo Danaos et dona ferente

While channel surfing last night I stumbled across CNN international. Wolf Blitzer announced the topics of his following Situation Room show.

'Bush arrived in Saudi Arabia with a huge gift of $20 billion,' or so he said.  I didn't feel well enough to sustain his babbling so I immediately zapped away.

But today I checked the transcript and, as expected, Blitzer was as fact-free as it gets. "a pricey gift ..." he said.

This is not a gift, but, in the benign version, an offer to sell some very expensive and useless stuff. As the Saudis depend on U.S. defense, (and are deliberately kept in that state), they are required to pay tribute. Since the first U.S. war on Iraq, Saudi Arabia purchased U.S. weapons for about $40 billion. One is tempted to call these sales camouflaged extortion.

The $20 billion Blitzer talked about is the amount for which the U.S. hopes to sell weapons to six Gulf countries. The United Arab Emirates are offered to buy for some $10 billion and Kuwait for $1.7 billion. The current total deal with Saudi Arabia will likely stay below $1 billion.

The most imminent sell to SA is of 900 JDAM kits for a price of $123 million. JDAMs are strap-on guidance system for dumb gravity bombs. They depend on GPS satellite signals, something the U.S. can disable anytime. The weapons SA will purchase for a horrendous price are less capable than those Israel gets for free. (Sidenote: the NYT link above nearly beats the quality of Blitzer's reporting by confusing the bombs in question with missiles. Missiles can be launched from a distance - bomb droppers are exposed to adversarial air defense.)

The price of the JDAM deal is some $137,000 per guided bomb. But the pure JDAM strap-on kit is listed by FAS as costing about $20,000. The dumb bombs these guidance-kits are strapped to are less than $4,000 each.

The market price for the deal should thereby be around $22 million, not $123 million. The extra $100 million on the bill are bribes, profits and funds for the Republican party.

Did I mention extortion? That's the only real issue these Gulf weapon deals are about.

The Saudi military buys a lot of USuk hightech, but never manages to integrate the stuff. The more complex systems are maintained and run by Saudi payed U.S. contractors. Some fun stuff is used for training games, like competitive tank-gunning with live ammunition. A few Saudi princes are allowed to show off in modern jets to impress their peers and girl friends. The Saudi military is essentially a deliberate hoax.

If the Saudis would ever take their national defense seriously, they immediately would be in danger to lose their oil fields to a U.S. marines onslaught. Such plans exist since 1973 and continue today as visible in Lt.Col. Ralph Peters' map.

The only 'gift' the US is offering SA is to keep the status quo intact. This as long as the Saudis pay their tribute.

Timeo Danaos ...

---
Note: Beating CNN anytime, Asia Times has a good piece on the deal: Smart bombs, dangerous ideas

Posted by b on January 15, 2008 at 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Imperial Arrogance

Allies Feel Strain of Afghan War
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2008; A01

The above piece about NATO's lost war is filled with reporting of disdain against troops other than the U.S.:

British officials note that the eastern region, where most U.S. forces are based, is far quieter than the Taliban-saturated center of British operations in Helmand, the country's top opium-producing province. The American rejoinder, spoken only in private with references to British operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is that superior U.S. skills have made it so.
...

In Iraq, British commanders touted their successful "hearts and minds" efforts in Northern Ireland, tried to replicate them in southern Iraq, and criticized more heavy-handed U.S. operations in the north. Their U.S. counterparts say they are tired of hearing about Northern Ireland and point out that British troops largely did not quell sectarian violence in the south. The same tensions have emerged in Afghanistan, where U.S. officials criticized what one called a "colonial" attitude that kept the British from retaining control over areas wrested from the Taliban.

Pot - kettle - black ....

But this imperial arrogance is not limited to the U.S. military establishment. The reporter is just as ignorant:

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Bush at his Texas ranch in November, U.S. and German officials said, she told him that while Bonn would step up its contribution in quiet northern Afghanistan, any change in Germany's noncombat role would spell political disaster for her conservative government.

The Potomac Prawda doesn't even get the capital city of the second biggest NATO country right. This on its frontpage - no less ...

Trivial? Maybe - but these things add up pretty quick. The fall of the U.S. empire will be, to a great part, the result of such attitude.

Posted by b on January 15, 2008 at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

Coup in Kenya - Part I

Will Ugandans be firing on protestors in Kenia this week?

by b real

Probably the hottest topic right now for Kenyans, be they in Kenya or as part of the diaspora, is whether the reports of increased Ugandan military activities are true and just what that implies for the planned 3-day mass opposition protests across the country scheduled to begin on Wednesday this week.

Rumors have persisted, since the outbreak of spontaneous protests immediately following the civilian coup allowing Mwai Kibaki to retain that nation's executive power, of Ugandan operatives being involved in the crackdown on protestors in Kenya's western regions.

As Onyango Oloo wrote recently in a blog essay, PNU's Coup: How Can Kenyans Fight Back?, at JUKWAA:

Credible reports indicate that Ugandan troops - some of them dressed in Kenyan police uniforms, some of them in civvies - have been implicated in the extra-judicial state ordered executions of unarmed civilians in Kisumu, including many infants and minors, with some shot at close range while cowering in their own homes.

It is widely recognized that a substantial portion of the deaths ensuing in the often violent response to the blatant election theft are directly attributable to Kenyan security forces after shoot-to-kill orders were backed up with live ammunition. Even before the recent events, the Kenyan police have long held a notorious record. For instance, in a recent profile of Kenya in a report by the Center for Defense Information, the authors wrote:

"Security forces, particularly the police, commit serious human rights abuses including extrajudicial killings, torture and rape, and prison conditions can be life threatening for detainees." 

The police are understood as a corrupt institution and have continued to operate with impunity, so it has not been surprising to hear the reports that are coming out of Kenya following the coup.

Maina Kiai, chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, told the audience at an event at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars last Thursday that he has 50 photos in his office of corpses shot execution style by the Kenyan police. Stories abound throughout the country of government forces firing on unarmed protestors.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the organization Human Rights Watch demanded that the Kenyan government end its use of excessive force against civilians.

Since the disputed December 27, 2007 presidential elections, Kenyan police in several cities have used live ammunition to disperse protesters and disperse looters, killing and wounding dozens. Some observers and even police have described the police response as an unofficial “shoot to kill” policy. For example, Human Rights Watch received credible reports that in Kisumu dozens of people were shot dead by police while demonstrating against the election result announced on December 31. 

Even people who did not attend rallies have been affected. Human Rights Watch spoke to eyewitnesses in Nairobi who saw unarmed individuals hit by police gunfire on the fringes of protests in the Kibera and Mathare slums. One woman was hit by stray bullets that penetrated the wall of her home. Another unarmed man was shot in the leg. A boy watching a protest from the door of his house was shot in the chest. Kenyan human rights organizations reported deaths and injuries involving police in the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret. 

A source within the police, who was unwilling to be identified, told Human Rights Watch that “many of us are unhappy with what we are being asked to do. This ‘shoot to kill’ policy is illegal, and it is not right. We have brothers and sisters, sons and daughters out there.”

In fact, many contend that it is exactly these concerns about the loyalty of the government forces to follow though on orders to severely repress any protestors which explains the involvement of Ugandan mercenaries. As one article in Uganda's New Vision reported on January 10:

“The rumour goes that Ugandan gunmen were brought in to shoot at demonstrators after local policemen refused to fire at their own people,” says the manager.

Kisumu MP and former mayor of the town, Shabir Shakeel, confirms the rumour but says he does not believe they were Ugandan soldiers.

