Thursday, November 30, 2006
In the clip below, Robert Scheer compiles a laundry list of failure in Iraq. We are looking at a disaster that dwarfs Vietnam by a magnitude. The Vietnam war was a terrible thing for the USA and especially for South East Asia, but it went no farther than that. The possible knock on effects of the collapse into anarchy of the Middle East are impossible to calculate. I don't think there is any precedent of such a complete disaster in US history which would give people some perspective. If you say to a German or a Russian, even if they are young, "WWII"... They know what that means from Grandma's table talk. If you talk to an American about "civil war" it conjures up visions of blues and grays, Matthew Brady and "Gone with the Wind"... If you say "civil war" to a Spanish kid it means grandpa buried in a mass grave in a ditch outside the village. Americans just don't have any benchmark to realize how deep in the shit they are. The Baker Commission is said to be recommending a withdrawal, but Bush still talks about "finishing the job". Amazing days are ahead. We may yet see Nancy Pelosi as president... Cheney has a heart attack and Bush is led off drunk in a strait jacket. DS
Robert Scheer - Abstract: Having idiotically dug ourselves a terribly deep hole in Iraq -- remember when protesters against the war were mocked for using the word "quagmire"? -- Bush is now forced to beg Syria and Iran to throw us a rope. As the Bush-appointed and James Baker-led Iraq Study Group has telegraphed, the cooperation of these two pariah states is essential to an effective exit strategy. In reality, this is not so much a change in policy as it is an acknowledgement of a truth-on-the-ground that has been clear since the invasion 44 months ago: Our sworn enemies were the biggest beneficiaries of our overthrow of Iraq's secular dictatorship.(...) And don't expect Tehran's theocrats to be magnanimous in victory. The key message from Ayatollah Khamenei on Tuesday was, as the BBC headline put it, "U.S. troops must leave Iraq if security is to be restored."(...) So it is that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was so desperate in his pleas to the ayatollah, admitting that, "We are in dire need of Iran's help in establishing security and stability in Iraq." Of course he is, because six years of Bush's foreign policy has had the presumably unintended consequences of elevating radicals and theocrats into positions of dominance throughout the region, from Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank and even, this past week, to the oil emirate Bahrain, where Shiite and Sunni radical Islamists split elections in an upset. "It looks like our parliament will be dominated by people who see themselves only as Sunnis or Shiites," said Fowad Shihab, a political science professor at Bahrain University. "These are the same Islamists that are gaining control across the Arab world." Simply put, the neoconservative geniuses who believed invading Iraq would bolster both U.S. and Israeli interests in fact have accomplished the exact opposite -- handing both military and public-relations victories to their sworn enemies. Similarly, the international movement to restrain the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been struck a possible death blow as a desperate United States may be forced to accommodate Iran's nuclear ambitions, just as it did those of Pakistan. READ IT ALL
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This trip to Amman to meet Maliki, which as the Jordanian columnist in the Time article points out, is in itself an admission of failure in Iraq, combined with the famous memo degrading Maliki timed to coincide with the trip, that at the same time gives Moqtada al-Sadr a further excuse to destabilize the government... Like so much in the American/Iraq catastrophe none of it makes any sense. Trying to follow the ins and outs of it, if you have to in your work, like I do, is quite hard on the nerves. Like having to watch a Three Stooges movie, where they torture and kill Curly... watching it in a loop. A friend told me once that he didn't believe in conspiracies, but that he believed in idiots. I'm converting. Finally there will have to be some sort of Nuremberg trial and in depth investigation, not just to determine responsibility and to punish, but to try and truly understand how so much stupidity and incompetence, venality and imbecility could rise, like it was cream, to the top of the most powerful and complex country in the world... twice. DS
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- Bad: As soon as editors, bureaucrats and politicians get wind of the megaphone's existence they will tend to attribute any batch of emails supporting Israel to the software. They will then discount even spontaneous shows of support for Israeli positions and nobody well never take any electronic polls on the subject that favor Israel seriously again.
- Worse: There are Muslim programmers who are perfectly capable of reverse engineering such a program and creating a Halal version.
- Much worse: I can see nothing to keep hundreds of thousands of Muslims all over the world from downloading the program and sending millions of well targeted messages attacking Israel.
- Even much worse: a combination of points two and three, leading to massive point one.
