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ARMS SALES AND THE FUTURE OF U.S.-TAIWAN-CHINA RELATIONS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 7, 2008

November 24, 2008 05:01 PM – Age: 13 days

by Jau-shieh Joseph Wu

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION’ (USA)

Publication: China Brief Volume: 8 Issue: 22

Category: China Brief, Featured, Military/Security, China and the Asia-Pacific

The outgoing Bush Administration made an 11th hour decision to notify the U.S. Congress on GEORGE WALKER BUSHOctober 3—a day before Congress went into recess ahead of the groundbreaking November presidential election in the United States—that a raft of arms and weapons systems, which have been effectively frozen since December 2007, will be released for Taiwan. The passage of the arms package provided a temporary reprieve for Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, whose approval rating since assuming office in May has plummeted to 23.6 percent in October (Global View, November 2008). The items released by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, at the value of $6.4 billion, includes: 182 Javelin anti-tank missile; 30 Apache helicopters; four PAC-3 anti-missile batteries; 32 submarine-launched Harpoon missiles; and four E-2T radar plane upgrades. But more noticeable than the items released is the absence of the first phase of 8 diesel-powered submarines, Black Hawk helicopters, and two additional PAC-3 batteries that had been originally sought (United Daily News [Taiwan], October 5, 2008; Defense News, October 6). Taipei also requested 66 F-16 C/D jet fighters to add to its current inventory, but the Bush Administration has not received the letter of request for the reason that it would only process the above-mentioned package at the current stage.

The passage of the arms package was received with a sigh of relief in Taipei, which is concerned about the island’s strained relations with the United States,and, had a decision lapsed to the next U.S. president, weary that the package would be approved at all. As expected, Beijing complained bitterly and suspended unspecified military exchange programs with the United States (United Daily News, October 8, 2008), but overall the sale did not upset Sino-U.S. relations, nor did it interrupt the momentum of reconciliatory gestures between the Kuomintang (KMT), the ruling party on Taiwan, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, the scaling-down of the arms package signifies subtle changes in the geopolitical landscape in East Asia, where the shifting center of gravity may affect the long-term interests of the United States and its relations with the nations in the region.

Arms Sale and Taiwan’s Defense

Although the items approved only represent a fraction of Taiwan’s request and the value is half of what was originally sought, the package nonetheless improves Taiwan’s defense capability and reduces Taiwan’s widening military disparity vis-à-vis China. However, China’s military is rapidly modernizing, with its military defense budget has increased by double digit for more than 15 years while Taiwan’s defense budget has remained low. Therefore, the arms package will be unable to offset the strategic changes in the depth projection of China’s military in the region and encirclement of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Among Taiwan’s most cited threats is the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) deployment of more than 1,000-1,400 short-ranged ballistic missiles (SRBM), which have increased at the rate of 100 per year since 2001. These missiles have been aimed at Taiwan from six missile bases in Lepin, Santow, Fuzhou, Longtien, Huian, and Zhangzhou, spanning three southeastern coastal provinces of Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Fujian [1] (Liberty Times [Taiwan], March 30, 2008). In addition, China has also acquired an estimated 50 advanced submarines, which is more than what military analysts state the PLA needs to blockade the Taiwan Strait. The PLA has also engaged in military exercises and deployments designed to sharpen its defensive capabilities so that even with limited offensive capabilities, China would be able to subdue Taiwan’s defenses in a limited amount of time by denying the access of other maritime powers that may come to Taiwan’s defense [2]. Furthermore, China has—in recent years—ratcheted up its computer-hacking activities against the Taiwanese government’s national security-related agencies and has stolen countless sensitive materials (United Daily News, April 8, 2007), so much so that some Taiwanese security officials describe that a “silent war” has already begun.

Friction between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the CCP in the Taiwan Strait was to be expected for two parties whose visions for Taiwan and its relationship with China are diametrically opposed. That the result of Taiwan’s presidential election on March 22 was embraced by the embattled U.S. leadership came as no surprise. The KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou appears more conciliatory toward China than his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian of the DPP. Chen stoked tensions in cross-Strait relations prior to the election by advocating that Taiwan join the United Nations as a new member, promoted a national referendum on the issue during the recent presidential election. These tensions have since eased following President Ma’s inauguration. Bush Administration officials—in pubic and in private—conveyed satisfaction to see Taiwan’s KMT government and the CCP re-engaged in cross-Strait dialogue, particularly the resumption of the Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF) – Association for the Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) channel, severed by the CCP after former President Lee Teng-hui stated in a major policy speech in 1999 that Taiwan-China relations are “special state-to-state relations.”

Cross-Strait Politics and China’s Legal Warfare against Taiwan

From November 3 to 7, the head of ARATS, Chen Yunlin, serving as China’s special envoy to Taiwan, participated in an unprecedented visit to Taiwan to negotiate cross-Strait aviation, shipping, and food safety agreements. Chen Yunlin’s visit has attracted international attention on the warming relations between a democratic Taiwan and an authoritarian China, and also on a deepening divide in Taiwanese society.

A closer examination of ongoing cross-Strait shuttle diplomacy between the KMT and CCP, and public announcements made by President Ma raises legitimate questions about whether the current trend is in Taiwan’s national interest or for that matter U.S. long-term security interest.

The issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty has always been the focal point of cross-Strait tension, since the PRC claims that Taiwan is a part of China under its interpretation of the “one-China principle.” The Chinese government has engaged in what some analysts call a diplomatic “full-court press,” using a carrot and stick strategy in the form of financial and monetary incentives, to legalize the “one-China principle” in major international organizations and thereby legitimize its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan (Javno, November 16, 2007).

The first such step came in May 2005, when the Chinese government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the World Health Organization (WHO) Secretariat requiring the WHO to seek Chinese approval before Taiwan, under the name “Taiwan, China,” could participate in any WHO-related activities. The second came in the United Nations, which in March 28, 2007, issued a letter from the Secretariat to Nauru stating that, in compliance with the 1972 UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, “the United Nations considers Taiwan for all purposes to be an integral part of the People’s Republic of China.” The third incident was with the OIE (World Organization of Animal Health). In May 2007, Beijing attempted to pass a resolution “recognizing that there is only one China in the world and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China which includes Taiwan,” changing Taiwan’s membership into “non-sovereign regional member,” and using “Taiwan, China” or “Taipei, China” as Taiwan’s official title in this organization.

As these three examples demonstrate, the “one-China principle” has been used by the PRC as a means of waging its “legal warfare” to incorporate Taiwan and to accomplish its bottom-line goal of de jure unification, as explicitly stated by its CARCEL PARA POSADAdeclared intent to use military force if necessary under the “anti-secession law” of 2005 to “reunify” Taiwan. The examples also illustrate how, if Taipei agrees to the “one-China principle,” it may be interpreted as accepting China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. Under such pretexts, the government under the DPP had to avoid and even repel the “one-China principle” as the precondition for the resumption of cross-Strait talks. The DPP did this by seeking international support for its counter-position, which led to the standoff in cross-Strait negotiations and showed the world that the “one-China principle” effectively became a non-starter.

These efforts notwithstanding, Ma Ying-jeou in his inaugural address reversed the previous administration’s position and accepted the so-called “1992 consensus” as the foundation for cross-Strait reconciliation in spite of the fact that the PRC officially stated that the “1992 consensus” was a consensus realizing (ti-xien) the “one-China principle.” In several private meetings with foreign visitors, Ma even went on to say that he accepted the one-China principle with or without any elaboration on what he meant by it. In addition, Ma stated in September during an interview with a Mexican journal that the relations between Taiwan and China are “non-state to state special relations,” and his spokesperson Wang Yuchi further qualified that statement of policy by saying that relations should be characterized as “region to region” (diqu dui diqu) relations (September 3, 2008, news release, http://www.president.gov.tw). In the effort to participate in international organizations, Ma announced that there is no better title for Taiwan other than “Chinese Taipei” (United Daily News, April 5, 2008). During the August/September effort to participate in the United Nations, the KMT government gave up on the membership drive and pursued only “meaningful participation” in UN-affiliated organizations. Even so, the Chinese Ambassador to the UN, Wang Guang-yia, stated that Taiwan was not qualified to participate in major international organizations, and Taiwan’s participation in the WHO had to follow the MOU signed between the Chinese government and the WHO Secretariat (Liberty Times, August 28, 2008). The Ma administration made no attempt to repudiate the Chinese claim, and Ma’s spokesperson stated that it was not a “non-goodwill” (Liberty Times, August 29, 2008). In addition, when in the negotiations for cross-Strait chartered flights the Ma administration decided to open up six domestic airports in addition to two international airports, the decision apparently fell into the Chinese claim that the cross-Strait flights are domestic flights. In short, the official statements and policy actions by the KMT government on relations between the two sides of the Strait thus put Taiwan within the description of the “one-China principle,” with Taiwan being part of China.

Inner Politics and Arms Sales

In another interview by India and Global Affairs, Ma stated that HOMELESS - USAhe wanted to pursue full economic normalization with China, and that he also wanted to reach a peace agreement within his term (Liberty Times, October 18, 2008). If Ma’s concept on the relations between Taiwan and China falls within the description of the “one-China principle,” a full economic normalization will mean an arrangement similar to the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Hong Kong and China. A peace agreement between Taiwan and China within the timetable of his four-year term may necessitate that the United States prepare for an eventual termination of arms sales to and security cooperation with Taiwan. Ma’s statements may be welcomed by the international community as gestures toward peace, but it is actually putting Taiwan’s security in jeopardy. If Taiwan were to sign a peace agreement under the KMT where the conditions are defined by the KMT and CCP, the resulting equation, influenced by a much more powerful China at the other end of the negotiating table, may forfeit Taiwan’s freedom to repudiate China’s claim over Taiwan. Taiwan may be moving dangerously too close to the PRC and may not be able to maintain its current de facto independent status any longer.

The United States has for decades held a policy of refuting the PRC’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, as stated in the “six assurances” provided by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and other private communications with Taiwan (Fredrick Chien Memoir, vol. 2, 2005, 215-6). When China manipulated the UN Secretariat to issue a letter in March 2007, which stated that Taiwan is considered by the UN an integral part of the PRC, the United States protested to the UN Secretariat, arguing that such a declaration is against U.S. policy (Liberty Times, September 6, 2007). But if Taiwan itself accepts one-China principle, the foundation for this U.S. policy may be jeopardized. In other words, Ma’s effort of reconciliation is a short-term relief for the United States at a time when it is not capable of addressing simultaneous international conflicts. However, such efforts may prove to be against U.S. long-term interests, especially if the United States continues to view China’s rapid military modernization with suspicion.

Taiwan’s domestic politics are severely divided over the course of the government’s ongoing rapprochement with China. President Ma has not made any efforts to seek domestic reconciliation or attempt to communicate with the opposition over his intentions on cross-Strait policy. In fact, Ma’s statements and actions angered many people who believe that Taiwan should keep China at arm’s length. Taiwan appears to be more divided than before in the months since Ma’s inauguration, as evidenced by several large-scale, anti-government/anti-China demonstrations. Consequently, Taiwan’s status has been relatively weakened in facing the subtle and not so subtle threats from authoritarian China. A divided and weakened Taiwan severely threatens Taiwan’s national security, and is, by extension, not in the interests of the United States or Japan, its key ally in East Asia. All interested parties should therefore encourage the KMT to engage the opposition DPP in formulating its policy across the Taiwan Strait.

Conclusion

The changes occurring within the strategic landscape of East Asia are quite subtle indeed. U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are one of the most important means LOADING BOMBSfor the United States to demonstrate its security commitment to its key allies and ensure peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. In order for the United States to continue to maintain peace and stability in the region, the United States has long held the position, as prescribed by the Taiwan Relations Act, that arms sales to Taiwan are evaluated on the merit of Taiwan’s defense needs, not political judgments or as a result of consultations with the PRC. However, the U.S. decision to scale down the volume of weapons that had already been promised may make Taiwan feel uncomfortable about the U.S. commitment at a time when Taiwan needs a strong defense in order to ward off China’s possible aggression. A continued U.S. commitment is also integral in permitting Taiwan to resist China’s political pressure, however remote it may seem, and most importantly enable Taiwan to negotiate with China from a position of strength. The unfinished issue of arms sales to Taiwan thus becomes another pressing matter for the new U.S. administration to address in order to safeguard American interests in reinforcing peace and stability in East Asia.

Notes

1. Tseng Shiang-yin, “The Enhancement of Taiwan’s missile defense,” Taiwan Defense Affairs (Vol 5, No. 3, Spring 2005) pp. 88-117, www.itdss.org.tw/pub/05_3/05_3_p088_177.pdf.

2. Ling Chang-sheng, “Research, Development and Deployment of China’s Cruise Missiles,” Defence International Issue 213 (Taiwan: April 12, 2003), www.diic.com.tw/comment/06/06930412.htm.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION’ (USA)

Posted in BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), CHINA, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, DEFENCE TREATIES, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, FORMOSA - TAIWAN, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MILITARY CONTRACTS, NATIONAL WORK FORCES, RECESSION, STOCK MARKETS, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, THE WORK MARKET, THE WORKERS, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | 1 Comment »

SHARING THE RESPONSABILITY

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 7, 2008

DECEMBER 3-8, 2008

by Michael Levitin

PUBLISHED BY ‘NEWSWEEK’ – Print Edition – (USA)

He was Chief of Staff to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the leading voice behind 'A BIGGER BREAK' - Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the crisis forced the U.S. to leave behind its traditions - Photo by Hans-Christian Plambeck (Laif-Redux)Germany’s refusal to fight in Iraq. Now German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the Social Democratic Party candidate for chancellor in next year’s elections, running against the popular Christian Democrat incumbent, Angela Merkel. In his first major interview with the U.S. press, Steinmeier sat down with NEWSWEEK’s Michael Levitin to discuss German troop engagements in Afghanistan, Russia’s recent aggression, the global financial crisis and how Germany might work alongside the United States. Excerpts:

LEVITIN: The day after Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to install missiles in Kaliningrad if Washington did not “rethink” its deployment of a NATO missile shield in Eastern Europe. Did Moscow’s latest show of aggression shift the dynamic between Russia and Europe? How should you respond- and what should Europe’s response be?

STEINMEIER: Medvedevs announcement the day after the elections was clearly the wrong signal at the wrong time. We have no illusions about Russia. In the last few years it has often proved itself a difficult partner. The question remains how to deal with this huge country in Europe’s immediate neighborhood; having to choose between containment versus engagement, I advocate the latter. We must try to develop relations with Russia that go beyond economic interests and contribute to increased stability and security. After all, it is in our own interest to make sure that a Russia that is looking for its own identity is politically and culturally anchored in die West.

LEVITIN: Do you see Germany as a middleman, acting as a buffer between Russia and the rest of Europe-perhaps at the moment even Russia’s closest EU ally?

STEINMEIER: Russia is aware of our uniquely close relationship with the United States. We are firmly embedded in NATO and the EU and thus we don’t aspire to play the role of a middleman. Together with our European partners we showed a strong and outspoken response to Russia’s role in the conflict in Georgia. I think Europe’s united voice no doubt contributed to the military conflict ending. Now the stabilization of the region as a whole has to continue, and for genuine stability we need Russian cooperation. As for energy links between the EU and Russia, the answer depends on which European country you talk to. But in general, Russia depends as much on Europe and America buying its goods as we rely on Russia supplying us with natural gas and oil. As far as Germany is concerned, it is little known in the United States that we have worked successfully for decades to diversify our suppliers of various forms of energy and fuels, with Russia but also Norway and Africa being important suppliers.

LEVITIN: You mentioned the conflict In Georgia. Should that country and Ukraine be Invited to Join NATO?

STEINMEIER: This is not a simple yes-or-no decision. With national elections looming, the domestic situation in Ukraine has changed, as has the situation in the Caucasus since the conflict broke out this summer. Yes, we remain committed to supporting and assisting these countries on the road ahead. But concerning the Membership Action Plan, Germany and other European governments continue to stand by their position.

LEVITIN: The most urgent U.S. foreign-policy question involving Germany, which Obama raised many times during his campaign, is Afghanistan and whether Germany will contribute more troops there to stabilize the south. How much is your country willing to sacrifice for this partnership, putting its soldiers into harm’s way?

STEINMEIER: I have spoken to Barack Obama twice, and from these exchanges I know that he sees Afghanistan in a very nuanced way. I feel we see eye to eye in our assessment that we’re facing a very difficult security situation, but that military means alone cannot bring about the necessary changes. Our approach has to be a comprehensive one, and contrary to what some people may say, Germany has played its part.

LEVITIN: In the north, certainly. But It’s in the south where the greatest violence has taken place, and where Obama’s asking for greater German participation.

STEINMEIER: We have shouldered our share of the military responsibility and we have also enlarged our engagement. We are about to increase our troops by 30 percent, to 4,500. We are participating in aerial surveillance across the whole of Afghanistan, including the south, and German radio engineers are also stationed in Kandahar. The German Air Force runs flights for all NATO countries throughout Afghanistan, again including the south. We took over the lead of the Quick Reaction Force in the north. And let us not forget that circumstances there have also changed; the north, too, has seen its share of armed opposition activities increasing in the last month. But our engagement in Afghanistan is about much more than military action. We have always said that we will only be successful if we succeed in helping rebuild the country and its economy. Civil reconstruction is the second important pillar of our engagement on the ground, and we’ll continue to increase our contribution in this area next year.

LEVITIN: Given the turmoil in Pakistan, what do you think the next steps forward ought to be?

STEINMEIER: The security of the whole region strongly depends on Pakistan. If we want to combat terrorism in Afghanistan, we have to succeed in stabilizing Pakistan politically and economically. This calls for a strengthened Pakistani commitment to combat terrorism, but it also calls for international assistance for this country. It needs a substantial loan from the IMF. We also need to be ready to help stabilize the country in a lasting way.

LEVITIN: On Iran, what realistic hopes do you see of bringing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the table and persuading him to give up Tehran’s nuclear ambitions? And how far will you be willing to push?

STEINMEIER: No doubt there is hope in the international community that after 29 years of standstill, a new approach may be possible. We all remember the reasons for the break-off of relations between the U.S. and Iran. Since then, U.S.-Iranian relations have also been a story of missed opportunities: when Washington signaled openness, Tehran wasn’t willing or able to respond in kind, and vice versa. I think it would be worthwhile trying to have direct talks, but the Iranians have to know it is up to them to prove they do not aspire to nuclear weapons-and that they’re willing to play a constructive role in the region. I have to admit I am skeptical, and can only express my hope that the leaders in Iran seize this opportunity.

LEVITIN: Turning to the financial crisis, the banks got a bailout. Now the automobile manufacturers are seeking the same thing. How do you see EU countries regaining their competition policy-and their legitimacy-after this?

STEINMEIER: I believe the politicians would have lost their legitimacy if they hadn’t acted. What we’re facing here is the very visible failure of the market. We had to make sure that the crisis in the financial markets does not lead to a total breakdown of the financial system as a whole. On both sides of the Atlantic, unconventional means were applied to manage the crisis. Honestly speaking, many of the measures taken in the U.S. seemed a bigger break with American tradition than can be said about European measures.

LEVITIN: How important is it that developing countries play a greater decision-making role In the future? For example, we saw hints of the G8 expanding into a G20 several weeks ago in Washington.

STEINMEIER: What is the most fundamental challenge the world is facing today? To my mind, it consists of integrating the emerging powers of the 21st century into a system of shared global responsibility. I am talk ing about countries like China and India, but also Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia. Can any of the global challenges we face be tackled without them? I don’t think so. That is why we have to make them stakeholders, and in that respect the recent financial summit in Washington was historic. To me it is obvious we cannot stop there.

PUBLISHED BY ‘NEWSWEEK’ (USA)

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SWIMMING UP STREAM

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 6, 2008

Friday, Dec 05, 2008

REFLECTIONS BY COMRADE FIDEL

PUBLISHED BY ‘PORTAL CUBA’

REFLECTIONS BY COMRADE FIDEL

Following Obama’s speech, on May 23 this year, to the Cuban American National Foundation established by Ronald Reagan, I wrote a reflection entitled “The Empire’s Hypocritical Policy”. It was dated on the 25th of the same month.

In that Reflection I quoted his exact words to the Miami annexationists:

“[…] together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba; this is my word and my commitment

[…] It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.

[…] I will maintain the embargo.”

I then offered several arguments and unethical examples of the general behavior of the Presidents who preceded the one who would be elected to that position on the November 4 elections. I literally wrote:

“I find myself forced to raise various sensitive questions:

1 – Is it right for the President of the United States to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext may be?

2 – Is it ethical for the President of the United States to order the torture of other human beings?

3 – Should state terrorism be used by a country as powerful as the United States as an instrument to bring about peace on the planet?

4 – Is an Adjustment Act, applied as punishment on only one country, Cuba, in order to destabilize it, good and honorable, even when it costs innocent children and mothers their lives? If it is good, why is this right not automatically granted to Haitians, Dominicans, and other peoples of the Caribbean, and why isn’t the same Act applied to Mexicans and people from Central and South America, who die like flies against the Mexican border wall or in the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific?

5 – Can the United States do without immigrants, who grow vegetables, fruits, almonds and other delicacies for Americans? Who would sweep their streets, work as servants in their homes or do the worst and lowest-paid jobs?

6 – Are crackdowns on illegal residents fair, even as they affect children born in the United States?

7 – Are the brain-drain and the continuous theft of the best scientific and intellectual minds in poor countries moral and justifiable?

8 – You state, as I pointed out at the beginning of this reflection, that your country had long ago warned European powers that it would not tolerate any intervention in the hemisphere, reiterating that this right be respected while demanding the right to intervene anywhere in the world with the aid of hundreds of military bases and naval, aerial and spatial forces distributed across the planet. I ask: is that the way in which the United States expresses its respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?

9 – Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks on sixty or more dark corners of the world, as Bush calls them, whatever the pretext may be?

10 – Is it honorable and sound to invest millions upon millions of dollars in the military industrial complex, to produce weapons that can destroy life on earth several times over?”

I could have included several other issues.

Despite the caustic questions, I was not unkind to the African American candidate. I perceived he had greater capacity and command of the art of politics than his adversaries, not only in the opposing party but in his own, too.

Last week, the American President-elect Barack Obama announced his Economic Recovery Program.

Monday, December 1st, he introduced his National Security and Foreign Policy teams.

“Vice President-elect Biden and I are pleased to announce our national security team […] old conflicts remain unresolved, and newly assertive powers have put strains on the international system. The spread of nuclear weapons raises the peril that the world’s deadliest technology could fall into dangerous hands. Our dependence on foreign oil empowers authoritarian governments and endangers our planet.”

“…our economic power must sustain our military strength, our diplomatic leverage, and our global leadership.”

“We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships […] American values are America’s greatest export to the world.”

“…the team that we have assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that.”

“…these men and women represent all of those elements of American power […] they have served in uniform and as diplomats […] they share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.”

“I have known Hillary Clinton…,” he says.

I am mindful of the fact that she was President-elect Barack Obama’s rival and the wife of President Clinton, who signed the extraterritorial Torricelli and Helms Burton Acts against Cuba. During the presidential race she committed herself with these laws and with the economic blockade. I am not complaining, I am simply stating it for the record.

“I am proud that she will be our next Secretary of State,” said Obama. “[she] will command respect in every capitol; and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world. Hillary’s appointment is a sign to friend and foe of the seriousness of my commitment…”

“At a time when we face an unprecedented transition amidst two wars, I have asked Robert Gates to continue as Secretary of Defense…”

“[…] I will be giving Secretary Gates and our military a new mission as soon as I take office: responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control.”

It strikes me that Gates is a Republican, not a Democrat. He is the only one who has been Defense Secretary and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, that is, he has occupied these positions under both Democratic and Republican Administrations. Gates, who is aware of his popularity, has said that first made sure that the President-elect was choosing him for as long as necessary.

On the other hand, while Condoleezza Rice was traveling to India and Pakistan under Bush’s instructions to mediate in the tense relations between these two countries, two days ago, the minister of Defense from Brazil gave the green light to a Brazilian company to manufacture MAR-1 missiles, but instead of one a month, as it had been the case until now, it will produce five every month. One hundred of these missiles will be sold to Pakistan at an estimated cost of 85 million euros.

In a public statement, the minister said that “these missiles that can be attached to planes have been designed to locate ground radars. They allow the effective monitoring of both the ground and air space.”

As for Obama, he continued unflappable his Monday statement: “And going forward, we will continue to make the investments necessary to strengthen our military and increase our ground forces to defeat the threats of the 21st century.”

On Janet Napolitano, he indicated: “[she] offers the experience and executive skill that we need in the next Secretary of Homeland Security…”

“Janet assumes this critical role having learned the lessons – some of them painful – of the last several years, from 9/11 to Katrina […] She understands as well as anyone the danger of an insecure border. And she will be a leader who can reform a sprawling Department while safeguarding our homeland.”

This familiar figure had been appointed a District Attorney in Arizona by Clinton in 1993, and then promoted to State Attorney General in 1998. Later on, in 2002, she became a Democratic Party candidate and then governor of that bordering state which is the most common incoming route used by illegal immigrants. She was elected governor in 2006.

About Susan Elizabeth Rice, he said: “Susan knows that the global challenges we face demand global institutions that work… We need the UN to be more effective as a venue for collective action – against terror and proliferation; climate change and genocide; poverty and disease.”

On National Security Advisor James Jones he said: “[…] I am convinced that General James Jones is uniquely suited to be a strong and skilled National Security Advisor. Generations of Joneses have served heroically on the battlefield – from the beaches of Tarawa in World War II, to Foxtrot Ridge in Vietnam. Jim’s Silver Star is a proud part of that legacy […] He has commanded a platoon in battle, served as Supreme Allied Commander in a time of war, (he means NATO and the Gulf War) and worked on behalf of peace in the Middle East.”

“Jim is focused on the threats of today and the future. He understands the connection between energy and national security, and has worked on the frontlines of global instability – from Kosovo to northern Iraq to Afghanistan.”

“He will advise me and work effectively to integrate our efforts across the government, so that we are effectively using all elements of American power to defeat unconventional threats and promote our values.”

“I am confident that this is the team that we need to make a new beginning for American national security.”

Obama is somebody we can talk to anywhere he wishes since we do not preach violence or war. He should be reminded, though, that the stick and carrot doctrine will have no place in our country.

None of the phrases in his latest speech shows any element of response to the questions I raised last May 25, just six months ago.

I will not say now that Obama is any less smart. On the contrary, he is showing the mental faculties that enabled me to see and compare his capacity with that of his mediocre adversary, John McCain, who was almost rewarded for his “exploits” merely due to the traditions of the American society. If it had not been for the economic crisis, television and the Internet, Obama would not have won the elections against the omnipotent racism. It also helped that he studied first in the University of Columbia, where he graduated in Political Sciences, and then in Harvard where he graduated as a lawyer. This enabled him to become a member of the modestly rich class with only several million dollars. He is certainly not Abraham Lincoln, nor are these times similar to those. That society is today a consumer society where the saving habits have been lost while the spending habit has multiplied.

Somebody had to offer a calm and serene response even though this will have to swim up the powerful stream of hopes raised by Obama in the international public opinion.

I only have two more press dispatches left to analyze. They all carry news from everywhere. I have estimated that only the United States will be spending in this economic crisis over $6 trillion in paper money, an amount that can only be assessed by the rest of the peoples of the world with their sweat and hunger, their suffering and blood.

Our principles are the same as those of Baraguá. The empire should know that our Homeland can be turned to dust but the sovereign rights of the Cuban people are not negotiable.