“A rapid deployment unit was brought in, taking orders directly from Nairobi”, he tells The New Vision team at Imperial Hotel in Kisumu.

“They followed a shoot-to-kill policy. People say among them were mamuluki (mercenaries) from Uganda because they were differently dressed.”
...
While most of the casualties were caused by the General Service Unit and the Administration Police, the mamuluki fired the first shots, people in Kisumu believe.

Whether these were Ugandans or just forces transfered in from other regions less familiar with the locale, the article goes on to describe how "Hundreds of people, mainly from Raila's Luo tribe, were shot by security forces in ten days of post-election violence in Kisumu," the majority of which were unarmed and not necessarily even participating in any protest demonstrations.

Since the coup, an opinion frequently made by experts in the region is that Kibaki will only be able to hang on to power through the use of military repression. An article from January 2nd in the Financial Times informed its readers that:

If, as many analysts in Kenya are predicting, the only way for Mr Kibaki to enforce his authority in the absence of a legitimate mandate is to crush dissent, the loyalty of the security forces would become crucial.

Maina Kiai, chairman of the Kenyan National commission on Human rights, said: "If Kibaki insists on staying, I don't see how else he'll govern this country other than with a heavy hand."
...
The Kalenjins, among other tribes that bear grievances, make up a significant proportion of the army.

For now, Mr Kibaki is relying on paramilitary units of the police who, according to security sources, have been freshly armed. But if the situation continues to deteriorate and he was forced to press the army on to the streets, the consequences could be grave, with the possibility that the troops become factionalised.

On that very same day the FT ran their story, reports broke that Kibaki started to employ the army in select regions. It would be risky deploying the Kalenjin troops, who families and friends reside primarily in the western regions, into those areas. Rather, and as reports seem to bear out, the PNU government has relied on other components of its security apparatus; the General Service Unit (GSU), the regular police, quite possibly the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and organized militias to carry out the repression throughout these provinces. And perhaps with some assistance from Uganda, in the form of sanctioned soldiers or, for the sake of official denial, proxy mercenaries.

The stories of an Ugandan presence in Kenya began within days following the coup. For the first two weeks, the accounts coming out of Nyanza and the Rift Valley were hard to substantiate - not only on the reports of Ugandan activities, but also on the situation in general.

Since the Kibaki goverment has issued an immediate ban on political broadcasting -- including the seemingly ubiquitous technology of text messaging -- communications from region to region have been limited and decentralized, with many unfounded rumours and disinformation plants contributing to the already chaotic context and making it more difficult to find out what really was happening on the ground.

Now that more media institutions have began ignoring the ban, along with the perspectives that have evolved from the elapsed time since the immediate shock occurred, corrobative accounts are coming forth to help connect some of the dots surrounding Ugandan complicity.

It didn't help that Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni followed in the footsteps of the United States and offered official recognition of Kibaki's "re-election" victory. Just as the U.S. was the only western power to rush to congratulate Kibaki, Museveni so far has been the only African leader to formally do the same. However, while the U.S. State Department has second toughts regarding their image and then retracted their initial congratulations, Museveni has yet to apologize for it.

This behavior certainly raised the eyebrows of most, Kenyans especially, and has led to much speculation -- see, for instance, Why Museveni was quick to back Kibaki -- contributing to the impression that Uganda is backing Kibaki's coup.

Starting last week, the attention paid to the stories of an Ugandan presence in western Kenyan magnified, in large part due to the questions and concerns that ODM members have raised about foreign involvement in the killing of their supporters. Last Tuesday, opposition candidate Raila Odinga drew headlines as he made public accusations against Museveni during an interview program:

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Tuesday that he had called President Yoweri Museveni to protest what he called the presence of Ugandan gunmen in the lakeside city of Kisumu, where riots erupted in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election.

The gunmen "have killed quite a number of civilians in Kisumu", Mr Odinga said during an interview on KFM's Hot Seat show on Tuesday evening.

The opposition leader, who claims to have won the disputed  December 27 presidential election, said Kisumu residents had variously reported seeing armed men driven in vehicles with Ugandan registration numbers. But the men were dressed in civilian attire, the Orange Democratic Movement party leader said.

Mr Odinga revealed that President Museveni had denied knowledge of the Ugandan military's presence in post-election Kenya.

"What happened is that there were vehicles with Ugandan registration numbers. They were seen in Kisumu and the occupants were wearing civilian clothes. They have been shooting and they have killed quite a number of civilians in Kisumu…" Mr Odinga said.

"But I had occasion to speak to President Yoweri Museveni who assured me that there are no Ugandan forces in the country, and I have reason to believe what he was saying."

It is possible that the suspected Ugandan gunmen could have been Kenyan police officers using vehicles from Uganda, he said without citing a possible motive.

That same article, in Uganda's Daily Monitor, also reported:

It was not possible to independently verify claims of the Ugandan military's participation in post-election violence in Kenya. But a reliable source who was among the security personnel deployed in Nyanza Province, which takes in Kisumu, said a curious Kenyan army officer identified two Ugandans clad in the Kenya Police uniform.

The duo communicated in Luganda, the source claimed, a language not used in Kenya's armed forces. After a brief interrogation, one of the two gunmen allegedly admitted that he was a Ugandan, before being whisked away by security.

As pointed out earlier, many of the accounts from residents in Nyanza refer to mysterious army personnel speaking a strange language.

After attempts last week at international mediation in the standoff between Kibaki, entrenched in institutional inertia surrounded by his "Mt Kenya Mafia", and Odinga, adamant that the people of Kenya's majority voice be recognized, failed to make much headway, Odinga's party, ODM - the Orange Democratic Movement, announced that it was taking its position back out in the streets in three days of orchestrated mass protests. Scheduled to begin this Wednesday, the rallies are to take place in some 16 cities throughout the country. Already, Kibaki's government has declared the rallies illegal, having banned all public assembly.

As the Human Rights Watch statement cited earlier makes clear, "Kenyan and international law prohibits a general ban on demonstrations" and recommends that "[t]he government ... defuse tension by immediately lifting the ban on public assembly ... allowing the planned demonstrations to go ahead"

If Kibaki is indeed intent on using repression to protect his power -- and every indication is that this is the case given the extra-judicial executions of civilian protestors by his state security appartus and, as Kiai and CSIS's Joel Barkan stated at the Wilson Center panel, that it is their impression that Kibaki cynically sacrificed his own Kikuyu people in the western regions by his actions -- any attempts to mobilize mass demonstrations will be met with mass murder.

Given the path he has taken, Kibaki leaves himself few alternative options. Right now he is betting that he can dissolve his opposition through tactics of divide-and-rule and the use of extreme violence to hurry and reach that point where the people decide they cannot suffer any more, and still maintain the support of his western backers.

ODM, on the other hand, is trying to leverage their popular support and keep Kibaki on the defensive and bring about regime change through a combination of mass, non-violent demonstrations and economic means so that eventually Kenya's international investors will decide that they cannot suffer any more and that Kibaki has to go. This is also a risky venture, with high potential costs.

It could be shaping up to be a very bloody week in Kenya.

From Monday's East African Standard: ODM: Govt importing troops

MPs-elect from Western and Nyanza provinces have accused the Government of importing Ugandan soldiers to cause mayhem during their peaceful mass rallies this week.

The MPs claimed they had evidence that the Ugandan troops are in Kenya with the consent of Kibaki’s Government.

The ODM leaders have demanded that all Ugandan troops in Kenya be withdrawn immediately to protect the sovereignty of the country.

"These troops have been seen landing by boat along the shores of Lake Victoria at various points from Sori to Port Victoria," stated the MPs in a statement read by Mr Chris Okemo, the Nambale MP-elect at a news conference at Orange House, Nairobi on Sunday.