Abstract From the Jerusalem Post (tip of the hat to John Brown - USC Center on Public Diplomacy): As Al Jazeera's 24-hour station takes to the air in English and with other new Arab English-language media initiatives such as the Ramallah-based Palestine Times fresh off the press, Israel has begun effectively using a new weapon in its public diplomacy arsenal to fight the media war on the Web - a locally-developed computer software tool called the "Internet Megaphone." The Foreign Ministry itself is now pushing the idea, urging supporters of Israel everywhere to become cyberspace soldiers "in the new battleground for Israel's image."The Megaphone(...)alerts activists about polls and articles about Israel on the Internet and enables them to express th eir support or opposition by e-mail. After just four months, it has been downloaded by more than 25,000 people from the Web site called GIYUS (Mobilization) which stands for Give Israel Your Support. (...) "An Israeli company developed a type of software that functions like a beeper from one central place. They send alerts and anyone who downloads the software gets a pop-up with links to an activity. It can be to vote for Israel in a CNN survey or react to an especially nasty article. We still have a long way to go, but this is our future."(...) When GIYUS noticed a poll on albawaba asking whether the violence in Lebanon had been an Israeli provocation, it sent a message with a link to the poll to its members and soon the results jumped from an overwhelming yes to a resounding no. The Megaphone was introduced by the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) during this summer's war with the aim of getting the pro-Israel community to respond in real time to developments on the Web. To attract users from around the world, Giyus.org translates polls into English, French, Hebrew and Spanish. Yonit Farago in The Times reported that "Israel's government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda. "The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track Web sites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish activists can place supportive messages." WUJS's Jonny Cline said that Jewish students and youth were ideally placed to present Israel's side of the Middle East story. "We're saying to these people that if Israel is being bashed, don't ignore it, change it," Cline said. "A poll like CNN's takes just a few seconds to vote in, but if thousands take part the outcome will be changed. READ IT ALL
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Below are some excerpts from a wonderful article about nascent, American fascism in Slate. Many people use the word fascism without any practical experience of it. I lived in Spain at the end of the Franco regime, which was universally (except to this day by Spanish fascists) considered "fascist". Sinclair Lewis said that if fascism ever came to the USA it would come wrapped in the flag and wielding the cross. Certainly that would be a fair description of Franco's "Nacional Catolicismo," whose legacy is today's Spain, with its vibrant, regional-separatist movements and its empty churches. Franco had been in power for nearly 40 years and his regime was very decadent when I encountered it, and the country had changed under its feet; but one thing that stuck with me as characteristic of the universal fascist mentality was the paranoia/phobia about the free circulation of information. To give you a wonderful example: Madrid taxis were not allowed to carry radio-dispatch, CB radios until nearly ten years after Franco's death... They had been in use in the USA since the 1930s. My impression is that, human nature being what it is and the authoritarian, malignant-narcissist type being universal; that without free movement of information and the will to use it, in the natural course of events, beatings, torture, corruption and every other abuse occur as night follows day. Freedom has to won perpetually on a day to day basis. DS
Abstract: There's been something weird about the denouement of the midterm elections, starting with the pronounced absence of Democratic triumphalism. The prevailing mood has been stunned relief rather than glee, and nobody seems eager to delve too deeply into what exactly it was about George W. Bush that the voters so roundly rejected. Put another way, what were the sins included under the shorthand summary for the president's failures, "Iraq"? For some reason, I keep thinking about an observation Eleanor Roosevelt made in an unpublished interview conducted in May of 1940, as the German Wehrmacht swept across France. She expressed dismay that a "great many Americans" would look with favor on a Hitler victory in Europe and be greatly attracted to fascism. Why? "Simply because we are a people who tend to admire things that work," she said. So, were the voters last month protesting Bush's policies—or were they complaining that he had not made those policies work? If Operation Iraqi Freedom had not been such an unqualified catastrophe, how long would the public have assented to the programs that accompanied the "war on terror": the legalization of torture, the suspension of habeas corpus, the unauthorized surveillance of law-abiding Americans, the unilateral exercise of executive power, and the Bush team's avowed prerogative to "create our own reality"?(...) We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.(...) If the midterm election was a referendum on nothing more than Bush's competence, then the message the Republicans have gotten is: Next time, make it work. READ IT ALL