Fidel Castro Ruz

December 4, 2008 – 5:28p.m.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘PORTAL CUBA’

Posted in BANKING SYSTEM - USA, BANKING SYSTEMS, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), CENTRAL BANKS, COMMERCE, COMMERCIAL PROTECTIONISM, COMMODITIES MARKET, CUBA, DEFENCE TREATIES, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, ENVIRONMENT, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, FOREIGN WORK FORCE - ILLEGAL, FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND CONSCIENCE, HOUSING CRISIS - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES, INDUSTRIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION, MILITARY CONTRACTS, RECESSION, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE MEDIA (US AND FOREIGN), THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE WORK MARKET, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

FIRST SIGNATURES ON TREATY TO BAN CLUSTER BOMBS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 4, 2008

December 04, 2008 Edition 1

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE MERCURY’ (South Africa)

OSLO: About 100 nations began putting their names to a landmark treaty banning cluster bombs yesterday, amid calls for major arms producers such as China, Russia and the United States to join them.

Norway, which played a key role in hammering out the worldwide ban on using, producing, transferring and stockpiling cluster munitions, was the first country to sign the convention.

“The world is a safer place today,” said Richard Moyes of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, an umbrella group that comprises some 300 non-governmental organisations.

“This is the biggest humanitarian treaty of the last decade,” he said.

Dropped from warplanes or fired from artillery guns, cluster bombs explode in mid-air and scatter hundreds of bomblets, which can be just 8cm long.

Many bomblets fail to explode, littering war zones with de facto landmines that can kill and maim long after a conflict ends.

Worldwide, about 100 000 people have been killed or maimed by cluster bombs since 1965, 98% of them civilians.

More than a quarter of the victims were children, who mistook the bomblets for toys or tin cans. – Sapa-AFP

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE MERCURY’ (South Africa)

Posted in CHINA, DEFENCE TREATIES, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MILITARY CONTRACTS, NORWAY, RUSSIA, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE UNITED NATIONS, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

1000 JEWISH EXTREMISTS ATTACK HEBRON PALESTINIANS – Tel Aviv under alert as Israel assassinates Palestinian fighter, blocks humanitarian aid to Gaza

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 3, 2008

First Published 2008-12-02

PUBLISHED BY ‘MIDDLE EAST ON LINE’

HEBRON, West Bank – At least 13 Palestinians were wounded overnight as more than 1,000 ultra-nationalist Israelis hurled rocks at residents, homes and police jeeps in the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron which under Israeli occupation.

The rioting broke out as rumours spread that security forces were set to evict 100 Jewish settlers from a house the Israeli high court has ordered evacuated.

Young settlers, backed by right-wing supporters hurled rocks for several hours at Palestinian homes and police vehicles.

At least 13 Palestinians were wounded and significant damage was caused to homes in Hebron, medics and witnesses said.

In the northern West Bank, dozens of settlers clashed with Palestinians and border police, and blocked roads in a show of support for the Israelis living in the Palestinian Hebron house.

The Israeli High Court on November 16 ordered the settlers to leave the Hebron house in which they have lived since March 2007, but security forces have not enforced the order to date.

The settlers insist they have bought the house, but the court said the sale was not completed.

The settlers have been involved in several clashes since the eviction order was issued, and have desecrated a mosque and a Muslim cemetery.

With more than 170,000 Palestinian residents, Hebron is the largest city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank apart from annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

It has long been a flashpoint because of a settler enclave of around 600 hardline Jews in the heart of the city, and a further 6,500 settlers living in Kiryat Arba on the outskirts.

Tel Aviv under alert

Israeli police were on high alert Tuesday in Tel Aviv following fears of a Palestinian attack, a police source said, as citizens were warned to steer clear of the city until further notice.

The police set up barricades at entry points into Tel Aviv, sparking huge traffic jams while radio stations urged Israelis not to visit the city until the alert was lifted.

It was the first time in seven months that an Israeli city was put under such tight security.

Israeli troops kill Palestinian

Israeli soldiers captured and fatally shot a member of a Palestinian resistance group Monday in the northern West Bank, Palestinian security officials said.

The 27-year-old Mohammed Kenan was killed by a special Israeli unit wearing civilian clothing as he boarded a vehicle that carried him to the Palestinian Authority prison where he was locked up every night. An Israeli army spokesman said Kenan was killed as he was trying to flee, despite warning shots.

According to witnesses, Kenan, a local official with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – an armed offshoot of the Fatah Party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas – had been carrying a pistol.

At least 555 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed since November 2007.

Israeli warships block Libyan aid boat near Gaza

Israeli warships on Monday prevented a Libyan cargo vessel from reaching the Gaza Strip, the impoverished Palestinian territory under a crippling Israeli blockade.

The ship, laden with 3,000 tonnes of goods, was stopped several kilometres (miles) off Gaza’s shores and ordered to return to the Egyptian port of El-Arish, said Palestinian MP Jamal Khodary, who heads an international campaign against the Israeli sanctions.

“Navy ships approached the Libyan boat and ordered it on the radio to turn back, and so it did,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Hamas said turning the Libyan boat back “showed the true, criminal face of the occupation.”

A spokesman for Hamas, Fawzi Barhum, also urged Egypt to reopen the Rafah crossing. “Its closure will enter into history as a crime committed by all those who besiege Gaza,” he said in a statement.

In Tripoli, an official said the ship’s crew was in contact with the Libyan authorities.

“The crew has told us Israeli warships were conducting harassment measures even though it is a civilian vessel loaded with humanitarian aid,” the official said.

The source said that the crew will have no option but to return to Libya as the goods cannot be unloaded in Gaza.

The Libyan attempt to deliver aid to Gaza was the first such effort by an Arab state to defy the blockade, although European and other humanitarian peace activists have made three trips from Cyprus since August without being intercepted by the Israeli navy.

The Qatar Charity Organisation said in Doha on Monday it plans to ship one tonne of medical aid to Gaza this week in a bid to break the blockade.

Its vice president Abdallah al-Nimaa said the ship is set to sail from Doha on Friday, but that he expects the Israeli authorities to stop the vessel.

The Libyan consignment consists of 1,200 tonnes of rice, 750 tonnes of milk, 500 tonnes of oil, 500 tonnes of flour and 100 tonnes of medicine, said the Libyan Fund for Aid and Development in Africa, which chartered the vessel.

Most of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip depend on foreign aid.

Libya, the only Arab state on the 15-member UN Security Council, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and has frequently criticised it over the situation in Gaza.

Israel, which wants to crush any Palestinian liberation movement, responded to Hamas’s win in the elections with sanctions, and almost completely blockaded the impoverished coastal strip after Hamas seized power in 2007, although a ‘lighter’ siege had already existed before.

Human rights groups, both international and Israeli, slammed Israel’s siege of Gaza, branding it “collective punishment.”

A group of international lawyers and human rights activists had also accused Israel of committing “genocide” through its crippling blockade of the Strip.

Gaza is still considered under Israeli occupation as Israel controls air, sea and land access to the Strip.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt, Gaza’s sole border crossing that bypasses Israel, rarely opens as Egypt is under immense US and Israeli pressure to keep the crossing shut.

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Posted in CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES, FOREIGN POLICIES, HATE MONGERING AND BIGOTRY, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ISRAEL, PALESTINE, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE UNITED NATIONS, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

UNILEVER WITHDRAWS FROM AN ISRAELI SETTLEMENT

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 1, 2008

Sunday, November 30

UNILEVER PRESS RELEASE PUBLISHED BY ‘WINDOW INTO PALESTINE’

PRESS RELEASE – November 27th 2008

United Civilians for Peace (UCP) welcomes Unilever’s decision to divest from a factory based in an illegal Israeli settlement on the West Bank. This decision comes in a period in which UCP and Unilever Netherlands are engaged in a constructive dialogue about Unilever’s presence in Barkan. UCP and Unilever discussed the ethical considerations with regards to investment in settlements and Unilever’s responsibilities within the framework of Corporate Social Responsibility.

In 2006, a report by United Civilians for Peace concluded that the Anglo-Dutch multinational owns a 51% share in Beigel & Beigel, a pretzel and snacks factory. This factory is located in Barkan, an industrial zone in Ariel, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Last Wednesday, Unilever announced their decision to divest from Beigel & Beigel.

Since the publication of the report “Dutch economic links in support of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and/or Syrian territories” in 2006, UCP has advocated the departure of Unilever from the settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This resulted in a constructive dialogue with Unilever Netherlands and UCP research into the legal and ethical implications of Unilever’s investment in Beigel & Beigel.

The research document titled: “Improper Advantage: A Study of Unilever’s investment in an illegal Israeli settlement” concludes that:

– The land of the UNILEVER NETHERLANDSBarkan industrial zone was confiscated from surrounding Palestinian villages by a military order issued by the Israeli Defence Force issued in 1981, and declared “state land”. International Law prohibits the confiscation of occupied land not for military purposes.

– Because the factory is located in an illegal settlement, Unilever complies with violation of Palestinian human rights and the structural discrimination of Palestinian workers.

– Beigel & Beigel benefits from subsidies that are allocated by the Israeli government to the industrial zones in the settlements. Also, the factory has been guaranteed a state grant for a plan of expansion.

The report was available as of Friday November 28th.

UCP congratulates Unilever with their decision to divest. This important and constructive step shows that Unilever takes serious both the provisions of international law as well as its Corporate Social Responsibility. Israeli settlements form a major obstacle to a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the industrial zones play an important economic role in maintaining these settlements.

Not for publication:

For more information and to request a copy of the report “Improper Advantage: A Study of Unilever’s investment in an illegal Israeli settlement”, please contact Merijn de Jong (United Civilians for Peace) +31(0)30-8801581 / +31(0)6-27249753 or merijn.de.jong@unitedcivilians.nl

The report is available as of Friday November 28th. (http://www.unitedcivilians.nl)

United Civilians for Peace (UCP) is a Dutch platform that strives for a just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. UCP is a joint initiative of Oxfam Novib, Cordaid, ICCO and IKV Pax Christi.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘WINDOW INTO PALESTINE’

Posted in ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, HUMAN RIGHTS, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INTERNATIONAL, ISRAEL, NETHERLANDS, PALESTINE, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

“AMERICA FIRST”

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 1, 2008

PUBLISHED BY TIME CAPSULE/1940 – Times Magazine (1968)

PAGE 23

Last CARTOON BY DR. SEUSSJune, a Yale law student named Robert Douglas Stuart Jr. deplored Yale University President Charles Seymour’s espousal of open aid to the Allies, believing it would lead the U.S. into war. Furthermore, he thought Seymour’s views were not those of the student body and got up a poll showing 3-to-l on his side. General Robert E. Wood (chairman of Sears, Roebuck) heard of the Yale-man’s activities, asked Stuart to visit him. Out of their conversation grew the America First Committee.

Last week General Wood’s committee had 60,000 members, eleven local chapters and an organization drive that was going like a house afire. In Washington, national committee members included such strange company as socially conscientious Kathryn Lewis (daughter of John L.) and socially conspicuous Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Just what the organization was after remained obscure: it was easier to see what it was against. And what the committee was against was getting the U.S. into the war. General Wood last week adduced some further arguments to the National Association of Manufacturers’ meeting in Manhattan:

1) Germany cannot invade America even if Britain falls.

2) The U.S. can and will do business with the Nazis even if necessary to cartelize the trade.

3) If the U.S. convoys British shipping, that act “is sure to put us in the conflict.”

Posted in FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND CONSCIENCE, GERMANY, HISTORY, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, THE MEDIA (US AND FOREIGN), USA, USA HUMOR, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

STORIA DELLE RIVOLUZIONI DEL XX SECOLO – LA RIVOLTA DEI MAU-MAU (Kenya)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 1, 2008

Romano Ledda – A cura di Roberto Bonchio

(1628, 1629)

Mentre l’Africa nera Nairobi. Ottobre 1952. Mau-mau arrestati dalla polizia inglese. I Mau-mau erano una setta segreta a sfondo nazionalistico-religioso costituitasi nel Kenya tra le populazioni Kikuyu, attorno al 1948; un campo di concentramento; un villagio, presunta centrale dei Mau-mau, dato alle fiamme dalle trupe inglesioccidentale ed equatoriale raggiunse l’indipendenza entro l’anno 1960, quella orientale, per lo piú a dominazione inglese, dovette attendere piú a lungo. Qui infatti ai consueti meccanismi di sfruttamento coloniale, si aggiungeva in generale la presenza di massicce immigrazioni bianche, che costituirono (e costituiscono ancora oggi nella Rhodesia dei sud e, sia puré con caratteristiche storiche diverse, nel Sud África) un forte ostacolo alia stessa política neocoloniale del’Inghilterra. Fu questa presenza di bianchi, che si era-no impadroniti delle terre migliori, ricacciando gli africani su quelle sterili, a provocare quella che forse è l’unica grande rivolta contadina del’Africa nera: la guerra che i Mau-mau condussero per tre anni contro il coloni bianchi dei Kenya.

La rivolta dei Mau-mau esplose con primitiva violenza nel 1952. Da trent’anni gli africani chiedevano terre migliori, la fine della discriminazione razziale, e il superamento di condizioni di vita che avevano dei bestiale. Come risposta ebbero un rigurgito di violenza e di crudeltà razziali. La rivolta partita dal gruppo étnico Kikuyu fu la legittima reazione al regime instaurato dai coloni. Essa colpi con durezza lê ricche fattorie degli « altipiani bianchi », rispose a colpo su colpo, porto dovunque il terrore, anche per quel suo carattere primitivo che circondava ogni azione di rappresaglia o di attacco contro i « signori bianchi », dei rituali magici delia tradizione tribale. Ma che non si trattasse di semplici bande criminali, come è stato troppo spesso detto, bensì di un movimento con profonde radici tra i contadini poveri dei Kenya, è dimostrato dal fatto che ci vollero ben tre anni per reprimere la rivolta. Fu una delle repressioni più brutali della storia coloniale. Si ripeterono qui le violenze, gli arbitri, le crudeltà dei francesi in Algeria. Jomo Kenyatta, presunto capo delia rivolta, venne arrestato confinato a tempo indefinito. Migliaia di kikuyu vennero massacrati, i villaggi incendiati, intere tribù ricacciate nelle foreste. Ma quando la rivolta fu alfine domata, il volto dei Kenya era ormai cambiato, e iniziò un processo « costituzionale » verso l’indipenza, ottenuta il 12 dicembre 1963. II partito di Kenyatta, il Kenya African National Union (KA-NU) assunse la direzione dei paese.

Prima dei Kenya, era divenuto indipendente, il 9 dicembre 1961, il Tanganika. E qui maturò uno dei regimi più avanzati dell’África nera, che ebbe ai suo centro il Tankanika African National Union (TANU), fondato nel 1954 da Julius Nyerere, attualmente presidente della Tanzania. Anche nel Tanganika il carattere nazionale, non tribale, dei partito fu determinante nell’orientare il paese verso programmi sociali ed economici, ispirati ad un nazionalismo progressista con elementi di socialismo. Un secondo elemento influi, però, in modo rilevante nella radicalizzazione degli orientamenti del TANU. Il 12 gennaio 1964 scoppiò una rivoluzione popolare nella vicina isola di Zanzibar. L’isola, che aveva ottenuto l’indipendenza nel dicembre 1963, era dominata dal sultano Ben Abdullah, sostenuto dagli inglesi, e rappresentante la minoranza araba delia popolazione. Il partito Umma, diretto da Mohammed Babu, a base prevalentemente contadina, si impadroni dei potere con una insurrezione armata, e il 18 gennaio proclamo la repubblica popolare di Zanzibar. Nell’aprile dello stesso anno, iniziarono le trattative tra il governo di Nyerere e quello di Zanzibar per la costituzione di un único Stato. In breve l’accordo fu raggiunto e il 25 aprile 1964 sorse la repubblica di Tanzania, con un orientamento político generale che si richiama esplicitamente al socialismo. L’accesso all’indipendenza dei possedimenti inglesi deli’África orientale si compì con una certa rapidità: il 9 ottobre 1962 divenne indipendente l’Uganda, il 6 luglio 1964 il Nyassaland, col nome di Malawi, il 24 ottobre 1964 la Rhodesia dei Nord, col nome di Zâmbia.

Posted in AFRICA, ENGLAND, FOREIGN POLICIES, FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND CONSCIENCE, HISTORY, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, KENYA, UNITED KINGDOM, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

THE WEIMAR CHRONICLE – Chapter 6

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 30, 2008

by Alex de Jonge

INFLATION

The year 1923 has a special and dreadful connotation in German history, for it was the year of the great inflation. If defeat, abdication and revolution had begun to undermine the traditional values of German culture, then the inflation finished the process so completely that in the end there were no such values left. By November 1918 there were 184.8 marks to the pound. By late November 1923 there were 18,000,000,000,000. Although the mark was eventually "restored," and the period of inflation succeeded by a time of relative prosperity for many people, life for anyone who had lived through the lunatic year of 1923 could never be the same again.

Such a cataclysmic loss of a currency’s value can never be ascribed to a single cause. Once confidence goes, the process of decline is a self-feeding one. By late 1923 no one would hold German money one moment longer than it was really necessary. It was essential to convert it into something, some object, within minutes of receiving it, if one were not to see it lose all value in a world in which prices were being marked up by 20 percent every day.

If we go back beyond the immediate cause of hyperinflation—beyond a total lack of confidence in a currency that would consequently never "find its floor," however undervalued it might appear—we find that passive resistance in the Ruhr was a major factor. Effective loss of the entire Ruhr output weakened the mark disastrously, encouraging dealers to speculate against it, since the balance of payments was bound to show a vast deficit. Confidence in the currency could only begin to be restored when resistance ended late in 1923.

It has been the "patriotic" view that reparations were also a significant factor. Certainly they constituted a steady drain upon the nation’s resources, a drain for which it got no return. But reparations alone would not have brought about hyperinflation. There were still other causes. Sefton Delmer believes that the true explanation lay in Germany’s financing of the war. She had done so very largely on credit, and was thereafter obliged to run a gigantic deficit. There were other more immediate causes, such as a total incomprehension of the situation on the part of Havenstein, director of the Reichsbank. Failing to understand why the currency was falling, he was content to blame it upon forces beyond his control—reparations—and attempted to deal with the situation by stepping up the money supply!

The first British ambassador to the Weimar Republic, Lord d’Abernon, had no illusions about the economic plight of Germany. He observed in his diary that "German finance is dying beyond its means," 1 and no one seemed to know why. In the meantime, he noted:

Currency experts have a sad fate. During life they empty every room in which they hold forth, and death finds them in madhouses. Berlin has been deluged with these gentlemen for the last week and still survives; but the currency has gone to the devil.2

He saw the Reichsbank compounding its own mistakes:

In the whole course of history, no dog has run after its own tail with the speed of the Reichsbank. The discredit they throw on their own notes increases even faster than the volume of the notes in circulation. The effect is greater than the cause; the tail goes faster than the dog.3

By October 1923 it cost more to print a note than the note was worth. Nevertheless Havenstein mobilized all the printing resources that he could. Some of the presses of the Ullstein newspaper and publishing group were even commandeered by the mint and turned to the printing of money. Havenstein made regular announcements to the Reichstag to the effect that all was well since print capacity was increasing. By August 1923 he was able to print in a day a sum equivalent to two-thirds of the money in circulation. Needless to say, as an anti-inflationary policy, his measures failed.

In his documentary novel Success, Leon Feuchtwanger has suggested that inflation had less obvious and more sinister causes. Certainly it had its beneficiaries as well as its victims. Anyone living on a pension or on fixed-interest investments—the small and cautious investor—was wiped out. Savings disappeared overnight. Pensions, annuities, government stocks, debentures, the usual investments of a careful middle class, lost all value. In the meantime big business, and export business in particular, prospered. It was so easy to get a bank loan, use it to acquire assets, and repay the loan a few months later for a tiny proportion of the original. Factory owners and agriculturalists who had issued loan stock or raised gold mortgages on their properties saw themselves released from those obligations in the same way, paying them off with worthless currency on the principle that "mark equals mark." It would be rash to suggest, as Feuchtwanger hints, that the occupation of the Ruhr was planned by industrialists to create an inflation which could only be to their benefit. Yet we should remember that Stinnes, the multi-millionaire, had both predicted that occupation and ended up the owner of more than 1,500 enterprises. It should also be remembered that some businessmen had a distinctly strange view of the shareholder. He was regarded by many as a burdensome nuisance, a drag upon their enterprise. He was the enemy and they were quite happy to see him wiped out to their benefit. Inflation was their chance to smash him. Witness the behavior of a banker at a shareholders’ meeting at which it was suggested he should make a greater distribution of profit: "Why should I throw away my good money for the benefit of people whom I do not know?"4

The ingenious businessman had many ways of turning inflation to good account. Thus employees had to pay income tax weekly. Employers paid their tax yearly upon profits which were almost impossible to assess. They would exploit the situation of a smaller businessman, obliged to offer six to eight weeks of credit to keep his customers, by insisting on payment in cash. The delay between paying for the goods and reselling them eroded any profit the small man might make, while the big supplier prospered.5

Whether or not the industrialists actually caused inflation, their visible prosperity made them detested by an otherwise impoverished nation. Hugo Stinnes became an almost legendary embodiment of speculation and evil. Alec Swan remembers how hungry Germans would stare at prosperous fellow countrymen in fur coats, sullenly muttering "Fabrikbesitzer" (factory owner) at them. The term had become an insult and an expression of envy at one and the same time.

Hyperinflation created social chaos on an extraordinary scale. As soon as one was paid, one rushed off to the shops and bought absolutely anything in exchange for paper about to become worthless. If a woman had the misfortune to have a husband working away from home and sending money through the post, the money was virtually without value by the time it arrived. Workers were paid once, then twice, then five times a week with an ever-depreciating currency. By November 1923 real wages were down 25 percent compared with 1913, and envelopes were not big enough to accommodate all the stamps needed to mail them; the excess stamps were stuck to separate sheets affixed to the letter.6 Normal commercial transactions became virtually impossible. One luckless author received a sizable advance on a work only to find that within a week it was just enough to pay the postage on the manuscript. 7 By late 1923 it was not unusual to find 100,000 mark notes in the gutter, tossed there by contemptuous beggars at a time when $50 could buy a row of houses in Berlin’s smartest street.8

A Berlin couple who were about to celebrate their golden wedding received an official letter advising them that the mayor, in accordance with Prussian custom, would call and present them with a donation of money.

Next morning the mayor, accompanied by several aldermen in picturesque robes, arrived at the aged couple’s house, and solemnly handed over in the name of the Prussian State 1,000,000,000,000 marks or one halfpenny.9

The banks were flourishing, however. They found it necessary to build annexes and would regularly advertise for more staff, especially bookkeepers "good with zeros." Alec Swan knew a girl who worked in a bank in Bonn. She told him that it eventually became impossible to count out the enormous numbers of notes required for a "modest" withdrawal, and the banks had to reconcile themselves to issuing banknotes by their weight.

By the autumn of 1923 the currency had virtually broken down. Cities and even individual businesses would print their own notes, secured by food stocks, or even the objects the money was printed on. Notes were issued on leather, porcelain, even lace, with the idea that the object itself was guarantee of the value of the "coin."10 It was a view of the relationship between monetary and real value that took one back five hundred years. Germany had become a barter society; the Middle Ages had returned. Shoe factories would pay their workers in bonds for shoes, which were negotiable. Theaters carried signs advertising the cheapest seats for two eggs, the most expensive for a few ounces of butter which was the most negotiable of all commodities. It was so precious that the very rich, such as Stinnes, used to take a traveling butter dish with them when they put up at Berlin’s smartest hotel.11 A pound of butter attained "fantastic value." It could purchase a pair of boots, trousers made to measure, a portrait, a semester’s schooling, or even love. A young girl stayed out late one night while her parents waited up anxiously. When she came in at four in the morning, her mother prevented her father from taking a strap to her by showing him the pound of butter that she had "earned."12 Boots were also highly negotiable: "The immense paper value of a pair of boots renders it hazardous for the traveler to leave them outside the door of his bedroom at his hotel.". 13

Thieves grew more enterprising still in their search for a hedge against inflation.

Even the mailboxes are plundered for the sake of the stamps attached to the letters. Door handles and metal facings are torn from doors; telephone and telegraph wires are stolen wholesale and the lead removed from roofs.14

In Berlin all metal statues were removed from public places because they constituted too great a temptation to an ever-increasing number of thieves. One of the consequences of the soaring crime rate was a shortage of prison accommodation. Criminals given short sentences were released and told to reapply for admission in due course.15

It was always possible that one might discover an unexpected source of wealth. A Munich newspaperman was going through his attic when he came upon a set of partly gold dentures, once the property of his grandmother, long since dead. He was able to live royally upon the proceeds of the sale for several weeks.16

The period threw up other anomalies. Rents on old houses were fixed by law, while those on new ones were exorbitantly high. As a result in many parts of Germany housing was literally rationed. If one were fortunate enough to live in old rented property, one lived virtually free. The landlord, however, suffered dreadfully: to repair a window might cost him the equivalent of a whole month’s rent. Thus yet another of the traditional modes of safe investment, renting property, proved a disaster. Hitherto well-to-do middle-class families found it necessary to take in lodgers to make ends meet. The practice was so widespread that not to do so attracted unfavorable attention suggesting that one was a profiteer. Pearl S. Buck records the case of one family where the woman of the house reluctantly confessed to her husband that they would have to have a lodger. He greeted the news not with anger, but with a sigh of relief: the neighbors had begun to talk. Real property lost its value like everything else. Pearl Buck notes the case of a couple selling their house in order to marry their daughter in some kind of style. More telling is a famous song of inflation:

We are drinking away our grandma’s

Little capital

And her first and second mortgage too.17

As noted in the famous and highly intelligent paper the Weltbühne, the song picked out the difference between the "old" generation of grandparents who had scraped and saved carefully in order to acquire the security of a house, and the "new generation" for whom there could be no security any more, who "raided capital" or what was left of it, and were prepared to go to any lengths to enjoy themselves. Where their parents’ lives had been structured with certainties, the only certainty that they possessed was that saving was a form of madness.

Not all Germans suffered, of course. Late in 1923 Hugo Stinnes did what he could to alleviate the misery of his fellow countrymen by the magnanimous decision to double his tipping rate in view of the inflation.18 Along with rents, rail fares were also fixed and did not go up in proportion to inflation. Consequently, travel appeared absurdly cheap. Alec Swan recalls crossing Germany in the greatest style for a handful of copper coins. Yet even this was beyond the means of most Germans. A German train in 1923 would consist of several first-class carriages occupied entirely by comfortable foreigners, and a series of run-down third-class carriages crammed to bursting with impoverished and wretched Germans.

Although the shops were full of food, no one could afford it except foreigners. Germans often had to be content with food not normally thought of as fit for human consumption. In Hamburg there were riots when it was discovered that the local canning factory was using cats and rats for its preserved meats. Sausage factories also made much use of cat and horse meat.19 Moreover, as we shall see, some of the most famous mass murderers of the age used to preserve and sell the meat of their victims in a combination of savagery and an almost sexual obsession with food that mythologizes much of the darkness and the violence that were latent in the mood of Weimar.

If 1923 was a bad year for the Germans it was an annus mirabilis for foreigners. Inflation restored the sinking morale of the army of occupation ; small wonder when every private found himself a rich man overnight. In Cologne an English girl took lessons from the prima donna of the opera for sixpence a lesson. When she insisted that in future she pay a shilling, the prima donna wept with delight.20 Shopping became a way of life: "All through that autumn and winter whenever we felt hipped we went out and bought something. It was a relaxation limited at home, unlimited in the Rhineland.". 21

Germany was suddenly infested with foreigners. It has been suggested that the English actually sent their unemployed out and put them up in hotels because it was cheaper than paying out the dole.22 Alec Swan stayed with his family in a pension in Bonn. They had moved to Germany because life was so much cheaper there. The inmates of Swan’s pension were mostly foreigners of strange complexion, such as the Swede suffering from tertiary syphilis who would bombard heads of state with urgent telegrams. There was also an extremely fat German, christened Glaxo by the Swans. He was in the habit of helping himself to gigantic mounds of the spaghetti which formed the staple diet of the common table, saying apologetically, "My stomach, my stomach," with a hand upon the offending organ, as a form of explanation.