They have made crossings at Malaba and Busia border posts," they added.

They cited the case in Usenge where the Ugandan troops were allegedly met on one of the beaches and escorted by local police vehicles on Saturday.

"In the last one week there has been a heavy build-up of Ugandan troops along the border. In the absence of a similar build-up of Kenyan troops our people have justification to worry," the MPs stated.

The MPs further claimed that they had filmed three busloads of Ugandan troops crossing into Kenya through the Malaba border.

"The buses had Kenyan registration numbers. The registration numbers of one of the vehicles is KAZ 803D. We are fortunate that this particular crossing was recorded on film and can be made available to the media at an appropriate time," they said.

The statement further claimed that in Nyatike, Rangwe, Mbita, Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Siaya, Bondo and Kisumu districts, the Ugandan troops went into villages and markets, harassed residents and caused mayhem.

"They have caused deaths in Nyatike, Mbita, Gem, Bondo and Ugenya," Okemo said.

The MPs further accused the Government of plotting to punish residents in ODM strongholds.

---------
The next installment will explore the roles of both Uganda and the United States in this story and offer suggestions on how the international community can play a positive role.

[Part II is now available here]

Posted by b on January 15, 2008 at 04:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (67)

January 13, 2008

The New de-Baathification

The Guardian headlines Iraq opens door to Saddam's followers. The NYT says Iraq Eases Curb on Ex-Officials of Baath Party and McClatchey assures us that Iraq's parliament lets Baathists back into government.

A great victory for Bush who, himself responsible for the ill-conveived de-Baathification enacted under Paul Bremer, announced a year ago:

[T]o allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, ...

Not so!

The new law will do just the opposite. As Juan Cole questions:

If the new law was good for ex-Baathists, then the ex-Baathists in parliament will have voted for it and praised it, right? And likely the Sadrists (hard line anti-Baath Shiites) and Kurds would be a little upset.

Instead, parliament's version of this law was spearheaded by Sadrists, and the ex-Baathists in parliament criticized it.

Somehow that little drawback suggests to me that the law is not actually, as written, likely to be good for sectarian reconciliation.

Indeed the new law, which still needs approval by the Iraqi President and Vice Presidents, includes only marginal positive points:

Lami, [spokesman for the current de-Baathification commission,] estimated that 3,500 people from the third-highest Baathist rank, or Shubah members, would be allowed to apply for pension payments but would still be kept from their jobs. About 13,000 people from the fourth rank, known as Firqa members, would be eligible to return, but he expected that many would not.

"Most of them are either working outside the country and they don't want to go back to Iraq, or they're afraid somebody will take revenge on them ..."
...
The new measure would also prohibit Baathists who worked in Hussein's security services from returning to jobs, as well as ban their return to some of the most influential agencies, such as the Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry ...

The new law is allowing some Baathist to receive pensions and a few may get government jobs that likely don't fit their expertise.

But it is even worse. The law eliminates ex-Baathists who currently are in government functions from their jobs:

The new measure could lead to a new purge of members of the current Iraqi government, Lami said, including about 7,000 officers in the Interior Ministry. Even influential Iraqi security force officials who used to be Baathists could face removal.

"The commander of the Baghdad security plan and his assistants, according to the new law, they should retire," he said.

Unreported in the news accounts is how this law will effect the secret police force, build by the CIA out of Saddam's old security personal and still under its control. Could this have been the objective of the law?

The new law might even lead to elimination the opposition in the Iraqi parliament. As Cole translates from an Arab paper:

The law contains an article forbidding the Baath Party "from returning to power ideologically, administratively, politically or in practice, and under any other name."
...
[T]his objectionable passage seems to make it possible for the Sadrists, e.g., to keep people like Iyad Allawi from ever again enjoying high office. His secular, nationalist Iraqi National Dialogue party could easily just be branded too close to the original Baath Party and dissolved, and he could be excluded from high office by this new provision.

So while the "western" media hails the new law as success for one of Bush's benchmarks, it is actually the opposite.

It will deepen resentment in Iraq and reinforce the (ex-)Baathist part of the resistance.

Posted by b on January 13, 2008 at 07:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

January 12, 2008

Fresh Open Thread

Sorry, too busy to post.

Please let us know your news & views ...

Posted by b on January 12, 2008 at 04:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (76)

January 11, 2008

Windy Friday

bigger

Six megawatt wind turbine Enercon E 126 near Emden, Germany, build late 2007.

Expected output 20 million kilo watt-hours per year, enough for 5,000+ households. High of hub 430 feet (131m), rotor diameter 416 feet (127m), tower base diameter 48 feet (14,5m) - more here (pdf, page 6f)

This year they will build one of these some 3 miles from my places. Can't wait to see it growing ...

Posted by b on January 11, 2008 at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Headlines

Current headlines:

For a short moment, I was somewhat confused by these.

Posted by b on January 11, 2008 at 04:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

January 10, 2008

Air Power and Excess Death

Maj.Gen. Dunlap, an Air Force officer, yesterday proclaimed We Still Need the Big Guns. His NYT op-ed is basicly a lobbying piece for Dunlap's next employer, Lockheed or Boeing. But the pretended cause is counterinsurgency and some incoherent thought. Robert at Tapped summarizes it:

  1. The military success of the Surge is due to an increase in "boots on the ground"; ...
  2. The counter-insurgency manual still sucks, but its proponents misunderstand its key tenets, which are much more forceful than commonly believed, even though it still sucks.
  3. The Air Force really won the Surge, through a substantial expansion in airstrikes.
  4. Actually, the Surge didn't work, because the only success we've seen is due to segregation of neighborhoods and cozying up to Sunni tribal leaders, so consequently the counter-insurgency manual still sucks.
  5. And then there's Russia, which proves we need more F-22s.  Why won't anyone think of the Russians?

To airmen like Dunlap and the assorted industry the Army counterinsurgency manual sucks simply because the Air Force only appears in the appendix. Just like Dan Haluz, the Israeli commander who lost the 33-day war against Hizbullah in Lebanon, Dunlap believes when you hit people long and hard enough, they will start to love you (one wonders how their wives do in their marriages).

Dunlap wants to Inflict Hopelessness with clean air-power:

[T]he nature of the air weapon is such that an Abu Ghraib or Hadithah simply cannot occur. The relative sterility of air power — which the boots-on-the-ground types oddly find distressing as somehow unmartial — nevertheless provides greater opportunity for the discreet application of force largely under the control of well-educated, commissioned officer combatants. Not a total insurance policy against atrocity, but a far more risk-controlled situation.

Today the U.S. Air Force again demonstrated such "discreet application of force":

The US launched a major air strike this morning against what it claimed were al-Qaida hideouts on the southern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Planes dropped 40,000lb (18,100kg) of explosives during a 10-minute blitz on 40 targets, according to a military statement.
...
"Thirty-eight bombs were dropped within the first 10 minutes, with a total tonnage of 40,000 pounds," the statement said.

The difference between the crimes of Abu Ghraib and Hadithah and today's bombing are obvious: There will be no humans left to photograph or even count where those 500 pound bombs hit the ground.

Which brings me to the new study the World Health Organisation and the Iraq Family Health Survey did on death in Iraqi related to the U.S. war on Iraq and its occupation.

In the media the study is universally headlined as WHO estimates Iraqi war deaths at 151000 or 151,000 Iraqis died in three years. Those headlines are utterly false and willfully misleading.