All my life I've been hearing about the dangers of "isolationism": how if America minded its own business the world would go to hell in a hand basket. Obviously the complete opposite is true: if America doesn't mind its own business the world will go (is going) to hell in a hand basket. Corrupt institutions, including the press and a gullible people fed on lies and manipulation have visited death and desolation on another people who had done them no harm and then, failing miserably, blame the resultant catastrophe on the victims. Truly such inept and incompetent Americans should retire to what is now known in Newspeak as the "Homeland" and devote themselves to that one activity in which they are universally acknowledged as supreme: shopping. Come to think of it, isn't that what Bush advised the American people to do after 9-11? Didn't Alice in Wonderland, in the Disney version, sing, "I give myself such very good advice"? DS
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
It says in my profile, on the top of the page here, that I am an "expatriate", but if Gingrich has his way you'll soon be able to consider me an "exile". Not only have these fools not been able to catch Osama bin Laden, they give me the distinct impression that bin Laden has won his war... He has destroyed the United States or what was truly worth defending of the United States: what any American anywhere considers his/her birthright. DS
Abstract: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism. Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message. "We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994. Gingrich spoke to about 400 state and local power brokers last night at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner, which fetes people and organizations that stand up for freedom of speech. READ IT ALL
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Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice used to say. Again, for me, finding myself in full agreement with Pat Buchanan is one of the strange side effects of the war in Iraq and the endless disasters that flow from it. Buchanan asks the correct question: why would Putin shoot himself in the foot so clumsily? What is objective fact is that Putin has started deliveries on the TOR antiaircraft missiles to Iran that, according to Israeli sources, will make it impossible for Israel and or the USA to attack Iran when fully deployed within the next six months. And we saw from Haaretz that the Litvinenko story immediately connected to Tel-Aviv and Yukos oligarchs. To follow these lines of investigation, it is very useful to take the "license number" of all the commentators that are howling for Putin's blood before there is any hard evidence to link him with Litvinenko's death and then determine their previous position on the war in Iraq. A lot could be learned from this. As Buchanan says, "America has a vital interest in this Scotland Yard investigation. What it discovers may tell us more about the character of the man into whose eyes George Bush claimed to have stared, and seen his soul, or it may tell us who the real enemies of this country are, who are out to restart the Cold War, and perhaps another hot one.". DS
Patrick Buchanan: Is Putin Being Set Up? - Creators Syndicate
Abstract: What benefit could Putin conceivably realize from the London killing of an enemy of his regime, who had just become a British citizen? Why would the Russian president, at the peak of his popularity, with his regime awash in oil revenue and himself playing a strong hand in world politics, risk a breach with every Western nation by ordering the public murder of a man who was more of a nuisance than a threat to his regime? Litvinenko, after all, made his sensational charges against the Kremlin "that the KGB blew up the Moscow apartment buildings, not Chechen terrorists, as a casus belli for a war on Chechnya and that he had refused a KGB order to assassinate oligarch Boris Berezovsky" in the late 1990s. Of late, Litvinenko has been regarded as a less and less credible figure, with his charges of KGB involvement in 9-11 and complicity in the Danish cartoons mocking Muhammad that ignited the Muslim firestorm. Yet, listening to some Western pundits on the BBC and Fox News, one would think Putin himself poisoned Litvinenko. Who else, they ask, could have acquired polonium 210, the rare radioactive substance used to kill Litvinenko? Who else had the motive to eliminate the ex-agent who had dedicated his life to exposing the crimes of the Kremlin? Indeed, no sooner had Litvinenko expired than his collaborator in anti-Putin politics, Alex Goldfarb, was in front of the television cameras reading Litvinenko's deathbed statement charging Putin with murder: "You may succeed in silencing one man, but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. ... You may succeed in silencing me, but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed." Litvinenko's statement is awfully coherent and eloquent for a man writhing in a death agony. But if he did not write it, who did? All of which leads me to conclude Putin is being set up, framed for a crime he did not commit. But then, if Putin did not order the killing, who did? Who else could have acquired the polonium 210? Who else would kill Litvinenko to make Putin a pariah? These are the questions Scotland Yard, which also seems skeptical that Putin had a hand in this bizarre business, has begun to ask. As the predictable effect of Litvinenko's death has been to put a cloud of suspicion over Putin and a chill over Russian relations with the West, one must ask: To whose benefit is the discrediting of Putin? Who would seek a renewal of the Cold War? (...) America has a vital interest in this Scotland Yard investigation. What it discovers may tell us more about the character of the man into whose eyes George Bush claimed to have stared, and seen his soul, or it may tell us who the real enemies of this country are, who are out to restart the Cold War, and perhaps another hot one. READ IT ALL