To find oneself suddenly wealthy in the midst of tremendous hardship proved rather unsettling. Inflation corrupted foreigners almost as much as the Germans. The English in Cologne could think of nothing else.

They talked with sparkling eyes and a heightened color, in the banks, the streets, the shops, the restaurants, any public place, with Germans standing around gazing at them.

Scruples were on the whok overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of wealth and purchasing power beyond one’s dreams.23

As Alec Swan put it:

You felt yourself superior to the others, and at the same time you realized that it was not quite justified. When we went to Bellingshausen, which was a sort of wine place near Königswinter, we would start drinking in the afternoon. I would always order champagne and my Dutch friend would shake his head in disapproval. We’d have two ice buckets: he with some Rhine wine and me with German champagne. It was really rather ridiculous for a chap of my age to drink champagne on his own.

Being as wealthy as that was an extraordinary feeling, although there were many things you couldn’t get in Germany. It was impossible to buy a decent hat, for instance. But you could have any food you wanted if you could pay for it. I haven’t eaten anything like as well as that in my life. I used to go to the Königshalle (that was the big café in Bonn) at eleven o’clock in the morning for a Frühschoppen and a Bergmann’s Stückchen, a large piece of toast with fresh shrimps and mayonnaise. For a German that would have been quite impossible.

I paid two million marks for a glass of beer. You changed as little money as you could every day. No, one did not feel guilty, one felt it was perfectly normal, a gift from the gods. Of course there was hatred in the air, and I dare say a lot of resentment against foreigners, but we never noticed it. They were still beaten, you see, a bit under and occupied.

My mother did buy meat for three or four German families. I remember I bought an air gun, and, when I grew tired of it, I gave it to my German teacher’s son, with some pellets. Some time later the woman came to me in tears saying the boy had run out of pellets, and they could not afford to buy any more.

On another occasion Swan, all of twenty-two at the time, took the head of the Leipzig book fair out for a meal and looked on incredulously as the elderly and eminent bookseller cast dignity to the winds and started to eat as if he had not had a meal in months.

Stories of money changing and currency speculation are legion. Bureaux de change were to be found in every shop, apartment block, hairdresser’s, tobacconist’s. An Englishman named Sandford Griffith remembers having to visit a number of cities in the Ruhr which had local currencies. He stopped at a dealer’s to change some money, but when he produced a pound note the dealer was so overcome by such wealth that he simply waved a hand at his stock of currency and invited the astonished Englishman to help himself.24 Foreigners acquired antiques and objets de valeur at rock-bottom prices. A favorite trick was to buy in the morning with a down payment, saying that one would fetch the rest of the money from the bank. By waiting until the new exchange rate had come out at noon before changing one’s money into marks, an extra profit could be made on the amount that the mark had fallen since the day before.25

The population responded to the foreign onslaught with a double pricing system. Shops would make their prices up for foreigners. It would cost a tourist 200 marks to visit Potsdam, when it cost a German 25. Some shops simply declined to sell to foreigners at all.26 In Berlin a Schlemmsteuer, or tax on gluttony, was appended to all meals taken in luxury restaurants.27

Foreign embassies were also major beneficiaries of inflation, giving lavish banquets for virtually nothing. Indeed the Weltbühne noted with great resentment the presence of foreign legations of nations so insignificant that they would never hitherto have dreamed of being represented in Germany.28 The spectacle of foreigners of all nations, living grotesquely well and eating beyond their fill in the middle of an impoverished and starving Germany did not encourage the Germans to rally to the causes of pacificism and internationalism. The apparent reason for their inflation was there for all to see, occupying the Ruhr.

The surface manifestations of inflation were unnerving enough, but its effect upon behavior, values and morals were to reach very deep indeed, persisting for years after the stabilization of the mark, right up to the moment when Hitler came to power. The middle class—civil servants, professional men, academics—which had stood for stability, social respectability, cultural continuity, and constituted a conservative and restraining influence was wiped out. A French author met a threadbare and dignified old couple in spotless but well-worn prewar clothes in a cafe. They ordered two clear soups and one beer, eating as if they were famished. He struck up a conversation with the man, who spoke excellent French and had known Paris before the war. "Monsieur," the man replied, when asked his profession, "I used to be a retired professor, but we are beggars now.".29

There was a general feeling that an old and decent society was being destroyed. If the year 1918 had removed that society’s political traditions and its national pride, 1923 was disposing of its financial substructure. In response, people grew either listless or hysterical. A German woman told Pearl Buck that a whole generation simply lost its taste for life—a taste that would only be restored to them by the Nazis. Family bonds melted away. A friend of Swan, a most respectable German whose father was a civil servant on the railways, simply left home and roamed the country with a band. It was a typical 1923 case history. Young men born between 1900 and 1905 who had grown up expecting to inherit a place in the sun from their well-to-do parents suddenly found they had nothing. From imperial officer to bank clerk became a "normal" progression. Such disinherited young men naturally gravitated toward the illegal right-wing organizations and other extremist groups. Inflation had destroyed savings, self-assurance, a belief in the value of hard work, morality and sheer human decency. Young people felt that they had no prospects and no hope. All around them they could see nothing but worried faces. "When they are crying even a gay laughter seems impossible . . . and all around it was the same . . . quite different from the days of revolution when we had hoped things would be better.".30

Traditional middle-class morality disappeared overnight. People of good family co-habited and had illegitimate children. The impossibility of making a marriage economically secure apparently led to a disappearance of marriage itself.31 Germany in 1923 was a hundred years away from those stable middle-class values that Thomas Mann depicted in The Magic Mountain, set in a period scarcely ten years before. Pearl Buck wrote that "Love was old-fashioned, sex was modern. It was the Nazis who restored the ‘right to love’ in their propaganda.".32

Paradoxically, the inflation that destroyed traditional German values was also largely responsible for the creation of that new, decadent and dissolute generation that put Berlin on the cosmopolitan pleasure seeker’s map, and has kept it or its image there ever since. It was no coincidence that 1923 was the year that the Hotel Adlon first hired gigolos, professional male dancers, to entertain lady clients at so much per dance. It was also a period when prostitution boomed. A Frenchman accustomed enough to the spectacle of Montmartre was unable to believe his eyes when he beheld the open corruption of Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse.33 Klaus Mann remembers:

Some of them looked like fierce Amazons strutting in high boots made of green glossy leather. One of them brandished a supple cane and leered at me as I passed by. "Good evening, madame" I said. She whispered in my ear: "Want to be my slave? Costs only six billion and a cigarette. A bargain. Come along, honey.".

. . . Some of those who looked most handsome and elegant were actually boys in disguise. It seemed incredible considering the sovereign grace with which they displayed their saucy coats and hats. I wondered if they might be wearing little silks under their exquisite gowns; must look funny I thought … a boy’s body with pink lace-trimmed skirt.34

Commercial sex in Berlin was not well organized and was considered by connoisseurs to be inferior to that of Budapest, which had the best red-light district in Europe. But in Berlin there was no longer any clear-cut distinction between the red-light district and the rest of town, between professional and amateur. The booted Amazons were streetwalkers who jostled for business in competition with school children. Hans Fallada has painted the following portrait of a shop girl:

Pepa Ledig was at twenty-two no longer a blank page. She had ripened, not in a peaceful atmosphere, but during the war, postwar and inflation. Only too soon she knew what it meant when a gentleman customer in her bootshop touched her lap significantly with his toe. Sometimes she nodded . . . 35

Stefan Zweig gives us another glimpse of inflationary Berlin:

Along the entire Kurfürstendamm powdered and rouged young men sauntered, and they were not all professionals; every schoolboy wanted to earn some money, and in the dimly lit bars one might see government officials and men of the world of finance tenderly courting drunken sailors without shame. . . .

At the pervert balls of Berlin, hundreds of men dressed as women, and hundreds of women as men danced under the benevolent eyes of the police…. Young girls bragged proudly of their perversion. To be sixteen and still under suspicion of virginity would have been considered a disgrace in any school in Berlin at the time.36

Another visitor was struck by what he referred to as Berlin’s "pathological" mood:

Nowhere in Europe was the disease of sex so violent as in Germany. A sense of decency and hypocrisy made the rest of Europe suppress or hide its more uncommon manifestations. But the Germans, with their vitality and their lack of a sense of form, let their emotions run riot. Sex was one of the few pleasures left to them. . . .

In the East End of Berlin there was a large Diele (dancing cafe) in which from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. you could watch shopkeepers, clerks and policemen of mature age dance together. They treated one another with an affectionate mateyness; the evening brought them their only recreation among congenial people. Politically most of them were conservative; with the exception of sex they subscribed to all the conventions of their caste. In fact, they almost represented the normal element of German sex life.

… There was a well-known Diele frequented almost entirely by foreigners of both sexes. The entertainment was provided by native boys between 14 and 18. Often a boy. would depart with one of the guests and return alone a couple of hours later. Most of the boys looked undernourished…. Many of them had to spend the rest of the night in a railway station, a public park, or under the arch of a bridge.37

Inflation made Germany break with her past by wiping out the local equivalent of the Forsytes. It also reinforced the postwar generation’s appetite for invention, innovation and compulsive pleasure seeking, while making them bitterly aware of their own rootlessness. It is not surprising that cocaine was very much in vogue in those years. The drug was peddled openly in restaurants by the hat-check girls, and formed an integral part of the social life of Berlin.

Inflation was also taken as evidence that the old order was morally and practically bankrupt. Capitalism had failed to guarantee the security of its citizens. It had benefited speculators, hustlers, con men and factory owners. It had spawned Hugo Stinnes, but had done nothing for the common good. The need for an alternative system appeared universally self-evident, and until one came along the thing to do was to enjoy oneself, drink away grandma’s capital, or exchange one’s clothes for cocaine: a dinner jacket got you four grams, a morning coat eight.38

Inflation and the despair that it created also acted as the catalyst of aggression. It was at this time that anti-Semitism began to appear in Berlin. An attractive German lady remembers walking through a prosperous suburb with a Jewish friend when someone called to her in the street, "Why do you go around with a Jew ? Get yourself a good German man." In one sense she found it understandable. The ordinary German was very slow to adjust to the special situation of inflation, and in 1923 anyone who was not very quick on their feet soon went under. Jews were better at economic survival in such situations than were other Germans—so much so, she says, that by the end of inflation they had become terribly conspicuous. All the expensive restaurants, all the best theater seats, appeared to be filled by Jews who had survived or even improved their position.

One can imagine that Germans who had lost their own status might have resented the spectacle. One old conservative I spoke to added a second reason for the rise of anti-Semitism in a Prussian society which had traditionally been quite free of it. The arguments advanced are his own, and tell us something of his prejudices. He believes that the Weimar Republic was too liberal with regard to immigration from the East, admitting thousands of Jews from Galicia and the old pale of settlement, persons who, in his words, were "Asiatics, not Jews." They found themselves in a strange anonymous town, free of all the ethical restraints imposed by life in a small community where their families had lived for several generations. They tended therefore to abandon all morality as they stepped out of their own homes, morality being strictly a family affair. They would sail as close to the wind as the law would allow, for they had no good will, or neighborly esteem to lose. The gentleman in question is convinced that their mode of doing business during the inflation did a great deal to create or aggravate more generalized anti-Semitic feelings.

Yet precisely these immigrants were to prove a mainstay of the republic. An old Berlin Jew who had spent some time in prewar Auschwitz told me that it was just these Eastern Jews who offered the most active and effective resistance to National Socialism. They were activists where native Berliners, Jew and Gentile alike, were more inclined to remain on the sidelines.

Certainly the period saw a rise in pro-National Socialist feelings. The first Nazi that Professor Reiff knew personally was a schoolboy in his last year. The young man’s father, a small civil servant, had just lost everything through inflation, and as a result his son joined the party. Pearl Buck records the views of an antimonarchical businessman worried by inflation, who said of the Nazis: "They are still young men and act foolishly, but they will grow up. If they will only drop Ludendorff and his kind, maybe someday I’ll give them a chance.".39

For many people, who felt that they had lost all zest for a life rendered colorless by war and poverty, who
could see that they lived in a world in which Schieber won and decent folk lost, a new ideology combining patriotism and socialist anticapitalism seemed to be the only viable alternative to a totally unacceptable state of financial chaos and capitalist laissez-faire. The shock of inflation had made people mistrustful of the past, immensely suspicious of the present, and pathetically ready to have hopes for the future. It was perfectly clear to them that new solutions were needed, equally clear that until such solutions should appear they could put their trust in nothing except the validity of their own sensations.

The mood of the inflationary period is summed up by Stefan Zweig. It is a mood that endured well beyond inflation itself to become the mood of the Weimar age, a blend of pleasure seeking, sexual and political extremism, and a yearning for strange gods.

It was an epoch of high ecstasy and ugly scheming, a singular mixture of unrest and fanaticism. Every extravagant idea that was not subject to regulation reaped a golden harvest: theosophy, occultism, yogism and Paracelcism. Anything that gave hope of newer and greater thrills, anything in the way of narcotics, morphine, cocaine, heroin found a tremendous market; on the stage incest and parricide, in politics communism and fascism constituted the most favored themes.40

It was indeed a time for the revaluation of all (devalued) values.

The mood of 1923 persisted long after inflation ended, which is why the manner of its ending is offered here as a postscript, for nothing was restored but the currency.

Restoration of confidence was only possible when passive resistance in the Ruhr ended in the autumn of 1923. At the same time, the Reichsbank appointed Hjalmar Schacht to deal with inflation. He was an extremely able man with a clear grasp of essentials. He realized that his main problem was to restore confidence both within and without Germany, and to try to prevent people from spending money as soon as it came into their hands. He established a new currency, based on the notional sum total of Germany’s agricultural wealth, the Roggen-Mark (rye mark). This had the effect of restoring psychological confidence in the currency. He combined the move with a gigantic bear trap laid by the Reichsbank to catch the speculators who would regularly build up huge short positions in marks, in the almost certain expectation that the mark would continue to fall against the dollar: i.e., they sold marks they hadn’t got, knowing that they could buy them for a fraction of their present value when the time came to meet the demand. When the mark stopped falling, thanks to the Reichsbank’s engineering, they had to rush to close their positions, and were forced to buy marks which had actually begun to go up. Many speculators lost the entire fortunes which they had built up over the year.

Schacht’s measures sufficed to stop the rot, but in the period between the ordnance declaring the new currency and the appearance of the first notes, there was an interim of pure chaos in which, as Lord d’Abernon noted, "four kinds of paper money and five kinds of stable value currency were in use. On November 20,1923,1 dollar =4.2 gold marks =4.2 trillion paper marks. But by December the currency was stable." The last November issue of the weekly Berliner Ulustrirter Zeitung cost a billion marks, the first December issue 20 pfennigs. Confidence seemed to have been restored overnight. Germany could breathe again.

There were those, however, who could not accept that the old certainties were lost, as this sad little postscript will prove. In the old days the highest denomination printed had been the brown thousand-mark note which had a prestigious, almost magic significance. Many people among the older generation found it impossible to accept that its value was now gone forever. The notes were seen as the symbol of the golden age of stability before inflation, and it was the touching hope of many that one day they would be restored to full value. In the meantime they were hoarded and even collected. They could be bought in the Munich flea market for five marks a million. That there was still a demand for them at all is proof of the belief that one day the Reichsbank would honor its pledge and exchange paper for gold. Weimar’s electoral system of proportional representation encouraged the proliferation of small political parties, of which there were many. But without a doubt, the strangest and saddest political party of them all was the "Party for the Revaluation of the Thousand-Mark Note.".

 

FOOTNOTES

Chapter 6 – INFLATION

1 d’Abernon, vol. II, p. 23
2 Ibid, p. 22
3 Ibid, p. 24
4 Bonn, p. 2 78
5 Buck, p. 143
6 Ludecke, p. 148
7 Zweig.p. 237
8 Ibid, loc. cit.
9 Daily Express, February 24, 1923
10 Ostwald,p. 63
11 Adlon.p. 99
12 Ostwald,p. 130
13 Clark, p. 11
14 Ibid, loc. cit.
15 Ibid, p. 12
16 Schonberger, p. 155
17 Ostwald.p. 181
18 Adlon.p. 98
19 Ostwald, pp. 84-5
20 Tynan.p. 132
21 Ibid, p. 157
22 Zweig.p. 223
23 Tynan.p. 157
24 Lochner, p. 102
25 Ibid, p. 103
26 Got, p. 67
27 Ibid, p. 57
28 Weltbuhne,
November 1922
29 Beraud.p. 82
30 Buck, p. 163
31 Ibid, p. 141
32 Ibid, loc. cit.
33 Beraud.p. 22
34 Mann, p. 77
35 Fallada, Wolf, Among Wolves, p. 15
36 Zweig.p.238
37 Landauer, pp. 77-80
38 Got, p. 53
39 Buck, p. 232
40 Zweig.p.238

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THE KILLING WINDS – THE MENACE OF BIOLOGICAL WARFARE

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 30, 2008

Chapter 2

by Jeanne McDermott (Arbor House – 1987 – Hardback – 322 pages – ISBN 0877958963)

HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BIOLOGICAL WARFARE

“Armis Bella Non Venenis Geri” (War is waged with weapons, not with poisons). — Roman condemnation of well poisoning

Identical copies of the BIOCHEMICAL WARFAREtreaty banning biological weapons reside in Moscow, London, and at the mammoth State Department building in Washington, D.C. The United States stores its treaties in a dim, almost shabby room, behind a massive, electronically controlled bank vault door, filled with scores of musty manila folders crammed together on rows of gray metal shelves. Here, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction is nothing special, just one of thousands of international agreements on everything from wheat to whaling, seabeds to outer space.

Genevieve Bell has been the treaty librarian since 1969, the year Nixon renounced biological weapons. Dressed in a green corduroy suit and a green blouse for Saint Patrick’s Day, she welcomes the infrequent visitor. In the age of instant Xerox, few people care to see the originals anymore. “It’s not too often at all that I bring out the Biological Weapons Convention,” she says. “If a party wants to see it, yes, sure, we have an obligation to show it. But I can’t say I’ve had many requests.”

The Biological Weapons Convention, or BWC, as it is usually abbreviated, has the feel of a noteworthy and honorable modern document. It is bound with a simple, blue leather, folio-size cover; typed on creamy, gold-edged paper; decorated with a delicate red and blue ink border; held together with a red, white, and blue ribbon that threads through punched holes in the paper and binder.

The treaty itself is written in five languages: English, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Russian, and followed by thirty-five pages of official and often ornate signatures. To date, over a hundred countries have signed the Biological Weapons Convention, the most recent being China, which the State Department welcomed with a small ceremony.

The text of the treaty has fifteen articles, but the first and second express the heart of the agreement. The first says:

Each State Party to this convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain 1) microbial or other biological agents or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; 2) weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.

The second article reads:

Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to destroy or to divert to peaceful purposes, as soon as possible, but no later than nine months after the entry into force of the Convention, all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment and means of delivery specified in Article I of the Convention, which are in its possession or under its jurisdiction or control.

The treaty specifically bans biological weapons, those made Ayith disease-causing germs such as anthrax, and toxin weapons, those made with poisons produced by living organisms such as botulinum. It does not ban chemical weapons, those made with synthetic chemicals such as nerve gas. (Another treaty, the Geneva Protocol, bans the use but not the production or stockpiling of chemical weapons.) Despite the differences in their legal status, chemical and biological weapons are often lumped together, abbreviated in discussions within military circles as CBW. What the weapons have in common is the fact that they are invisible killers that travel through the air.

For historians, as well as students of arms control, the Biological Weapons Convention represents a daring landmark and a milestone in detente. It was the first treaty, and remains the only one in existence, to ban outright an entire class of weapons, prohibiting not only the use, but also the manufacture and stockpiling of the weapons. No other arms control treaty has aimed to be so comprehensive or ambitious, and in the last few years, no other treaty has found itself at the center of so much controversy. With the passage of time, the State Department retires some international agreements to the National Archives, simply to make room for newcomers. But those treaties that provoke accusations and counteraccusations — such as the Biological Weapons Convention—stay inside the vault.

The Biological Weapons Convention bans one of the oldest and least respected forms of warfare—the use of poison and disease. Since Greco-Roman times, poisons have figured not so much as weapons of war but as tools for assassination. Although the use and preparation of poison was a shrouded, clandestine art, it seems clear that the Greeks and Romans knew about the toxic qualities of hemlock, hellebore, rhubarb, the castor bean, and the amanita mushroom. In the imperial courts, professional poisoners tried to outsmart the cup bearers and food tasters, and often succeeded, the best-known example being Agrippina, who is thought to have poisoned her husband, the Roman emperor Claudius. Some historians claim that Pope Alexander poisoned his way to power, that during the Italian Renaissance, the powerful Borgias picked off their rivals with poison, and that the plotting in the courts of Louis XIV and the Russian czars involved tainted potions.

Until the invention of the microscope and the germ theory of disease, diseases could not be spread in the sophisticated ways that poison was. One technique was to dump a corpse in the enemy’s well or water supply. But then, as now, the attacker ran the risk that the disease would strike his own troops.

Possibly the earliest, and one of the few, recorded accounts of biological warfare took place in the spring of 1346 when the Mongols laid seige to Kaffa, a walled city on the Crimean coast. After three unsuccessful years in which their own soldiers were dying of the plague, the Mongols tried something new. According to an eyewitness, “The Tatars, fatigued by such a plague and pestiferous disease, stupefied and amazed, and observing themselves dying without hope of health, ordered cadavers placed on their hurling machines and thrown into the city of Kaffa so that by means of these intolerable passengers, the defenders died widely. Thus there were projected mountains of dead, nor could the Christians hide or flee or be freed from such a disaster.” While Kaffa filled with plague, some of the survivors fled, carrying the disease with them to Constantinople, Venice, Genoa, and other European ports. Within three years, the Black Death (spread by less heinous activities as well) swept Europe, killing a quarter of the population.

In another often recounted case, the British commander-in-chief in the American colonies, Lord Jeffrey Amherst, set out to destroy the American Indians with disease after an Indian rebellion in 1763. “You will do well to try to innoculate the Indians by means of blankets,” Amherst told his subordinates, “as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.” At his request, two blankets and a handkerchief from a smallpox hospital were given as presents to an Ohio tribe. A few months later, smallpox broke out, and, lacking immunity, the Indians were ravaged by disease.

By the twentieth century, disease ceased to be explained by mysterious miasmas or elemental imbalances of humors. Microscopic organisms—bacteria, fungi, and viruses—were gradually identified as the culprits, isolated, cultured, and studied. At the same time, the molecules responsible for the toxicity of so many plants ANTHRAX SPORESand animals were extracted, concentrated, and purified by methods more reliable than making incantations under a full moon. During World War II, scientists around the world began to devise ways to incorporate invisible germs and poisons into conventional military hardware.

To the modern soldier, the various types of biological weapons developed since then do not look like anything very special. In fact, they look like conventional weapons—a bomb dropped from an airplane, a canister and shell fired from a rocket launcher or howitzer, a missile, a drone, and even bullets. The weapons are designed to be hurled, fired, or dropped. The weapons can also be in the form of a spray, spread by a low-flying airplane like a crop-dusting pesticide. While the bomb and the spray tank became standards, a few unusual efforts also emerged—like long-range balloons carrying feathers infected with anticrop spores, bombs filled with disease-carrying insects, and a deadly aerosol spray can shaped like a whisky hip flask.

What distinguishes one biological weapon from another is not so much the hardware but the fillings, which contain the ANTHRAX THRU AN ELECTRONIC MICROSCOPEdeadliest organisms nature ever concocted, all too small to be seen with the naked eye. Some are bacteria and fungi, living creatures only one cell big. Others are viruses, even tinier, ephemeral entities on the threshold of life, made of chunks of DNA, which replicate only by invading and taking over a cell. And finally, some are toxins, the poisonous molecules secreted by plants and microbes, sprayed by insects, or injected by snakes to destroy their own enemies.

In nature, the microbes, viruses, and toxins that cause disease are everywhere, lurking in the soil, the water, the air, your food. Physicians battle these primordial public enemies daily, trying to prevent their growth, treating those people who fall prey. The creation of a biological weapon, in fact, begins with the knowledge gained by doctors of medicine in the process of treating disease. Instead of applying that knowledge to save life, the practice of medicine is perverted, turned inside out, upside down, in violation of the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.

From the enormous roster of the world’s diseases and toxins, which grows each year as new diseases evolve or are discovered, almost all have been considered as potential biological weapons. But many have not been seriously studied because they are not hardy, swift-acting, reliably infective, or easily spread through the air—qualities that a weapon designer wants. From 1943, when the United States launched its biological weapons program, until 1969, it experimented with the following human and animal diseases and toxins: anthrax, botulinum, brucellosis, chikungunya, cholera, coccidiosis, dengue, dysentery, food poisoning toxin, influenza, melioidosis, plague, psittacosis, Q-fever, Red Tide poison, Rift Valley Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Russian spring-summer encephalitis, shigellosis, smallpox, tularemia, typhoid, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and yellow fever.

It also experimented with the following crop diseases: wheat rust, rice blast, tobacco mosaic, corn stunt, potato yellow dwarf, Fiji disease (which attacks sugar cane), hoja blanca (which attacks rice), rice blight, corn blight, sugar cane wilt, coffee rust, maize rust, rice brown-spot disease, late blight of potato, powdery mildew of cereals, stripe rust of cereals.

Of all the countries in ANTHRAXthe world, only the United States admitted to amassing a stockpile of biological weapons, and when the Biological Weapons Convention was signed, only the United States publicly destroyed its arsenal. It had had an active biological warfare program for twenty-five years and had produced and/or standardized ten different biological and toxin weapons, selecting them for a constellation of practical characteristics. The list included:

Anthrax: The renowned bacteriologist Robert Koch first cultured the single-celled bacterium, Bacillus anthracis, in 1877, which under the microscope looks like a football. It lives in the soil in many parts of the world, where it forms an almost indestructible spore resistant to disinfectants, rapid freezing and thawing, even boiling. Anthrax infects goats, sheep, horses, cattle, elephants, hippos, and many other animals, including people. If you touch the spores, the bacterium can enter through a wound in the skin and form a small lesion or pustule that eventually turns coal black. (Anthrax is from the Greek word for coal.) Fever, chills, malaise, nausea, and vomiting follow. Even without adequate treatment, almost everyone recovers.

While the cutaneous form of anthrax is the most common today, in nineteenth-century England the inhalation form of anthrax was widespread. It was known as wool-sorter’s disease because factory workers fell sick after reaching into bins full of wool and shaking the wool out. The motion unleased a cloud of anthrax spores into the air which the workers then inhaled. Within two to three days, they died from suffocation, the result of a toxin released by the anthrax bacterium.

The spores clung not only to sheep wool but to many other animal products as well. A vaccuum cleaner assembler caught it from revolving horsehair brushes, a man who cut piano keys from an elephant’s tusk, and a tourist from a hide-covered bongo drum brought back from a Caribbean vacation. If untreated, the inhalation form of anthrax kills almost everyone exposed to it. While anthrax remains a negligible livestock concern in this country, cases of inhalation anthrax have all but disappeared since the passage of stricter sanitation laws. The military concentrated on the inhalation form of anthrax as a weapon, particularly during World War II. But the spore is so indestructible that once unleashed it permanently contaminates an area, denying it to both defender and attacker. Despite these drawbacks, the United States continues to view anthrax as a potential biological weapon.