The new study and the 151,000 number are emphasized against the Lancet study (pdf) which calculated some 655,000 "excess death" due to the war up to mid 2006. While having lower numbers than the Lancet study, the new study says something very different than the headlines:

On the basis of the simulation that took into account the sampling errors and the uncertainty in factors for missing clusters, the level of underreporting, and the projected population numbers, we estimated that there were 151,000 violent deaths in Iraq (95% uncertainty range, 104,000 to 223,000) during the post-invasion period from March 2003 through June 2006.

First let's notice that the study ended in June 2006. It estimates 3.870 "violent death" per month. Since the end of the study 18 more month have past, so we have to add roughly another 70,000 to reach the likely current study number of 220,000 "violent death" because of the war.

"Violent death" is of course only a small part of the total death and destruction that results from any war. How many people died because hospitals were bombed and they couldn't get care? How many died because the water purification facilities broke down? How many died for lack of medicine?

While the Lancet study (pdf) looked at "excess death", i.e. all death that would not have occured without the war and occupation, the new study avoids (why?) to answer the "non-violent death" questions directly. But it includes some base numbers:

Mortality from nonviolent causes was significantly higher per 1000 person-years in the post-invasion period (4.92; 95% CI, 4.49 to 5.41) than in the pre-invasion period (3.07; 95% CI, 2.61 to 3.63)

The difference between pre-war and war in the study is 1.85 dead per 1000 person-years - an increase of 60%. 

1.85 per 1000 per year x 28,000,000 x 5 years equals 212,750 "excess death" from nonviolent cause that have to be added to the 220,000 that died from violent cause.

So looking at the numbers the study uses, more than 430,000 total "excess death" occurred in Iraq due to the war the U.S. waged on Iraqis. The headlines certainly do not reflect that fact.

Besides the false representation of this study in the media - the distinction between violent and non-violent death is irrelevant - there are other systematic mistakes that make me believe that the study itself is significantly lowballing the numbers.

To pick just one of several issues: The study is based on cluster surveys, yet over 60% of the surveys planed in Anbar province were simply not done due to security problems. These clusters are estimates based on the very dubious Iraq Body Count numbers. Iraq Body Count uses verified press reports for their count. How many people were reported to have been killed in the assaults on Fallujah during which no reporters were allowed there?

Due to this and many other questions the Lancet study and its numbers seem to me to be the more reliable ones.

But to deranged persons like General Dunlap none of these studies will matter. He doesn't care whether 50,000, 500,000 or 1,000,000 die through the bombs his fine new air planes drop. If only he can bamboozle the U.S. public into spending more billions and to contribute to his personal future fortune.

Posted by b on January 10, 2008 at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

January 09, 2008

Open Thread 08-02

News & views & anything else ... your comments are welcome ...

Posted by b on January 9, 2008 at 03:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (93)

January 08, 2008

The Call for Keynes

Prof. Roubini reports that the attendees of the recent American Economic Association Meetings finally take a recession in the U.S. as a given. Even Treasury Secretary Paulson has joined the recessionist club. The economic numbers point to a serious one. Recessionary tendencies in the rest of the world will likely follow, though probably not to the depth that is to be expected for the U.S.

What to do about this?

Earlier Roubini called for a serious cut of the central banks' interest rates. But this would again increase the creation of money and risk another bubble. Argueing that too low interest rates have been the cause of the current credit mess and interest cuts would just revive and prolong it, Doug Nolan opposes such reflationary medicine. He sees four risks:

  1. Uncontrolled dollar devaluing and a possible currency market dislocation
  2. Geopolitical risks caused by inflation of raw goods (hungry people revolting against their governments)
  3. More destabilizing money flow to the BRIC (Brasil, Russia, India, China) countries
  4. Much higher consumer price inflation in the U.S.

While the first three problems are only indirectly effecting the U.S. public, the fourth one is a serious worry even for isolationists. Inflation is already at a multi decade high (Gold today broke another record).

Besides interest rate cuts by the central bank there are other tools available.

The economic standard approach to lessen the effects of a recession is Keynesian deficit spending:

an increase in government purchases creates a market for business output, creating income and encouraging increases in consumer spending, which creates further increases in the demand for business output. (This is the multiplier effect). This raises the real gross domestic product (GDP) and the employment of labor, all else constant lowering the unemployment rate. (...) Cutting personal taxes and/or raising transfer payments can have similar expansionary effects, though most economists would say that such policies have weaker effects on, which method has a better stimulative economic effect is a matter of debate.

The economic discussion in the U.S. now evolves around the last sentence. Should taxes be lowered or should the government spend more on domestic programs?

The Wall Street supply sider side of the discussion and the Bush administration predictably call for further tax cuts. (Times are good, we can cut taxes, times are bad we must cut taxes.)

But as Jared Bernstein points out, a buck spend on tax cuts is not the same than a buck spend elsewhere:

For example, analysis of this point has found that a dollar of revenue sacrificed for a dividend or capital gains tax cut yields a measly [GDP increase of] nine cents.

You get a much better bang-for-the-stimulative-buck from direct spending. A dollar spent shoring up Unemployment Insurance yields $1.73; a dollar spent on fiscal relief to the states yields $1.24. This last idea—ratcheting up state grants from the Feds—is particularly important right now, since many state and city coffers are coming up short due to the local revenue impacts of the housing meltdown.

Dean Baker argues to use a stimulus package to futher green energy and green consumption behaviour. Use the stimulus package to build subsidized wind energy mills and to subsidize public transportation.

The amount talked about (sub.req.) is $75-$100 billion of stimulus package per year over several years, financed by further public debt.

But here's the problem. Keynes concept is based on saving in good times to be able to spend in bad times. The U.S. consumers, as well as the government, has spend far beyond their income throughout the last years. The fed had lowered the interest rate too far and has already created significant inflation. There is not much, if any, room left to now use the standard Keynesian deficit spending medicine without serious negative sideeffects. Exactly the problems Noland points to: (much) higher (global) inflation and further uncontrolled devaluation of the U.S. dollar.

In a just published new piece Roubini comes to the same conclusion:

We did indeed waste all our macro policy bullets in 2001-2004 in “the best recovery that money can buy” and we are now left with relatively limited room for monetary and fiscal policy stimulus. This is one of the main reasons why the 2008 recession will be more severe and protracted than the mild 2001 recession.

In my view any stimulus package to lessen the recession effects has to be within these boundaries:

  • The money needs to be spend on local infrastructure investment to decrease unemployment, not to induce larger consumption.
  • Public debt is already to high. Further borrowing has serious side effects like higher effective interest rates, a dollar dump and higher inflation. The spending must thereby be financed by tax increases for very high incomes (which would also remove the moral hazard that led to irresponsible behavior of bank CEOs and others.)

Even if such a stimulus is enacted one has to keep in mind that:

  • the current recession will be several years long (the housing slump will take years to heal),
  • it is needed to cure the U.S. current account deficit and to renew savings,
  • any stimulus will not be able to avert the recession - only to lessen its effects.

In the current political constellation it is doubtful that any serious measure will be taken during 2008. The effects of the recession, much higher unemployment and a significant drop in GDP, will thereby become worse.

As the economic mess will turn out to be the primary matter in 2008, it will interesting to see what recipies the candidates will present to heal the economy. Paul and Edwards are the candidates that have the most radical positions here. They could use the trouble to their advantage.

Posted by b on January 8, 2008 at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

January 07, 2008

A Non-Incident in the Gulf

Tomorrow Bush will start a tour through the Middle East. The purpose is not some peace talk. As the Washington Post headlined today: Heading to Mideast, Bush Targets Iran

President Bush intends to use his first extended tour of the Middle East to rally support for international pressure against Iran ...