Iraq and Palestine: Twinned in Revised Bush Strategy on Iraq - Debka
Abstract: One of the most pressing pieces of business the US president George W. Bush must tackle in Amman later this week is the demand for an international conference on Iraq which must be dominated by a built-in agenda on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Palestinian leaders, picking up the new tones in Washington, decided to cash in by announcing the cessation of Hamas’ Qassam missile attacks on Israeli civilian locations, starting Sunday, Nov. 26.(...) The ceasefire – like Olmert’s promises - is unlikely to survive long after Bush’s departure from the Middle East. Since Sunday, every Palestinian and Israeli verbal pronouncement has been attuned to the wavelengths of Bush and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. She will join him in Amman and lead the effort to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders together. Her mission will be to extract results from these encounters for tempting Arab rulers to lend the United States a helping hand on the Iraq crisis.(...) the brain behind this new strategy belongs to Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to three Republican presidents, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George Bush Sr. He is emerging as the live wire behind the latest US foreign policy departures and the pivotal figure behind the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. This panel - which submits its final report to Congress on Dec. 10 - recommends an international conference on Iraq attended by leaders from Europe, Russia, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and the main Muslim nations.(...) such a conference would spend more time on the Palestinian-Israeli issue than on Iraq. The group’s leaders predict that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and other Arab participants will demand “progress on the Israel-Palestinian track” before letting the conference get down to brass tacks on Iraq. To lay the groundwork, therefore, Washington will have to give the international community free rein to squeeze Israel for far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians - and not only the Palestinians, if Syria is to be engaged. This would require a diametric reversal of George Bush’s previous warm attitude towards “our friend and ally” Israel, possibly even a reversion to the iciness directed against the Shamir government in the early 1990s by the elder Bush, whom James Baker served as secretary of state and Scowcroft as national security adviser. Earlier this month, Scowcroft, as chairman of the American-Turkish Friendship League, visited Ankara for an appeal to Turkish leaders to persuade the Syrian ruler Bashar Asad to cooperate on Iraq. His mindset was revealed in an interview he gave the Turkish Daily News of Nov. 9, 2006: “I think we need to embed Iraq in a larger regional solution, and that to me goes back to the Palestinian issue. I think this would put us back on the offensive psychologically and even make Iraq easier to manage.” Scowcroft then linked this viewpoint to the notion of an international conference, saying: “But I don’t think this will start with some kind of a conference because everyone will come with their preset speeches and everything will freeze again. But I think that there will be some quiet consultations in the region. I believe the Arab states in the region are eager for such a conversation. Israel may not be eager, but Israel is in bad shape right now.”(...) The cards in Washington are therefore stacked against Israel these days. An unfortunate combination has emerged of a president who regards the Jewish state as strategically weak and a brace of key US advisers on the administration’s new Iraqi policy who are drawn from the most anti-Israeli US administrations of the past. The Olmert government, however forthcoming, must brace itself for a period of intensive American pressure to cede ever more assets to curry favor with the Arabs. READ IT ALL
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Ecuador Elections: This eruption is irreversible - The Guardian
Abstract: The red tide sweeping through Latin America, checked in Peru and Mexico, has achieved another memorable record this week in Ecuador. The substantial electoral victory of Rafael Correa, a clever, young, US-educated economist and former finance minister, marks a further triumph for Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and his Bolivarian revolution, which has long sought to ignite Latin America's "second independence".(...) Unlike most US-trained academics in Latin America, Correa is an economist of a radical persuasion. He has been an outspoken critic of the neo-liberal economics of the globalised world, and an opponent of the so-called Washington consensus that has imposed this ideology on Latin America in the past 20 years. He cannot be easily dismissed as a caudillo or a populist, but was the intelligent choice against his absurdly rightwing millionaire opponent, Álvaro Noboa, whose electoral bribes were too outrageous to be effective. Yet significantly, both candidates stood outside the existing party system. The Correa victory marks a seismic explosion in Ecuador's traditional politics. During the past decade, a series of popular demonstrations, military coups, and temporary governments have given clear warning of changes to come. Similar shifts occurred in Venezuela and Bolivia, where the termites of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption hastened the collapse of the old order. Nothing was left but an ineffective opposition that has proved leaderless and demoralised. Correa, like Chávez and Morales, will move swiftly towards establishing a constituent assembly to give a more representative voice to the country's indigenous majority.(...) Whatever the psephological details, the wave of popular feeling aroused in Ecuador, as in Bolivia earlier this year, clearly indicates the irreversible shift in power. The peoples subdued by Cortés and Pizarro 500 years ago are beginning to rebel against white settler rule. Simón Bolívar, after travelling through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru during the independence wars in the early 19th century, recorded his impression in 1825 that "the poor Indians are truly is a state of lamentable depression. I intend to help them all I can: first as a matter of humanity; second, because it is their right; and finally, because doing good costs little and is worth much." READ IT ALL