Botulinum: Botulinum is a toxin that takes its name from the Latin word for sausage because it was first identified in 1793 when thirteen people in a small German town fell sick after eating the same sausage. The bacterium, which secretes the toxin, was isolated a hundred years later when band members in a small Belgian town fell sick after eating a ham. Shaped like a stout rod, Clostridiwn botulinum commonly and harmlessly grows in the oxygen-free surface layers of the soil, particularly in California, and for reasBACTERIAons unclear, produces botulinum, the most potent neurotoxin known. The microbe only causes problems in improperly canned or cooked food, of which a mere nibble can kill. The toxin takes effect within twelve to seventy-two hours, leaving the victim headachy, dizzy, and (if the dose is sufficient) ultimately dead from respiratory paralysis. About a hundred people succumb to botulinum each year worldwide, and of these 30 percent die. The U. S. Army produced twenty-thousand botulinum-tipped bullets and also planned to spread the toxin as an aerosol until it became clear that sunlight degrades it and destroys its potency.

Brucellosis: Found in wild animals like antelope, reindeer, caribou, and hares, brucellosis was a common livestock disease in the United States until eradication programs began in the 1960s. Today, this country has about one hundred-fifty cases each year, mostly among abattoir workers, farmers, and veterinarians who are exposed to the blood of the infected animals. The disease is caused by several strains of the Brucella bacterium. After a four- or five-day incubation period, the infected person has a low-grade fever, and a tired, rundown feeling that gets progressively worse. Over the next two to three months, he or she loses weight, feels depressed, and suffers an intermittent fever. Once diagnosed, brucellosis is treated with tetracycline. Explored by the army as a weapon in the early days of the program, it was dropped in the 1950s in favor of diseases that act and incapacitate more quickly and more uniformly.

Q-fever: Q-fever is short for query fever. When first discovered among abattoir workers in Queensland, Australia, no one BOTULISMknew what it was. The disease hits suddenly, triggering severe headache, stiff neck, chills, sweats, and a lack of appetite, like a severe case of the flu. Within seven to ten days, it subsides. Nobel laureate F. McFarlane Burnet isolated the cause, a single-celled microbe that changes from the shape of a rod to that of a bead, and named it Coxiella burnetii. C. burnetii is highly infective and very persistent, able to survive in sheep’s wool for seven to nine months. It spreads by aerosol, ticks, mice, bedbugs, and fleas. In Italy, the passage of a flock of sheep through a narrow street was enough to start an infection. Employees at a commercial laundry caught it from handling the unsterilized clothes of lab workers who studied it. Only one to ten microbes are needed to infect. Q-fever strikes sheep, goats, and cattle worldwide, but the infection often escapes notice in both animals and people. Doctors in the United States see one hundred to two hundred cases a year in people, but suspect that a milder form is more common and probably mistaken for the flu. For the military, Q-fever was attractive because it is stable, infective, and quick to act. The army continues to research it today.

Saxitoxin: Throughout many of the world’s oceans, single-celled plankton called dinoflagellates bloom in the summer months, tinging the water red, creating what coast-dwellers call Red Tide. Clams, mussels, oysters, and other filter-feeding bivalves eat the dinoflagellates. People eat the molluscs and occasionally die as the result of ten or more deadly and paralyzing toxins, including the extraordinarily powerful saxi-toxin, produced by the dinoflagellates. In 1974, there were 1,600 cases worldwide of paralytic shellfish poisoning and 300 deaths. Death, when it occurs, takes place within thirty minutes after the meal, as the lips, tongue and face start to burn and tingle. As the feeling spreads to the legs and arms, paralysis sets in. The throat closes up. Until the respiratory muscles cease all movement and suffocation occurs, the victim stays calm and conscious. There is no specific antidote. In the 1950s and 1960s, Detrick scientists prepared over 30 grams of shellfish toxin by harvesting, collecting, and grinding up a vast number of Alaskan butter clams and other shellfish. The toxin was used in the suicide pill carried by Francis Gary Powers, the pilot who flew the secret U-2 plane over the Soviet Union in 1960.

Staphylococcus YERSINIA PESTISenterotoxin: Staphylococcus is a ubiquitous, beach ball-shaped bacterium that comes in many strains. Some are harmless and some, like those that cause toxic shock syndrome and food poisoning, are not. The food-poisoning strain wreaks havoc by secreting an enterotoxin. Although the organism is killed by normal cooking temperatures, it can multiply very rapidly, producing enough toxin to make you sick in two to three hours. Severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea hit within half an hour to four hours after eating and last for one to two days. The CIA chose the toxin for its immediate and fierce action and stockpiled a form resistant to the chlorine in city water supplies. Since the freeze dried form of the toxin is stable and can be stored for up to a year, the military planned to spray it over large areas.

Tularemia: Tularemia resembles the plague. Discovered in Tu-lare County, California, in 1911, tularemia is carried by squirrels, rabbits, field voles, mice, shrews, and ticks. The disease exists in all countries north of the equator. In Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, it occurs most frequently during rabbit-hunting season. Caused by the bacterium Pasteurella tularensis, it strikes two to seven days after exposure—usually in the course of skinning the rabbit. The victim starts to feel achey, with chills and a fever as high as 105 ° F. If inhaled, which happens infrequently in nature but would be the case in a biological war, it causes a cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. If untreated, 5 to 8 percent of the people who get tularemia die. For inhalatory tularemia, as many as 40 percent may die. Doctors treat it with antibiotics, but the U.S. military developed a strain of tularemia that was resistant to streptomycin. There are 250 to 300 cases in the United States each year. At the time of the arsenal’s destruction, the government had a large stockpile of tularemia and considered it a useful weapon.

Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE): VEE is a mosquito-borne virus first found in horses in Venezuela, and later across South and Central America, including Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama. In 1970, the mosquito harboring VEE crossed over the Rio Grande River into Texas, but the feared spread of the disease was contained by eradicating the insect. Within twenty-four hours of injection, the virus produces a headache and fever from which most recover in three days. The virus spreads to the nervous system in 10 percent of the cases and is fatal in 1 percent. The United States was increasing its stockpiles of VEE in the late 1960s.

Yellow fever: Yellow fever is a disease with a notorious legacy, responsible for killing the slaves on the slave ships and probably for destroying the crew and passengers of the legendary Flying Dutchman. It is caused by a virus carried by mosquitoes found in a belt just above and below the equator. It strikes three to six days after the mosquito bite, with a fever and often liver damage, which brings on a yellow color—hence the name. As part of an “entomological warfare” program started in the early 1950s, Detrick labs produced half a million mosquitoes a month, and in tests, planes dropped infected mosquitoes over a residential area in Georgia and Florida. In addition to yellow fever-infected mosquitoes, Detrick grew mosquitoes infected with malaria and dengue; fleas infected with plague; ticks infected with tularemia; flies infected with cholera, anthrax, and dysentery. By the late 1960s, yellow fever was not considered a weapon of choice.

The United States also stockpiled two anticrop diseases:

Wheat rust: In April of each year, the Romans held a ceremony, sacrificing a red dog to keep the gods from unleashing the YERSINIA PESTISred rust disease on their wheat crop. Like fire, the rust streaks the leaves and stems, sometimes even reddening the soil. Once it takes hold, the rust can destroy more crop in less time than any other disease. It is caused by a fungus, Puccinia graminis, which forms a tough, windblown spore that grows under humid conditions. Rust can kill the plant outright or shrivel and stunt it.

Rice blast: Caused by the fungus Piricularia oryzae, rice blast also spreads as a windblown spore, growing under humid conditions. If it attacks during an early stage of the plant’s growth, the plant fails to produce rice. Some American planners considered dropping rice blast on Vietnamese rice paddies during the war but the plan was never approved by senior officials. It would have proved difficult to implement since the Vietnamese planted so many different strains, each becoming susceptible at slightly different times.

Outside of isolated sabotage incidents, biological and toxin weapons have seen remarkably little use in the twentieth century, or rather, remarkably little use that everyone can agree on. No one disputes that the Japanese used germ warfare against the Chinese during World War II. But opinions are divided on two notorious and widely publicized incidents. Did the United States wage germ warfare against North Korea and China during the Korean War? Did the Laotians and Cambo-dians use Soviet-made toxin weapons in Southeast Asia in the late 1970s and early 1980s?

Pound for pound, and penny for penny, biological weapons excel in packing the deadliest punch of any weapon. According to an army field manual written in 1966, a single fighter plane spraying a lethal biological agent could cause 50 percent mortality over an area of 300 square miles; that is, it could kill half the people in a city the size of Dallas or New York. That is ten times the area that would be devastated by the same amount of nerve gas.

Biological weapons come relatively cheap. A panel of experts told the United Nations in 1969 that in a large-scale operation against a civilian population, casualties might cost $2,000 per square kilometer for conventional weapons; $800 for nuclear; $600 for nerve gas; $1 for biological weapons. For the price, one gets a brutally versatile weapon. Biological weapons can be weapons of mass destruction, capable of wiping out huge civilian centers; they can blight a country’s breadbasket while leaving the industrial infrastructure intact; they can be sprayed on people ill-equipped to defend themselves in order to drive them off the land; they can be spread in unconventional ways—on the wings of birds, through infected ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, flies, and tourists. They are, however, most uniquely suited to sabotage, terrorism, and covert operations since they are invisible, small enough to carry in a pocket, and, without careful monitoring, can be indistinguishable from natural occurrences.

Why, then, did President Richard Nixon, a political realist who approached foreign policy as if it were a chess game, give up such a good thing? The reason is simple: Biological weapons provoke far more trouble than they are worth. In the modern theater of geopolitics, their very attributes create horrendous liabilities. Consider this fact: biological weapons are so cheap and powerful that they have been dubbed “the poor man’s atomic bomb.” By condoning and furthering the development of biological weapons, the United States created an arms race that would only hurt it in the long run.

The United States is a rich and powerful country, one of the richest and most powerful in the world. One way it maintains military superiority is by spending money on the development and stockpiling of weapons. Very few countries are wealthy enough to keep up. It is in the best interest of the United States and the other superpowers to keep war expensive. The more expensive it is, the fewer countries that can pose threats. It was, therefore, not in the best interest of the United States to develop a cheap and powerful weapon like biological weapons. That was the fundamental logic behind Nixon’s decision.

Other factors contributed to the American renunciation of biological weapons. There is no credible defense against TULAREMIAan all-out biological attack. No devices will even give reliable advance warning. Even if such devices existed, what steps could be taken? People can be vaccinated against some diseases, but these work only if taken weeks before the attack. Even then, experts doubt their protective value against the onslaught of aerosol germs in a biological weapon, or that an attacker would choose a weapon for which the country had prepared an effective vaccine. Gas masks would help, but few civilians have their own. Lacking genetic resistance to a particular disease, crops and livestock are defenseless.

In 1969, the U.S. military was reluctant but willing to give up biological weapons. Troop commanders had never heartily approved of them, in part because they had a disreputable air that never quite fit the military’s self-image of what an honorable warrior should be asked to do. For battlefield operations, the advocates of biological weapons never proved them superior to conventional or even chemical weapons.

A host of practical problems bedeviled biological weapons. They did not behave in a straightforward way. In the field, commanders found them too complicated, too demanding, too quirky. They spread like killing winds. For each disease, the symptoms, incubation, duration, and treatment varied. Coupled with the way the vagaries of the wind, temperature, and terrain influenced the weapon’s stealthy drift, the commander had a lot of variables to juggle and few guarantees. Although the army subjected biological weapons to hundreds of tests, it never had enough data—for the obvious ethical reasons—on what real weapons do to real people. What good is a weapon that you can’t test? In the end, the military decided it wasn’t good enough to keep.

In 1969, three years before the two superpowers signed the Biological Weapons Convention, the United States gave up BW, as biological weapons are usually abbreviated, altogether. Nixon renounced not only biological weapons but also toxin weapons, which occupy a gray area, somewhere between biological and chemical weapons. Although the two had been developed in tandem at Fort Detrick, the U.S. center for biological warfare research in Frederick, Maryland, toxins behave more like chemical weapons on the battlefield. The only difference between a toxin and a chemical weapon is that one is synthesized by nature and the other concocted by man. Both are inert molecules, acting in minutes to hours, and toxic in micrograms or milligrams, not picograms like biological (or germ) weapons. By contrast, germ weapons are living creatures that grow and multiply, taking their toll in days.

Nixon did not renounce chemical weapons, nor did the subsequent international ban include them. Chemical weapons are deployed like biological weapons—in bombs, from spray tanks—but instead of spreading live organisms, they disperse toxic chemicals, such as nerve gas, tear gas, herbicides (like Agent Orange), mustard gas, and other harassing and incapacitating chemicals. The United States, the Soviets, and now a number of other countries continue to stockpile chemical weapons, and the Iraqis are currently using them in their war against Iran. The Reagan administration lobbied hard to build a new generation of nerve gas weapons, but the Congress consistently blocked appropriations for that purpose until September 1986, when Congress finally gave its okay.

While it is illegal to produce and use biological weapons, it is not illegal to produce chemical weapons. (It is illegal to use them.) Chemical weapons remain a legal component of the world’s stockpiles in part because they are not as cheap, potentially powerful, nor as unpredictable as their biological counterparts. They draw on a longer, more successful tradition within the military, and have a more powerful constituency than biological weapons. After all, they had been used in World War I and the Vietnam War, with arguable success. They have also served a useful function as a deterrent: the United States could give up biological weapons with an easy conscience because it could always retaliate with chemical weapons.

But chemical weapons also raise a prickly question from an arms control perspective. How can you distinguish between industrial chemicals and chemicals of war? What if you ban one but not the other? Since World War II, the creation of insecticides and nerve gases have marched hand in hand. Gerhard Schrader, a German scientist working at I. G. Farben, discovered an organophosphorus compound in 1936 that killed insects in seconds. Under a law that decreed that any industrial invention with military potential should be shared with the Wehrmacht, Schrader’s finding led to the development of nerve gases. Today, a plant that produces the pesticides ma-lathion or parathion could be used to produce nerve gas.

Many other chemicals are Jess toxic, but just as lethal and widespread as organophosphate pesticides. When a 1984 The Living Weapon - As America's germ warfare program expanded during the Cold War, scientists began to conduct their own covert tests on human volunteers. The United States continued the development and stockpiling of biological weapons until President Nixon terminated the program in 1969. This American Experience production examines the international race to develop biological weapons in the 1940s and 1950s, revealing the scientific and technical challenges scientists faced and the moral dilemmas posed by their eventual success.accident at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, released methylisocyanate into the air, five thousand people died. In a magazine interview, the Bhopal mayor said, “I can say that I have seen chemical warfare. Everything so quiet. Goats, cats, whole families—father, mother, children—all lying silent and still. And every structure totally intact. I hope never again to see it.”

When the Biological Weapons Convention officially went into effect in 1975, it left the impression that every trace or consideration of biological weapons utterly disappeared from the world’s military establishments. That was not the case. By keeping chemical weapons legal, military establishments maintained an institutional infrastructure familiar with the equipment, training, doctrine, and insidious action of invisible weapons. While the United States burned its germs and toxins, scrapped its weapon hardware, dismantled and converted its mass production facilities, it retained the books, reports, studies, and test data accumulated over the twenty-five-year existence of the biological-warfare program. According to one Pentagon official, it would take the United States (or any other country that dismantled its full-fledged offensive program) two to three years to get back into the biological weapons business IF the president of the United States renounced the treaty.

As allowed by treaty, research continues around the world. The systematic study of nasty germs and toxins has not stopped. In the United States, it takes place on a largely unclassified basis and in the name of defense. Fifteen years after the renunciation, the list of germs and toxins studied at Fort Detrick bears little resemblance to those studied in 1969. These new agents have been identified, grown, studied, analyzed, assessed, evaluated, and, if Dugway builds the BL-4 lab, will be tested. But they have not been developed into weapons, that is, mass produced or loaded into hardware—two steps that would clearly violate the treaty.

Since the Reagan administration took office in 1980, the budgets for both biological and chemical weapons have skyrocketed. Compared with the cost of building an F-16 fighter plane, the budgets dedicated to the subject of biological warfare still look small, but it is important to bear in mind that biological research costs relatively little. In 1987, the total budget for biological warfare defense was $71.2 million. Compare that with what was spent on research and development at Fort Detrick at the height of the Vietnam War in 1969. Then, it was $19.4 million—or if you adjust for inflation, $55.6 million. In other words, the United States is spending more on BW research than it did when it had an offensive program.

What this jump in budgets means is that the military is again talking about biological warfare. “Up until three or four years ago, we weren’t talking on the subject [of biological weapons] at all,” says Major Dick Ziegler, a Pentagon spokesman. According to the Department of Defense, the Dugway lab is essential for preparing a defense against the mounting Soviet threat. The Pentagon and the Reagan administration point to a mysterious outbreak of anthrax in Sverdlovsk and to Yellow Rain in Southeast Asia as evidence of the Soviet’s disregard for and violation of the treaty.

In conservative circles throughout the nation, the two events are already taken as proof that the Biological Weapons Convention has failed. Like the clock in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the treaty is an anachronism, some say, out of step with the times. But others vehemently disagree with that conclusion. They stress that the evidence for treaty violations at Sverdlovsk is open to question and that cited for Yellow Rain has failed to stand up to scrutiny.

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US MILITARY CHEM-BIO WARFARE EXPOSURES WEBSITE UNVEILED

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 30, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

by Justin Palk – Frederick – News-Post

Posted by Meryl Nass, M.D. at 10:18 AM

From World War II through 1975, thousands of service members and veterans were potentially exposed to chemical or biological weapons as subjects or observers of tests carried out by the Department of Defense.

The department unveiled a new website Monday to provide information about what happened during those tests.

The data on the site is broadly grouped into three sections: chemical agent tests during World War II; chemical and biological agent tests of Project 112 and its naval component, Shipboard Hazard and Defense or Project SHAD; and Cold War-era chemical and biological weapons testing.

The site provides details about specific incidents, such as the release of mustard agent in the Italian port of Bari in 1943 when a U.S. ship carrying the agent to use in response to theoretical German gas attacks was destroyed during a German air raid on the port.

Overview sections give broad outlines of what types of testing were performed at what points in history.

The biological warfare research at Fort Detrick and the Operation Whitecoat disease immunity experiments are listed under the Cold War section of the site, as are Dugway Proving Ground and Edgewood Arsenal, both sites where chemical weapons research was done.

The site does not list the names of service members who might have been exposed to chemical or biological agents. It does, however, include contact information veterans can use to seek help in verifying any potential exposure they may have had, or to provide information they may have about tests the Defense Department conducted.

For information, visit fhp.osd.mil/CBexposures/index.jsp

CLICK HERE FOR THE ARTICLE AS POSTED IN FREDERICK’S WEB SITE

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PUBLISHED BY ‘Anthrax Vaccine – posts by Meryl Nass, M.D.’

Posted in CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

PATRICE LUMUMBA – STORIA DELLE RIVOLUZIONI DEL XX SECOLO

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 29, 2008

– Romano Ledda

A cura di Roberto Bonchio

(1624, 1625, 1626, 1627)

Mentre nell’ África occidentale si assisteva ad una pioggia di indipendenze conquistate o concessé (il 1° ottobre dei 1960 fu la volta della Nigeria), esplose nell’estate del 1960 la questione congolese. Il Congo « belga » fu tra gli ultimi paesi ad arrivare alla rivendicazione dell’indipendenza, e ad avere un movimento nazionalista. Il sistema coloniale belga si era sempre vantato di aver saputo chiudere le sue colonie in una « gabbia felice », senza problemi. In realtà dentro quella gabbia c’era il razzismo, la miséria, l’assenza di ogni diritto umano, misti ad un ottuso paternalismo.

Congo: documenti sulla barbarie colonialista. Nel sue celebre pamphlet Il soliloquio de re Leopoldo, Mark Twain denunció in termini durissimi ed estremamente efficaci, ciò che si nascondeva nella “opoera di civilizzazione” belga.

Privato di ogni libertà política e religiosa (Simon Kimbangu era congolese), il popolo congolese aveva trovato la sua prima forma di solidarietà contro i dominatori in associazioni culturali, sindacali o di mutuo soccorso, la cui attività, ovviamente, non poteva andare oltre i limiti dei próprio gruppo etnico-tribale nel primo caso, e oltre l’assistenza reciproca, nel secondo. La prima rivendicazione sostanzialmente política di una emancipazione dai belgi, venne próprio da una associazione costituita per lo « sviluppo della língua kikongo, l’Associazione dei Bakongo (ABAKO). Solo nel 1958 cominciarono a profilarsi movimenti a carattere político, le cui origini però rimasero per lo piú etniche o tribali. Le prime richieste furono timide. Il 26 agosto del 1958 diciannove dirigenti nazionalisti chiesero « un piano a lunga scadenza di sviluppo político ed economico che abbia come fine l’indipendenza». Ma la realtà di tutto il continente dove va accelerare i tempi. L’indipendenza guineana, e la conferenza panafricana di Accra del dicembre 1958, scossero profundamente tutta l’Africa nera, e l’eco varcò anche le rigide barriere che i belgi avevano inalzato intorno ai Congo. Un partito, il primo a carattere nazionale, con dichiarati intenti antitribali — il Movimento nazionale congolese (MNC), fondato da Patrice Lumumba — raccolse immediatamente la parola d’ordine dell’ indipendenza totale, e subito.

Leopoldville, 7 gennaio 1959. I congolesi manifestano per l’indipendenza. I fortissimi interessi colonialisti determinati dalle notevoli risorse minerarie di cui il Congo disponeva (soprattutto nel Katanga) e tra lê quali erano l’oro, l’argento, il rame, l’uranio, fecero si che Ia via per l’indipendenza di questo paese fosse piú lunga e difficile che per altri.

Nel gennaio dei 1959 i belgi iniziarono la repressione. Il 4, nel corso di un comizio di Lumumba, la polizia sparò uccidendo 42 congolesi e ferendone 257. Il 12 gennaio l’ABAKO venne sciolta, e i suoi dirigenti esiliati. Fino ai giugno una serie di incidenti insanguinarono le strade di tutte le più importanti città del Congo, finché il governo di Bruxelles non si decise ad aprire trattative. Ma gli ultras belgi del Congo, e soprattutto l’Union Minière, respinsero ogni possibilità di accordo, su qualsiasi base. Nel settembre e nel’ottobre si ebbero così la stragi di Kitona (40 morti e 180 feriti) e di Stanleyville (30 morti e 100 feriti), mentre sanguinosi incidenti scoppiavano un po’ dappertutto: a Matadi (6 morti e 30 feriti), a Luluaburg ( 7 morti e 22 feriti) e cosi via. Il 31 ottobre Lumumba venne arrestato.

Un morto per lê vie di Elisabethville durante gli scontri per lê manifestazioni indipendentiste dei 1960; paracadutisti befgi pattugliano lê strade delia città; un manifestante ferito, arrestato da un poliziotto.

Tuttavia la situazione si era fatta insostenibile per il Belgio. La pressione internazionale, l’inquietitudine dilagante nella colonia indussero il governo belga a modificare atteggiamento e a tentare una operazione di tipo neocoloniale: concedere una indipendenza fittizia, che non intaccasse nulla del potere belga sulle favolose ricchezze congolesi. Dopo una «tavola rotonda» tenutasi a Bruxelles (20 gennaio-20 febbraio 1960), cui partecipò anche Lumumba, portatovi direttamente dal carcere, venne deciso di indire delle elezioni generali per un Parlalamento nazionale che avrebbe proclamato subito la indipendenza. Il 22 maggio esse ebbero luogo, e diedero una vistosa vittoria al MNC, nonostante la violenta campagna fatta dai belgi a favore di partiti e gruppi politici, ch’essi stessi avevano ispirato e costituito, con loro agenti. A elezioni avvenute fu tentato di tutto per impedire che Lumumba assumesse la carica di capo del nuovo governo congolese. Ma il Parlamento gli diede l’incarico, il 22 giugno, a grande maggioranza.

Patrice Lumumba viene nominato capo del nuovo governo congolese il 20 giugno 1960.

Il 30 giugno fu proclamata l’indipendenza. Re Baldovino, personalmente, si reco a Leopoldville, per pronunciarvi un discorso in parte minaccioso, in parte colmo di paternalismo, che nella sostanza diceva: la vostra indipendenza la dovete a noi e alia nostra opera civilizzatrice, e noi resteremo ancora qui, perche voi avete ancora bisogno di essere guidati.

Patrice Lumumba circondato dai giornalisti

Per i congolesi rispose Lumumba. Il suo fu un discorso nobile, appassionato: « Noi siamo fieri — egli disse — fin nell’intimo della nostra anima, di aver condotto una lotta che è stata di lacrime, di sangue e di fuoco, perche era una lotta nobile e giusta, necessária per mettere fine al’umiliante schiavitú che ci era stata imposta con la forza. Questa è stata la nostra sorte in ottanta anni di regime coloniale e le nostre ferite sono troppo fresche e troppo dolorose perche noi possiamo cancellarle dalla memoria. Come potremo dimenticare che abbiamo conosciuto il lavoro spossante in cambio di salari che non ci permettevano di placare la nostra fame, di vestire e abitare con dignità, di allevare i nostri bambini come esseri che ci erano cari? Noi che abbiamo conosciuto le ironie, gli insulti, le frustate, che dovevamo subire dalla mattina alla será, perche eravamo negri? Chi dimenticherà che al negro si dava del tunon come ad un amico, ma solo perche il lei era riservato ai bianchi? Noi che abbiamo visto le nostre terré saccheggiate, con documenti falsamente legali perche fondati sul diritto dei piú forte?». Al re che gli ayeva parlato di civilizzazione, Lumumba elencò le sofferenze, gli orrori dei razzismo, la violenza della repressione. E aggiunse: « Ora il nostro caro paese è nelle mani dei suoi figli. Noi veglieremo perche queste nostre terre diano i loro beni ai loro figli. II nostro governo nazionale e popolare sara la salvezza dei paese». E infine affermò: «L’indipendenza congolese è un passo decisivo verso la liberazione del continente africano ».

Dall’alto in basso, da sinistra a destra: Moise Ciombe, Puomo politico congolese ai servizio dei colonialisti belgi, che capeggiò la sedizione dei Katanga; l’ultima foto di Patrice Lumumba, poço prima dei suo assassínio (febbraio 1961); patrioti congolesi catturati dai mercenari; un aspeito dei villaggio di Ituri dopo uno scontro.

Non solo i belgi, ma tutte le potenze imperialiste si irrigidirono. Un Congo veramente indipendente, non disposto a subire una indipendenza fittizia poteva diventare, col suo immenso potenziale di ricchezze, un fatto assolutamente dirompente nel processo di decolonizzazione del’Africa nera. Il film degli avvenimenti si fece a questo punto incalzante e drammatico: il 7 luglio i paras belgi invasero il Congo, l’11 luglio il Katanga proclamo la secessione, il 17 luglio intervenne l’ONU che fiancheggiò e sostenne l’attacco alia giovane repubblica congolese, il 5 settembre Lumumba venne destituito con un colpo di Stato dei presidente della repubblica Kasavubu e dei generale Mobutu. Non basto, però, aver liquidato la punta piú avanzata dei nazionalismo congolese. La popolarità di Lumumba era tale, la sua influenza ancora così grande (il 14 dicembre a Stanleyville si era costituito un governo lumumbista), che occorreva colpire ancora piú duramente. Nel dicembre Lumumba venne trasferito nella fortezza di Thysville. Dopo due mesi di dura prigionia venne portato nel Katanga, e il 14 febbraio assassinato con due compagni di lotta. Pochi giorni prima aveva scritto alla moglie Pauline: «Non siamo soli. L’Africa, l’Asia e i popoli liberi e liberati di tutti gli angoli del mondo si troveranno sempre a fianco del milioni di congolesi che non cesseranno la lotta se non il giorno in cui non ci saranno piú colonizzatori né mercenari nel loro paese ». E durante la dura prigionia aveva detto: « Se mi uccideranno sarà un bianco che avrà armato la mano di un negro ». E cosi accadde. Il primo grande martire dei risorgimento africano venne assassinato da africani (Ciombe e Munongo), su ordine di una coalizione imperialista che trovo complici tutte le principali potenze coloniali.