Lately the Arab Gulf states have been very reluctant to pressure Iran. The Iranian president was invited to the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting and, by the Saudi king, to the Hajj in Mecca. The Arab Gulf states have absolutly no interest to stall their current economic boom by any trouble with their big and peaceful neighbor.

The Israelis are uncomfortable with this and their Defense Minister Barak will tomorrow explain to Bush "why American intelligence is wrong about Iran's nukes." One wonders how the CIA folks feel about that.

The Iran NIE claimed Iran had stopped a nuclear weapons program in 2003 (if such program has existed at all.) There is no domestic support left for any aggression against Iran.

Bush needed to spice up his trip. What better to have, then a little incident that proves to the Gulf states, as well as to the domestic public, that he is still right in seeing all big evil coming from Iran.

Ask and you will receive:

In what U.S. officials called a serious provocation, Iranian boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navy ships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, threatening to explode the American vessels.
...
Five small boats began charging the U.S. ships, dropping boxes in the water in front of the ships and forcing the U.S. ships to take evasive maneuvers, the Pentagon official said.

There were no injuries but the official said there could have been, because the Iranian boats turned away "literally at the very moment that U.S. forces were preparing to open fire" in self defense.

Unsuprisingly the Iranians have a different view of the incident:

The US vessels approached Iranian boats in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, warning they were in a Red Zone, the unnamed official told Press TV on Monday.

He added that the Iranians had asked the warships to identify themselves; as such radio communications are usual between vessels in the Persian Gulf.

Considering the obvious 'just in time' delivery of this provocation I tend to believe the Iranian version of this case.

The U.S. Navy has a prominent history of such 'incidents'. But unlike the fake events in the Gulf of Tonkin, which led to a Congress war resolution and the Vietnam war, this propaganda show is unlikely to have any consequences. Who, but Fox news viewers, will believe that this was coincidental?

By now all parties, the domestic U.S., the Iranians and the Gulf states have learned to disregard Bush's simplistic propaganda.

Posted by b on January 7, 2008 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

January 06, 2008

Aspects of Change

Change is Obama's campaign motto. His website asks visitors to "Join the Movement" for Change.

WaPo's election watcher Chris Cillizza sees change as Obama's strong point:

That message -- that in voting for Obama Americans are opting for a broad change in the way politics is conducted -- is VERY powerful and will be exceedingly difficult for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) or anyone else to overcome.

Clinton attacks the change slogan rather lame, claiming that she is someone experienced with implementing change. That is not a smart tactic as it endorses Obama's primary claim.

But what is change anyway?

In one aspect there is a product, policy or process that can be changed. In another aspect there is the marketing of the product, which can change indepently. The 'way politics are conducted' is part of the marketing, not the policy product.

U.S. policy marketing is anchored around the public appearance of the U.S. president.

Within the democratic candidate field, a president Obama would be the biggest change against GWB simply from outer appearance. Hillary, as a woman, would be a big change too, but a linage of Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton certainly does not symbolize such. In appearance, Edwards is just another white politician.

In the marketing aspect, Obama is change. But how about his policies?

A typical challenge I have to cope with in my job is to change processes within companies. Usually everyone agrees that some change is needed. But as soon as one delivers concrete proposals, people start resisting - often from pure inertia.

A successful consultant tactic to achieve an intended and necessary change is to deliver a 'radical' change-proposal. Starting from there one negotiates a compromise with all concerned individuals. With luck the compromise arrives at the point one originally aimed for. As everyone was involved in negotiating it, people feel satisfied with such a solution.

In politics the challenge is the same. One has to set high goals to achieve a compromise that really can be characterized as the desired change.

Pat Lang reviewed Obama's foreign policy stand. He concluded:

On the basis of his public statements regarding what foreign policy might be, I would have to say that Barack Obama sounds a lot like the neocons, that is, an agressive, utopian interventionist who might well pursue his ideals overseas.  At the same time, his self-image as a "man of destiny," a Lincolnesque figure, may lead to attempts to transform the United States into something different, something I would not want to experience.

Change?

The U.S. Middle East policy is anchored in the relation to Israel. Obama's speech to AIPAC satisfied Haaretz's rightwing US correspondent Rosner:

Today, he sounded as strong as Clinton, as supportive as Bush, as friendly as Giuliani. At least rhetorically, Obama passed any test anyone might have wanted him to pass. So, he is pro-Israel. Period.

Long-term Obama watcher Ali Abunimah from Illinois noted:

There was absolutely nothing in Obama's speech that deviated from the hardline consensus underpinning US policy in the region.

Change?

On Social Security Obama remarked:

You know, Senator Clinton says that she's concerned about Social Security but is not willing to say how she would solve the Social Security crisis, then I think voters aren't going to feel real confident that this is a priority for her.

Paul Krugman responded:

Progressives who fought hard and successfully against the Bush administration’s attempt to panic America into privatizing the New Deal’s crown jewel are outraged, and rightly so.
...
Social Security isn’t a big problem that demands a solution; it’s a small problem, way down the list of major issues facing America, that has nonetheless become an obsession of Beltway insiders. And on Social Security, as on many other issues, what Washington means by bipartisanship is mainly that everyone should come together to give conservatives what they want.

Change?

Obama calls for universal healthcare. But it is only universal as long as one doesn't look at the details. Real universal health care must include everyone. There has to be an individual mandate, i.e. everybody has to be insured mandatory, so freeloaders can not pervert the system. Obama's plan does not require that.

Change?

While Obama is certainly a change in the sense of marketing, his policy proposals aim much too low to really be able to achieve change. In foreign policy, he seems not even to desire any change, just a continuation of neocon illusions.

Seen from abroad, the marketing change Obama epitomizes is irrelevant. Foreigners care about what the U.S. does, not what it says.

To many U.S. voters though, the marketing change seem to be sufficient. Do they trust the imprint on the package without verifying what's inside. Or do they prefer the content of Obama's policies?

The "NEW!" Obama detergent, "Now with Change formula," is the same mild dyestuff for reactionary cloth than "compassionate conservatism" has been.

Is this what Obama Change buyers really want, or do they fall for the packaging?

Posted by b on January 6, 2008 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

January 05, 2008

Pakistan Machinations

by Debs is dead
lifted from a comment

So the amerikan chickens are coming home to roost for Musharraf. The sadly named International Crisis Group has just put out a press release to Reuters urging the amerikan government to pressure the Pakistan Army's new boss General Ashfaq Kayani to, in the interests of democracy, of course, flick Musharraf in that old Pakistani democratic tradition where the army picks the prez!

Why would the Pakistan Army listen to amerika? Well military aid of course; since silly George's dumb dogs drove OBL into Waziristan, military aid to Pakistan is up to $11 billion and counting. That old amerikan democratic tradition of money talks, bullshit walks means they feel the $11 billion gives them the right to pick Pakistan's prez.

Who the hell is the International Crisis Group anyway and if they are European why is the call coming from amerika?

The Reuters article tells us: "The ICG, which has been highly critical of Musharraf and has influence within the U.S. Congress .."

Sooooo they have pull in Congress, that must mean they are a democrat think tank doesn't it? Their obviously self penned wikipedia entry tells us amongst other blather "The International Crisis Group is an international, non-profit, non-governmental organization whose mission is to prevent and resolve deadly conflicts through high-level advocacy." meaningless babble which drops a few allegedly left of centre non-amerikan political names.

So Spinwatch should help lets see:

... "ICG is also supported by various foundations (covering 43%) - Rockefeller, Ford, MacArthur, US Institute for Peace (established by Ronald Reagan), Carnegie, Sarlo Jewish Community Endowment Fund, Hewlett, etc. and private sector donors (16%).

