Saturday, September 30, 2006


Diplomatic Jousting Over Venezuela's Bid for UN Security Council Seat Heats Up - by Stephen Lendman

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is stepping up a late US diplomatic high-pressure blitz to convince nations she's meeting and speaking with not to support Venezuela's bid for the UN Security Council seat for a two year term beginning in 2007 at the secret vote that will take place for it on October 16. On Monday, September 25, she met with CARICOM foreign ministers in New York painfully twisting every arm present. No other nation plays hardball politics like the US that no longer "walks softly" but carries a bigger "stick" than ever and freely uses it. So far, from known reports, CARICOM is holding firm and most nations in it have announced their support for the Chavez-led government. It remains to be seen if that conviction will hold in the face of relentless US pressure.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Madura affirmed the support he believes his nation has for this high profile seat that will give Venezuela a significant voice in the world body. The US desperately doesn't want it to have it because with it, Venezuela will be able to speak out forthrightly supporting the rights of ordinary people everywhere and denouncing the Bush administration's oppressive policies against them. If Venezuela is elected, that's bad news when you're in the "empire-building" business, throwing your weight around everywhere, and wanting to silence all dissent. It's what Secretary Rice meant when she said Venezuela's election in October "would mean the end of consensus on the Security Council." She's right. At least one of its members would serve honorably, and that's what she fears.

Minister Madura said US lobbying efforts against Venezuela's bid have "gone very badly so far and stressed his country would oppose the Bush administration's "imperialist vision" if elected to the Council in October. He also took issue with Secretary Rice's suggestion that Venezuela's anti-US stance would make the 15 member Security Council unworkable. Minister Madura showed character and the noble spirit of the Bolivarian Revolution he represents when he added: "Facing the empire, we are saying, yes, we are going to build a new consensus, not of war, not of abuse. We are going to build the consensus of the peoples of the South."

Standing against Venezuela is Guatemala that the US supports despite its decades-long history of oppression and brutality against its majority indigenous people (still ongoing) that killed over 200,000 of them over the past half century. US administrations supported Guatemala throughout that period and approved of or winked at all the crimes that country's leaders committed. It's clear it now supports a continuation of those practices because it's committing so many of them around the world today itself. For the Bush administration, plunder and oppression are good. Equity and justice for the people that the Venezuelan government supports is bad. It will soon be up to the world community to decide which of these two alternative visions it supports.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blogspot at

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Afghanistan: The Other Lost War - by Stephen Lendman

In his important new book Freedom Next Time, dealing with "empire, its facades and the enduring struggle of people for their freedom," John Pilger has a chapter on Afghanistan. In it he says that "Through all the humanitarian crises in living memory, no country has been abused and suffered more, and none has been helped less than Afghanistan." He goes on to describe what he sees as something more like a moonscape than a functioning nation. In the capitol, Kabul, there are "contours of rubble rather than streets, where people live in collapsed buildings, like earthquake victims waiting for rescue....(with) no light or heat." It seems like it's always been that way for these beleaguered people who've had a long history of conflict and suffering with little relief. In the 19th century, the Afghan people were victimized by the "Great Game" struggle pitting the British empire against Tsarist Russia for control of that part of the world. More recently in the 1980s, it paid dearly again when a US recruited mujahideen guerrilla army battled against a Soviet occupation. It forced the occupiers out but at the cost of a ravaged country and one forced to endure still more suffering and destruction from the brutal civil war in the 1990s that followed the Soviet withdrawal. Then came 9/11, the US attack, invasion, occupation and further devastation that's ongoing with no end in sight and now intensifying in ferocity.

In his book, Pilger explains that Afghanistan today is what the CIA once called Vietnam - "the grand illusion of the American cause." There's no assured safety even in most parts of the capitol now where for a brief time after the US invasion the people of Kabul enjoyed a degree of freedom long denied them by the Taliban. Now there's neither freedom nor safety almost anywhere in the country as the brutal regional "warlords" rule most parts of it, and the Taliban have begun a resurgence reigniting the conflict that for a time subsided. Today the nation is once again a war zone and narco-state with the "warlords" and drug kingpins controlling everything outside the capitol and the Taliban gaining strength and fighting back in the south trying to regain what they lost. In Kabul itself, the country's selected and nominal president Hamid Karzai (a former CIA asset and chief consultant to US oil giant UNOCAL) is a caricature of a man and willing US stooge who functions as little more than the mayor of the city. Outside the capitol he has no mandate or support and wouldn't last a day on his own without the round the clock protection afforded him by the US military and the private contractor DynCorp.

When they ruled most of the country in the 1990s, the Taliban at least kept order and wouldn't tolerate banditry, rape or murder, despite their ultra-puritanical ways and harsh treatment of the disobedient. They also virtually ended opium production. Now all that's changed. The US - British invasion in 2001 ended the ban on opium production, allowed the "warlords" to replant as much of it as they wanted, and the result according to a report released by the UN is that cultivation of this crop is spiraling out of control. Antonio Maria Costa, the UN anti-drug chief, said this year's opium harvest will be a record 6,100 tons (enough to make 610 tons of heroin) or 92% of the total world supply and 30% more than the amount consumed globally. Costa went much further in his comments saying southern Afghanistan "display(s) the ominous hallmarks of incipient collapse, with large-scale drug cultivation and trafficking, insurgency and terrorism, crime and corruption (because) opium cultivation is out of control." He directed his comments at President Karzai for not acting forcefully to deal with the problem saying provincial governors and police chiefs should be sacked and held to account. He also accused government administrators of corruption.

The reason why this is happening is that elicit drug trafficking is big business with an annual UN estimate gross of around $400 - 500 billion or double the sales revenue from legal prescription drugs the US pharmaceutical giants reported in 2005. Those profiting from it include more than the "kingpins" and organized crime. The elicit trade has long been an important profit center for many US and other banks including the giant international money center ones. It's also well-documented that the CIA has been involved in drug-trafficking (directly or indirectly) throughout its half century existence and especially since the 1980s and the Contra wars in Nicaragua. Today the CIA is partnered with the Afghan "warlords" and criminal syndicates in the huge business of trafficking heroin. It guarantees the crime bosses easy access to the lucrative US market and the CIA a large and reliable revenue stream to augment its annual (heretofore secret) budget disclosed by Mary Margaret Graham, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Collection, to be $44 billion in 2005.