Posted in BELGIUM, CONGO, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, THE UNITED NATIONS, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

CHAGOS ISLANDS – STEALING A NATION – THE CORRUPTION THAT MAKES UNPEOPLE OF AN ENTIRE NATION

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 28, 2008

28/11/2008

CHAGOS ISLANDS – STEALING A NATION – by John Pilger

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The native islanders of the Chagos archipelago were forcibly removed from the CHAGOS' FLAGislands by the British Government at that time to make way for an American military airbase during the Cold War. They were forgotten about and left to wither in poverty in the slums of Mauritius. They have been fighting to be allowed to return home ever since, and despite the British courts ruling in favour of this the Government has managed to block that decision, and the Chagossians remain in their enforced purgatory to this day.

STEALING A NATION (John Pilger, 2004) is an extraordinary film about the plight of people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean – secretly and brutally expelled from their homeland by British governments in the late 1960s CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGOand early 1970s, to make way for an American military base. The base, on the main island of Diego Garcia, was a launch pad for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Stealing a Nation has won both the Royal Television Society’s top award as Britain’s best documentary in 2004-5, and a ‘Chris Award’ at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. A brochure of the film is available at http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/guides/stealguide.pdf. On April 8, 2008, the Chagos Islanders have launched a national Campaign for Resettlement of their islands – go to www.letthemreturn.com. For more information and updates on the plight of the Chagossians, visit the website of the UK Chagos Support Association at www.chagossupport.org.uk.

Other references and articles on the story are as listed below: CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO

http://www.chagos.org/home.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politic…

Islanders who wait in vain for justice and a paradise lost
Evicted from their tropical idyll in a military deal, victorious in three legal hearings, they now face another battle to be allowed home – From The Times – November 9, 2007

THE CORRUPTION THAT MAKES UNPEOPLE OF AN ENTIRE NATION

27 Nov 2008

In his column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes the latest chapter in theCHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO extraordinary story of the ‘mass kidnapping’ of the people of the Chagos islands in the Indian Ocean, British citizens expelled from their homeland to make way for an American military base. On 22 October, Britain’s highest court of appeal, the Law Lords, demonstrated how British power words at its apex by handing down a transparently political judgement that dismissed the Magna Carta and banned an entire nation from ever going home.

I went to the Houses of Parliament on 22 October to join a disconsolate group of shivering people who had arrived from a faraway tropical place and were being prevented from entering the Public Gallery to hear their fate. This was not headline news; the BBC reporter seemed almost CHAGOS REFUGEES PROTESTING IN LONDONembarrassed. Crimes of such magnitude are not news when they are ours, and neither is injustice or corruption at the apex of British power.

Lizette Talatte was there, her tiny frail self swallowed by the cavernous stone grey of Westminster Hall. I first saw her in a Colonial Office film from the 1950s which described her homeland, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, as a paradise long settled by people “born and brought up in conditions most tranquil and benign”. Lizette was then 14 years old. She remembers the producer saying to her and her friends, “Keep smiling, girls!”. When we met in Mauritius, four years ago, she said: “We didn’t need to be told to smile. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in Diego Garcia. My great-grandmother was born there, and I made six children there. Maybe only the English can make a film that showed we were an established community, then deny their own evidence and invent the lie that we were transient workers.”CHAGOS REFUGEES PROTESTING - STANDING IN FRONT OF THE ROYAL COURT OF JUSTICE IN LONDON

During the 1960s and 1970s British governments, Labour and Tory, tricked and expelled the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago, more than 2,000 British citizens, so that Diego Garcia could be given to the United States as the site for a military base. It was an act of mass kidnapping carried out in high secrecy. As unclassified official files now show, Foreign Office officials conspired to lie, coaching each other to “maintain” and “argue” the “fiction” that the Chagossians existed only as a “floating population”. On 28 July 1965, a senior Foreign Office official, T C D Jerrom, wrote to the British representative at the United Nations, instructing him to lie to the General Assembly that the Chagos Archipelago was “uninhabited when the United Kingdom government first acquired it”. Nine years later, the Ministry of Defence went further, lying CHAGOS REFUGEES PROTESTING - Louis Olivier Bancoult, (2nd L) Chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, holds his grandson Julien aloft outside The High Court in central London, 23 May 2007. Families expelled from the Chagos Islands by the British Government to make way for the Diego Garcia US airbase won their legal battle to return home Wednesday. The decision upholds two previous rulings in favour of the islanders, granting them rights of abodethat “there is nothing in our files about inhabitants [of the Chagos] or about an evacuation”.

“To get us out of our homes,” Lizette told me, “they spread rumours we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs. The American soldiers who had arrived to build the base backed several of their big vehicles against a brick shed, and hundreds of dogs were rounded up and imprisoned there, and they gassed them through a tube from the trucks’ exhaust. You could hear them crying. Then they burned them on a pyre, many still alive.”

Lizette and her family were finally forced on to a rusting freighter and made to lie on a cargo of bird fertiliser during a voyage, through stormy seas, to the slums of Port Louis, Mauritius. Within A demonstrator demanding her return to the Chagos Islands in the Diego Garcia archipelago shouts during a protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London October 22, 2008. Britain's highest court ruled in favour of the British government on Wednesday, blocking the return of hundreds of Chagos Island people to their homes in the south Indian Ocean after nearly 40 years of exile. The decision by the House of Lords ends a years-long battle to secure the Chagos Islanders the right to return to their archipelago, from where they were forcibly removed in the 1960s and '70s to make way for an American airbase on Diego Garcia.months, she had lost Jollice, aged eight, and Regis, aged ten months. “They died of sadness,” she said. “The eight-year-old had seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. The doctor said he could not treat sadness.”

Since 2000, no fewer than nine high court judgments have described these British government actions as “illegal”, “outrageous” and “repugnant”. One ruling cited Magna Carta, which says no free man can be sent into exile. In desperation, the Blair government used the royal prerogative – the divine right of kings – to circumvent the courts and parliament and to ban the islanders from even visiting the Chagos. When this, too, was overturned by the high court, the government was rescued by the law lords, of whom a majority of one (three to two) found for the government in a scandalously inept, political manner. In the weasel, almost flippant words of LordChagos Islanders look on while Louis Olivier Bancoult (R), Chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, addresses the media outside The High Court in central London, 23 May 2007. Families expelled from the Chagos Islands by the British Government to make way for the Diego Garcia US airbase won their legal battle to return home Wednesday. The decision upholds two previous rulings in favour of the islanders, granting them rights of abode Hoffmann, “the rightof abode is a creature of the law. The law gives it and the law takes it away.” Forget Magna Carta. Human rights are in the gift of three stooges doing the dirty work of a government, itself lawless.

As the official files show, the Chagos conspiracy and cover-up involved three prime ministers and 13 cabinet ministers, including those who approved “the plan”. But elite corruption is unspeakable in Britain. I know of no work of serious scholarship on this crime against humanity. The honourable exception is the work of the historian Mark Curtis, who describes the Chagossians as “unpeople”.

The reason for this silence is ideological. Courtier commentators and media historians obstruct our CHAGOS ISLANDERS IN FORCED EXILE - Dervillie Permal and his wifeview of the recent past, ensuring, as Harold Pinter pointed out in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, that while the “systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought” in Stalinist Russia were well known in the west, the great state crimes of western governments “have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented”.

Typically, the pop historian Tristram Hunt writes in the Observer (23 November): “Nestling in the slipstream of American hegemony served us well in the 20th century. The bonds of culture, religion, language and ideology ensured Britain a postwarLouis Olivier Bancoult, Chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, celebrates outside The High Court in central London, 23 May 2007. The High Court on Wednesday upheld a ruling letting families return to their Indian Ocean island homes, from where they were forced out 30 years ago to make way for a US military base. The Court of Appeal backed a High Court ruling in May last year that allowed the families to return to the Chagos Islands, except for Diego Garcia, a launchpad for US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Britain expelled some 2,000 people from the Chagos Islands, 500 kilometres (310 miles) south of the Maldives, to Mauritius and the Seychelles in the 1960s and 1970s, allowing it to lease Diego Garcia to Washington for 50 years economic bailout, a nuclear deterrent and the continuing ability to ‘punch above our weight’ on the world stage. Thanks to US patronage, our story of decolonisation was for us a relatively painless affair…”

Not a word of this drivel hints at the transatlantic elite’s Cold War paranoia, which put us all in mortal danger, or the rapacious Anglo-American wars that continue to claim untold lives. As part of the “bonds” that allow us to “punch above our weight”, the US gave Britain a derisory $14m discount off the price of Polaris nuclear missiles in exchange for the Chagos Islands, whose “painless decolonisation” was etched on Lizette Talatte’s face the other day. Never forget, Lord Hoffmann, that she, too, will die of sadness.

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Posted in CORRUPTION, CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES, ENGLAND, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HISTORY, HUMAN RIGHTS, INDIAN OCEAN ISLANDS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, IRELAND, JUDICIARY SYSTEMS, MILITARY CONTRACTS, NATIVE PEOPLES, SCOTLAND, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE MEDIA (US AND FOREIGN), THE PRESIDENCY - USA, THE UNITED NATIONS, UNITED KINGDOM, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

WEAPONS COME SECOND (USA)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 27, 2008

Middle East – Nov 27, 2008

by Frida Berrigan

Even saddled with a two-front, budget-busting war and a collapsing economy, Barack Obama may THE PENTAGON FROM WITHINbe able to accomplish a lot as president. With a friendly Congress and a relieved world, he could make short work of some of the most egregious overreaches of the George W Bush White House – from Guantanamo to those presidential signing statements. For all the rolling up of sleeves and “everything is going to change” exuberance, however, taking on the Pentagon, with its mega-budget and its mega-power, may be the hardest task he faces.

The mega-Pentagon

Under Bush, military spending increased by about 60%, and that’s not including spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eight years ago, as Bush prepared to enter the Oval Office, military spending totaled just over US$300 billion. When Obama sets foot in that same office, military spending will total roughly $541 billion, including the Pentagon’s basic budget and nuclear warhead work in the Department of Energy.

And remember, that’s before the “war on terror” enters the picture. The Pentagon now estimates that military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost at least $170 billion in 2009, pushing total military spending for Obama’s first year to about $711 billion (a number that is mind-bogglingly large and at the same time a relatively conservative estimate that does not, for example, include intelligence funding, veterans’ care, or other security costs).

With such numbers, it’s no surprise that the United States is, by a multiple of nearly six, the biggest military spender in the world. (China’s military budget, the closest competitor, comes in at a “mere” $120 billion.) Still, it can be startling to confront the simple fact that the US alone accounts for nearly half of all global military spending – to be as exact as possible in such a murky area, 48% according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. That’s more than what the next 45 nations together spend on their militaries on an annual basis.

Again, keep in mind that war spending for 2009 comes on top of the estimated $864 billion that lawmakers have, since 2001, appropriated for the Iraq war and occupation, ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, and other activities associated with the “war on terror”. In fact, according to an October 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service, total war spending, quite apart from the regular military budget, is already at $922 billion and quickly closing in on the trillion dollar mark.

Common sense cuts?

Years late, and with budgets everywhere bleeding red, some in Congress and elsewhere are finally raising questions about whether this level of spending makes any sense. Unfortunately, the questions are not coming from the inner circle of the president-elect.

Democratic Representative Barney Frank drew the ire and consternation of hardline Republicans and military hawks when, in October, he suggested that Congress should consider cutting defense spending by a quarter. That would mean shaving $177 billion, leaving $534 billion for the US defense and war budget and maintaining a significant distance – $413 billion to be exact – between United States and our next “peer competitor”. Frank told a Massachusetts newspaper editorial board that, in the context of a struggling economy, the Pentagon will have to start choosing among its many weapons programs. “We don’t need all these fancy new weapons,” he told the staff of the New Bedford Standard Times. Obama did not back him up on that.

Even chairman of the House Appropriations Sub-committee on Defense, Democrat John Murtha, a Congressman who never saw a weapons program he didn’t want to buy, warned of tough choices on the horizon. While he did not put a number on it, in a recent interview he did say: “The next president is going to be forced to decrease defense spending in order to respond to neglected domestic priorities. Because of this, the Defense Department is going to have to make tough budget decisions involving trade-offs between personnel, procurement and future weapons spending.”

And now, Obama is hearing a similar message from the Defense Business Board, established in 2001 by secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld to give advice to the Pentagon. A few weeks ago, in briefing papers prepared for president-elect Obama’s transition team, the board, hardly an outfit unfriendly to the Pentagon, argued that some of the Defense Department’s big weapons projects needed to be scrapped as the US entered a “period of fiscal constraint in a tough economy”. While not listing the programs they considered knife-worthy, the board did assert that “business as usual is no longer an option”.

Desperate defense

Meanwhile, defense executives and industry analysts are predicting the worst. Boeing chief executive officer Jim McNerney wrote in a “note” to employees, “No one really yet knows when or to what extent defense spending could be affected, but it’s unrealistic to think there won’t be some measure of impact.” Michael Farage, Sikorsky’s director of air force programs, was even more colorful: “With the economy in the proverbial pooper, defense budgets can only go down.”

Kevin G Kroger, president of a company making oil filters for army trucks, offered a typical reaction: “There’s a lot of uncertainty out there. We’re not sure where the budgets are going and what’s going to get funded. It leaves us nervous.”

It’s no surprise that, despite eight years of glut financing via the “war on terror”, weapons manufacturers, like the automotive Big Three, are now looking for their own bailout. For them, however, it should probably be thought of as a bail-up, an assurance of yet more good times. Even though in recent years their companies have enjoyed strong stock prices, have seen major increases in Pentagon contracts, and are still looking at boom-time foreign weapons sales, expect them to push hard for a bottom-line guarantee via their holy grail – a military budget pegged to the gross domestic product (GDP).

“We advocate 4% of the GDP as a floor for defense spending. No question that has to be front and center for any new president’s agenda,” says Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group representing companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Listening to defense industry figures talk, you could get the impression that the Pentagon’s larder was empty and that the pinching of pennies and tightening of belts was well underway. While the cuts suggested by the Defense Business Board report got a lot of attention, the Pentagon is already quietly laying the groundwork to lock the future Obama administration into a possibly slightly scaled-down version of the over-the-top military spending of the Bush years.

Business as usual?

At the beginning of October, the Pentagon’s latest five-year projection of budget needs was revealed in the Congressional Quarterly. These preliminary figures – the full request should be released sometime next month – indicate that the Pentagon’s starting point in its bargaining with the new administration and Congress comes down to one word: more.

The estimates project $450 billion more in spending over those five years than previously suggested figures. Take fiscal year 2010: the Pentagon is evidently calling for a military budget of $584 billion, an increase of $57 billion over what they informed Bush and Congress they would need just a few months ago.

Unfortunately, when it comes to military spending and defense, the record is reasonably clear – Obama is not about to go toe-to-toe with the military-industrial-complex.

On the campaign trail, his stump speech included this applause-ready line suggesting that the costs of the war in Iraq are taking away from important domestic priorities: “If we’re spending $10 billion a month [in Iraq] over the next four or five years, that’s $10 billion a month we’re not using to rebuild the US, or drawing down our national debt, or making sure that families have health care.”

But the “surge” that Obama wants to shift from Iraq to Afghanistan is unlikely to be a bargain. In addition, he has repeatedly argued for a spike in defense spending to “reset” a military force worn out by war. He has also called for the expansion of the size of the army and the marines. On that point, he is in complete agreement with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. [1]

They even use the same numbers, suggesting that the army should be augmented by 65,000 new recruits and the marines by 27,000. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these manpower increases alone would add about $10 billion a year – that same campaign trail $10 billion – to the Pentagon budget over a five-year period.

The word from Wall Street? In a report entitled “Early Thoughts on Obama and Defense”, a Morgan Stanley researcher wrote on November 5, “As we understand it, Obama has been advised and agrees that there is no peace dividend … In addition, we believe, based on discussions with industry sources that Obama has agreed not to cut the defense budget at least until the first 18 months of his term as the national security situation becomes better understood.”

In other words: Don’t worry about it. Obama is not about to hand the secretary of defense a box of brownie mix and order him to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

Smarter, not more, military spending

Sooner rather than later, the new administration will need to think seriously about how to spend smarter – and significantly less – on the military. Our nose-diving economy simply will no longer support ever-climbing defense budgets.

The good news is that the Obama administration won’t have to figure it all out alone. The contributors to Foreign Policy In Focus’s new Unified Security Budget have done a lot of the heavy lifting to demonstrate that some of the choices that need to be made really aren’t so tough. The report makes the case for reductions in military spending on outdated or unproven weapons systems totaling $61 billion. The argument is simple and straightforward: these expensive systems don’t keep us safe. Some were designed for a geopolitical moment that is long gone – like the F-22 meant to counter a Soviet plane that was never built. Others, like the ballistic missile defense program, are clearly meant only to perpetuate insecurity and provoke proliferation.

To cut the military budget more deeply, however, means more than canceling useless, high-tech weapons systems. It means taking on something fundamental and far-reaching: America’s place in the world. It means coming to grips with how we garrison the planet, with how we use our military to project influence and power anywhere in the world, with our attitudes towards international treaties and agreements, with our vast passels of real estate in foreign lands, and, of course, with our economic and political relationships with clients and competitors.

As a candidate, Obama stirred our imagination through his calls for a “new era of international cooperation”. The United States cannot, however, cooperate with other nations from atop our shining Green Zone on the hill; we cannot cooperate as the world’s sole superpower, policeman, cowboy, hyperpower, or whatever the imperial nom du jour turns out to be. Bottom line: we cannot genuinely and effectively cooperate while spending more on what we like to call “security” than the next 45 nations combined.

A new era in Pentagon spending would have to begin with a recognition that enduring security is not attained by threat or fiat, nor is it bought with staggering billions of dollars. It is built with other nations. Weapons come second.

Note

1. According to media reports on Wednesday, Gates on Tuesday night accepted Obama’s offer to remain as defense secretary.

Frida Berrigan is a senior program associate at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative (ASI). She is a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus and a contributing editor at In These Times. In early December, ASI will release “Weapons at War 2008: Beyond the Bush Legacy”, co-authored by Berrigan and William D Hartung, an examination of US weapons sales and military aid to developing nations, conflict zones and nations where human rights are not safeguarded. Email berrigan@newamerica.net if you would like a copy of the executive summary.

(Copyright 2008 Frida Berrigan.)

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CABRISAS: LA ECONOMÍA NO PODÍA SEGUIR FUNCIONANDO COMO UN CASINO – Cabrisas en su participación en la cumbre del Alba, resaltó la incapacidad de los países de Europa y Estados Unidos de contribuir con las solicitudes de los organismos internacionales, para la ayuda de los países en vía de desarrollo, pero ”en pocos días fue capaz de invertir más de 30 millones de millones para salvar a los banqueros”

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 26, 2008

TeleSur – Hace: 01 hora

El primer vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros de Cuba, Ricardo Cabrisas indicó con relación a El primer vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros de Cuba, Ricardo Cabrisasla crisis económica mundial que “la economía no puede seguir funcionando como un casino”.

Según Cabrisas el sistema económico funcionaba “para el beneficio de unos pocos especuladores y el sufrimiento para el 80 por ciento de la población del planeta”.

Las declaraciones fueron emitidas durante su participación en la reunión de los países del ALBA que se realiza este miércoles en la capital de Venezuela y donde se realiza un debate para buscar la respuesta de esta organización regional a la crisis financiera mundial.

Sobre la crisis destacó que “se trata de la crisis del orden económico mundial injusto, sin equidad alguna, sobre el cual se apoya en buena medida el orden social y político más injusto de nuestra época”

Asímismo indicó que esta crisis no es la repetición de otras anteriores, “ni siquiera de aquella que, en los años 30 del siglo 20, se conoció como la gran depresión, en la actualidad la crisis económica se acompaña de otros variados rostros de crisis, como la energética, la alimentaria, ecológica y por supuesta la social”

Cabrisas explicó que “La crisis actual tiene lugar cuando la globalización de la economía mundial es más extensa e intensa que nunca antes.”

Calificó la crisis como un reto a la capacidad de los humanos: “Ésta va más allá del neoliberalismo y de la crisis misma, para convertirse en un reto a la capacidad de los humanos para salvar la especie – mediante la construcción de un mundo mejor que éste – de las recurrentes y devastadoras crisis económicas, de la suicida destrucción del medio ambiente, de la guerra global del exterminio”.

De igual manera denunció que “el plan de rescate del Gobierno de Bush y el plan de rescate europeo priorizan el de los especuladores y banqueros que fueron declarados fracasados por el mercado. En pocos días han destinado unos tres millones de millones de dólares para salvar la estructura especulativa fracasada, pero durante décadas no fueron capaces como grupo de cumplir siquiera el compromiso contraído de destinar el 0,7 por ciento del Producto Interno Bruto para la ayuda oficial del desarrollo”.

” Y el país más rico de todos retrocedió en los años del gobierno de Bush hasta apenas el 0,2 por ciento en pocos días han destinado unos tres millones de millones de dolares para salvar la estructura especulativa fracasada pero durante décadas” enfatizó el Cabrisas.

De igual manera denunció la falta de cooperación económica para atender los reclamos de la FAO en el intento de mejorar la producción agrícola en el tercer mundo.

“Ni fueron capaces de reunir entre todos 20 mil millones para cumplir con el programa de educación para todos de la UNESCO o apenas 10 mil millones para resolver los problemas de salud reproductivas de las mujeres de los países pobres solicitada por la OMS”, destacó

Enfatizó que el reto requiere de un amplio y bien preparado debate, con la participación de todos los países sin exclusiones, el sistema monetario internacional surgido en Breton Woods “basado en el papel privilegiado del dólar de EE.UU es un factor central en el nudo de contradicciones de la actual crisis económica”

En cuanto a los conflictos que mantiene EE.UU. reflexionó: “Hacer fabulosos gastos militares sin aumentar impuestos es como una aspiradora que absorbe alrededor de tres mil millones de dólares diarios del resto del mundo para sostener sus déficit y consumismo”.

Realzó el papel de los países miembros del ALBA y su propuesta a la crisis, “hemos optado por una formula avanzada de relación basada en la solidaridad, en la cooperación, en las ventajas compartidas y en la sensibilidad para encontrar solución a la deuda social acumulada en contra de los pueblos”.

“La más importante contribución de América Latina y los países del caribe pueden hacer a la comprensión de la naturaleza de esta crisis global y reducir su impacto es la efectiva integración regional no basada en el lucro del mercado no atrapada por la especulación financiera no diseñada para que los países de menor desarrollo queden rezagados”.

El vicepresidente cubano, Ricardo Cabrisas, relató que ” Durante casi 50 años, sucesivos gobiernos norteamericanos intentaron ahogar a la Revolución Cubana imponiéndole el bloqueo económico más largo, intenso y con mayor desproporción de fuerzas entre el bloqueador y el bloqueado que registre la historia. Pretendieron imponerle al pueblo cubano una situación económica tan severa que lo asfixiara y obligara a rendirse”.

Destacó la contribución de Cuba en base a su dura experiencia por el bloqueo económico ejercido por Estados Unidos contra la Isla “nuestra modesta experiencia de resistencia y creación y nuestra sincera voluntad de trabajar por el ALBA y por una América Latina y el Caribe integrados y unidos”.

TeleSUR / fc / PLL

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FOR A BETTER FINANCIAL ORDER – Chinese leaders and scholars suggest reforms to strengthen the international financial system

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 26, 2008

November-26-2008 NO. 48 NOV. 27, 2008

by Ding Ying

As the international financial crisis plunges many countries into economic turmoil, China’s relatively stable economic growth is reassuring to the international community.

As a result, the world is paying more and more attention to China’s opinions about the ongoing crisis and possible solutions. Chinese leaders and economists recently made a series of suggestions for reforming the current international financial system.

China’s efforts

Chinese President Hu Jintao participated in the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy held on November 15 in Washington, D.C., where he delivered a speech calling for international cooperation to get through this “difficult moment.”

In his speech, Hu clearly stated the Chinese stance on international financial reform. “Reform of the international financial system should aim at establishing a new international financial order that is fair, just, inclusive and orderly and fostering an institutional environment conducive to sound global economic development,” he said.

The Chinese Government has taken many measures to safeguard economic development and financial stability. After the crisis began, China made timely adjustments to its policies and strengthened macroeconomic regulation, Hu said. These adjustments included lowering the bank required reserve ratio, lowering interest rates and easing corporate tax burdens. Hu also promised to play a “constructive role” in restoring the international financial system and suggested four key reforms: increased international cooperation in financial supervision, reform of international financial organizations, increased regional financial cooperation and diversification of the international monetary system.

As the world’s most populous developing country, China would make an important contribution to international financial stability and world economic growth simply by maintaining steady economic growth, the president said. Several days before the summit, China announced a 4-trillion-yuan ($586 billion) economic stimulus plan. Observers believe that the plan, which concentrates on stimulating domestic consumption in China, may restore confidence in world economic development.

In a November 16 Xinhua report, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi outlined five achievements that came from Hu’s participation in the financial summit. First, he met with other G-20 leaders to discuss the root causes of the financial crisis and possible solutions and reforms, which they described in a joint statement. Second, Hu introduced measures the Chinese Government has taken to safeguard economic growth and financial stability. Third, he helped guide the direction of international financial reform. Fourth, Hu called for international efforts to help developing countries. Finally, Hu promoted China’s bilateral relationships with several countries by meeting with their leaders during the summit.

Cooperation, not competition

Chinese economists also had opinions on the current world economic situation. They provided suggestions for reforming the international financial system and maintaining economic and financial stability in China.

Zhang Ming, a researcher from the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in World Affairs on November 16 that there were resemblances between the current international economic and financial situation and the Great Depression. The U.S. dollar has been greatly weakened by the subprime mortgage crisis, but the euro is struggling as well. “The supreme financial structure is on the edge of collapse,” he said.

The countries affected by the crisis have two options, Zhang said. One is to unite and cope with the crisis together by building new international financial and monetary systems, which could cushion the U.S. dollar’s fall. The other is for each country to look out for itself, which might cause discord and competition among the largest economies and lead the dollar system to collapse completely.

“The latter way further undermines the global economic and financial order. Then a new crisis, or even wars, will break out,” said Zhang, arguing the world must join hands to deal with the current financial crisis.

Regarding international monetary reform, independent economist Xiang Songzuo said in Elite Reference on November 16 that there is little possibility the International Monetary Fund will be recast as the world’s central bank. Instead, the crisis might cause new regional currencies to emerge. “Influential currencies, like the euro, yen and the renminbi, can play an important role in stabilizing regional economies,” he said.

Su Jingxiang from the Center for Globalization Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said in People’s Daily that since the financial sector is the weak point of the Asian economy, Asian countries must enhance both regional and global cooperation. He said that based on the foreign reserves held by China, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN members, Asia could become a leader in international financial fields. “Only through strengthened cooperation can China protect its interests well and perform its function better in the international cooperative system,” Su said.