Spinwatch continues:

In short, major mainstream American policy-oriented foundations, none of which are known for spending just a fraction of their millions of dollars on grants that could result in building a knowledge base about, say, peace by peaceful means, non-violence and reconciliation. Neither have they promoted studies of why violent conflict-management and so-called humanitarian interventions - e.g. Kosovo - have failed so miserably since the end of the Cold War - let alone promoted criticism of the only superpower's reckless militarist, unilateralist policies these years.

But let's imagine the ideal world in which, year by year, more and more government funds would come with no strings attached whatsoever. Are non-governmental people leading ICG?

No, they are not. Among its board members we find Gareth Evans President & CEO, Former Foreign Minister of Australia and Lord Patten of Barnes, former European Commissioner for External Relations, Co-Chairman. Two pro-Kosovo-Albanian Americans, Morton Abramowitz, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Stephen Solarz, former U.S. Congressman. And George Soros. Among other names that catch the "independent, non-governmental" eye you find: ambassador Kenneth Adelman (US), Wesley Clark (former NATO-commander who lead the destruction of Yugoslavia in 1999) (US), Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor to the President, Ruth Dreifuss, former President, Switzerland, Leslie H. Gelb, former President of Council on Foreign Relations, U.S.

Among other former-governmentals: [...]

In all fairness, there are also some business people, a novelist and a professor. But one can't help being struck by a) the overwhelming presence of (former) politicians and diplomats, b) the virtual absence of people from academia with professional training in field conflict and peace work, and c) the degree of overlap between the governments that support the ICG and the governments these board member once served. . . ."

Soooo Stephen Solarz, Zbigniew Brzezinski and the inimitable George Soros, is that dem enough?

Not to mention big mobs of other claiming to be left of centre asshole self promoters fallen upon hard times eg Gareth never got to be Oz PM Evans, the scum who advocate the deaths of millions and call it progress.

So if this mob, trying to appear to be a non-governmental think tank, or policy wonk-out, or whatever, is calling for Mush's ouster, does that mean they have also come to the conclusion that it was the General(Rtd.) who got B.B.?

Hard to say but they must have their suspicions cause otherwise they would be sticking with what they know in Pakistan. Sure they've lined up the ever lubed asshole of Mohammadmian Soomro to fill in. The whole thing reeks of amerikan intervention, by picking the normally irrelevant Pakistani Senate prez to make it sound soothing to amerikan voters, "Hey Mabel, that's just like we do things back home!" because of course Mabel and Bob need to be thinking healthcare and "the economy stupid", not empire when they go into the polling booth at the end of the year.

Former Sindh state governor Mohammadmian Soomro must think all his Ramadans have come at once, even if the current Sindh governor has pulled Soomro's pix from the official site leaving only his own and Mushie's on the extremely brief Soomro bio page. Soomro grabbed a short stint as prez during the delay when Mush was organising a supreme court full of justices prepared to bend the constitution back in November.

The fact he's a Sindh means that the Bhutto's probably found him acceptable then, though I wonder if they do now? New PPP co-chair Mr Ten Percent, aka Asif Ali Zardari is unlikely to see this attempt to blindside his machinations in a positive light. As a main-chancer from way back who was always kept at arms length even before the corruption charges "He's not quite top drawer, don'tcha know", Zadari will recognise the danger in allowing Soomro another bite of the prez cherry. It wouldn't matter if Soomro won the job in a bar raffle, after two cracks of the whip, he's go to begin to believe the job is his, and, that he's the best man for it.

The fact that neither amerika nor Mush have a problem with Soomro also tends to suggest that everyone has a piece of his ass and he may not be content to keep the seat warm for Bilawal Bhutto Zardari the younger, for just long enough to lose the peach fuzz.

The wheels within wheels, the machinations become that much more complicated as soon as an outsider such as amerika becomes involved.

What should be a straight last man standing contest between Musharraf, Zadari, Nawaz Sharif and hopefully for Pakistan, Imran Khan, just turns into a complicated and unsatisfying shadow dance where no one will accrue enough power to make a difference and see Pakistan through the crisis generated by Musharraf and amerika.

Most importantly when Pakistan becomes an abstract problem, a plaything for assholes such as the board of the International Crisis Group, all humanity is lost.

Fatima Bhutto daughter of Murtaza Bhutto, who was B.B.'s younger brother and who was likely assassinated on Benazir's orders, reminds us of that humanity when she remembers her aunt here with a page titled: "Farewell to Wadi Bua - Our family has lost enough".

Gary Leup also makes some important points about the danger and cruelty of foreign interference in Pakistan with this CounterPunch article Madness Compounding Madness Calls for Intervention in Pakistan

Leupp makes some good points although he makes the same assumptions as virtually all of the pieces written by Pakistani ex-pats, in that he sees the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism as something which needs to be countered.

We tend to overlook the simple truth that the majority of those Pakistanis getting their opinions published come from one or both categories of either middle class secular intellectuals or established Pakistani political entities. The secularists loathe the idea of religion making a comeback while the politicians oppose any new political force they aren't a part of.

Yet when I speak to ordinary Pakistani shit-kickers, the halal slaughtermen, small shopkeepers and self employed tradesmen who make up NZ's ex-pat Pakistani population many of them see something quite different.

They are non-violent, ie they don't want Pakistan's political impasse to be resolved through war or revolution or so-called terrorism, but they do see the national religion Islam, as being an essential common thread which holds all Pakistanis together. - Sindh, Pashtun, Punjabi, Baluch and Wazir to name a few of the more than 200 ethnicities of Pakistan who came together because of religion. Whether the force they joined together to overcome was political greed, or rejection by the Indian majority fired up after a couple of hundred years of British divide and rule is irrelevant in 2007.

The state may be artificially created, and relatively new (50 years old) but it does have an identity internally and externally - a 'brand' if you will, and the bulk of the population are committed to that brand, those who aren't presumably make up the 137 million Muslims currently residing in India. We tend to forget that with a population of 164 million souls the vast majority of whom follow Islam, Pakistan is indeed the second most populous Muslim nation on the planet - after Indonesia (pop 234,693,997), but India is the third largest population of Muslims.
Pakistan cannot possibly succeed if religion is discounted. Why else would the original inhabitants accept the post partition arrivals were it not for religion? After all India's Muslim people still live a life of oppression and fear in India.

Despite the tough times the Sindh middle class is having at the moment from Reuters:

KARACHI - Pakistani businessmen are veterans of political crises, but this time they say it's different.

From self-employed truck drivers to wealthy factory owners, no one can recall anything like the violence that shook Pakistan after last week's murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

"This is the worst situation we've ever faced," said Barkat Ali, surveying the charred remains of a petrol station and restaurant that he and his brother-in-law set up in Karachi four years ago.

"Right now, the security is present," Ali added, peering over his spectacles at a few soldiers patrolling across the road in an industrial area of the country's largest city. "But if they leave the area, the fear is there. It's never happened before."

It is unlikely many would swap their charred ruins for life in India. An old friend (a Hindu) from Gujarat State in India (Gujarat borders Pakistan) used to tell me stories of the desperate state of life being a Muslim in Gujarat. Whenever some disaster occurred for example in 2002 a train fire in Godhra, local Hindu political street bosses divert attention from the real cause by blaming Muslims.

The result was the Gujarat riots. Absolute chaos throughout Gujarat and south to Mumbai (Bombay) as huge gangs of Hindu thugs dragged Muslims from their homes and burned houses down, destroyed businesses and factories, raped and murdered Muslims. The toll from the train fire (58) can be found anywhere on the Inter-web, but the Gujarat riot death toll is much harder to ascertain. I finally found an interim figure in a BBC article which gives a toll of "790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, 223 more people reported missing and another 2,500 injured."