Monday, November 27, 2006
The assassination in Lebanon should not derail dialogue - Financial Times
Abstract: The assassination of Lebanese industry minister Pierre Gemayel last Tuesday sent shockwaves through the Middle East. It seemed to run counter to the growing momentum for diplomacy and co-operation that had seen Syrian ministers in Baghdad, the Iraqi president preparing to go to Tehran and calls in London and Washington for a change of course toward more constructive engagement with Syria and Iran. However, the killing necessitates a balanced policy of moving ahead with the United Nations special tribunal on assassinations in Lebanon while also reducing conflict and instability through constructive and multilateral dialogue.(...) At the international level, the murder disrupts the momentum in London and Washington for a fundamental change of approach in the Middle East. Regardless of who actually perpetrated it, much public commentary has laid the blame at the doorstep of Damascus. Syria has condemned the killing, denies any responsibility and protests that the act, carried out on the day that the UN Security Council was meeting to finalise the tribunal agreement, could not have been timed more effectively to hurt its interests. Nevertheless, the assassination revived international wariness of the Syrian regime and helped rush the tribunal agreement through the Security Council.(...) Despite the latest events, the logic of reaching out to Tehran and Damascus still holds. The two are major forces in the region and there is much to be gained from robust and responsible dialogue between them and the international community. With the removal of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, Iran has made gains in the region, helped by the rise in oil prices. Iran will be an important participant in the future of Iraq and in the stability or otherwise of the Middle East. Despite sharp differences over its nuclear programme, Iran shares with other countries an interest in a stable Iraq. It seeks assurances that it will not be attacked or overthrown, that it will not be considered a pariah state and that its role in the region will be recognised. In exchange, it should be open to co-operation in Iraq, security in the gulf, as well as co-operation in stabilising Lebanon.(...) The killing in Lebanon reminds us all that there are dangerous and violent elements at play. But there is no alternative to engaging governments and encouraging states to become partners rather than pariahs in the international community, thus having a stake in playing by its rules. READ IT ALL
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
New York Times: “This drop in the dollar has been justified for some time,” said Chris Turner, head of foreign exchange strategy at ING Baring in London. “The American economy could do more than simply land softly, and Europe is pretty strong right now.” But there was no single event yesterday to touch off such a sharp drop in the value of the dollar. Rather, economists said, it was a culmination of recent signs of weakness in the American economy that investors found troubling. Some experts said that could suggest that the dollar’s losses would deepen. Julian Jessop, chief international economist for Capital Economics in London, said in a research note yesterday that the sudden drop in the dollar was “an indication of a much more fundamental lack of support for the currency.” He said this suggests that “the falls will be all the larger once the markets do start to anticipate persistently sluggish growth.”
Wal-Mart sees weak sales as holiday season starts - Reuters
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. predicted a rare decline in monthly sales on Saturday, even as U.S. bargain-hunters jammed stores in search of gifts at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season. Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, sounded a cautious note for retailers as they began a second day of Thanksgiving weekend sales with deep discounts and early bird specials on items ranging from cashmere sweaters to big-screen plasma televisions. Wal-Mart estimated that November sales fell 0.1 percent at its U.S. stores open at least a year -- a closely watched retail measure known as same-store sales.(...) "We would frankly have expected better," Merrill Lynch retail analyst Virginia Genereux wrote in a note to clients dated Friday, pointing out that Wal-Mart had slashed prices on popular toys, electronics and other gift items to lure customers. The retailer's widely publicized $4 generic drug program should have drawn more shoppers, too. Investors are watching holiday sales particularly closely this year to gauge how consumers are coping with a slowdown in the housing market that has already hurt home improvement retailers and furniture stores. Consumer spending accounts for some two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and the November-December holiday season makes up anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of retailers' annual sales.