“China’s top priority is to deal with the crisis with caution and run its own business well,” said Xiang Lanxin, an observer of world affairs, in Global Times. Xiang urged China to promote domestic demand over exports in its response to the crisis. Massive exports could push other countries into trade protectionism and make China a target of international criticism.

Highlights of the G-20 Financial Summit

Leaders attending the G-20 financial summit agreed on an action plan to combat the current financial crisis on November 15 in Washington, D.C. After discussing the reasons behind the current crisis, the leaders issued a statement pledging to “enhance our cooperation and work together to restore global growth and achieve needed reforms in the world’s financial systems.”

The leaders agreed that the current financial system has vulnerabilities such as weak underwriting standards, unsound risk management practices, increasingly complex and opaque financial products, and consequent excessive leverage.

Further, inconsistent and insufficiently coordinated macroeconomic policies, inadequate structural reforms and unsustainable global macroeconomic outcomes are the combined elements that resulted in the current financial crisis.

The leaders stressed that free market principles, including the rule of law, respect for private property, open trade and investment, competitive markets, and efficient, well-regulated financial systems, are essential to economic growth.

They vowed to take “strong and significant actions” to reform current financial systems, stimulate their economies, provide liquidity, strengthen the capital of financial institutions, protect savings and deposits, address regulatory deficiencies, unfreeze credit markets and ensure that international financial institutions can provide critical support to the global economy.

The plan is based on five principles: strengthening transparency and accountability, enhancing sound regulation, promoting integrity in financial markets, reinforcing international cooperation and reforming international financial institutions. The principles have been broken down into immediate and medium-term actions to be taken by March 31, 2009.

The leaders also agreed to meet again by April 30, 2009, to review the plan’s implementation.

(Source: Xinhua News Agency)

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MILITARY CONTRACTS OF $5 MILLION OR MORE – U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE – Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) – Contract

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 25, 2008

November 24, 2008

FOR RELEASE AT 5 p.m. ET No. 978-08

CONTRACTS

NAVY

United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney, Military Engines, East Hartford, Conn., is being awarded a $98,894,306 modification to a previously awarded cost plus incentive fee contract (N00019-07-C-0098) to exercise an option for the procurement of one Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) propulsion system, one STOVL initial spare module, initial spare parts, and associated sustainment efforts for the U.S. Navy. In addition, this modification provides for special tooling and test equipment and a low rate initial production proposal and planning effort for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. Work will be performed in East Hartford, Conn. (70 percent); Bristol, United Kingdom (19 percent); and Indianapolis, Ind. (11 percent) and is expected to be completed in February 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. is the contracting activity.

Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., being awarded a $52,328,604 modification (#P00124) to previously awarded cost plus award fee contract (M67004-99-C-0002) to incorporate funds for the exercise of an option for the Maritime Prepositioning Ships Program, the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, and other logistics support which includes logistics services that cover maintenance, supply support, inventory management, IT support, preservation, packing and packaging, organic support, and shipping and receiving, both in CONUS and OCONUS. This modification increases the basic value of the contract to a new total of $810,234,260. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, Fla. (75 percent); various locations in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan (17 percent); aboard 16 MPS ships (7 percent); in six locations in Norway (1 percent); and work is expected to be completed by July 13, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The United States Marine Corps, Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity.

BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, Norfolk, Va., is being awarded a $15,977,851 modification to previously awarded contract N00024-05-C-4403 for the USS Nassau (LHA-4) FY09 planned maintenance availability. There are 30+ work items that are repair, replace, preserve, install, clean in nature. In addition, the contractor will perform support services for several alteration installation teams and Norfolk Naval Shipyard work. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va., and is expected to be completed by February 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $15,905,566 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Services, Inc., Greenville, S.C., is being awarded an $11,822,675 not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for Special Structural Inspection Kit (SSIK) Revision 7 inspection/ installation on five P-3 aircraft. Work will be performed in Greenville, S.C., and is expected to be completed in June 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-05-D-0013).

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded an $11,276,395 modification to previously awarded contract to exercise an option for technical engineering support for the ESSM. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz. (45 percent); Camden, Ark. (2 percent); Andover, Mass. (10 percent); Australia (11 percent); Canada (7 percent); Denmark (1 percent); Greece (1 percent); Germany (8 percent); The Netherlands (6 percent); Norway (5 percent); Spain (3 percent); and Turkey (1 percent), and is expected to be completed by November 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $349,968 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-07-C-5432).

AIR FORCE

The Air Force is modifying a firm fixed price and cost plus fixed fee contract with Thales-Raytheon Systems, Fullerton, Calif. for $6,604,990. This contract will provide sector/systems sustainment, engineering support, and materials to support sustainment of the Battle Control System-fixed system, which provides NORAD and PACOM commanders with a viable, interoperable, open architecture air defense and control platform in support of NORAD’s Homeland Defense. At this time, all the money has been obligated. HQ Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. is the contracting activity. (FA8722-06-C-001, Modification P00017).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Foster-Caviness Company, Inc., Colfax, N.C.* is being awarded a maximum $14,100,000 fixed price with economic price adjustment, total set aside contract for fresh fruit and vegetable support. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and USDA School Lunch Participants. This proposal was originally Web solicited with 2 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising first option period. The date of performance completion is May 29, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM300-08-D-P002).

Produce Source Partners, Newport News, Va.* is being awarded a maximum $10,350,000 fixed price with economic price adjustment, total set aside contract for fresh fruit and vegetable support. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy and Marine Corps. This proposal was originally Web solicited with 3 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising first option period. The date of performance completion is May 29, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM300-08-D-P001).

ARMY

Summa Technology Inc, Huntsville, Ala., was awarded on Nov 21, 2008 a, $39,999,694 five-year firm fixed price contract for a container Roll In/Out Platform. The estimated Five Year total was 3,270. Work will be performed in Cullman, Ala., with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2012. Bids solicited were via the Web and six bids were received. US Army TACOM, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-06-D-0269).

Thales-Raytheon Systems Co., LLC, Fullerton, Calif., was awarded on Sept 25, 2008, a modification for $22,316,182.00 with the total of %75,510,390.00 firm fixed price contract for 264 Radar Processors and 47 Radar Processors Spare Kits in support of the Firefinder AN/TPQ-36 Radar Processors replacement program. Work will be performed in Fullerton, Calif., with an estimated completion date of April 30, 2010. This was a sole source contract. Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15P7T-06-C-M207 P00020).

Rolls-Royce Corporation, Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded on Nov 20, 2008 a, $11,050,725 firm fixed price contract, to analyze, test, repair and overhaul of 117 each T63-A-720 Gas Turbine Engines applicable to the OH-58 Kiowa Helicopters. Work will be performed in Neosho, Mo., and Oakland, Calif., with an estimated completion date of April 30, 2010. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. US Army Aviation and Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-09-C-0001).

Mississippi Limestone Corp, Friars Point, Miss., was awarded on Nov 20, 2008 a, $9,802,332 firm fixed price contract for flood control, Mississippi River & Tributaries, Articulated Concrete Matter Castings, Delta, La. Work will be performed in Vidalia, La., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 10, 2009. Bids solicited were via the FedBizOpps and two bids were received. Corp of Engineers, Vicksburg Contracting Office, Vicksburg, Miss., is the contracting activity (W912EE-09-C-0001).

BAE Systems, Information and Electronic Systems Integration Inc., Nashua, NH was awarded on Sept 25, 2008, a fixed price contract for $11,221,000.00 with a not to exceed total of $22,900,000.00 firm for 73 Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasure/Common Missile Warning Systems A-Kits for the CH-47 aircraft. Work will be performed in Nashua, N.H., with an estimated completion date of July 25, 2009. This was a sole source contract. Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15P7T-08-C-T213).

T.W. LaQuay Dredging, Inc, Port Lavaca, Texas, was awarded on Nov 20, 2008 a, $10,796,000 firm fixed price contract. Gulf Intercostals Waterways, Texas in Nueces, Kleberg, Kennedy, Willacy, and Cameron Counties, Texas, Corpus Christi Bay to Port Isabel, Pipeline Dredging. Work will be performed in Nueces County, Texas, Kleberg County, Texas, Kennedy, Texas, Willacy County, Texas and Cameron County, Texas, with an estimated completion date of April 30, 2009. Eighteen bids were solicited and two bids were received. US Army Engineer District, Galveston, Texas, is the contracting activity (W912HY-09-C-0005).

*Small Business

On the Web:

http://www.defenselink.mil/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=3910

Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132

Public contact: http://www.defenselink.mil/faq/comment.html or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1

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ISRAELE: ATTACCHI DI RAZZI SU SDEROT E ASHQELON

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 22, 2008

22-11-2008 – 19:26

(ANSA) – TEL AVIV, 22 NOV – Alcuni razzi palestinesi sono stati lanciati stasera dalla striscia di Gaza in direzione delle citta’ israeliane di Sderot e Ashqelon.Lo affermano fonti locali secondo cui si sono udite quattro deflagrazioni. In diversi insediamenti ebraici a ridosso della striscia sono risuonate la sirene di allarme e la popolazione e’ andata nei rifugi. Fonti palestinesi aggiungono che alcune persone sono rimaste ferite a Beit Hanun,nel nord di Gaza,da una cannonata sparata da un carro armato israeliano.

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ANALYSIS: THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Written by IM Mohsin

History also bears out that the Afghans can’t tolerate ‘occupation’. No AFGHANISTANwonder since 2006 the Taliban have been on the rampage. Even Kabul remains tentatively safe. During my last visit home to Peshawar, I was met by a few Afghans who told me of the reign of terror prevailing in Jalalabad, Paktia and Kabul etc as the state machinery/ foreign forces could not cope with prevailing mayhem. The spill-over effect of Afghan ‘insurgency’ is widely felt in Pakistan; more so in NWFP/ Baluchistan. History and geography combine to create challenges which the elected Govt and its armed forces have to face daily.

The situation gets vitiated by the US drone-attacks on ‘suspects’ from across the border. Such tactics tend to swell the numbers of Taliban as per the local culture of the binding nature of Revenge. As per the Pashtun code of honour, border becomes besides the point in chasing the ‘killers’. Hence the clandestine movement of the ‘insurgents’ across the border which NATO troops plus about 80 thousand Pakistani troops can’t eradicate,

Pretty much like the Mexican border for the US.

The above menacing milieu makes Pakistan most important in the current BUSH SEES NOTHING context. Firstly, it blocks the spread of insurgency. Secondly, it ensures the maintenance of the life-line/ supplies for the foreign forces in Afghanistan. Thirdly, it alone can provide cheapest transportation of aid-wares across the border. Fourthly, despite our ambivalent role, most Afghans still have more goodwill for Pakistan than any other country because of history/ culture etc.

The seizure of a 13-truck convoy on 10th Nov in Khyber Pass and subsequent action, including the use of air-power, by Pakistan created considerable complications and alarm among the people. However, the trucks were abandoned but the eatables were seized by the insurgents along-with 2 new humvees. I learnt in Peshawar that some of the wheat was distributed by the Taliban among the locals while the rest was sold at lower rates. They also displayed the seized vehicles as the ‘war booty’. As almost 400 trucks daily cross Torkham in to Afghanistan carrying supplies for the foreign troops, Pakistan had to suspend the traffic till a new strategy was put in to force. The traffic resumed Nov 17 as Pakistan deployed a bigger number of forces to escort the supply-convoys besides soliciting the cooperation of the locals.

A report in The Washington Post of 16th Nov indicates that the US/ Pakistan have reached a deal in Sept about the predator attacks on AN AMERICAN SNIPERsuspected targets on the basis of “don’t-ask- don’t-tell policy”. Pakistan has not changed her policy of condemning such attacks which, invariably, involve civilian casualties. Better collaboration between ISAF and Pak forces may prove more useful. This was proved by the Pakistani intervention on 16th Nov in Pakitika which relieved a base of the former under attack.

US have been pursing a way-out of the Afghan quagmire lately. It has launched the Saudi King in to the process. Karzai has been trying to come to terms with the Taliban led by Mullah Umar despite the fact that the latter has a $ multi-million as head-money a la US. He committed to go all out to provide “Protection” to the Taliban leader as per by BBC. He further emphasized that “If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, then the international community has two choices: remove me, or leave…”. In this context, trying to win ‘the hearts of minds of the people’ is the best option which collateral damage inflicted by drone/ missile attacks can’t cause.

The end of 2001 heralded a dangerous change in the ground realities in the subject countries. Afghanistan got ‘occupied’ by the foreign forces while the Taliban regime collapsed, militarily despite the fierce resistance US AIR FORCE PERSONELit offered, and politically as its political capital was nominal. Pakistan, under Musharraf, due to sympathy/ inducement, joined hands with the US in waging its ‘war on terror’ a la neo-con agenda. Due to the Geography and pro-US sentiments, Pakistan proved to be the linchpin in such operations.

Subsequently the ‘victors’ realized that it was crucial to keep Pakistan onboard their bandwagon. It is no coincidence that this arrangement also eminently suited Musharraf who had seized power by ousting an elected Govt earlier on. Prior to 9/11, he was treated as a pariah by Bill Clinton as well George w. However, the neo-con game-plan took effect with the fall of the Twin Towers. Musharraf got rehabilitated in the US corridors of power under a ‘threat’ from, as he claimed, Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State insisting that he if did not join then Pakistan would be ‘bombed in to stone age’. The concerned official denied the same after leaving the office.

The Bonn Conference of 2002 laid down the blueprint of a surrogate regime under Karzai. Flush with success against the Taliban, and wanting to impress the public opinion at home, the US Administration/ allies made prolific promises. As per the Bonn Charter a ‘Democratic’ Afghanistan under the new dispensation was to get fabulous amounts of aid for ‘Reconstruction’ etc. This again underlined the importance of the Pakistan-link as Afghanistan is a landlocked country and the most feasible trade etc route for her is through Pakistan. Moreover as Pakistan shares long porous border with the western neighbor along the Durand Line, its whole-hearted support was worth any cost, particularly in early days of Karzai regime.

The US first assessed Pakistan’ indispensability in the pursuit of its adventure in the area which led to the revival of her military aid etc as there is no free- lunch in their culture. Initially the quick cessation of hostilities bolstered the neo-cons at home which also encouraged them to attack Iraq on the pretext of ‘WMD’. This slogan together with the stated-objective of removing a ‘hated-dictator’ after a dazzling victory in Afghanistan must also have yielded high political dividends at home. In the aftermath of 9/11, the people in the US lived under a fear-complex which was aggravated by media-hype, let loose by the official agencies etc, to bolster the image of the incumbent Administration. This process appears to have got particularly animated before the 2004 Presidential elections.

By 2005, Afghanistan started experiencing considerable insecurity. This was due to the persecution-complex among the Pashtuns in the South-East who faced a famine-like situation. Moreover, the Taliban started making their presence felt by attacking softer targets. As Karzai could not establish his writ all over the country, the warlords appeared to have taken over, particularly in the North/ South. The Northern warlords started making a fortune by exporting drugs from the massive cultivation of opium. Moreover the development program projected by the Bonn Conference could not be kept up by the donors. They spent lavishly on military operations which, together with the resistance from the Taliban, relegated reconstruction to the backburner and provoked anger. Such factors created a monstrous situation for the majority of local people who started feeling sick of the proxy-rule which bred insecurity and hunger etc.

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FIRST UNOFFICIAL OBAMA POSITIONS ON NEW WAR STRATEGIES

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Published: November 14, 2008

by Walid Phares

As the transition in the United States between the administrations of Usama bin LadinGeorge W. Bush and Barack Obama is moving forward feverishly while world crises escalate, observers of conflicts are focusing on the messages emanating from the next foreign policy team in Washington.

The smooth passing of the torch from one leadership to another in the middle of unfinished wars and gigantic counterterrorism efforts is critical, especially if a strategic change of direction is on its way.

Analysts wonder about the nature of change to come: is it about managing battlefields or reducing them?

The first post election statements made by Obama sources – incorporated into a Washington Post article by Karen DeYoung published on Nov. 11, “Obama to Explore New Approach in Afghanistan War” – are very revealing.

Although these “conversations” with aides are still unofficial positions at the formal level, one must read them as the first salvo in setting the tone and guidelines for early 2009.

Thus, and in order to engage in a national discussion on what seems to be the near future, we must analyze these propositions one by one and contrast them with the intensity of the evolving threat.

Therefore, the following are early comments on the emerging new policies.

The Washington Post article began by stating that the Obama administration is planning on “exploring a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan including possible talks with Iran.” Citing Obama national security advisers, the Post added that the new strategy “looks favorably on the nascent dialogue between the Afghan government and ‘reconcilable’ elements of the Taliban.”

These two so-called strategic components of the forthcoming administration’s plan to end the conflict in central Asia deserve a high level of attention and thorough examination. In a post Sept. 11, 2001 environment – meaning seven years into a confrontation with jihadist forces – not only experts but a large segment of the American public has developed a higher awareness of the threat of the enemy and of its long-term objectives. Arguments in foreign policy analysis are not as alien as they were to citizens prior to the 2001 attacks. Many Americans know who the Taliban are and what their goals are, and they know as well of the dangerous fantasies of the mullah regime in Tehran.

A new strategy in the region covering Pakistan and Iran is indeed needed to achieve advances in defeating the jihadis and in empowering the democracy forces in Afghanistan.

If the Bush administration was too slow in reaching that conclusion, then one would expect the Obama foreign policy team to bridge the gap and quickly arrive at a successful next stage.

But the “regional” proposition unveiled by the Washington Post defies logic, instead of consolidating it.

For I wonder on what grounds the Iranian regime would shift from a virulent anti-U.S. attitude to a favorable team player in stabilizing Afghanistan? Even the gurus of classical realism would wonder.

If a deal is possible with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it cannot be on establishing a democratic government in Kabul. It simply doesn’t add up knowing the essence of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its oppressive nature.

Therefore, and before the new administration even begins to sell the idea, it is important for all to realize that any Afghan deal cut with Iran must assume that the next regime in Kabul will satisfy the agenda in Tehran: meaning non-democratic. This is the first hurdle.

Amazingly, the second proposition simultaneously would invite the Taliban (postulating that a milder wing indeed exists) to share power in the country as a way to end the conflict. More problems emerge here: first, if the “good” Taliban are brought to the deal (assuming this is even feasible), what happens with the “bad” Taliban? Will the latter just “go away” or will there be a fight between the “good and the bad” factions? And how can the new strategy end the new Afghan war and will we come to the rescue of the nice jihadists against the ugly ones? Obviously, it doesn’t add up either.

Second, assuming there would be a partial re-Talibanization of Afghanistan, how could this co-exist with the Iranians? The same Washington Post article quoted the same advisers, underscoring that “The Iranians don’t want Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan any more than we do.”

How can the architects reconcile bringing in the Iranians for help and, at the same time, inviting the “Sunni extremists” to be sitting in Kabul? This construct doesn’t fly on mere logic.

As I wondered in an interview with Fox News the same day, are the new foreign policy planners talking about changing the strategy or changing the enemy?

The most logical ally against most of the Taliban should be the democratically-elected government in Pakistan, which is already waging a campaign against al-Qaida and its Taliban allies. Why would Washington replace this potential ally (regardless of all mishaps) with two foes: the non-democratic regime of Iran and a faction of the totalitarian Taliban?

In this dizzying maze a la 1990s, one begins to wonder if we are flipping the enemy into an ally, and vice versa, merely so that the slogan of “change” is then materialized. My feeling is that post electoral political pressures are so intense that it may produce a recipe for greater confusion and even disaster.

The problem is not the idea of “talking” to any of the players, including the current foes; engaging in contacts is always an option and has always been practiced. The problem is the perception by the new U.S. officials (and even current ones) that we can simply and naively “create” the conditions that we wish, regardless of the intentions of the other side. When reading these suggestions, one concludes that they were conceived on paper as unilateral designs lacking any strategic understanding of the enemy.

Take two examples as a starter: first, if you want to engage the so-called “acceptable” Taliban into a national unity government in Kabul (which is not an impossible idea theoretically), did you incorporate what their minimal demands are? And can your analysis of the jihadis’ long-term strategy produce a projection over four to six years of a return of these jihadis to power? I don’t think so.

Second, if you wish to enlist Iran as a partner in Afghanistan, will you be able to continue with the sanctions over its nuclear program? Obviously not. Thus the bottom line is that the price for befriending Tehran in Kabul is to allow it to reach its nuclear military ambitions. If it is otherwise, the upcoming foreign policy team has a lot of explaining to do.

Another interesting statement made by an adviser, according to the Washington Post, was that “the incoming administration intends to remind Americans how the fight “against Islamist extremists” began – on Sept. 11, 2001, before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars – and to underscore that al-Qaida remains the nation’s highest priority. “This is our enemy,” one adviser said of Bin Laden, “and he should be our principal target.”

Although as a reader I am not sure if DeYoung was discussing the new strategies in the war with the same “source,” the latter, stronger sentence is of great value for future inquiries. For if indeed the incoming administration intends to remind U.S. citizens that the fight is “against Islamist extremists,” then this would be a good bridge to the Bush administration’s bold rhetoric, which ended in 2006.

If the Obama administration “change” in strategy is to redefine the confrontation in the precise manner the adviser did, then we will be lucky. If that is the case, then we would hope and expect the new administration to repel the irresponsible “lexicon” disseminated by bureaucrats within the Bush administration and instead issue a strong document identifying the threat as stated in the Washington Post article, explaining once and for all the ideology of bin Laden so that indeed we can understand “our principal target.”

These early remarks are aimed at helping the Obama administration from its inception to clearly strategize and target so that the next four, and maybe eight years, will be a leap forward in protecting this country and in defending democracy worldwide.

This is only a glimpse of conversations to come about America’s national security and the hope to see a real qualitative change for the best.

(*) – Dr. Walid Phares is the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of “The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad”.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘MIDDLE EAST TIMES’ (Egypt)

Posted in AL QAEDA, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MIDDLE EAST, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE UNITED NATIONS, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

SEN. CLINTON’S VIEWS ON U.S. FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 17, 2008

Saturday November 15, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sen. Hillary Clinton has emerged as a candidate for U.S. secretary of state – SENATOR HILLARY CLINTONthe top diplomat in the administration of President-elect Barack Obama, who defeated her for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Here are some views on foreign policy issues expressed by Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton.

IRAQ

“Ending the war in Iraq is the first step toward restoring the United States’ global leadership,” Clinton wrote a year ago in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine. U.S. troops had to be brought home safely and stability restored to the region, she said.

But on the campaign trail, Clinton was more reluctant than Obama to commit to a firm timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. She refused to apologize for her 2002 Senate vote authorizing the war, but did say she would like to have that vote back to do over.

AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN AND AL QAEDA

During the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the United States should focus more on improving security in Afghanistan. She has called for greater U.S. troop deployments there. She also has suggested a U.S. envoy who could shuttle between the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan to help them in their efforts against a resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda presence in their countries.

IRAN

A big question for Obama’s secretary of state will be how to approach Iran. The Bush administration, which accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb and helping militant groups in Iraq, has generally HILLARY RODHAM CLINTONshunned contacts with Tehran.

During the Democratic presidential primary campaign, Clinton charged that Obama’s willingness to meet leaders of Iran, Syria and North Korea was evidence of his naivete about foreign policy. She has threatened to “obliterate” Iran if it uses nuclear weapons against Israel.

But Clinton also has argued for engaging Iran, Syria and other countries of the region in talks about the future of Iraq. And one of her top foreign policy advisors, Richard Holbrooke, a former assistant secretary of state, suggested recently that U.S. contacts with Iran should start through private and confidential channels to determine if there is a basis for continuing.

MIDDLE EAST

Clinton stresses the need for Arab-Israeli peace, but is considered a favorite of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. She says the fundamentals are a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel and normalization of its relations with Arab states.

“U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict,” she said in her article in Foreign Affairs in November-December 2007. She said the United States should help get Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis.

RUSSIA AND ARMS CONTROL

“I think she would probably be tough-minded toward Russia,” said Kim Holmes, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation. “She has a reputation of being tough-minded generally, she is known and respected for that.”

Clinton has however criticized the Bush administration’s “obsessive” focus on “expensive and unproven missile defense technology” — one of the major points of contention recently in the U.S. relationship with Russia.

She favors further reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, and also favors U.S. Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

CHINA AND NORTH KOREA

Clinton has said the U.S. relationship with China will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world this century. Noting China’s support was important in reaching a multilateral deal to disable North Korea’s nuclear facilities, she says “we should build on this framework to establish a northeast Asian security regime.”

TRADE

Like Obama, Clinton has said the United States should either renegotiate or “opt out” of the North American Free Trade Agreement that was reached with Canada and Mexico during her husband’s administration. She also has called for a “timeout” from new trade agreements and a top-to-bottom review of trade policy.

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE STAR’ (Malaysia)

Posted in AFGHANISTAN, AL QAEDA, CHINA, COMMONWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, IRAN, IRAQ, ISRAEL, LEBANON, MIDDLE EAST, NORTH KOREA, PAKISTAN, PALESTINE, RUSSIA, SYRIA, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

ISRAEL STOPS UN FOOD DISTRIBUTION TO STARVING PALESTINIANS IN GAZA

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 17, 2008

15/11/2008 15:31:00

The United Nations announced it was suspending food distribution to half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people Photo - Palestinians hold candles during a protest against power cuts in Gaza November 13, 2008.on Thursday after Israel failed to allow emergency supplies into the Palestinian territory.

“They have told us the crossings are closed today.

At the end of today we will suspend our food distribution,” said UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness.

“Our warehouses are effectively empty,” he told AFP.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military killed four Palestinians along the Gaza border on Wednesday after a nearly five-month during which Hamas respect a declared seize fire.

A Hamas spokesman called the killing of the gunmen “an enormous Israeli crime which constitutes a grave violation of the truce.”

UNRWA usually distributes emergency food rations to about 750,000 people in the Impoverished, overcrowded sliver of land whose economy has been crippled by a tight blockade Israel says is aimed at forcing militants to stop firing rockets and mortar rounds at the Jewish state.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said a truck it sent to the Kerem Shalom crossing was turned back by the Israelis.

Israel usually allows some humanitarian supplies into Gaza, but even this has stopped over the past week, leading to harsh criticism from aid agencies.

“Pushing people to the brink of desperation every few months and forcing UNRWA into yet another cycle of crisis management is not in the interest of anyone who believes in peace, moderation and stability,” said Gunness.

Israel also cut off European Union-funded fuel supplies to Gaza’s sole power plant on Thursday, prompting it to close down for want of diesel.

“It is completely shut down,” Palestinian Energy Authority official Qanaan Obeid told AFP.

ICRC mission chief Katharina Ritz said that “every day the situation is getting more and more precarious for Gazans,” adding that there was a desperate need for medical supplies.

The Israeli military confirmed the closure of Gaza continued.

(agencies)

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Posted in HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ISRAEL, PALESTINE, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE UNITED NATIONS, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

THE SHAME OF GITMO – In allowing prisoner abuse in the name of national security, the U.S. sinks to the level of the world’s most barbarous regimes

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 17, 2008

November 14, 2008

Neil Steinberg - Sun-Times Columnist by Neil Steinberg – Sun-Times Columnist

THE COMPANY WE KEEP

It is 8,386 miles, as the crow flies, from a filthy solitary confinement cell at Burma’s infamous Insein Prison to the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on East Pearson Street in Chicago.

The moral distance is even further, from a freedomless police state whose official name — Myanmar — decent people hesitate to utter because of the illegitimacy of the government, to the United States of America, where the police don’t put a hood over your head and drag you off to years in solitary confinement for asking inconvenient questions, as happened to Burmese dissident Bo Kyi.

Yet Bo Kyi calmly bridged this enormous gap Tuesday, when he quietly addressed the Human Rights Watch dinner honoring him for his role in founding the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

The room gasped as he told of learning that some of his friends in Burma had just received 65-year prison sentences for activities that any college sophomore in the United States does out of habit — attending protests, distributing leaflets.