Of course many Hindu's in India are appalled by the anti-Muslim pogroms, it was one of the primary reasons my friend left India, yet the oppression and religious division continues largely unabated. The most annoying thing about this is that Pakistan is always cast in a bad light as the cause of the problems between India and Pakistan, but the Pakistani government doesn't stand by while enforcers from the ruling political Party murder relatives of Indian citizens.

It was the Indian Army which oppressed the people of Kashmir and enforced unjust eviction orders on Kasmiri Muslim landowners so that Hindus from outside Kashmir could dominate the once burgeoning tourism industry, but still charlatans like William Dalrymple in the NYT seek to blame Pakistan's leaders for everything short of murdering Jesus. In this case Benazir Bhutto for being the cause of regional tension and disputes.

Why doesn't Dalrymple just say what he means, which is Bhutto was a Pakistani and all Pakistanis are Muslims, therefore no matter how far a Pakistani such as Bhutto crawls up the ass of amerikan corporate capitalists she will always be an evil Islamic blasphemer. Indians with their 'quaint' animism are currently seen as much less of a threat. Nobody talks of the war between Judeo/xtianity and Kali.

I betcha that will change in less that 50 years. Think about it, both India and China have national philosophies which have changed almost zero from their pantheist past. Both India and China are about to dominate the world's trade and although India is seen as the 'nice' one by the west, in other words the Indian administrative infrastructure is seen as too corrupt and bumbling to pose a 'real threat'.

That is now, as India leaps ahead economically it will regain the self confidence it needs to assert it's own administrative methodology rather than rely on an imperfectly transplanted USuk one.

Then the elites of 'the West' are going to feel far more threatened by India than Pakistan's current rather tenuous threat, (most oil resources are controlled by Islamic cultures, Pakistan is an Islamic culture therefore Pakistan is in cahoots with those who control oil resources who are 'with us' so they must be against us).

That's the time when Pakistan will be promoted by the western capitalist media as the best thing since sliced bread as "they confront the Indo/Chinese menace".

Of course the other alternative would be that the populations of 'western capitalist' nations confront their elites and say "we're not gonna fall for the old foreigners are evil trick anymore. Sort yourselves out up there in the boardroom! (dream on).

Posted by b on January 5, 2008 at 06:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

January 04, 2008

Iowa Primary Results

The potato had it quite right, especially on Paul and Giuliani. The results are below the fold.

The main driver for the winners was turnout.

Obama mobilized youth and women, Huckabee mobilized the religious nuts, 60+% of yesterdays repub primary voters in Iowa, and won. Turnout for Democrats was record high, 239.000 in total vs some half of that for Repubs. Biden and Dodd are now out.

This all may change in New Hampshire, but there are a few things one might take form here.

  • The turnout points to a huge general preference for Dems.
  • Obama's 'change' marketing talk (despite his neocon foreign policy and right of center economic policy) gives him lot of support.
  • Clinton and Romney certainly took a big hit.
  • Huckabee's victory will make the Repub establishment VERY nervous. It is fine for them to pander to the nuts, but let them have a real voice? No way. If Huckabee stays this strong expect Bloomberg to enter the race as the 'Independent (R)', Wall Street and K-street candidate.
  • Paul will suprise from here with ever increasing percentages beating McCain and Thompson.

What's your take?

Results:

Dems     Repubs
Obama 38.0%   Huckabee 34%
Edwards 30.0%   Romney 25%
Clinton 29.0%   Thompson 13%
Richardson 2%   McCain 13%
Biden 1%   Paul 10%
  Giuliani 3%

Posted by b on January 4, 2008 at 04:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

January 03, 2008

Iowa Primary

As'ad AbuKhalil* lend me his favorite potato. It is from Iowa. I polled it. Results:

Dems     Repubs
Edwards 25.0%   Huckabee 30%
Obama 25.0%   Romney 30%
Clinton 25.0%   McCain 10%
Richardson 5.0%   Thompson 10%
Biden 5.0%   Giuliani (9.11 / 2)%
  Paul (6.66 * 2)%

Posted by b on January 3, 2008 at 02:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

January 02, 2008

Why are suicide attacks in Iraq increasing?

Suicide Bombing in Iraq continues unabated:

A suicide bombing Wednesday in the city of Baqouba killed seven people and wounded 22, police said, while authorities increased the death toll from a Baghdad suicide attack at a funeral the previous day to 36.

My impression is that the number of such bombings has increased. Below the fold I have collected news of recent suicide attacks in Iraq. The list is likely incomplete. There were at least 17 bombings in the last 30 days. The U.S. military has noticed this too:

Petraeus said the number of high-profile bombings, a trademark of Sunni insurgents, had dropped 60% from a peak of more than 120 in March.
...
But suicide attacks using explosives vests and car bombs began to inch back up in November and December, the chart showed.

The wikipedia list of suicide attacks in Iraq ends in October. There were more than one bombing every two days throughout 2007 except for October where only 11 are listed (October may be incomplete.)

The bombings are usually attributed to 'Al Qaida in Iraq'. At the same time:

[A] spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry said Saturday that U.S. and Iraqi forces had destroyed 75% of the Al Qaeda in Iraq network

This begs some questions:

  1. If 'Al Qaeda in Iraq' is diminished, why is the number of suicide attacks constant or increasing?
  2. How effective are the 'Concerned Citizens' payed to fight 'Al Qaida in Iraq' really?
  3. Why is there (still) a constant stream of volunteers?
  4. Where are these from?
  5. What does this mean for the overall and future situation in Iraq?

I don't have answers to these questions. Please let me know your ideas on this in the comments.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008:
Suicide bombing kills 7 north of Baghdad

The dead included a policeman and two members of a U.S.-backed armed volunteer group, the Brigades of 1920s Revolution, a police officer said.

Tuesday, January 1, 2007:
Suicide bomb at Baghdad funeral kills 32

In Tuesday's bombing the east Baghdad neighborhood of Zayouna, a mixed Shiite and Sunni district, a man loaded with explosives walked into a funeral tent outside the home of Nabil Hussein Jassim, a retired army officer killed along with another 13 people in a car bombing in downtown Baghdad's Tayaran Square on Friday.

Friday, December 28, 2007:
Car bomb hits busy Baghdad market

The attack took place in Tayaran Square, the scene of other deadly bomb attacks in the past two and a half years.

It lies in a predominantly Shia quarter of the city, which makes it the target of Sunni extremists.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007:
Two Bombings Kill At Least 26 in N. Iraq

The bombing in Baiji, near a checkpoint outside a two-story housing complex for oil industry employees, was the more devastating of the two attacks Tuesday. The complex was guarded by members of the Facilities Protection Service, part of the Interior Ministry, and members of the local Sunni volunteer security force, one of the many groups increasingly targeted by insurgents after joining forces with the U.S. military.
...
The second blast occurred about 11 a.m. in western Baqubah, in Diyala province. A suicide bomber blew up a vehicle amid a crowd of protesters following a funeral, ...

According to Iraqi officials and residents of Baqubah, the funeral was for two members of the city's Sunni volunteer force, former members of an insurgent group who had turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and allied themselves with the U.S. military.

Monday, December 31, 2007:
Bomber at checkpoint in Iraq kills 12

In the most serious attack against one of the groups Monday, a suicide bomber drove a minibus rigged with explosives into a checkpoint in Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, police and a member of the local awakening council said.

Friday, December 25, 2007:
Suicide Bomber Kills 20, Wounds 80 in Iraq

A suicide bomber killed at least 20 people, injuring another 80, in the town of Baiji, 250 kilometres north of Iraqi capital Baghdad, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

The bomber detonated the charge when he was stopped by police and local militias in the town, but appears to have been targeting queuing to buy gas cylinders in a residential area, the BBC said.