Abstract: Last week at Harvard, General John Abizaid, head of the American Central Command, responsible for operations in Iraq, said that if a way is not found to stem the rise of Islamic militancy, there will be a third world war. I do not understand from where in the labyrinths of Pentagon and Washington think-tank deliberations, grounds are found for such sensationalist forecasts by people in responsible positions in and out of American government. Henry Kissinger has made the same forecast, while readjusting his personal position from support for the war, to a prediction that the war can’t be won, but that it nonetheless should continue. Who is going to fight this third world war? Presumably Islamic militants against the United States (with such allies as remain, now that Britain is leaving). That is not a world war. It is war of American intervention in foreign countries to stamp out movements supported by at least a part of the people there. We are doing that in Iraq and it’s not working, nor did it work in Somalia or Vietnam.(...) Ah, the promulgators of the new world war theory say, the terrorists have already told us that they will first seize power in Iraq (and Iran), proclaim a new universal caliphate, and take power with the support of the masses in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, and the Maghreb. Then Western Europe, enfeebled by welfare governments and cowardice, in need of oil and subverted from within by Islamic minority populations, will submit to al Qaeda, or appease it (Europe’s people turning themselves into “Euarabs,” as one recent American scenario has it). That will leave a heroic America standing alone, battling the Islamic hordes. This is puerile fantasy. Yet Abizaid said to his Harvard audience: “Think of [today] as a chance to confront fascism in 1920. If we only had the guts to do it!” More fantasy and misinformation. There was nothing to confront in 1920. The Fascist party did not exist until 1921, and Mussolini did not form a government until 1923, when it won general praise in America and Britain for its spirit and efficiency.(...) The only way there now can be a “third world war” is for the United States to insist on staying on in Iraq, and go into Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other states as well, no doubt allied with Israel. Even in that case it would not be the great clash of ideology and geopolitics General Abizaid foresees. It would be a narrow war of illusion and ideology which most American allies would wish to avoid. It would be a struggle by the Islamic people to get the United States out of their countries and out of their lives. American intervention in the Islamic world started long before 9/11. The U.S. is fighting the ignored legacy of its own past policies. It is time to call an armistice, and go home.
READ IT ALL
The Soviet Union collapsed because the Russians couldn't make a decent washing machine or a car anyone would want to drive, not because they couldn't execute an enemy without fuss at the proper time. The death of Litvinenko coinciding with the Helsinki summit was obviously timed to cause Putin maximum embarrassment. Logically you would have to look among his enemies to find anyone who would want to embarrass him. There seem to be interesting links to Yukos and to disgruntled oligarchs in general. The Israeli military web DEBKA’s intelligence sources add that the Russian ex-spy is believed to have been a double agent, who sold trade secrets to different parties in and outside Russia, among them some of the Russian oligarchs living in exile in the West. Livinenko served as a colonel in a Russian Federal Security Services unit which investigated and carried out special operations against businessmen. To pursue this theory, it would be useful to follow the press coverage of the affair. The editorial from the Guardian below keeps a prudent distance from the rush to judgment. DS
Abstract: Russia's argument that a scandal abroad is the last thing that President Putin needs at this moment, holds weight. Why would the Kremlin risk a torrent of western opprobrium by killing an insignificant critic in London? Friends of Litvinenko claim he was investigating the death of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and therefore a threat to the Russian state who also sanctioned her murder. But the leads in the investigation of her murder point away from the Kremlin and towards either the Moscow-backed regime in Chechnya or elements in the Russian army, exposed by her courageous journalism as war criminals. We know that Litvinenko had already shot his bolt, by publishing a book accusing the Kremlin of involvement in the blowing up of apartment blocks in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999 which Moscow used to launch a new campaign in Chechnya. That was seven years ago and the truth still has not come out. Those waiting for the truth about the death of a Russian in London might have longer to wait. READ IT ALL
It now turns out now that this affair is not just about "dissidence" or "criticism" or democracy, its about Yukos and about money with a capital 'M'. And the trail leads to Tel-Aviv where Russians have been known to launder money... now and again. DS