I was gratified to see this news the next day in the New York Times. One of the most vital roles the United States plays is to keep tabs on the wrongs of the world. While appeals to justice and decency usually mean nothing to tyrants, they can be embarrassed, eventually.

Our own government has proved hard to shame. Several Human Rights Watch speakers mentioned Guantanamo Bay, and how they look forward to Barack Obama closing this blot on America’s reputation.

Too many Americans don’t see the stain. They view reluctance to allow our nation to run a quasi-torture confinement center for foreign nationals as some kind of squishy “reading rights to terrorists” bleeding-heart liberalism.

They don’t understand the company we’re keeping, don’t realize just how frequently torture is used around the world. Nor do they grasp that their excuse — national security —is the exact same rationale offered up by every barbarous regime for the confinement and abuse of heroic champions of justice such as Bo Kyi.

They don’t grasp the specialness of the United States in historically avoiding this kind of behavior, nor the endangerment not only to our own rights — because what the military does today to foreign detainees in Cuba, the police could do to you tomorrow in Chicago — but also Guantanamo’s undermining of our moral authority to push back against regimes in places such as Burma. Guantanamo Bay made it easier for every tin-pot dictator who hangs his enemies on basement meat hooks to claim moral equivalency.

And for what? For the TV fantasy of the smirking terrorist who tells us where the bomb is hidden after Jack Bauer does what he has to do? That might work in “24.” But in the real world, we get hapless goat herders turned into hardened enemies after being subjected to years of abuse.

The truth is, in times of peril, our nation’s overreactions — from Lincoln suspending habeas corpus to the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II to Guantanamo Bay — never make us safer, never improve the situations they were meant to confront.

Never.

The United States is not strong because it crushes all who challenge it. We are strong because our laws and our principles are strong, and to the degree that we adhere to them — even when that is difficult, even when we are afraid — we will remain a beacon to the world, the whispered hope for every political prisoner in every cell around the globe.

Give us the good cookies!

“Did you know that Oreo cookies aren’t as sweet in China as they are here?” I told my wife.

She asked me how I came to this news, and I told her that the Wall Street Journal selected my pal Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and CEO of Kraft, as one of its “50 Women to Watch.” (A tad condescending, isn’t it? Is the head of a $34 billion company, a woman Forbes magazine listed as being more powerful than Oprah Winfrey or Queen Elizabeth II, really just “poised to have an impact on the world of business”? I’d say she’s there.)

The article uses the Chinese Oreo as example of Rosenfeld’s nimble leadership.

“Marketers there learned the cookie was too sweet for Chinese tastes, so they reformulated it.”

My wife’s reaction mirrored my own.

“Why do they get the good ones?” she asked. Indeed. Sweetness is far overrated. I prefer my chocolate like my life — bittersweet.

And since Kraft is already wildly experimenting with Oreo — double-stuffed, mint filling, you name it — I think they owe us over-sugared Americans the Oreo: Special Refined Chinese Version. At least have an executive bring back a package from Beijing, and we’ll open up a branch of the Chicago Sun-Times Test Kitchen at Kraft, pour the cold milk and see what the Chinese know that we don’t.

Today’s chuckle . . .

My brother Sam is a sharp guy. I don’t write about him much — he oils the gears of the Cook County government money machine — because I don’t want to sully him by association.

But we share that rarest of fraternal qualities, mutual affection, and have lunch as often as we can.

We had just finished polishing off two big platters of raw fish at Sushi Sai and stepped out into the surprisingly sunny November afternoon. Talk had been of the accelerating economic doom, and I was prattling on about how scary and incomprehensible it all is.

“I don’t WANT to go through five years of recession!” I whined, tot-like.

We were nearing the County Building.

“My only solace is that all the financial experts predict a long and protracted recession,” my brother said.

I took me half a second to grasp his meaning; his humor can be very dry. Then I got it.

“Ahhh . . . ” I said, grinning, and holding up a finger

“Ahhh . . . ” he answered, holding up one in reply. We shook hands, and I toddled up the street, my heart swelled with love and joy.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES’

Posted in HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

GEORGIE’S FUTILE EXERCISE OF FULL FLEDGED HYPOCRISY

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 16, 2008

Aug. 14th, 2008 at 6:36 PM

CHARGE BY KHALIL RAHMAN

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PUBLISHED BY ‘KHALIL’S JOURNAL’ (USA)

Posted in COMMONWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES, GEORGIA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, RUSSIA, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

PUTIN DESCRIBED HANGING GEORGIAN LEADER: REPORT

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 16, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008 02:48

MOSCOW – An angry Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke in graphic terms about hanging the president of Georgia during talks about a cease-fire to end the August war between the two countries, according to a French magazine report. A spokesman for the Kremlin confirmed that “the rhetoric was very harsh” at the meeting.

Le Nouvel Observateur reported Thursday that Putin compared Mikhail Saakashvili to ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during a meeting in Moscow with Nicolas Sarkozy. The magazine said Sarkozy suspected that the Russian army was going to topple Saakashvili. “You can’t do that, the world will not accept it,” the magazine quoted Sarkozy as saying. It described its source as Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser, Jean-David Levitte.

“I’m going to have Saakashvili hanged … ” Putin said, ending the sentence with a crude anatomical reference. “Hang him?” Sarkozy reportedly said. “Why not?” Putin reportedly said. “The Americans hanged Saddam, didn’t they?” “Yes, but do you want to end up like Bush?” Sarkozy reportedly said. “You have a point there,” Putin said.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “Putin spoke in words very similar to what is written in the article.” Both Levitte and Sarkozy’s spokesman declined to comment.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘HURRIYET DAILY NEWS’ (Turkey)

Posted in GEORGIA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, RUSSIA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

RIGHTS GROUP ASKS WHY EGYPT’S POLICE ARE GUNNING DOWN MIGRANTS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 15, 2008

Published: November 14, 2008

by Joseph Mayton (Middle East Times)

CAIRO – African migrants trying to sneak into Israel from Egypt along the lengthy Sinai border, often THE LUCKY ONES - Sudanese refugees walk to a garden in Jerusalem after illegally crossing the border from Egypt into Israel to seek shelter and safety. (UPI)with little more than the clothes on their backs, are being gunned down by Egyptian police carrying out a new “shoot-to-kill” deterrence policy, a human rights group says in a damning report that also claims Israel may be involved.

The Egyptian government has defended its use of force in the Sinai Peninsula as a critical part of a counter-terror strategy against smuggling.

But Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its 90-page report titled, “Sinai Perils: Risks to Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Egypt and Israel,” that the migrants who were killed on the 266-kilometer (130-mile) border posed no threat to the border guards who opened fire.

“The Egyptian government should send a clear message to stop shooting the defenseless, harmless and [non-threatening] people on the border,” HRW researcher Bill Van Esveld told journalists at Cairo’s Press Syndicate during the release of the report.

“[But] unfortunately, it does not seem that Egyptian officials here recognize the seriousness of the problem,” he said.

Israel has long told Cairo to do more to inhibit the movement of people across their border. But the rights organization was also critical of the Jewish state, saying that it should not immediately return to Egypt potential asylum-seekers where they could face deportation to nations with well-documented human rights violations.

“Despite the violations of refugee rights on the Egyptian side, Israel had returned many people back into the custody of the Egyptian border police,” Van Esveld said.

Some activists in Israel have started questioning their government’s policy of return, suggesting that as Jews themselves they should consider giving those who are seeking a reprieve from genocide the opportunity to remain.

“Both Egypt and Israel have responded to this cross-border flow with policies that violate fundamental rights,” said the report.

Many Africans in Cairo boast of friends who have succeeded in running the border gauntlet into Israel.

“I have a number of friends who told me of the joy they are having in Israel, where they work and have a life again,” said Somali refugee Ali, who did not want his surname to be published.

But that hope has been dashed for dozens of Africans who have been wounded and sometimes killed by bullets at the border.

One of the reasons Africans seek to go to Israel is to escape the poor conditions they are experiencing in Egypt. Ranging from unemployment, racism and lack of funds, the Africans are distraught and unable to find a niche where they are.

“Many Sudanese said that attitudes among ordinary Egyptians were racist and frequently spilled over into violence,” the report said.

“My choice was to stay in Cairo, go through Libya [to Europe] and maybe die at sea, or go to Israel and die by a bullet. I preferred to die by a bullet,” it quoted an asylum-seeker from Sudan’s Darfur region as saying.

Some 13,000 Africans have made it into the Jewish state since 2006, while 33 people have been killed since June 2007 and scores of others injured along the border, highlighting the ongoing struggle that rights groups have with Cairo and Israel.

Although the report does not go as far as to claim Israel demanded that Egypt begin the “shoot-to-kill” policy that is applied throughout the border area over the past year, HRW does allude to a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2007.

At the meeting, the two leaders discussed new measures designed to deter refugees from seeking to enter Israel via Egypt.

“We are not saying that Israel ordered Egypt to kill people; there is no evidence of that,” explained Van Esveld, “but what we are saying is that it seems that Egypt has responded to Israeli pressures with this policy of lethal force.”

No matter what, the reality on the ground is that Africans continue to be gunned down by Egyptian border police, despite not posing a threat to the well-armed guards. The rights organization has called on both Israel and Egypt to investigate the deaths of Africans and they demand a change in policy that does not infringe upon the rights of migrants.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘MIDDLE EAST TIMES’ (Egypt)

Posted in AFRICA, EGYPT, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ISRAEL, POLICE BRUTALITY, SUDAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

UMA SOLUÇÃO RÁPIDA PARA A CRISE NA REPÚBLICA DEMOCRÁTICA DO CONGO

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 15, 2008

Sábado, 15 de Novembro de 2008

JORNAL DE ANGOLA – Ano 9 – Edição Online nº 4651

O conflito na República Democrática do Congo está no centro das atenções da comunidade A CRIMINOSA GUERRA CIVIL DO CONGOinternacional e diferentes fóruns têm discutido questões relativas às melhores vias para a solução dos problemas daquele país da África Central.

A situação no Congo Democrático é de tal gravidade que preocupa instituições africanas e de outros continentes, nomeadamente da União Europeia.

A comunidade internacional continua a protelar a tomada de acções firmes para acabar com os conflitos que assolam África. Angola sofreu na carne do seu povo os efeitos nefastos da ambiguidade de países e instituições que, em vez de agirem, fingiam que actuavam. Em vez de porem fim às aventuras criminosas de “rebeldes”, davam-lhes tempo para se armarem.

As guerras só atrasam o desenvolvimento económico e social dos povos e só causam desgraças, muitas vezes difíceis de reparar. Mas as instituições internacionais que têm a obrigação de acabar com elas, actuam como se desconhecessem esta realidade. Os países que têm influência no mundo e até desencadeiam guerras sem mandato da ONU, em África dão passos tímidos e refugiam-se na falácia do diálogo.

A guerra desencadeada por um exército ilegal na RDC já causou a fuga de milhares de pessoas dos seus locais de residência para outras paragens, nomeadamente para países vizinhos, na esperança de encontrarem condições de segurança.

Numa região onde a existência de refugiados ou deslocados já significa um terrível desastre humanitário, permitir que o general Nkunda agrave este quadro, é seguramente um crime sem perdão.

Quem assiste ao evoluir do exército ilegal no terreno, não pode, hipocritamente, fazer votos de que a agressão armada não evolua para cenários que resultem em graves violações dos direitos humanos. Nem pode manifestar preocupações pouco sinceras sobre a paralização da actividade económica nas áreas fustigadas pelo exército de Nkunda .

A experiência do passado em África, marcada por genocídios, aconselha a que os políticos do continente e as organizações internacionais, nomeadamente a ONU, se mobilizem de forma célere para a resolução do conflito na RDC. O general Nkunda só dá uma garantia: ele é capaz de transformar a agressão armada num genocídio.

As “forças de alerta” da SADC podem ser chamadas a intervir no conflito. A organização regional sabe que no Kivu-Norte é preciso acabar com a presença de um exército ilegal que põe em causa um Governo eleito. Angola foi o último país da região a sofrer uma agressão armada deste género. Todos os governos da SADC aprenderam a lição.

A partir de 2002, ano em que foi assinada a Paz de Luena, aventureiros como o general Nkunda já não têm espaço na África Austral. Os angolanos mostraram à África e ao mundo que se não tivessem contado com as suas próprias forças, ainda hoje estavam a dialogar com quem só tinha ouvidos para os beneneficiários directos do conflito armado que devastou o país, durante décadas.

A RDC está a ser vítima de uma agressão brutal de um exército ilegal. É preciso pôr fim à aventura, por muito que custe aos países que por trás da cortina manobram a soldadesca de Nkunda.

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Posted in AFRICA, CIVIL WAR - CONGO, CONGO, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

TALIBAN LEADER: WE HAVE NO FAITH IN OBAMA

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 14, 2008

November 14, 2008 – updated 1 hour, 53 minutes ago

From Reza Sayah and Janullah Hashimzada

“For us, the change of America’s president – we don’t have any good faith in him,” said Muslim Khan, a Barack Hussein Obamagrizzled Taliban spokesman who is one of the most wanted men in Pakistan, in a rare interview with CNN. “If he does anything good, it will be for himself.”

With an assault rifle on his lap, Khan answered 10 written questions, sharing his view on a range of topics from slavery to Obama’s middle name – Hussein.

He spoke in the remote Swat Valley of northwestern Pakistan, the site of frequent and fierce clashes between Pakistani troops and Taliban and al Qaeda militants.

There was no opportunity for follow-up questions.

Khan said Obama’s election may change conditions for black Americans.

“The black one knows how much the black people are discriminated against in America and Europe and other countries,” he said. “For America’s black people, it could be that there will be a change. That era is coming.”

He said he doubted Obama’s victory would lead to changes in relations between the United States and the Taliban.

U.S. forces dislodged the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

America and its allies have battled the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan ever since, with fighting spreading across the border into Pakistan.

“American should take its army out of the country,” Khan said. “They are considered terrorists.”

Obama has minced no words in describing how he would administer U.S. policy toward the Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

When he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in August, Obama pledged to “finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

And the president-elect included a blunt warning in remarks on the evening of his election victory: “To those who would tear the world down,” he said, “we will defeat you.”

Khan noted that Obama’s middle name was fairly common in the Muslim world, referring to him at times as “Hussein Barack Obama.”

“If he behaves in the way of a real Hussein, then he has become our brother,” he said. “If Barack Obama pursues the same policies as Bush and behaves like Bush … then he cannot be Hussein. He can only be Obama.”

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PUBLISHED BY ‘CNN’ (USA)

Posted in AFGHANISTAN, ELECTIONS 2008 - USA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, PAKISTAN, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

US EMBARRASSED AS TALIBAN STEAL HUMVEES

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 12, 2008

November 12, 2008

by Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent

Article from: The Australian

TALIBAN militants were driving around in captured US army Humvee armoured vehicles in Pakistan’s U.S. Marines, from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, take positions on a berm during a fire fight with Taliban positions near the town of Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan Friday May 2, 2008tribal region close to the historic Khyber Pass last night after hijacking more than a dozen supply trucks travelling along the vital land route that supplies coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The capture of the Humvees – these days the symbol of US intervention in Iraq and elsewhere – is a serious embarrassment to US commanders of the coalition forces.

Pakistani reporters in the area said the militants unloaded the Humvees from shipping containers on the backs of the trucks and drove off in them, after decorating them with flags and banners of the banned umbrella organisation Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which is led by Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud is closely allied to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The reporters said the hijackings had taken place “in clear view of (Pakistani) paramilitary personnel” deployed at the nearby Jamrud Fort, who “did not take any action”.

“All this happened on the international highway (linking Pakistan with Afghanistan) and you can imagine the implications this can have for us,” an official told Pakistan newspaper Dawn.

Pakistan army helicopter gunships were later sent to the area, but by then the trucks had been released by the militants, who had decamped with the Humvees as well as bags of wheat.

The hijacking of the supply trucks – and the embarrassment of seeing the militants driving around the area in the Humvees – came amid fast-mounting concern about the security of thevital land route through Pakistan that serves the 35,000-strong coalition force fighting in Afghanistan.

The supply trucks were seized by the militants along a 35km stretch of the narrow, switchback road through the Khyber Pass, the main gateway for essential supplies shipped under cover to the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

More than 350 trucks travel through the perilous pass each day, carrying supplies to Afghanistan, many of them with consignments destined for the coalition forces.

More than 24 transport trucks and oil tankers have reportedly been attacked in the area in the past month as militants have stepped up their assaults on the road convoys, causing serious concern to NATO commanders.

Last weekend, two coalition warplanes, backed by ground artillery from gun emplacements across the border in Afghanistan, crossed into Pakistani territory to attack militants seen in the Tirah valley, close to the Khyber Pass, in what appeared to be a pre-emptive strike against possible attacks on the vital road link.

Pakistani forces have also launched major offensives around the North West Frontier Province’s capital, Peshawar, in an attempt to drive back militants threatening the road.

The militants have responded by launching rocket attacks on Peshawar airport, which is regularly used by civilian aircraft.

Concern about security in the Khyber Pass has recently led US commanders to seek alternative land routes through Central Asia.

Adding to the concerns are mounting fears about the situation in Karachi, which is now a major target for infiltration by militants.

Officials said the trucks had been hijacked without a shot being fired.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE AUSTRALIAN’

Posted in AFGHANISTAN, ASIA, PAKISTAN, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

SPEAKING FREELY – The impending strike on Iran

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 4, 2008

Nov 1, 2008

by David Fink

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.

Fact. We are in the beginning of a worldwide recession that will last until at least late 2009. This recession will be worse than the “light” recession of 2001-2002, and the “serious” recession of 1990-1991. In scope, it will be a “severe” recession like the one in 1982.

Fact. People will start saving for the first time in a generation. The savings rate will go from a negative 1% to 8-9%.

Fact. Without increases in consumer spending, the government will have to spend trillions of dollars to restart the economy. The United States is experiencing unprecedented levels of government, corporate, and individual debt. It cannot go through a period of inflation without its economy collapsing. Policymakers know this and they will do anything in their power to prevent deflation and re-inflate the economy. The Treasury and Federal Reserve have literally been printing money in order to float us out of the current crisis in an ocean of liquidity.

This policy has been working for over two decades. However, to inject this much liquidity into the system will create tremendous downward pressure on the dollar. If the dollar falls apart, the United States will no longer have the ability to fix its problems with the printing press.

How will we know if we will be able to get out of this recession in one piece? We will need to know if, a) we are experiencing deflation or inflation, and b) if the dollar is strong enough to keep reproducing itself at this rate.

The price of gold will tell us what type of monetary environment we are in. If gold stays put at $700, or begins to go down from here, then we are in a deflationary period. For the United States to be going through deflation when everybody in this country is over their heads in debt is dangerous. For these two problems to occur during an economic downturn where unemployment could hit 10% is potentially catastrophic. Over the past month, major downturns in the stock market indices have been preceded by huge drops in the price of gold.

The US dollar index will tell us if we can still use the same medicine traditionally prescribed by Alan Greenspan. If the dollar index holds above 70, we can print our way out of this recession. If the index breaks 70, then the dollar could be in trouble. Look for higher interest rates, inflation, and the government’s ability to raise debt will be hampered – this could kill future growth.

Gold and the US dollar index have become the two vital signs of the global economy.

If there is a run on the dollar, the US will not be able to borrow enough money to fight two wars, bail out the whole financial system, and initiate a spending program that will end the current recession. Policymakers will have to make difficult choices. This presents a once-in-a-lifetime “opportunity” for President George W Bush.

The smart money has chosen Senator Barack Obama as our next president. If we don’t have a currency strong enough to borrow the necessary funds to do everything, I think Obama will try to pull out of Iraq. Given that we are winning the war in Iraq and have pledged to significantly draw down troop numbers in the next couple of years, how hard would it be for Obama to declare victory and pull out now? Politically, this would signal a message to the rest of the world that America has changed course and is ready to work with everybody else.

But that’s not why Obama would pull out.

He won’t do it for political reasons – he will do it for economical ones. A beaten-down dollar means that spending in one place will mean less money somewhere else. Up until now, Americans have been able to spend in one area, and borrow to finance another one. If president Obama doesn’t end the war, monies that are needed at home will not materialize. We will hear stories about how the everyday American can’t afford basic health care while we are still fighting in Iraq.

The popularity Obama has enjoyed as a candidate will soon turn to hostility if the average American family had to suffer because he didn’t keep his promise to end the war. His decision will be due to economic reality – but it will have very dangerous political, military, and national security implications. Most of all, George W Bush’s entire legacy will be wiped away.

Don’t you think the Bush administration is pondering this possibility?

A president is definitely most powerful when he is a lame duck who is ceding power to an opposing party. If you are the outgoing president, or a member of the outgoing administration, you are thinking one thing: if Obama wins, November and December would be ideal time to attack Iran.

Consider this:

Bush is a lame duck. He won’t be around to have to deal with any fallout from such a move.

Obama will never attack Iran. Four years from now, we will not be able to stop Iran from completing work on their bomb. Bush has always had a big sense of destiny in his leadership. If he believes that he is the only one who can save the world, he may decide to do it.

Obama can fix the damage. The Arab world loves Obama. They view him as a fellow Muslim. After Bush protects the nations of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Dubai, Qatar and half of Europe from nuclear disaster, and these nations openly proclaim their hatred for him, Obama can come to power and spend his first 100 days in office “apologizing” for Bush’s “mistakes”. The US will literally get a “free pass” for this in the eyes of the world.

When oil was at $147 a barrel, there was no way the Bush administration was going to risk spiking it to $250 – especially with a presidential election coming up. Come November, oil will be trading at $70 per barrel. A strike on Iran may raise the price temporarily to its 52-week high of $150 per barrel. The election will be over and politically, the Bush administration will have nothing to lose.

An attack on Iran will force the American military to stay in Iraq for a longer period of time. The immediate Iranian response to an American attack will be to escalate the war. They will “green light” Shi’ite groups in Southern Iraq to go back to war with American forces. They will finance and encourage terrorist groups around the world to hit America wherever and whenever. They will broaden the war in the region by inciting Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack Israel – assuming they don’t fire on Israel themselves. America will have to stay at least an extra 2-3 years until things “quiet down” again. This new situation will also insure that the national security infrastructure created after September 11, and nurtured throughout the Bush administration, will not lose any of its powers during the new administration.

Members of the Bush administration, who left their jobs in the private sector, will soon be returning to the private sector. They all came from the oil industry and they want to make sure that they will be taken care of. Those 433,000 stock options in Halliburton outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney put in a trust before he assumed office – he gets them back January 20. It would be in his best interests if the shares of these companies were trading higher. That goes for the rest of the Bush administration – they will all want to make sure that the heads of the oil industry – their next employers – are happy. Obama has promised to tax the oil industry next year. An attack on Iran will drive oil prices up so that the additional revenue generated by these companies will, at a least, make up for any new tax obligations.

The aftershocks of the US attack will keep oil prices in triple digits and reinitiate the debate about drilling for offshore oil. A higher price will give big oil new political clout in developing oil fields in areas considered environmentally unsound. A heightened global tension means that the next administration will be forced to maintain current government outlays to the defense industry.

The final three points will force Obama to continue the core policies of the Bush administration whether he likes it or not. If you are viewing the world from the point of view of the Bush administration, you see a lot of very big arguments for attacking Iran now.

From this we can come to a very simple conclusion: America will either attack Iran in the next two and a half months, or it never will.

David Fink is the editor-in-chief of the daily investment newsletter www.realwealthrecon.com. Throughout 2008, his RWR Investment Portfolio has outperformed the market indices by 20%, and the average hedge fund by 3%.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘ASIA TIMES’

Posted in INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, IRAN, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

U.N. SAYS COLOMBIAN MILITARY EXECUTING CIVILIANS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 2, 2008

Updated 9:29 p.m. EDT, Sat November 1, 2008

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) — Colombia’s U.S.-backed security forces are engaging in “systematic and widespread” extrajudicial executions of innocent civilians as part of their counterinsurgency campaign, a top United Nations diplomat said Saturday.

Speaking in Bogota after a weeklong fact-finding tour, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Photo - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in Bogota, says Colombia must rein in its security forces.Human Rights, said the scale of the killings could constitute a “crime against humanity” under international humanitarian law, adding that international courts could intervene if the Colombian government was “unwilling or unable” to handle the investigations itself.

“An offense becomes a crime against humanity if it is widespread and systematic against the civilian population,” Pillay said at a news conference.

“We are observing and keeping a record of the number of extrajudicial killings [in Colombia], and it does appear to be systematic and widespread in my view. Watch Pillay explain the investigation process »

“The goal is to have the national authorities these crimes and prosecute the perpetrators. It’s only when a country is unable and unwilling that the International Criminal Court, for instance, would have the power to intervene,” she added.

Her comments come three days after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe fired 25 army officers and non-commissioned officers, including three generals and 11 colonels, for alleged involvement or negligence in a case involving the forced disappearance and summary executions of at least 11 young men from a poor Bogota suburb this year.

It was the biggest purge in Colombian military ranks for alleged human rights abuses.

Although Pillay welcomed the move, she said Saturday that she hoped it would be the start — not the end — of a thorough process to improve the human rights record of the Colombian military.

U.N. officials say they don’t keep comprehensive statistics of forced disappearances and summary executions blamed on the security forces. But a U.N. source said the organization received between 200 and 300 such complaints every year.

A U.N. report published last year said the organization had seen “significant increases” in the number of cases.

Meanwhile, the government attorney general’s office says it opened close to 800 investigations into accusations of summary executions by the police and military between January 2003 and September 2007.

Typically, according to the U.N. and the attorney general’s office, security forces will “disappear” or kill civilians and later present them to the media as leftist rebels or right-wing paramilitary fighters killed in combat.

Since 2000, Colombia has received about $5 billion in mostly military aid from the United States to fight drugs and the guerrilla war.

Under the terms of the aid package, Washington is supposed to thoroughly vet the human rights record of Colombian military units. If abuses are uncovered, Washington can suspend aid to the offending units.

U.S. authorities have not publicly said whether aid will be affected by the latest investigations and subsequent purge of the military high command.

None of the commanders fired earlier this week has been arrested or charged with any crime. But Uribe has said criminal investigations are ongoing and promised that offenders would be jailed.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘CNN’ (USA)

Posted in COLOMBIA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, THE COLOMBIAN CIVIL WAR, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

CYPRIOTS VIEW RENEWED EFFORTS TO REACH AN AGREEMENT WITH CAUTION

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on October 31, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

by Jean Christou

ONLY 18 per cent of Greek Cypriots and 13 per cent of Turkish Cypriots are hopeful for a Cyprus solution through the current peace process, a study by the Centre for European Policy Studies said yesterday.

The Brussels-based organisation worked with analysts Alexandros Lordos, Erol Kaymak and Nathalie Tocci to compile the 90-page report, which was presented yesterday.

“Beyond their perceptions and (mis)trust of each other, both communities are pessimistic regarding the peace process,” said the report.

This pessimism is particularly acute amongst Turkish Cypriots, who following the Annan Plan precedent have little faith in the peace process and Greek Cypriot willingness to deliver a compromise solution. Greek Cypriots, emboldened by their new president, appear somewhat more hopeful of the ongoing negotiations.”

It said that after decades of failed negotiations and the ultimate failure of the Annan Plan, Cypriots viewed renewed efforts to reach an agreement with some caution.

Lack of trust was a major factor according to the findings.

Two out of three Greek Cypriots, “possibly influenced by their long-standing political narrative that ‘our problem is not with the Turkish Cypriots but with Turkey’, say they trust ordinary Turkish Cypriots, while 99 per cent do not trust the Turkish Cypriot leadership nor Turkey.