The bomber detonated the charge when he was stopped by police and local militias in the town, but appears to have been targeting queuing to buy gas cylinders in a residential area, the BBC said.

Sunday, December 20, 2007:
Suicide bomber attack in Iraq kills 13

At least 13 Iraqi volunteer fighters, including a leader, were killed and eight wounded in a suicide attack in Baquba city, 60 km southeast of the Iraqi capital on Thursday, a medical source said.

The bomber blew himself up targeting a volunteer centre linked to local public committees in Baquba, according to the source.

Sunday, December 20, 2007:
Suicide bomber attacks MND-N Soldiers, Iraqis (Diyala)

A Multi-National Division – North Soldier and five Iraqi civilians were killed from a suicide vest attack while conducting combat operations in the Diyala province Dec. 20.

Sunday, December 20, 2007:
Suicide bomber kills 14 in Iraq

U.S. forces said the suicide bomber struck a foot patrol near a building where a city council meeting was to be held, killing one soldier and wounding 10. Iraqi police said the building was also being used to recruit volunteers for neighbourhood patrols, 13 of whom were killed and 10 wounded.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007:
Suicide bombing kills 10, wounds 24 in Diala

At least ten people were killed and 24 others wounded on Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up amid a popular café in Diala, central Iraq, a security source said.

Saturday, December 15, 2007:
3 die in attacks on Iraqi volunteers

In northeast Baghdad's Adhamiya neighborhood, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold, two volunteers died and 10 were injured when a bomb exploded next to their checkpoint.
...
Also Saturday, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle in Baghdad's Bayaa neighborhood, killing one Iraqi civilian.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007:
Bomber targeting Iraq lawmakers kills 2

Two prominent Iraqi lawmakers, including a former prime minister, escaped assassination Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint near their offices here and killed two guards.
...
In addition, the United States announced that an American soldier had died of injuries suffered Monday in a suicide bombing. Two other service members were wounded in the attack.

Sunday, December 9, 2007:
Suicide Bombing Kills 8 In Northern Iraq Oil Town

A suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden truck attacked a police station north of Baghdad on Saturday, the latest in a week of bombings that have left 80 people dead.

The truck was allowed through the main gate of the complex in the town of Baiji after the driver told guards he was delivering sand to a construction site inside.

Saturday, December 8, 2007:
Suicide bomber kills at least seven

A SUICIDE truck bomber attacked a police station in one of Iraq's major oil hubs in the north of the country yesterday, killing at least seven and injuring 13 in an area home to many refinery workers and engineers.

The attack in Beiji was at least the third deadly suicide attack in 24 hours in Iraq and came a day after a key oil pipeline in the city was struck by an insurgent bomb.

Friday, December 7, 2007:
Female suicide bomber kills 16 in Iraq

A female suicide bomber today killed 16 people in an attack north-east of Baghdad on former Sunni Arab insurgents who have turned against al-Qaida.
...
The building is used by members of the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades, some of whose members have begun working alongside security forces against al-Qaida.

Friday, December 7, 2007:
Attacks in Iraq Kill 25 People

The separate car bomb attack on the checkpoint in the restive city of Baquba killed seven Iraqi soldiers and three volunteers who had been working with American forces. Baquba was the scene of a suicide car bomb attack earlier this week that detonated at the entrance to a bus station and killed five people.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007:
Suicide bomber kills six in Iraq attack

A suicide bomber blew himself up at the gate of a police station northeast of Baghdad, killing at least six people, including five security personnel, police said Tuesday.

Police Colonel Ibrahim al-Obeidi from Baquba, capital of Diyala province, said the bomber attempted to enter the police station in the town of Jawalaa, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the city.

Posted by b on January 2, 2008 at 01:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Save Darfur Coalition Propaganda

The Save Darfur Coalition, founded by the American Jewish World Service and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, is a propaganda group that argues for "western" intervention in local strife over water in the north western Sudan desert.

It generates its income through donations and spends the money to generate more donations. Not one cent is actually spend on the ground in Darfur:

[W]hen I went to Sudan in Khartoum, I had interviews with the UN humanitarian officer, the political officer, etc., and I asked them, I said, “What assistance does the Save Darfur Coalition give?” He said, “Nothing.” I said, “Nothing?” He said, “No.”

Indeed there are good reasons to assume that “Save Darfur” is a PR Scam to Justify the Next US Oil and Resource Wars in Africa and to ask: Are They A Hoax Or A Ticking Timebomb?.

NGOs working in Darfur have criticized the Save Darfur Coalition's campaigns:

Sam Worthington, the president and chief executive of InterAction, a coalition of aid groups, complained to Mr. Rubenstein by e-mail that Save Darfur’s advertising was confusing the public and damaging the relief effort.

“I am deeply concerned by the inability of Save Darfur to be informed by the realities on the ground and to understand the consequences of your proposed actions,” Mr. Worthington wrote.

Still the editors of the LA Times' editorial board sit down with that group to "discuss the situation on the ground in Sudan" and publish the talk of the propagandists without challenging any of its claims.

One of the Save Darfur mouthpieces is former ambassador Lawrence Rossin. In the LAT talk Mr. Rossin even manages to mix the Iraq WMD propaganda with his demand for "action" on Darfur. On China's influence on Sudan, which Save Darfur wants to use by pressuring China to follow its agenda, he asserts:

We're not dealing with Saddam Hussein here, who could've admitted, could've told the world that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction and probably saved himself a whole lot of grief. These people are more rational than that; these are some sharp people.

The LAT editors do not challenge that lunatic false statement of the not so sharp Mr. Rossin. Nor do they challenge any other of Save Darfur's dubious claims.

For example:

There is an issue of bringing people from Chad, Niger and other neighboring countries and providing them in some cases citizenship, IDs and giving them the land in order to change the demography or Darfur for the same reasons — the coming elections — and because these tribes are allied with the government of Sudan . . .

So the government of Sudan brings in people from Chad? These must be very bad guys!

The actual UN report says of course something very different. It recommends that Sudan gives the people who flee from Chad refugee status:

"People interviewed said that searches often turned violent with looting, beatings, arrests, murders and in some cases rapes committed by these groups. In addition to the brutal searches, many families said they left Chad because of the general insecurity and fighting between governmental forces and opposition groups," said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis.

"Most of the interviewees clearly indicated that they did not want to return to Chad because of the security situation," she said.

But the Sudanese government provides some of these refugees with Sudanese IDs? Well, yes, and it does so with reason:

The report mentions that in some cases, the nationality of newly arriving people is not clear as some claim to be Sudanese who left their country in the 1980s because of a severe drought and had since lived in Chad.

Darfur is a mess. Lack of water led to local conflicts between nomads and farmers. There is neither genocide nor typical ethnic cleansing. It is a struggle about a vital resource, water. Using the local struggle as a proxy, the larger political competition is between the "west" and China about access to the oil under Darfur's desert. 

The area has the size of Texas and little infrastructure. It is nearly impossible to govern and foreign troops there and the sanctions Save Darfur requests will make things worse (camps and troops consume lots of water, sanctions are ineffective and only hurt the poor.)

It is unclear what motives the Save Darfur Coalition actually has. But if it has real interest in solving the problems of the local people, why does it lie, spends all donations it gets for propaganda and argues for intervention?

Posted by b on January 2, 2008 at 08:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

January 01, 2008

Open Thread 08-01

News & views ... please comment ...

Posted by b on January 1, 2008 at 04:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (99)

 
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