Abstract:Russian-born businessman Leonid Nevzlin, former CEO of the Yukos oil company and current chairman of the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, said Friday that he had met in Israel with former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died Thursday in London from poisoning. During the meeting, Litvinenko allegedly passed Nevzlin documents containing classified information possibly damaging to the current leadership in Russia. In Nevzlin's estimation, Litvinenko's murder was tied to the information relating to Yukos contained in the documents. Nevzlin has turned the documents over to the London Metropolitan Police, who are investigating the murder.(...) A few months before his murder, Litvinenko arrived in Israel in order to pass the documents to Nevzelin. The Government of Russia has issued an arrest warrant for Nevzlin, arguing that he is wanted for tax evasion, budget irregularities, and for connection to the murder of the mayor a Siberian town where Yukos was operating.(...) Nevzlin and his business partner Michael Khodrokovsky, who is incarcerated in a Russian prison, were formerly large shareholders in Yukos, once one of the largest holding companies in Russia, as well as one of the largest oil companies in the world. After the struggle of the company's owners against Putin's administration, and their support of opposition parties hostile to the Russian president, the government opened a series of investigations against the company, eventually resulting in the company's bankruptcy, and the imprisonment of Khodrokovsky and Platon Levedev, an additional business partner in Yukos. READ IT ALL
The Gemayel assassination is very fishy coming at the moment it does. Who does it benefit? Certainly it puts obstacles in the way of the Iran/Syria summit and could scupper a number of peace initiatives in both Iraq and Palestine/Israel. But, when John Bolton appears, everything gets very, very odoriferous. The language for example: "The issue is not whether the United States will talk to Syria; the issue is whether Syria is going to listen." The idea being the USA does the talking and other people's job is to listen. Reality does not seem to be penetrating into their head, does it? DS
From the BBC: John Bolton, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said recent probes into political killings in Lebanon suggested Syrian involvement. He told the BBC that if Syria was deemed to have been involved, the implications were serious.(...) Mr Bolton said he did not want to pre-judge any investigation into Mr Gemayel's death, but proof of Syrian involvement would have serious consequences. "I think then you have a further clear piece of evidence that Syria is not just a supporter of terrorism but is a state actor in a terrorist fashion and I think the United States has to take that into account when it decides whether and to what extent to deal with a country like that. "We can talk to the Syrians, and do all the time. The issue is not whether the United States will talk to Syria; the issue is whether Syria is going to listen."
Friday, November 24, 2006
“The exchange rate of the US dollar, which is the major reserve currency, is going lower, increasing the depreciation risk for east Asian reserve assets,” said Mr Wu (Wu Xiaoling, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China). The subtext of Mr. Wu´s message is "next Thanksgiving, meatloaf". Everybody has been waiting for Asia to reduce their dollar risk. When they start there could be an obscene rush for the doors. Since nothing like Asia owning so much US debt has ever happened before, we really cannot predict how this will all play out. DS
Financial Times: The dollar sank across the board on Friday, with the euro hitting a 19-month high against the US currency on rising eurozone interest rate expectations, while comments from China also caused heavy selling. The single currency rose as high as $1.3085 against the dollar, exceeding its previous high of the year by more than a cent. Recent economic data has indicated continuing strength in the eurozone economy, while the US appears to be heading towards a slowdown. German consumer prices looked likely to add to this picture as six of the country’s states reported rising inflation trends. Added to Thursday’s stronger-than-expected Ifo business confidence survey, interest rate expectations moved in favour of further gains for the euro. “There is scope for further advances in the interest rate market in our view, with risks to the European Central Bank rate outlook on the upside,” said Henrik Gullberg at Calyon investment bank. “This should further the bullish euro environment.” The losses were exacerbated by thin trading conditions, helping trigger stop-loss orders around the $1.30 level. By mid morning, the euro was 1 per cent higher against the dollar at $1.3070. Wu Xiaoling, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said following Thursday’s suspected central bank intervention in South Korea and India, that Asian foreign exchange reserves were at risk from the fall in the dollar. “The exchange rate of the US dollar, which is the major reserve currency, is going lower, increasing the depreciation risk for east Asian reserve assets,” said Mr Wu. The yen gained 0.5 per cent to Y115.68 against the dollar as Toshikatsu Fukuma, Bank of Japan board member, reiterated the central bank’s gradual and cautious stance on monetary tightening. Sterling surged to its highest in a year-and-a-half, up 0.9 per cent to $1.9313.READ IT ALL