However nearly three out of four Turkish Cypriots say they mistrust Greek Cypriots, and 74 per cent say they mistrusted President Demetris Christofias and political party leaders.

Still, while differences are large Cypriots were open to compromise, ready to revisit their official historical narratives and abhor a resort to violence, the report said.

“This sets Cyprus apart from other conflicts in the European neighbourhood,” it added.

“Cypriots are not fundamentally hostile towards each other and both communities have reached a level of political maturity necessary to re-evaluate their conflict-ridden pasts.”

It said 85 per cent off Greek Cypriots and 50 per cent of Turkish Cypriots were able to acknowledge the mistakes committed by their own community in the conflict.

Nearly 90 per cent on each side are “absolutely opposed to the idea of ‘solving’ the conflict through armed struggle”.

Only 15 per cent on the Greek Cypriot side say they are satisfied with the status quo, and even fewer Turkish Cypriots, less than ten per cent.

“A possible explanation of these differences may be that whereas 51 per cent of Greek Cypriots are on the whole satisfied with their personal lives, only 29 per cent of Turkish Cypriots are, not least because they are more directly affected by the consequences of the conflict,” said the report, adding that they blamed Greek Cypriots and the EU for their current situation due to the ban on direct flights to the north, and the lack of direct trade for the ‘TRNC’.

“It is of paramount importance for these issues to be debated openly and creatively in the south and for political and official actors to diffuse and repackage the divisive and polarising language used to discuss these issues in recent years,” said the report.

On the positive side, large majorities of each community view themselves as being both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot rather than merely Greek or Turkish.

“In other words, Greek and Turkish Cypriots tend not to identify themselves as Greeks or Turks exclusively, and both communities share an affinity to Cyprus,” the report said.

It suggests a number of confidence building measures to run parallel to the new negotiating process “to engender public confidence” and to ensure that when an agreement is reached, Cypriots will go along with it.

A list of ‘easily-agreed measures’ could include jointly fighting organised crime, joint participation in international sporting events, joint protection of cultural heritage, supporting Turkish-Cypriot-EU harmonisation and renovating and making joint use of buildings in the Green Line.

Other confidence-building steps could be taken to facilitate negotiations on the more contested issues such as conducting an analysis of threats and threat perceptions and producing an economic development plan for post-settlement.

These fact-finding activities would both increase public confidence in the peace process – which will be viewed as a result of such efforts as more participatory, inclusive and grounded on the needs of the people – and at the same time may help bridge the gaps dividing the two communities on some of the most contested dossiers of the conflict settlement agenda,” said the CEPS report.

It also listed a number of more contentious proposals such as including the north in the EU customs union and including Turkish Cypriot higher education institutions in the European higher education system, direct trade and direct flights, and the resolution of the Varosha issue.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008

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PUBLISHED BY ‘CYPRUS MAIL’

Posted in CYPRUS, EUROPE, GREECE, INTERNATIONAL, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

US WILLING TO HOLD TALKS WITH TALIBAN, SAYS REPORT

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on October 29, 2008

October 29, 2008

by Anwar Iqbal and Masood Haider

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Oct 28: The US is willing to hold direct talks with elements of the Taliban in an effort to quell unrest in Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified Bush administration officials.

The Washington Post reported that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had shown openness to the idea of repudiating Al Qaeda, which encouraged the Bush administration to explore the possibility of holding direct talks with the militia.

Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that the Taliban had conveyed this message to representatives of the Afghan government during a meeting in Saudi Arabia last month.

Amid these reports of a possible breakthrough in the search for a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict, Christian Science Monitor noted that on Monday the Taliban militia showed “a new potency” in the fight against coalition forces, bringing down a US military helicopter near Kabul, while a suicide bomber struck and killed two Americans in northern Afghanistan.

The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday highlighted the significance of the attack, noting that “choppers are a crucial mode of transport for troops and supplies” in Afghanistan.

Speculations about a possible breakthrough in the talks with the Taliban follow a series of meetings last month in Saudi Arabia between representatives of the Afghan government and the militia.

But even before the Saudis initiated the talks, the Karzai government had been putting out feelers to the Taliban for negotiating an end to its insurgency in exchange for some sort of power-sharing deal.

Though the US has so far been on the sidelines but at a recent news conference Gen David McKiernan, the commander of US troops in Afghanistan, grudgingly said he would support the Afghan government if it chose to go down the path of negotiations.

And now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the US might get involved in those negotiations directly. “Senior White House and military officials believe that engaging some levels of the Taliban — while excluding top leaders — could help reverse a pronounced downward spiral in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan,” the report said.

Both countries have been destabilised by a recent wave of violence.

Senior Bush administration officials told the Journal that the outreach was a draft recommendation in a classified White House assessment of US strategy in Afghanistan. The officials said that the recommendation called for the talks to be led by the Afghan central government, but with the active participation of the US.

The US would be willing to pay moderate Taliban members to lay down their weapons and join the political process, the Journal cited an unidentified US official as saying. The Central Intelligence Agency has been mapping Afghanistan’s tribal areas in an attempt to understand the allegiances of clans and tribes, the report said.

WSJ noted that joining the talks would only be a first step as the Bush administration was still in the process of determining what substantial offer it could make to persuade the Taliban to abandon violence. “How much should (we) be willing to offer guys like this?” asked a senior Bush official while talking to the Journal.

Gen David Petraeus, who will assume responsibility this week for US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as head of the Central Command, supports the proposed direct talks between the Taliban and the US, the WSJ said.

Gen Petraeus used a similar approach in Iraq where a US push to enlist Sunni tribes in the fight against Al Qaeda helped sharply reduce the country’s violence. Gen Petraeus earlier this month publicly endorsed talks with less extreme Taliban elements.

Gen Petraeus also indicated that he believed insurgencies rarely ended with complete victory by one or the other side.

“You have to talk to enemies,” said Gen Petraeus while pointing to Kabul’s efforts to negotiate a deal with the Taliban that would potentially bring some Taliban members back to power, saying that if they were “willing to reconcile” it would be “a positive step”.

US Afghan experts outside the Bush administration have also been urging the White House to try to end violence “by co-optation, integration and appeasement”, as one of them said.

They urge the Bush administration to give the Taliban a positive reason to stop fighting. This, they argue, would allow Washington to separate hardcore militants from others within the Taliban and would also expose the extremists before the Afghan people.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘DAWN’ (Pakistan)

Posted in AFGHANISTAN, ASIA, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

SPEAKING FREELY – FORGET BUSH’S WARS AND WORK WITH ASIA

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on October 29, 2008

Oct 24, 2008

by Zhiqun Zhu

John Hay, the 37th United States secretary of state, said in 1889, “The Mediterranean is the ocean of the past, the Atlantic, the ocean of the present, and the Pacific, the ocean of the future.”

The future is now. The “Asia-Pacific century” is not a prediction any more; it’s reality. Based on purchasing power parity, three of the four largest economies in the world are in Asia – China, Japan and India. And if the United States is included, then all the top four economies are in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States has longstanding interests in Asia. Two of the world’s potentially most explosive places are located in East Asia: the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait, where the United States has significant economic, geopolitical and strategic interests. Since the end of World War II, the US has had extensive economic interactions with Asian nations. It played an instrumental role in Japan’s post-war recovery and the economic takeoff of the four Asian “tigers” – South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. Since the early 1980s, China has also benefited enormously from America’s huge investment and its insatiable consumer market. It is not an exaggeration that East Asia is of critical importance to America’s future.

One wonders whether the fact that Asia has not been a major foreign policy issue in the 2008 US presidential election is good news or bad news. The new US president must move beyond President George W Bush’s preoccupation with the “war on terror” and pay more attention to Asia.

Mixed legacy

On the positive side, US alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia remain strong. In the past eight years, Japan, South Korea and Australia all had leadership changes, and in Japan’s case there have been four different prime ministers. All these Asian leaders have firmly supported America’s “war on terror”. They have all visited Washington to show solidarity with Bush.

One of the rare bright spots in Bush’s foreign policy is China. A stable and strong relationship between the United States and China is probably Bush’s greatest foreign policy achievement. Bush and his family are now considered “friends” by the Chinese government and Bush’s decision to attend the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, though controversial at home, was welcomed by China where members of the Bush family were warmly received.

Prodded by the United States, the new Kuomintang (KMT) government in Taiwan headed by Ma Ying-jeou has abandoned the pro-independence policies of his predecessor Chen Shui-bian and has endeavored to improve cross-strait relations. As a result, military conflict in the Taiwan Strait is becoming much less likely now.

However, Bush has also failed miserably in East Asia overall, most notably with regard to the unresolved issue of North Korea’s nuclear program. Opportunities to denuclearize North Korea have come and gone during the eight years of the Bush administration.

An agreed framework was reached between the US and North Korea in 1994. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula seemed to be within reach. President Bill Clinton sent his secretary of state Madeline Albright to North Korea in October 2000 to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il directly. Clinton was even prepared to visit North Korea himself to improve relations.

After Bush came to office in January 2001, he refused to honor the 1994 agreement and rejected direct talks with North Korea directly. After the September 11, 2001, bombings he labeled North Korea as part of the “axis of evil”. North Korea was outraged and felt cornered; it hardened its position on the nuclear issue and decided to proceed with nuclear technology. Even many South Koreans felt offended: North Korea is poor, but it is not evil.

Eventually China launched the six-party talks in 2003. The US accepted this multilateral forum for discussion but still refused to deal with North Korea directly. After tough negotiations, North Korea finally agreed, in February 2007, to shut down its main nuclear reactor in exchange for food and aid from the other five parties.

In June 2008, North Korea blew up the cooling tower of its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and handed over to the US a declaration of its nuclear activities. However, by August, the US had not removed North Korea from the state sponsors of terrorism list, as it had promised earlier, while insisting that it wanted independent verification of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament. Accusing the US of breaking its promise, North Korea then announced it had suspended disabling its nuclear facilities.

In a dramatic development, on October 11, Bush decided to remove North Korea from the list of states that sponsor terrorism. This was an encouraging step, but it may have come too late.

As a result of Bush’s policies, the new US president will face several serious challenges in East Asia.

The immediate security challenge is a nuclear-capable North Korea. Recent reports about Kim Jong-il’s poor health added complexity and uncertainty to the nuclear issue and security in East Asia.

For Washington, the shortest diplomatic route to Pyongyang is through Beijing. China has a strong interest in preventing the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in part because it does not want to give Japan an excuse to go nuclear.

North Korea has not accounted for dozens of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, and the new US president needs to explain to Tokyo that as important as the matter is, it should not be linked to North Korea’s denuclearization. Japan can seek to resolve the abduction issue through other channels, preferably by engaging with North Korea directly. The United States must coordinate its policy closely with China and other nations in the region in order to break North Korea’s nuclear stalemate.

Asia also poses tough economic challenges to the new president. The US must become actively involved in economic integration with Asian nations, otherwise it risks being marginalized in Asia. It cannot afford to continue to stand on the sidelines as the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and northeast Asian nations discus a regional free-trade zone.

The United States had been the dominant economic power in Asia, but now China has become the largest trading partner of almost every country in Asia. Economically, the US is already playing second fiddle. Asian economies are some of the biggest holders of US Treasury bonds with Japan and China together holding about half of all Treasury bonds sold abroad.

China has become America’s third-largest export market after Canada and Mexico, and its foreign exchange reserve is quickly approaching US$2 trillion. The recent financial crisis in the US makes it imperative for the new president to work more closely with East Asian nations. Shortly after the US Congress passed the $700 billion financial rescue package in September, the People’s Bank of China (central bank) reportedly expressed interest in purchasing $200 billion worth of US Treasury bonds. Undoubtedly, East Asia will be part of the solution to the current financial problems in America.

The biggest challenge for the US and its new president is China. The challenge from the re-emerging power of the Middle Kingdom is on all fronts. China’s economy continues to gallop forward, despite the impact of the financial crisis in the West. For many developing countries, China’s development model, the so-called “Beijing Consensus” of economic liberalization under tight political control, offers an attractive alternative to the “Washington Consensus” of the US.

After Beijing passed the Olympic test with flying colors, and after Chinese astronauts successfully conducted their first space walk, the Chinese people have every reason to celebrate. As a result, nationalism has grown even stronger in China. Dealing with this increasingly powerful and proud nation of over 1.3 billion people is no easy task – and China-US relations have become increasingly complex.

From issues ranging from trade imbalances to independence protests in Tibet, the two countries have many differences. The recent US sale of $6.5 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan certainly does not bode well for bilateral ties. The rise of China – a nation that does not share core values with the United States – will be the most pressing foreign policy challenge for the next American president.

Bush has preferred unilateralism in foreign policy, and in Asia he has preferred strong bilateral alliances built upon historical ties with key allies. But this bilateral alliance structure is rooted in Cold War ideology and is outdated today. The new American president must go beyond unilateralism and bilateralism and move towards multilateralism on a wide range of issues.

In Asia, the new American president must be a uniter, not a divider. In addition to resolving North Korea’s nuclear dilemma, fighting infectious diseases, piracy on the high seas, global warming, and financial crises all require multilateral cooperation between the United States and the nations of Asia and the world.

Zhiqun Zhu, PhD, is MacArthur Chair in East Asian Politics and associate professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at zhiqun.zhu@bucknell.edu

(Copyright 2008 Zhiqun Zhu.)

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘ASIA TIMES’ (INDIA)

Posted in ASIA, CHINA, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ELECTIONS 2008 - USA, ENERGY, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, INTERNATIONAL, JAPAN, NORTH KOREA, NUCLEAR ENERGY, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | 1 Comment »

GUNFIRE BRINGS DOWN U.S. HELICOPTER IN AFGHANISTAN – Chopper crew rescued. Elsewhere, bomber kills two Americans

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on October 28, 2008

Published on Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

by Fisnik Abrashi – Associated Press

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: Insurgents exchanged fire with U.S. troops aboard a Black Hawk helicopter in central Afghanistan on Monday before the aircraft was hit and forced to land. The crew was rescued, but in the north, a suicide bomber killed two U.S. soldiers.

Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a U.S. military spokesman, said there were no U.S. casualties as a result of the crash in a province neighboring Kabul.

“The helicopter crew exchanged fire with the enemy before the damage brought the helicopter down,” Matthews said.

At least four militants were killed in the exchange, said Fazel Karim Muslim, the chief of Sayed Abad district.

Another helicopter hovered as the U.S. troops secured the area around the downed chopper, which didn’t appear to sustain major damage, Muslim said.

The U.S. and other foreign forces rely heavily on helicopters for transportation around Afghanistan, which is covered by rough mountains and long stretches of desert and has few decent roads. Insurgents rarely bring down military helicopters, though they have hit several in recent years.

Wardak province has seen an increase in insurgent activity the last two years, and its main highway is now extremely risky to travel on, particularly at night. In mid-October, a U.S. Special Forces raid freed a kidnapped American working for the Army Corps of Engineers who had been held captive in Wardak for two months.

Also Monday, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform blew himself up at a police station in northern Afghanistan, killing two American soldiers and wounding five other people, including an American, officials said.

The bomber entered a police station in Pul-e-Khumri, capital of Baghlan province, while Afghan officials were meeting with U.S. troops advising a police training program, provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Rahman Sayed Kheil said.

Meanwhile, the number of Afghans who think they are more prosperous today than under the Taliban regime has dropped significantly over the last two years, a U.S.-funded survey released today found.

More than half the Afghans surveyed in 2006 believed they were more prosperous than at any time under the hard-line Islamic regime’s rule in the late 1990s. But only 36 percent of 6,600 Afghans surveyed this year felt the same way.

The results mirror the deteriorating security and economic situation in the country.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: Insurgents exchanged fire with U.S. troops aboard a Black Hawk helicopter in central Afghanistan on Monday before the aircraft was hit and forced to land. The crew was rescued, but in the north, a suicide bomber killed two U.S. soldiers.

Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a U.S. military spokesman, said there were no U.S. casualties as a result of the crash in a province neighboring Kabul.

“The helicopter crew exchanged fire with the enemy before the damage brought the helicopter down,” Matthews said.

At least four militants were killed in the exchange, said Fazel Karim Muslim, the chief of Sayed Abad district.

Another helicopter hovered as the U.S. troops secured the area around the downed chopper, which didn’t appear to sustain major damage, Muslim said.

The U.S. and other foreign forces rely heavily on helicopters for transportation around Afghanistan, which is covered by rough mountains and long stretches of desert and has few decent roads. Insurgents rarely bring down military helicopters, though they have hit several in recent years.

Wardak province has seen an increase in insurgent activity the last two years, and its main highway is now extremely risky to travel on, particularly at night. In mid-October, a U.S. Special Forces raid freed a kidnapped American working for the Army Corps of Engineers who had been held captive in Wardak for two months.

Also Monday, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform blew himself up at a police station in northern Afghanistan, killing two American soldiers and wounding five other people, including an American, officials said.

The bomber entered a police station in Pul-e-Khumri, capital of Baghlan province, while Afghan officials were meeting with U.S. troops advising a police training program, provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Rahman Sayed Kheil said.

Meanwhile, the number of Afghans who think they are more prosperous today than under the Taliban regime has dropped significantly over the last two years, a U.S.-funded survey released today found.

More than half the Afghans surveyed in 2006 believed they were more prosperous than at any time under the hard-line Islamic regime’s rule in the late 1990s. But only 36 percent of 6,600 Afghans surveyed this year felt the same way.

The results mirror the deteriorating security and economic situation in the country.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘OHIO.COM’ (USA)

Posted in USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

US TROOPS ENTER SYRIA, KILL 8 CIVILIANS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on October 28, 2008

Number 3255 – Tue, Oct 28, 2008 – Aban 07 1387- Shavval 28 1429

American helicopter-borne troops from Iraq launched an assault on Sunday on a building in a Syrian A survivor of the US military attack on the Syrian village of Al-Sukkiraya on Oct. 26border village, killing eight civilians, official Syrian media reported.
“Four American helicopters violated Syrian airspace around 16:45 local time (1345 GMT) on Sunday. They penetrated eight kilometers (into Syria,“ official Syrian media said, AFP reported.
“American soldiers“ who had emerged from helicopters “attacked a civilian building under construction and fired at workmen inside, causing eight deaths,“ reports said. SANA named the dead and said they were a father and his four children, a couple and another man.
“The helicopters then left Syrian territory towards Iraqi territory,“ it said.
The news agency said one person was also wounded in the attack on the village of Al-Sukkiraya, around 550 kilometers northeast of the capital in the Abu Kamal area.
Earlier, the private television channel Al-Dunia said nine civilians had been killed in the attack. The raid appears to have been the first of its type into Syrian territory.
A US military official in Washington confirmed Sunday that special forces had conducted a raid in Syria that targeted the network of Al-Qaeda-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq.
“We are taking matters into our own hands,“ the official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

Envoys Summoned

Syria summoned the US and Iraqi envoys to Damascus to protest against what it called a US military attack and to demand that Iraq prevent US forces from “launching aggression against Syria“ from its territory, official media said.
“Syria condemns and denounces this act of aggression and US forces will bear the responsibility for any consequences,“ SANA quoted an unidentified official as saying.
“Syria also demands that the Iraqi government accept its responsibilities and launch an immediate inquiry following this dangerous violation and forbids the use of Iraqi territory to launch attacks on Syria,“ it said. “We are in the process of investigating this“ reported attack, Sergeant Brooke Murphy, a US military spokeswoman, told AFP in Baghdad.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment. Commander Darryn James told AFP that there was “no response“ from the US Department of Defense about the Syrian reports.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry also refused to comment, on the grounds the incident took place inside Syria.
Syria’s first ambassador to Iraq in 26 years took up his post in Baghdad this month, marking the official end of more than two decades of icy relations.

In Desperation

Syria called the raid a “serious aggression,“ and its Foreign Ministry summoned the charges d’affaires Syrians mourn next the bodies of their relatives who were killed in a deadly US military attack on the village of Sukkiraya, on the Syria-Iraq border, Oct. 27of the United States and Iraq in protest.
Syrian parliament member Suleiman Hadad called the raid “a last-ditch hit by the defeated and desperate“ Bush administration, which is trying to “restore some of its lost dignity in the region.“
Government newspapers also published scathing criticisms in Monday’s editions. Tishrin splashed its front pages with a headline denouncing the raid as a “US war crime,“ while the Al-Baath newspaper described the attack in an editorial as a “stunning, shocking and unprecedented adventure.“
“Even while it’s preparing itself to leave the White House, the Bush administration seems determined to demonstrate its foolishness, and this is a dangerous indication of political madness and stupid arrogance,“ Al-Baath said.
Iran also condemned the attack, while Iraqi officials said they hoped the raid would not harm their relations with Syria.
“We are trying to contain the fallout from the incident,“ Iraqi Foreign Ministry undersecretary Labib Abbawi said. “It is regrettable and we are sorry it happened.“
Some Iraqi officials warned that the US military raid into Syria could be used by opponents of a security pact under negotiation with the United States.
“Now neighboring countries have a good reason to be concerned about the continued US presence in Iraq,“ prominent Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman said.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘IRAN DAILY’

Posted in INTERNATIONAL, IRAN, MIDDLE EAST, SYRIA, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

IRAN CONDEMNS US ATTACK ON SYRIA

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on October 28, 2008

News numbre: 8708061469 19:01 | 2008-10-27

TEHRAN (FNA) – Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi condemned a recent US attack Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavion Syria which killed nine civilians and injured 19 others.

“During the US choppers attacks on civilian Syrian people on Sunday, a lot of innocent people were killed, again so many of them were children and also a large number of the member of one family,” Qashqavi told reporters at his weekly press conference in Tehran Monday.

Qashqavi told reporters on Monday that a violation of the territorial integrity of any sovereign state is unacceptable.

“We actually condemn any attack which violates national sovereignty of countries and leads to the killing of innocent people. Such invasions are unacceptable.”

US commandoes in four helicopters on Sunday attacked a civilian building under construction shortly before sundown in al-Sukkariya farm near the town of Abu Kamal, some eight kilometers from the Iraqi border.

The attacks killed nine civilians including four children and their parents and wounded 19 others.

The helicopters reportedly left Syrian space with all the troops again on board.

A US military official earlier admitted to the raid in Syria, but alleged that special forces conducted a raid targeting the network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq.

Local witnesses said they believed the blast was caused by American shelling.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister has summoned the chargé d’affaires from the American and Iraqi Embassies in protest.

Syria’s state-run media intensified its criticism of the United States on Monday, with the government newspaper Tishrin accusing American forces of committing “a war crime”.

The United States is trying to negotiate a strategic agreement with Iraq that would allow American troops to remain in the country and carry out military operations.

If ratified by the Iraqi government, the Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) would also grant US forces in Iraq immunity from prosecution.

It also gives the occupation forces a free rein to stage military operations wherever and whenever they deem necessary, without consulting the Iraqi government.

The pact faces strenuous opposition from neighboring countries, especially Syria and Iran, because of fears that the United States might use Iraqi territory to carry out attacks on them.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran and has withdrawn its ambassador to Syria.

The proposed pact is also facing widespread opposition among Iraqi people and politicians.

Many fear Washington has plans to keep permanent bases, despite a denial of any such plan written into the proposal. Iraqis say the drafts submitted by the Americans thus far would infringe on Iraq’s sovereignty by giving US forces too much freedom to operate.

The security pact also faces strong criticism from members of al-Maliki’s own coalition. Two Iraqi officials familiar with the negotiations have warned that a deal is unlikely to be reached before the end of President Bush’s term in January unless Washington backs off some demands seen as giving American forces too much freedom to operate in Iraq and infringing on Iraqi sovereignty.

Iraq’s parliament must approve the deal, and the two officials said opposition in the legislature was so widespread that it stood no chance of winning approval without significant changes in the US position. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy surrounding the negotiations.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘FARS NEWS AGENCY’ (Iran)

Posted in IRAN, SYRIA, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

SYRIA HITS OUT AT ‘TERRORIST’ US

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on October 27, 2008

Last updated at 16:30 GMT, Monday, 27 October 2008

Syria’s foreign minister has accused the US of an act of “criminal and terrorist aggression” over what it Walid Muallem - We put the responsibility on the American government says was a helicopter raid on its territory.

Walid Muallem said Sunday’s attack saw four US aircraft travel eight miles inside Syrian airspace from Iraq and kill eight unarmed civilians on a farm.

He said those who died were a father and his three children, a farm guard and his wife, and a fisherman.

The US has not confirmed or denied the alleged raid.

However, a unnamed US official was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that its forces had mounted a “successful” raid against foreign fighters threatening US forces in Iraq.

The US has previously accused Syria of allowing militants into Iraq, but Mr Muallem insisted his country was trying to tighten border controls.

‘An opportunity’

Speaking at a news conference in London, Mr Muallem said the raid on the town of Abu Kamal was “not a mistake” and that he had urged the Iraqi government to investigate.

“We consider this criminal and terrorist aggression. We put the responsibility on the American In pictures - Grief and anger in Syria - CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO VIEW PICTURES OF THIS EVENT government,” he told reporters following talks with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

He added: “All of them [the victims] are civilians, Syrian, unarmed and they are on the Syrian territories.

“Killing civilians in international law means a terrorist aggression.”

Asked if Syria would use force if a similar operation was mounted, he said: “As long as you are saying if, I tell you, if they do it again, we will defend our terrorities.”

Referring to the US presidential election, he said: “We hope the coming administration will learn the mistakes of this administration.”

Three children and a married couple were said to be among the dead

Mr Muallem and Mr Miliband were scheduled to hold a joint press conference, but Mr Miliband withdrew. The UK government has declined to comment on the raid.

The US official quoted by AFP said: “Look when you’ve got an opportunity, an important one, you take it.

“That’s what the American people would expect, particularly when it comes to foreign fighters going into Iraq, threatening our forces.”

 

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PUBLISHED BY ‘BBC NEWS’ (UK)

Posted in INTERNATIONAL, MIDDLE EAST, SYRIA, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

FOREIGN MINISTRY SUMMONS US CHARGE D’AFFAIRES IN DAMASCUS, HOLDS US ADMINISTRATION RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DANGEROUS AGGRESSION IN ABU KAMAL

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008 – 09:45 PM

DAMASCUS, (SANA) – An official source on Sunday announced that four US helicopters coming from Iraq violated the Syrian airspaces over Abu Kamal area (al-Sukkariah Farm) targeting a civilian building, killing eight citizens.

The source identified the civilians killed in the aggression as Daoud Mohammad al-Abdullah and his four sons, in addition to Ahmad Khalifa, Ali Abbas Al-Hassan and his wife. Another citizen was also wounded, the source added. Later, the US helicopters flew back to the Iraqi airspace.

Syria, while condemning this act of aggression, holds the US forces responsible for this aggression and all of its repercussions, calls on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibilities and open an immediate investigation into this dangerous violation and prevent using the Iraqi territories for launching aggression on Syria.

The Deputy Foreign Minister summoned the Charge d ‘Affairs at the US Embassy in Damascus, informing her of Syria’s protest and condemnation of this dangerous aggression, holding the US administration full responsibility for it. The Iraqi Charge d’affaires has also been summoned to the Foreign Ministry for the same purpose.

Earlier, a media source said that four US military helicopters had violated the Syrian airspaces eight km over al-Sukkariah Farm, in Abu Kamal area at 4.45 P.M Sunday.

The US helicopters launched an aggression on a civilian building under construction and opened fire at the workers inside the building, killing eight civilians, including the wife of the building guard, and wounding another. The helicopters then left towards the Iraqi territories.

Mazen

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PUBLISHED BY ‘SYRIAN ARAB NEWS AGENCY’

Posted in INTERNATIONAL, MIDDLE EAST, SYRIA, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »