Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Dear War Supporter: Since You Asked . . .

by R. J. Eskow
Common Dreams News Center
March 30, 2005
Blog editor's note: Sometimes a piece incorporating wit and irony comes along that accomplishes what no amount of sweet reason can, particularly when you are trying to persuade people who confuse their beliefs with knowledge. The essay that follows, in my judgment, is just such a piece.

 "I have to infer from that (statement) that you would be happier if Saddam Hussein were still in power."
- Paul Wolfowitz

Let's deal with this question once and for all, OK? It's the classic retort given by neocons and other war supporters when anyone questions the wisdom of the Iraq War. In this case, it was Wolfowitz's response to a student who had just said the following: "We are tired, Secretary Wolfowitz, of being feared and hated by the world. We are tired of watching Americans and Iraqis die, and international institutions cry out in anger against us."

Let's say I get disturbed by a spider crawling the garage wall. I slam the car into it at 50 miles an hour, destroying the car and causing a few thousand dollars in damage to the garage. When my wife objects, I say:

"I have to infer from that statement that you would be happier if that spider were still crawling up the wall." No, schmuck, she says, I'd be happier if we still had a car and didn't have to fork out ten thousand dollars to fix the garage.

To read the full text, see

Sunday, March 27, 2005

F-16 deal: S. Asia's new arms race?
Pakistan got its long-waited US jet sale Friday. But India also got a green light for US weapons

By Owais Tohid |
The Christian Science Monitor
March 28, 2005

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - In a move seen as rewarding Pakistan as a key ally in its war on terror, the United States agreed Friday to sell the South Asian nation F-16 fighter jets - reversing a 15-year ban.

Bush administration officials simultaneously announced that India would have the opportunity to buy some of the latest American combat aircraft.

The steps are seen as politically bolstering Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at home, and indicate a shift in US policy toward a tacit acceptance of Pakistan and India as nuclear powers, analysts say.

To read the full text, see Christian Science Monitor

Illegal Nuclear Deals Alleged
Officials say Pakistan has secretly bought high-tech components for its weapons program from U.S. companies

By Josh Meyer
Los Angeles Times
March 26, 2005

Blog editor's note: The following item takes on even greater importance given the Bush Administration's announcement over the weekend that the U.S. will sell Pakistan F-16 warplanes, aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Aside from undercutting the interests of India, the largest democracy in the world, it might be useful to recall that the president of Pakistan has been, by my count, the target of seven assassination attempts. Should a future such attack succeed, one has to wonder into whose hands the nuclear weapons and F-16s might fall. In this regard, the case of the deposed Shah of Iran comes to mind.

WASHINGTON — A federal criminal investigation has uncovered evidence that the government of Pakistan made clandestine purchases of U.S. high-technology components for use in its nuclear weapons program in defiance of American law.

Federal authorities also say the highly specialized equipment at one point passed through the hands of Humayun Khan, an Islamabad businessman who they say has ties to Islamic militants.

Even though President Bush has been pushing for an international crackdown on such trafficking, efforts by two U.S. agencies to send investigators to Pakistan to gather more evidence have hit a bottleneck in Washington, said officials knowledgeable about the case.

The impasse is part of a larger tug-of-war between federal agencies that enforce U.S. nonproliferation laws and policymakers who consider Pakistan too important to embarrass. The transactions under review began in early 2003, well after President Pervez Musharraf threw his support to the Bush administration's war on terrorism and the invasion of neighboring Afghanistan to oust Pakistan's former Taliban allies.

"This is the age-old problem with Pakistan and the U.S. Other priorities always trump the United States from coming down hard on Pakistan's nuclear proliferation. And it goes back 15 to 20 years," said David Albright, director of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. Albright, a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, favors getting tougher with Pakistan.

To read the full text, see Los Angeles Times

Monday, March 21, 2005

Negroponte's Time In Honduras at Issue
Focus Renewed on Intelligence Pick's Knowledge of Death Squads in 1980s

By Michael Dobbs
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 21, 2005

It has been two decades since John D. Negroponte left his post as ambassador to Honduras, but the man President Bush has chosen to become the United States' first intelligence czar is still being hounded by human rights activists such as Zenaida Velasquez.

Their paths first intersected in 1983, when Velasquez asked for the ambassador's help in tracing dozens of Hondurans, including her brother, allegedly kidnapped by agents of the U.S.-backed Honduran military. Little came of the meeting, and the disappearances continued for at least another year.

Over the years, Velasquez has gotten the CIA, an official Honduran ombudsman and an international human rights court to acknowledge that the Honduran army was responsible for her brother Manfredo's kidnapping and presumed killing. But Negroponte has repeatedly insisted that military-backed death squads did not operate in Honduras while he was ambassador.

The selection of Negroponte for the new post of national intelligence director has focused renewed attention on the question of how much he knew about the Honduran military's involvement in nearly 200 unsolved kidnappings during the 1980s, and what he did about it. The subject has dogged him in the past, and Democratic staff members said it is likely to be revisited when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence holds nomination hearings, tentatively scheduled for April 12.

To read the full text, see Washington Post

Friday, March 18, 2005

Wolfowitz's Plot to Destroy OPEC
And Why it was always Ridiculous

Juan Cole
Informed Comment
March 18, 2005

Joe Conason presents some excellent reasons why Paul Wolfowitz should not head the World Bank. But there may be others.

The BBC Newsnight [scroll down two items in this blog ] reports the titanic struggle between the Neoconservatives and Big Oil over Iraqi petroleum. If this story is true, it is some of the best reporting to come out of the Iraq scandal for months, and Greg Palast and his colleagues have scooped the Washington Post and the New York Times.

It is a story that also has a bearing on Paul Wolfowitz's bid to become chairman of the World Bank. I have some questions for him. Does he want to reduce the Arabs to poverty? Is he hostile to the very existence of OPEC and of producer cooperatives in primary commodities? Does he favor the use of warfare by states to permit their corporations to take over public energy resources in the Global South? Are his economic policies going to be rooted in a desire to further the interests of the Likud and other rightwing parties in the Global South?

To read the full text, see Informed Comment

US Diplomat, Pulitzer Prize Winning Historian George Kennan Dies

By VOA [Voice of America] News
18 March 2005

Internationally known U.S. diplomat and Pulitzer Prize winning historian George Kennan has died at the age of 101.

Mr. Kennan helped design the framework for American policies toward the Soviet Union after World War II. As a foreign affairs specialist, Mr. Kennan crafted the policy of containment of Moscow, and predicted the Soviet Union would ultimately collapse from within.

Mr. Kennan served diplomatic missions at posts in Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Moscow, and was the U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia during President John Kennedy's administration. He won two Pulitzer Prizes from his nearly 20 books, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Albert Einstein Peace Prize, and the German Book Trade Peace Prize.

Mr. Kennan died Thursday at his Princeton, New Jersey home in the northeast United States and is survived by his wife Annelise, whom he married in 1931.

Secret US plans for Iraq's oil:
The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks, sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed

By Greg Palast
Reporting for Newsnight
17 March, 2005

Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

To read the full text, see BBC News/Newsnight

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Tiny School Gets No-Bid Work From Homeland Security:
Agency deems Mercyhurst College the sole source to provide training for intelligence analysts

Blog editor's note: This is a good example, albeit a minor one, of how politics rather than rational decision making can dictate how security matters are dealt with.

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2005 - A tiny college located in the hometown of ex-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is negotiating a no-bid contract to train intelligence analysts for the sprawling agency. In doing so, the agency is short circuiting a selection process that would normally include a host of bigger and better known institutions already working in that field such as George Washington University and Georgetown University.

Late last month, the Department of Homeland Security filed notice it was entering into negotiations on a sole source basis with Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., to develop and run an intelligence analyst certificate program for the department. Mercyhurst is a liberal arts, private, Catholic school located on the eastern shore of Lake Erie. The school has an enrollment of about 3,100.

To read the full text, see The Center for Public Integrity

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Very Bad News

By Clifford Geertz
New York Review of Books
March 24, 2005 Issue

A Review-essay of

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
by Jared Diamond
Catastrophe: Risk and Response
by Richard A. Posner

Blog editor's note: For a decidedly different perspective on U.S. behavior in the world, and in many ways far more disturbing one than even the most critical foreign policy text, I recommend Geertz's lucid review of two new books deserving of our attention. The review will probably only be on line for a couple of weeks before it moves to NYRB's archives. You can read the full text at New York Review of Books


The recent tsunami in southern Asia, in which perhaps a quarter-million people of all ages and conditions were swept indifferently away by a blind cataclysm, has, at least for the moment —perhaps only for the moment—concentrated our minds. Fatality on such a scale, the destruction not only of individual lives but of whole populations of them, threatens the conviction that perhaps most reconciles many of us, insofar as anything this-worldly does, to our own mortality: that, though we ourselves may perish, the community into which we were born, and the sort of life it supports, will somehow live on. The suggestion that this may not be true, that calamity if great enough, or fecklessness if chronic enough, may put an end to the foundations of our collective existence, that beyond its separate members society itself is mortal, is hardly a new idea. Ancient history collects instances, science fiction constructs narratives; the myths of all nations parade warning examples. But the empirical study of how societies die, the comparative examination of cases and the systematic calculation of possibilities, has barely begun. There are not, as yet, any life expectancy tables for civilizations, and the autopsies, partial and archaeological, are inconclusive about the cause of death.

No Longer the "Lone" Superpower
Coming to Terms with China

By Chalmers Johnson
March 15, 2005

Blog editor's note: Given the spike in tensions between Tawain and mainland China in the past few days, this piece by Johnson should be of particular interest. He is author of two groundbreaking books on American foreign policy, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic.

I recall forty years ago, when I was a new professor working in the field of Chinese and Japanese international relations, that Edwin O. Reischauer once commented, "The great payoff from our victory of 1945 was a permanently disarmed Japan." Born in Japan and a Japanese historian at Harvard, Reischauer served as American ambassador to Tokyo in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Strange to say, since the end of the Cold War in 1991 and particularly under the administration of George W. Bush, the United States has been doing everything in its power to encourage and even accelerate Japanese rearmament.

Such a development promotes hostility between China and Japan, the two superpowers of East Asia, sabotages possible peaceful solutions in those two problem areas, Taiwan and North Korea, left over from the Chinese and Korean civil wars, and lays the foundation for a possible future Sino-American conflict that the United States would almost surely lose. It is unclear whether the ideologues and war lovers of Washington understand what they are unleashing -- a possible confrontation between the world's fastest growing industrial economy, China, and the world's second most productive, albeit declining, economy, Japan; a confrontation which the United States would have both caused and in which it might well be consumed.

To read the full text, see

Sunday, March 13, 2005

U.S. Gives a Cold Shoulder to Treaties
Bush's trend of opting out of international pacts might endanger America's standing in the world and hinder global efforts, some say

By Evelyn Iritani
Los Angeles Times
March 13, 2005

When he helped pioneer an antismoking movement a decade ago, Eduardo Bianco looked to the United States for novel ways to keep young people in Uruguay from taking up cigarettes.

Today, the 49-year-old cardiologist no longer considers America a leader in the fight against smoking. That's because it is not among the 57 nations that ratified the first global tobacco control treaty, which took effect in recent weeks and imposes tough restrictions on tobacco advertising and packaging.

The Bush administration signed the treaty in May, but the president hasn't sent it to the Senate for ratification, saying it needs further study. Uruguay did ratify the treaty — and Bianco was among those who persuaded his government to do so.

The tobacco treaty is the latest example of the Bush administration's reluctance to join international treaties.

To read the full text, see Los Angeles Times

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Imperial Entropy
Collapse of the American Empire

Feb. 22, 2005

It is quite ironic: only a decade or so after the idea of the United States as an imperial power came to be accepted by both right and left, and people were actually able to talk openly about an American empire, it is showing multiple signs of its inability to continue. And indeed it is now possible to contemplate, and openly speculate about, its collapse.

The neocons in power in Washington these days, those who were delighted to talk about America as the sole empire in the world following the Soviet disintegration, will of course refuse to believe in any such collapse, just as they ignore the realities of the imperial war in Iraq. But I think it behooves us to examine seriously the ways in which the U.S. system is so drastically imperiling itself that it will cause not only the collapse of its worldwide empire but drastically alter the nation itself on the domestic front.

All empires collapse eventually: Akkad, Sumeria, Babylonia, Ninevah, Assyria, Persia, Macedonia, Greece, Carthage, Rome, Mali, Songhai, Mongonl, Tokugawaw, Gupta, Khmer, Hapbsburg, Inca, Aztec, Spanish, Dutch, Ottoman, Austrian, French, British, Soviet, you name them, they all fell, and most within a few hundred years. The reasons are not really complex. An empire is a kind of state system that inevitably makes the same mistakes simply by the nature of its imperial structure and inevitably fails because of its size, complexity, territorial reach, stratification, heterogeneity, domination, hierarchy, and inequalities.

To read the full text, see Counterpunch

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Remembering all those arguments made 1,500 deaths ago

By Joseph L. Galloway
Knight Ridder Newspapers
March 9, 2005

Blog editor's note: Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young."

WASHINGTON - Something about anniversaries prods us to pause and reflect on what's transpired in the intervening time. March 20 is the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and it's a good time to consider what's happened since then.

Do you recall our civilian leadership's rationale for a pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein? President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and, yes, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told the world that the United States had no choice but to invade Iraq. They said Saddam was hiding chemical and biological weapons, and that his scientists would be able to produce a nuclear weapon in a few years.

Do you remember those who predicted that the operation would be financed in large part by sales of Iraqi oil? It would be cheap, easy and, oh yes, so swift that civilian leaders in the Pentagon ordered the military to plan to begin withdrawing from Iraq no later than the summer of 2003.

There was no need for much post-war planning because there wasn't going to be any post-war. America would come, conquer and get out. If Iraq was broken, its new government headed by the neo-conservatives' favorite exile, Ahmad Chalabi, could fix it. There would be no need for American nation-building, just some modest humanitarian aid.

To read the full text, see Knight Ridder Washington Bureau

Monday, March 07, 2005

Bush to U.N.: Drop Dead
The administration will regret its latest appointment

By Fred Kaplan
March 7, 2005

Blog editor's note: This is somewhat akin to naming Rush Limbaugh to head the National Endowment for the Arts

Just as it looked like George W. Bush might be nudging toward multilateralism, he goes and appoints John Bolton as his ambassador to the United Nations. There could be no clearer sign that the contempt for the international organization, which was such a prominent feature of Bush's first term, will extend into his second term with still greater force and eloquence.

During the first term, Bolton was undersecretary of state for arms control—a revealing position, since no other official in government was more hostile than Bolton to the very idea of arms control. A former president of the Project for a New American Century—the neocon movement of the '90s from which nearly all of Bush's national security team sprang—Bolton opposed not only the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (de rigueur for any Bush appointee), but also the international bioweapons conference, the ban on chemical weapons, the nuclear test ban; any accord that limited anything the United States might someday want to do.

To read the full text, see

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Stopping a Strike at the Heart of the Senate--
Did he or didn't he: The Senator Byrd Speech Editor's Note/Blog editor's note: Republicans are demanding an apology for the following speech, which was delivered by U.S. Senator Robert Byrd. In order to cut through the hyperbole, we present the entire text of the speech to our readers. Decide for yourself if Senator Byrd was out of line. The allegation is that the Senator was calling the GOP majority in congress Nazis. Read the whole statement and judge for yourself.    

By Senator Robert Byrd

01 March 2005

Senator Byrd delivered the remarks below warning the Senate and the American people about a procedural effort being considered by some Senators to shut off debate and shut down minority voices and opinions. Byrd believes that such an effort strikes at the very heart of the Senate -- the freedom of speech and debate.

    In 1939, one of the most famous American movies of all time, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," hit the box office. Initially received with a combination of lavish praise and angry blasts, the film went on to win numerous awards, and to inspire millions around the globe. The director, the legendary Frank Capra, in his autobiography "Frank Capra: The Name Above the Title," cites this moving review of the film, appearing in "The Hollywood Reporter," November 4, 1942:

    Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," chosen by French Theaters as the final English language film to be shown before the recent Nazi-ordered countrywide ban on American and British films went into effect, was roundly cheered … .

    Storms of spontaneous applause broke out at the sequence when, under the Abraham Lincoln monument in the Capital, the word, "Liberty," appeared on the screen and the Stars and Stripes began fluttering over the head of the great Emancipator in the cause of liberty.

To read the full text, see

One in Four Americans Would Use Nukes Against Terrorists, Gallup Finds

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher

March 01, 2005

NEW YORK More than one in four Americans would go so far as to utilize nuclear bombs if need be in the fight against terrorism, according to a national survey reported today by The Gallup Organization.

Gallup asked Americans whether they would be willing or not willing “to have the U.S. government do each of the following” and then listed an array of options.

To read the full text, see E&