Why the US Attacked and Invaded Afghanistan

The now famous (or infamous) leaked Downing Street (or smoking-gun) memo on the secret July, 2002 UK Labor government meeting discussed how the Bush administration "wanted to remove Saddam, through military action (and) had no patience with the UN route. (So to justify it) the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." It doesn't get much clearer than that, and the high UK official (Richard Dearlove, head of British intelligence MI6) had to know as he sat in on the high-level secret meetings in Washington at which the plan was discussed. So to help out in serious damage-control, the US corporate media, in its customary empire-supportive role, either called the document a fake or ignored it altogether. It was no fake, and as such, got front page coverage in the European press after the Rupert Murdoch-owned London Sunday Times broke the story in their online edition on May 1, 2005.

The US war on Afghanistan was also planned well in advance (at least a year or more) of the 9/11 attack that provided the claimed justification for it. It was part of the US strategic plan to control the vast oil and gas resources of Central Asia that former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski under President Carter explained the importance of in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard. In it he referred to Eurasia as the "center of world power extending from Germany and Poland in the East through Russia and China to the Pacific and including the Middle East and Indian subcontinent." By dominating this region including Afghanistan with its strategic location, the US would assure it had access to and controlled the vast energy resources there.

Early on the US was very willing to work with the Taliban believing their authoritarian rule would bring stability to the country without which any plan would be in jeopardy. Their religious extremism, harsh treatment of women and the disobedient, and overall human rights abuses were of no concern and never are anywhere else despite the pious rhetoric from Washington to the contrary. It was only in 1999 when the Taliban failed to stabilize the areas they controlled and negotiations broke down trying to convince them to bow to US interests that official policy changed and the decision was made to remove them. Initially the plan to do it was to be a joint US - Russia operation, and at the time, meetings were held between US officials and those from Russia and India to discuss what kind of government should be installed. The US needs stability in Afghanistan and control of the country for the oil and gas pipelines it wants built from the landlocked Caspian Basin to warm water ports in the south. It wants them gotten there through Pakistan and Afghanistan as the prime transhipment route to avoid having them cross Russia or Iran.

September 11, 2001 provided the US with the pretext it needed to begin the war it intended to wage using whatever reason it decided to pick to justify it. It began a scant four weeks later on October 7 as a joint US - British intensive aerial assault against a country unable to put up any kind of defense against it. It then ended a second scant 5 weeks after that on November 12 when the Taliban fled from Kabul allowing the Northern Alliance forces the US had recruited to replace them to enter the city the following day.

The intense but brief conflict came at an enormous cost to the Afghan people already devastated by the effects of almost endless war and internal turmoil for over two decades. It displaced as many as about six million or more people fleeing to neighboring countries or becoming internally displaced persons and being categorized as IDPs. About half to two-thirds of those refugees have now returned home but most are unable to find much relief from where they'd been. Refugees International interviewed returnees to Kabul in 2002, where conditions are much more stable than elsewhere, and learned that while people were happy to be back they found conditions there to be terrible - no shelter, no schools, no work, no medical care, no security, and for many little or no food.

Things are no better today, and according to UK-based Christian Aid are likely to become worse. It recently assessed conditions in 66 villages in the west and northwest of the country and learned millions of Afghans face hunger because because draught caused complete crop failures in the worst hit areas. It reported people are already going hungry and without considerable aid famine is a real possibility. Things are all the harder because the internal conflict resumed beginning with the resurgent Taliban (discussed below) that began slowly in late 2002, grew significantly by mid-2003 and has been building in intensity since.

It all began with the US-led attack on Afghanistan that from the start took a great toll in injuries and deaths, mostly affecting innocent civilians. Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire estimated between 3,100 - 3,600 deaths resulted from the 5 week conflict or as many as over 600 more than those killed on 9/11 in the US which was the pretext used to go to war. Herold continues estimating deaths and injuries to Afghans and occupying forces since and believes as of July, 2004 about 12,000 Afghan troops and civilians have been killed in the conflict and about 32,000 seriously injured. As things have intensified since, those numbers increase daily and are now considerably higher but it's not known to what level. And what's not included in any of the estimates is the many unknown number of thousands who've died since October, 2001 from the crushing poverty causing starvation and disease.

US "Liberation" Brought No Relief

For a brief time after mid-November, 2001, the Afghan people were free from the repression forced on them under Taliban rule, but what replaced them was no improvement nor did the US "liberator" intend it to be. The US-installed so-called Northern Alliance is terminology used to identify the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan that prior to October 7, 2001 controlled less than one-third of the country. They never were in the past or were they to be now the "salvation" of anything but their own self-interest. The Alliance is comprised of about five dominant mujahideen factions each led by a thugish "warlord" ruling over a band of murderers, brutes and rapists whose criminal acts Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned.

As a result, the brief respite from conflict the Afghan people enjoyed was short-lived under their new rulers. With them back in charge in the regions their respective "warlords" controlled, murder, rape and mayhem became common again as it was under their previous rule that gave rise to the Taliban in the first place. So while the Taliban initially faded away after mid-November, 2001, defenseless against the US-led onslaught against them, growing anger and discontent with the present rule has allowed them to regroup and begin a campaign of resurgence. That campaign is gaining strength and looking more all the time like it may turn Afghanistan into a Central Asian version of the conflict in Iraq that cooler civilian heads in Washington and at the Pentagon know is out of control, a lost cause and only will end when the occupation does under a future US administration. The Bush administration, that's usually wrong but never in doubt, makes it clear it will "stay the course" and not "cut and run."

Conditions In Afghanistan Today

Life in Afghanistan today is surreal. In parts of Kabul an opulent elite has emerged many of whom have grown rich from rampant corruption and drug trafficking, and the city actually has an upscale shopping area catering to them offering for sale specialty products like expensive Swiss watches and other luxury goods. They can be found at the Roshan Plaza shopping mall and Kabul City Center plaza that has three floors of heated shops, a cappuccino bar and the country's first escalator. The rutted streets are locked down and deserted at night, but during the day luxury jeeps and four-wheel drive limousines are seen on them. There are also upscale hotels including the five-star Serena, built and run by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), offering luxury accommodations for visiting dignitaries, Western businessmen and others able to afford what they cost in an otherwise impoverished city still devastated by years of conflict and destruction. The arriviste class there can, mansions are being built for them, foreign branch banks are there to service their needs, and an array of other amenities are there to accommodate their extravagant tastes and wishes. In a country where drug trafficking is the leading industry and corruption is systemic, there's a ready market for those able to afford most anything, even in a place as unlikely as Afghanistan.

There's also a ready market provided by the array of well-off foreign ex-pats, a well-cared for NGO community (with their own guest houses for their staff), colonial administrators, commercial developers, mercenaries, fortune-hunters, highly-paid enforcers and assorted other hangers-on looking to suck out of this exploited country whatever they can while they're able to do it. So far at least, there's nothing stopping them except the threat of angry and desperate people ready to erupt on any pretext and the growing resistance gaining strength and support from the resurgent Taliban. There's also no shortage of alcohol in a fundamentalist Muslim country where it's not allowed, high-priced prostitutes are available on demand with plenty of ready cash around to buy their services, a reported 80 brothels operate in the city, and imported Thai masseuses are at the luxury Mustafa Hotel where the owner is called a Mr. Fix It, an Internet Cafe is located on the bottom floor offering ethernet and wireless connectivity, and the restaurant fare ranges from traditional Afghan to steaks, pizza and "the best burger in all of Kabul." The impoverished local population would surely not be amused or pleased comparing their daily plight to the luxury living afforded the elite few able to afford it. Their city is in ruins, and desperation, neglect, despair and growing anger characterize their daily lives.

This Potemkin facade of opulence doesn't represent what that daily life is like in the city and throughout the country for the vast majority of the approximate 26 million or so Afghans. For them life is harsh and dangerous, and they show their frustration and impatience in their anger ready to boil over on any pretext. As in Iraq, there's been little reconstruction providing little relief from the devastation and making what work there is hard to find and offering little pay. The result makes depressing reading:

-- Unemployment is soaring at about 45% of those wanting work.

--The half of the working population getting it earns on average about a meager $200 a year or a little over $300 for those involved in the opium trade which is the main industry in the country.

--The poverty overall is overwhelming and about one-fourth of the population depends on scarce and hard to find food aid creating a serious risk of famine.

-- The life expectancy in the country at 44.5 years is one of the lowest in the world.

--The infant mortality rate is the highest in the world at 161 per 1,000 births

-- One-fifth of children die before age five.

-- An Afghan woman dies in childbirth every 30 minutes.

--In Kabul alone an estimated 500,000 people are homeless or living in makeshift and deplorable conditions.

-- Only one-fourth of the population has access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

-- Only one doctor is available per 6,000 people and one nurse per 2,500 people.

--100 or more people are killed or wounded each month by unexploded ordnance.

--Children are being kidnapped and sold into slavery or murdered to harvest their organs that bring a high price.

-- Less than 6% of Afghans have access to electricity available only sporadically.

-- Women's literacy rate is about 19%, and schools are being burned in the south of the country and teachers beheaded in front of their students.

--Many women are also forced to beg in the streets or turn to prostitution to survive.

In addition, lawlessness is back, Sharia law has been reinstated, the internal conflict has resumed, and no one is safe either from the country's warring factions or from the hostile occupying force making life intolerable for the vast majority of the Afghan people.

Afghanistan, Inc. - The Lucrative Business of War-Profiteering

Those wondering why the US engages in so many conflicts (aside from the geopolitical reasons) and is always ready for another might consider the fact that wars are so good for business. Corporate America, Wall Street and large insider investors love them because they're so profitable. It shows up noticeably on the bottom line of all contractors the Bush administration choose to "rebuild" Iraq and Afghanistan. It's also been a bonanza for the many consultants, engineers and mercenaries working for them who can pocket up to $1,000 a day compared to Afghan employees lucky to earn $5 for a day's work when they can find it.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, huge open-ended, no-bid contracts amounting to many billions of dollars were awarded to about 70 US firms including the usual array of politically connected ones whose names have now become familiar to many - Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons, Shaw Group, SAIC, CH2M Hill, DynCorp, Blackwater, The Louis Berger Group, The Rendon Group and many more including the one that nearly always tops the list, Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root. Since 2001, this arguably best-connected of all war-profiteers was awarded $20 billion in war-related contracts the company then exploited to the fullest by doing shoddy work, running up massive cost-overruns and then submitting fraudulent billings.

Halliburton and other contractors have managed to build permanent military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Pentagon and prisons to house and torture whomever US authorities choose to arrest and for whatever reason. But their work is nothing short of shoddy and sloppy when it comes to assessing the job they've done rebuilding both countries. In Iraq Halliburton did such a poor job repairing the country's oil fields the US Army estimates it's cost the country $8 billion in lost production. It also botched the simple job of installing metering systems at ports in southern Iraq to assure oil wasn't being smuggled out of the country.

No Serious US-Directed Effort To Rebuild Two War-Torn Countries

Far more important for most Iraqis and Afghans, there's been no serious effort to rebuild these war-torn countries across the board. That effort is desperately needed to restore the essential infrastructure destroyed in both conflicts like power generating stations and water and sewage facilities, but the funding for them has been poorly directed, lost in a black hole of corruption or wasted because of inefficiency, design flaws, construction errors or deliberate unwillingness to do much more than hand out big contracts to US chosen companies then able to pocket big profits while doing little for the people in return for them. It also shows in the state of the countries' basic facilities like schools, health clinics and hospitals that are in deplorable condition with little being done to improve them despite lofty promises otherwise. One example is the US pledge of $17.7 million in 2005 for education in Afghanistan that turned out, in fact, to be for a private for-profit American University of Afghanistan only available to Afghans who can afford its cost - meaning none of them but the privileged few.

It's clear the US occupier has no interest in helping the people it said it came to "liberate" unless by "liberate" it meant from their freedom to be able to exploit and abuse them in service to the interests of capital which is all the Bush administration ever has in mind. Just as Iraq has the misfortune of having a vast oil reserve beneath its sand the US wants to control, so too Afghanistan happens to be strategically located as part of a prime transhipment route over which the Caspian Basin's great oil and gas reserves can be transported by pipeline to the warm water southern ports the US wants to ship it out from to countries it will allow it to be shipped to. These are the reasons the US invaded both countries, and that's why no serious effort is being made to do any reconstruction or redevelopment to help the people. There are also reports, unconfirmed for this article, that hydrocarbon reserves have been discovered in the northeast of Afghanistan amounting to an estimated 1.5 billion barrels of oil and from 15 - 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. If this proves accurate, it will be one more curse for the Afghan people who already have an unbearable number of others to deal with.

There isn't likely to be relief for them in reconstruction or anything else as long as the US occupies the country and remains its de facto ruler. It's sole funding priority (besides what it ignores lost to corruption) is to its chosen contractors and the bottom line boosting profits they get from being on the corporate welfare dole. A revealing window into this and how reality diverges from rhetoric is seen in a June, 2005 report by the well-respected Johannesburg based NGO Action Aid. It documents what it calls phantom aid that's pledged by the US and other countries but never shows up. At most, maybe 40% of it does while the rest never leaves the home country. It goes to pay so-called American "experts" who overprice their services but provide ineffective "technical assistance" for it. It also obliges recipient countries to buy US products and services even when cheaper and more accessible ones are available locally. The report goes on to accuse the US to be one of the two greatest serial offender countries (France being the other one) with 70% of what it calls aid requiring receiving countries to get from US companies (and much of that is for US-made weapons) and that 86% of all the US pledges turn out to be phantom aid. So, in fact, so-called US donor aid to rebuild a war-torn country is just another scam to enrich politically-connected American corporations by developing new export markets for them. Iraq, Afghanistan and other recipient countries get nothing more than the right to have their nations, resources, and people exploited by predatory US corporations as one of the spoils of war or one-way trade agreements.

All of this has caused deep-seated mostly repressed anger that erupted in Kabul this past May in the worst street violence seen in the capitol since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It happened after a US military truck speeding recklessly smashed into about a dozen civilian vehicles at a busy intersection killing five people in the collision. It touched off mass rioting in angry protest against an already hated occupier with crowds of men and boys shouting "death to America, death to Karzai" and blaming the government and US military for what happened. People set fires to cars, shops, restaurants and dozens of police posts. They also attacked buildings and clashed with US forces and Afghan police on the scene throwing rocks at their vehicles. US troops responded by opening fire on unarmed civilians killing at least 4 and leaving many others injured. When it finally ended, eight people were reported dead and 107 injured. This uprising in the Kabul streets showed the great anger and frustration of the people breaking out in mass rage in response to one dramatic incident that symbolized for them everything gone wrong in the country now under an unwanted occupier, the oppressive US-installed Northern Alliance "warlord" rule, and the deprivation of the people suffering greatly as a result. There's no end of this in sight, and it's almost certain the resistance will only intensify in response as it's now doing.

Growing Resistance Against Repression and War Crimes

Like the mythological phoenix rising from the ashes, the Taliban have capitalized on the turmoil and discontent and have reemerged to reclaim most parts of southern Afghanistan. This part country has long been ungovernable and is known as an area too dangerous even for aid agencies. The Taliban now openly control some districts there, have set up shadow administrations in others, and have moved into the province of Logar located just 25 miles from Kabul where they have easy access to the capitol. For the British who know their history, it should be no surprise. Sir Olaf Caroe, the last British governor of North West Frontier Province in bordering Pakistan spoke of it when he said: "Unlike other wars, Afghan wars become serious only when they are over." Surely the former Soviet occupiers also could have told George Bush in 2001 what he'd be up against. The Brits could have as well.

The Taliban are now gaining supporters among the people fed up with the misery inflicted on them by the US and multinational force invaders and the Northern Alliance rule that's even more repressive than the Taliban were during their years in power. It led to their 1990s rise and conquest of over two-thirds of the country in the first place. It happened in the wake of the vacuum created in the country following the withdrawal of the defeated Soviet forces. During the decade-long conflict while they were there, the Afghan resistance fought the West's war with its funding and arms. It was heroic and the darling of the US media. But once the war ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, Afghans were abandoned and left on their own to deal with the ravages of their war-torn country and the chaos of warlordism and civil war that erupted in its aftermath. Out of that despair and with considerable aid from Pakistan, the Taliban fighters emerged and by 1996 had defeated the competing warlords to control most of the country.

Today it looks like de jeva vu all over again as many Afghans apparently prefer Taliban rule again they see as the lesser of the only choices they now have. The result is that daily violence has erupted into a growing catastrophic resistance guerrilla war, slowly becoming more like the one in Iraq, that's intensifying and making the country unsafe and ungovernable. It's led the international policy Senlis Council think tank, that does extensive monitoring of Afghanistan, to issue a damning report called: Afghanistan Five Years Later: The Return Of The Taliban. The report blamed the occupying forces for doing nothing to address the crushing poverty, failing to achieve stability and security, and claims Afghanistan "is falling back into the hands of the Taliban (and their) frontline now cuts halfway through the country encompassing all of the southern provinces" (that have) limited or no central government control." Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director, concluded "The Taliban community are winning control of Afghanistan (and) the international community is progressively losing control of the country." He added that Afghanistan today is a humanitarian disaster, and that there's a hunger crisis with children starving in makeshift unregistered refugee camps because of lack of donor interest.

It's fueling the Taliban guerrilla resistance that's close to critical mass, and, despite official reports to the contrary, the US-led occupying force won't likely be able to contain it. It's what always happens in one form or other eventually under any kind of foreign occupation and system of governance unwilling to address the basic needs of the people - extreme poverty and desperation demanding relief, without which people can't even survive. It's also a response to the brutality of this occupation where war crimes are just standard operating procedure and an outrageous strategy used to contain the growing resistance. One example of it, most people in the West wouldn't understand, was the public burning of supposed Taliban fighters killed by US soldiers. This is forbidden under Islamic law, and the images of it provoked outrage in Afghanistan and throughout the Muslim world that views the US occupiers as barbarians. This is just one of many instances of deliberately inflicted offenses against Islam including defiling the Koran, arbitrary and unlawful indefinite detentions as well as humiliations, torture and other atrocities committed routinely against Afghans taken prisoner for any reason. The same things happen in most parts of Iraq as well.

Amnesty International documented some of the crimes and abuses it learned from former detainees. Just like in Iraq they reported being made to kneel, stand or maintain painful positions for long periods, being hooded, deprived of sleep, stripped and humiliated. They were also held without charge and denied access to family, legal counsel or any kind of due process. In December, 2004, US officials acknowledged eight prisoners died in US military custody with little detail as to why. Earlier in October, the US Army's Criminal Investigation Division recommended that 28 US soldiers be charged with beating to death two prisoners at the Bagram air base after autopsies found "blunt force injuries." At year end only one of the soldiers was charged with any offense, and it was just for assault, maltreatment and dereliction of duty.

One other report in September showed US Special Forces beat and tortured eight Afghan soldiers for over two weeks at a base near Gardez killing one of them. The US military refused calls for independent investigations of torture and deaths of those held in custody and instead went through the motions of conducting them under the auspices of the US Department of Defense (DOD) - meaning, of course, they were whitewashed. US authorities also routinely refuse requests by human rights groups, NGOs, and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) for access to detainees to assess their condition and treatment. Amnesty also reported on death sentences being meted out, secret trials in a special court held without the right to counsel or any form of due process, and many cases of Afghan refugees returning home and being unable to recover land or property stolen from them.

Amnesty also reported on the many civilian deaths resulting from randomly targeted US air strikes supposedly directed at "armed militants." These attacks are frequent killing many hundreds of innocent Afghans and always claimed by the US military only to have been directed against Al Queda or Taliban fighters. The evidence shows otherwise. On one dramatic occasion early in the conflict in December, 2001, US airstrikes against the village of Niazi Kala in eastern Afghanistan killed dozens of civilians resulting in the London Guardian and Independent each running front page stories with headlines: "US Accused of Killing Over 100 Villagers in Airstrike" in the Guardian and "US Accused of Killing 100 Civilians in Afghan Bombing Raid" in the Independent. Even the Rupert Murdoch-owned London Times reported "100 Villagers Killed in US Airstrike." In contrast, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) reported the New York Times (known as the nation's newspaper of record) could barely get itself to headline "Afghan Leader Warily Backs US Bombing." Instead of accurately reporting what happened, the NYT instead merely mentioned these villagers had been killed as background information in an article about whether the nominal Afghan leader (and former CIA asset) Harmid Karzai was holding firm in "his support for the war against terrorism." As it usually does, the NYT plays the lead role in directing the rest of the US corporate media away from any disturbing truths replacing them with a sanitized version acceptable to US authorities. They call it "All The News That's Fit To Print."

There was also no account at all in the US corporate media, beyond the usual distorted version, of the killing of about 800 captured Taliban prisoners in November, 2001 at Mazar-i-Sharif by Northern Alliance soldiers shooting down from the walls of the fortress-like prison at the helpless Taliban fighters trapped below. It was never explained in the US corporate-run media it was in response to a revolt they staged because they were subjected to torture and severe maltreatment. US Special Forces and CIA personal were on the ground assisting in the slaughter by directing supportive air strikes by helicopter gunships and fighter-bombers in an act of butchery. It recalled many like it earlier in Vietnam at My Lai, the many thousands murdered by the infamous Phoenix assassination program in that war, the CIA organized and financed Salvadoran death squads in the 1980s and earlier that killed many thousands more, or the later many thousands of Fallujah residents killed along with mass destruction inflicted on this Iraqi city in November, 2004 in a savage act of vengeance and butchery following the killing of four Blackwater USA paramilitary hired-gun enforcers earlier in the year. There was also no report on 3,000 other Taliban and innocent civilian non-combatant prisoners who were separated from 8,000 others who'd surrendered or had been picked up randomly. They were then transported in what was later called a convoy of death to the town of Shibarghan in closed containers lacking any ventilation. Half of them suffocated to death en route and others were killed inside them when a US commander ordered a Northern Alliance soldier to fire into the containers supposedly to provide air but clearly to kill or wound those inside who couldn't avoid the incoming fire.

The response from people suffering the effects of these attacks and atrocities or knowing about them is what would be expected anywhere but especially in a country known for its history of determined resistance by any means to free itself from an oppressive occupier. It happened in Afghanistan during the 19th century "Great Game" period and then during the decade of Soviet occupation in the 1980s. It's now happening again and getting especially intense as described by General David Richards, the British commander of NATO forces in the country. In early August he described the fighting as some of the worst, most prolonged and ferocious he knew of in 60 years with his forces coming under repeated "hit-and-run" and other attacks by Taliban guerrilla fighters engaging in machine gun and grenade battles before dispersing and later regrouping for more attacks. He said: "This sort of thing hasn't really happened so consistently, I don't think, since the Korean War or the Second World War. It happened for periods in the Falklands, obviously, and it happened for short periods in the Gulf on both occasions. But this is persistent, low-level, dirty fighting." One has to wonder if the general thinks cluster-bombing and using other terror weapons from 30,000 feet to kill innocent civilians in villages is fighting clean.

The kind of intense fighting the general is talking about was reported in the London Observer on September 17 on what relatives of British troops serving in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province have to say. They're raising grave concerns for their loved ones safety claiming they face "intolerable" pressures and dangers, relentless fighting, inadequate supplies of rations and water, having to get by on three hours sleep a night, having no body armour, and so shattered and exhausted by the experience they can't function properly. With this to expect, why would any sensible foreign leader heed NATO's request for more troops to help a failed mission guaranteed to get numbers of them killed and wounded and frighten and anger their own people at home in the process. So far only Poland, likely under intense pressure, agreed to do it in any meaningful numbers in a high-level decision it may end up regretting.

The result of recent fighting on the British alone is that 33 of their soldiers have been reported killed in the last two months up to late-September - including 14 killed on September 2 in a warplane the Taliban claim they downed over Banjwai and Kandahar province and 22 known killed since September 1. The reported number of deaths and injuries are likely understated as a good many of the wounded later die but aren't added to the official count. It's known and documented this kind of sanitized casualty reporting is the way it's done in Iraq. No doubt it's handled the same way in Afghanistan as well.

It's happening because the Taliban resistance is gaining strength fueled by the repressive occupation and brutality of the Northern Alliance "warlords," making a growing number of Afghans determined to fight back. It's also because of the extreme level of desperation and deprivation Afghans now experience resulting from the so-called neoliberal Washington Consensus model the US has imposed on the country just like it wants to do everywhere else it can get away with it. It's a model solely beholden to the interests of capital, ignores the essential needs of the people desperate for relief and help, but in an impoverished country like Afghanistan, that's a recipe for pushing people toward Islamic fundamentalist leaders promising something better than their current state of immiseration. It makes it easy for them to get recruits to join the struggle to end it. Apparently growing numbers of them are doing just that as they have been for the past three years in Iraq to fight back relentlessly refusing to quit until the occupation ends which it likely will eventually in both countries.

The US Plan to Pacify Afghanistan and Control It As A Neocolonial State

The Bush administration has no sense of history judging by its plan to control Afghanistan by neutralizing any resistance in it to make the country one more de facto pacified US colony. It failed to heed the lessons learned in Vietnam where the US was defeated or even in Korea before it where the war there ended in a standoff. It's proceeding anyway in spite of the information from the Pentagon's latest quarterly progress report on Iraq to the Congress. In it Pentagon officials paint a grim assessment of a lost war where the same tactics now used in Afghanistan have failed. Those facts, however, don't deter US planners who won't admit they're wrong and intend to keep repeating the same mistakes no matter how many times before they haven't worked. It's part of the Bush administration's Messianic mission of madness under which the thinking must be if at first you don't succeed, try again by making things worse with another misadventure. It's also part of the misbegotten belief that superior air power, high tech weapons, and a little help mostly from a proxy force on the ground can solve all problems. High-level military strategists once again intend to try proving it in Afghanistan even though they know it hasn't worked in Iraq.

The Afghanistan plan involves the use of overwhelming US air power that can quickly send down a reign of death and destruction against any area or resistance it wishes to attack. It's to be done by concentrating its hub activities at two large, permanent US-constructed bases, Bagram and Kandahar, while it wants NATO forces to operate a large new base under construction in Herat that can accommodate about 10,000 troops. In 2005, the US Air Force spent about $83 million upgrading the two bases it will use in the country.

The plan is also to have US forces maintain about 30 smaller, forward operating bases with 14 small airfields housing highly mobile air and ground forces secured in fortified areas and only used for special search operations leaving routine patrol missions for the local satraps to handle. The plan calls for a reduction in US ground forces with NATO troops replacing them, especially in the more volatile Kandahar, Helmand and Urzugan provinces. In its "first (ever) mission outside the Euro-Atlantic area" NATO forces took command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in August, 2003 "to assist the Government of maintaining security....and in providing a safe and secure environment (for) free and fair elections, the spread of the rule of law, and the reconstruction of the country." This was pious rhetoric belying the reality on the ground that all occupiers are there only as enforcers to make Afghanistan safe for corporate predators wanting to exploit the country and its people for profit.

The US is also recruiting, training and wants to employ a local proxy Afghan National Army and Police to perform the same role by doing much of the routine patrolling and to engage in ground combat when necessary. This is a common US tactic to use a surrogate force of expendable locals to do as much of its fighting and dying for it to keep its own casualties to a minimum. It intends to support them with its tactical air strength mostly out of harm's way and sell the whole package apparently to the Afghan people and US public by using what the Bush administration calls "strategic communication" - aka well-crafted propaganda, disinformation and carefully sanitized versions of the truth to suppress an honest account of it from ever coming out so that the perception they're able to craft replaces the reality they wish to conceal.

When it comes to deploying overwhelming conventional military superiority including the most highly developed and destructive high-tech weapons and a vast array of almost limitless air power, no competing force can challenge the US. The Pentagon is now deploying those air assets round the clock across the country using its most sophisticated bombers and other aircraft deployed from its bases in Diego Garcia. They're on call at all times for tactical support and heavy strike missions as needed. In addition, unmanned Predator and Desert Hawk aerial drones are also airborne over the country at all times, especially in areas thought to be most hostile. The Predator is able to launch rocket attacks on targets while the tiny Desert Hawk is a spy plane used for surveillance around US bases. Put it all together and this is what an unwanted foreign occupier has to do to keep a population in check after it "liberated" it. The plain fact is it hasn't worked in Iraq and likely won't fare any better in Afghanistan.

But there's more to this story though as reported on September 5 in the online publication Capitol Hill Blue titled Has Bush gone over the edge? It explains that Republican and Bush family insiders including the President's father and former President are worried George Bush may be heading for a "full-fledged mental breakdown" judging by his bizarre behavior at times. Jeffrey Steinberg writing in Executive Intelligence Review said G.H.W. Bush fears G.W. is obsessed with his Messianic mission and is "unreachable" even by some of his closest advisors like Secretary of State Rice. Prominent psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank, who wrote Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, agrees and believes: "With every passing week, President Bush marches deeper and deeper into a world of his own making. Central to Bush's world is an iron will which demands that external reality be changed to conform to his personal view of how things are." He goes on to say Bush needs psychiatric analysis and help. These observations explain a lot - that George Bush indeed has a Messianic mission and intends to pursue it no matter how failed it is because he believes it's the right thing to do. And apparently he has enough close advisors around him reinforcing this view making it very likely there will be no Middle East or Central Asian policy change as long as he's President. It helps explain why the policy that's failed in Iraq is still being followed, why it's the plan for Afghanistan as well even though it isn't likely to succeed there either, and why this administration wants to go even further and is willing to compound the disaster it already created.

George Bush announced his policy intentions in a speech he made on September 5 to an association of US military officers in which he virtually declared war against the entire Muslim world. In it he used the kind of inflammatory language that should give the senior Bush far greater cause to worry whether his son has lost his senses entirely. The speech was more of the administration's rhetoric to rebrand the "global war on terror" to what it now calls the "long war with Islamic fascists" and the threat of "Islamic fascism" that must be confronted by its reasoning (and by implication) where it's centered in Tehran. It was also George Bush's apparent attempt to rescue his failing presidency by appealing to his most extremist backers, shore up his base, and scare everyone else to death enough to support his "long war" agenda on November 7 by reelecting Republicans to Congress many of whom see him as radioactive and keep their distance.

No doubt the Svengali hand of Karl Rove is behind this. It can't be dismissed because it signals another reckless step toward a widened "long war" crusade against Islam. It further angered the nearly 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide who were even more enraged by Pope Benedict's inflammatory September 12 quote of a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor who said (during the Crusades at that time) that the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things. Despite his disingenuous claim of being misunderstood, Popes don't make accidental comments, especially in an age of instant worldwide communication, so clearly this one made his with another purpose in mind. It may relate to why he disturbingly chose to withdraw from the interfaith initiatives begun by his predecessor, John Paul II. He did it at a time when such efforts are more needed than ever and tells Muslims he believes in the myth that Islam is a violent faith, war and occupation of Muslim lands is the way to counteract it, and he's part of the West's new crusade against them.

Put another way, Pope Benedict's comment was a clear papal genuflection and declaration of fealty to the exploitive and racist war on the Muslim world policies of the Bush administration. He added resonance and, in effect, gave his blessing to an out-of-control US President's belief in the same notion only made worse by George Bush's further public pronouncement that dissent is an act of terrorism, saying it solely on his own authority, and effectively abrogating the First Amendment that prohibits the criminalization of speech. This kind of assertion reinforces George Bush's earlier in the year self-anointment as a "Unitary Executive" giving himself absolute power to suspend the Constitution and declare martial law to protect the national security any time he alone decides a "national emergency" warrants it. Unless the public refuses to accept this reckless endangerment of our sacred constitutional rights and enough prominent public figures join in as well to denounce this kind of talk, there's a real danger this administration is moving toward "crossing the Rubicon" to tyranny on the false pretext of protecting us from an Islamic terrorist threat that doesn't exist.

Looking Ahead In Afghanistan

US directed repression of the Afghan people aided by its brutal Northern Alliance regional "warlord" proxies has led to the beginning of a growing insurrection against an intolerable situation that's unsustainable. It has the upper hand in Iraq and is fast becoming more of the same in Afghanistan. It's what always happens because no unwanted occupier is ever accepted by the people it subjugates, especially one whose prime mission is to terrorize the civilian population to pacify it. The mission is doomed to fail as eventually it becomes inefficient, ineffective and people back home no longer will tolerate it. By now it would seem cooler heads in Washington and at the Pentagon would have made some headway convincing the hard line neocons behind this growing misadventure and the out-of-control one in Iraq that it was time to cut losses, pull out, and go another way. Those among them with enough good sense have to realize even the most powerful military in the world has no chance to defeat a determined guerilla force gaining strength because it has most of the people in the country behind it. And there have to be at least a few high-level mandarins with a sense of history to understand they saw this script before, and it has a bad ending. It brought Rome to its knees a millennium and a half ago and did the same thing more recently to the Nazis with delusions of grandeur who thought their way would prevail for 1,000 years. They only missed by 988.

So it goes for the modern-day Romans in charge in Washington led by a President who believes his cause is just and the Almighty is directing him. They also feel with enough super-weapons they can rule the world forever as long as they don't miscalculate and blow it up instead (a very real and disturbing possibility). It didn't work for the original rulers of ancient Rome, and it's also not working now for those in charge in Israel apparently under the same illusions, who also have no sense of history except their own false version of it. It won't work for the US rulers either who want their dominion to be all of planet earth.

It's high time some clear-thinking high-level insiders went public convincingly to drive home this point the ones in charge with "delusions of grandeur" won't ever see without help and unless forced to. The plain fact is the war in Iraq is lost militarily and politically. The longer US forces stay there the greater their losses will be, the larger the number of alienated countries no longer willing to support us will become, the more likely the enormous and unsustainable cost will move the nation closer to economic bankruptcy, and the harder it will be to reverse the mind-set of the majority of countries that already see us as a moral pariah and terror state. Conditions are no less true in Afghanistan where the resistance is close to critical mass and the situation is fast becoming another lost cause because the momentum carrying it there is almost irreversible.

It's never easy changing the hearts and minds of the privileged elite riding high and mesmerized by their own self-adulation and that heaped on them by the corporate media, PR flacks, and assorted hangers-on portraying their cause as just. Charting a new course with that kind of strong tailwind is like trying to get a battleship to make a quick U-turn - darn-near impossible. It makes for the same likely conclusion just as in the past. Empires ruling the waves, and having it their own way, almost never spot the time when the tide begins to turn and they're swimming against it. Sooner or later, they're wrecked on the shoals of their own hubris, a new force is rising to replace them, and an old familiar refrain is heard again - the king is dead, long live the king.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blogspot at

Monday, September 25, 2006


Journalism, Wall Street Journal-Style - by Stephen Lendman

It takes great courage to venture onto the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal - especially on Fridays when Mary Anastasia O'Grady's Americas column appears. This is a woman who surely will have a serious back problem one day resulting from her permanent position of genuflection to the most extreme far-right she pledges allegiance to. In her assigned role at the Journal, which includes character assassination, she can best can be characterized as one of the "devil's" disciples - to borrow a word so aptly used by a well-known "courageous man" in recent days. She proved it in her September 22 column titled In Chavez's Crosshairs (the "courageous man" in question), and in it she outdid herself in her level of vitriol that was enough to punish all the senses of those able to get through it.

The column drips with hate and is filled with the most outrageous lies and hostility from the opening words to the last ugly pronouncement. This editorial writer begins by telling readers that "Fidel Castro is not far from death" which I'm sure will come as a surprise both to the Cuban leader and his doctors who seem to be indicating that Fidel is slowly recuperating from his major surgery which is quite normal for someone aged 80. She cites as her evidence "Hugo Chavez's performance at the United Nations" which she claims was a "revolutionary" baton-passing to the "kook from Caracas, Castro's wealthiest and keenest protege." O'Grady apparently didn't bother checking that the Venezuelan President's salary at about $24,000 is barely above the poverty level for a US family of four according to the US Census Bureau. Compare that to George Bush (responsible for Mary's future back problem) who's extremely wealthy and earns an annual salary of $400,000 plus all the luxury perks that go with his office that Hugo Chavez Frias doesn't have or even want.

But this was just for openers. O'Grady then begins another diatribe against the man who's become her favorite target. She begins by making her only notable truthful statement describing the Venezuela leader as the "scariest speaker at the General Assembly." She's right, of course, because today we live in an age where the truth Chavez speaks has become a radical or even a subversive act. It would never cross this hateful woman's mind that Hugo Chavez is one of the few world leaders willing to admit publicly what all the others know is true. For this he's condemned in the corporate-run media and especially in columns of right wing flacks like Mary O'Grady who have no credibility or even enough knowledge of the region she reports on in her writing. It shows in what she has to say.

It helps to understand where this woman is coming from if we note where she was formerly employed. She one time worked as an options strategist for Advest, Inc., Thomson McKinnon Securities, and Merrill Lynch & Co. She also once held a position at the far-right Heritage Foundation think tank that never met a corporate-friendly policy or US-led war it didn't support. In addition, as a journalist, she was awarded the Inter-American Press Association's (IAPA association of private media corporations) Daily Gleaner Award for editorial commentary and received an honorable mention in IAPA's opinion award category for 1999. With this kind of background, there's nothing surprising about O'Grady's ideology and why her writing is hopelessly biased and one-sided in favor of the Bush Administration's neoliberal Washington Consensus model now waging a "long war" against the world for total dominance and greater profits for the corporate predators benefitting from it - all at the expense of people needs being ignored.

O'Grady has lots more to say in this week's column and quickly gets into the meat it - that Venezuela represents a "pressing threat" (where) "The battleground is Bolivia, which Mr. Chavez badly wants to control so he can seize that country's natural-gas reserves and become the sole energy supplier in the Southern Cone." She goes on with the delusional notion that Chavez hopes to "seriously damage the Brazilian economy and crush Brazil's geopolitical ambitions as the leader in South America. In its place he wants to plant the flag of Venezuelan hegemony. If he gets away with it, Argentine and Chilean sovereignty would also be diminished and continental stability lost." She has lots more to say, but already she's left the reader breathless and needing to pause before going further.

If O'Grady stuck to the facts instead of specializing in her brand of poisoned rhetoric, she would know Hugo Chavez is a positive force in the region and beyond and has been a unifier, not a divider or exploiter. He's pursued his own Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) progressive alternative to the corrupted neoliberal WTO/IMF/World Bank model O'Grady champions. It's a comprehensive plan for Latin American integration aiming to develop "the social state" benefitting everyone, not just the privileged elite O'Grady swears allegiance to. It's based on the principles of complementarity, solidarity and cooperation among nations - just the opposite of the exploitive practices O'Grady likes to think work best. She's right if she means for the corporate giants that can only grow and prosper at the expense of ordinary people everywhere. Hugo Chavez has a different vision. Instead of trying to subjugate Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina, Venezuela has joined with these nations in the Southern Common Market customs union known as Mercosur. In doing so, Chavez expressed hope that this trade block would "prioritize social concerns (ahead of) the old elitist corporate model'' that puts profits ahead of people needs. These are the facts Mary O'Grady ignores as reporting them would expose all the other lies she's written for years. It would also likely get her fired for not sticking to the party line she's paid to do.

Her article continues by referring to the opposition in Venezuela as "democrats," recounting her distorted version of how they tried to remove Chavez in their 2004 recall referendum (aka US-directed coup by other means) and failed. Chavez blew the opposition away with about 58% of the vote in an election judged free, open and fair but which O'Grady characterized as "clocked in state secrets" - no doubt because the wrong candidate won convincingly. She claimed exit polls showed Chavez was "badly beaten" but the "chavista-stacked electoral council declared him the winner." She fails to identify what exit polls she's referring to or who conducted them. The reader can only conclude they're either ones she dreamed up for this column or they were fraudulent ones conducted by the oligarchs in the country that have everything to gain if Chavez is ousted by any means.

This woman doesn't know when to quit. She then contends "Mr. Chavez boasts he was democratically elected and foments hatred against his neighbors, including the US (and) the non-aligned movement (intends) on going nuclear." She doesn't explain she's referring to Iran, a country that's a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is in full compliance with it, and has every legal right to develop its commercial nuclear industry which is all it's doing according to all available evidence. She then again stresses that chavistas are putting a "blitz" on Bolivia "to make that country a (hydro) carbon copy of Venezuela."

Next, however, comes her best shot and one of her least accurate. She makes the audacious claim that Evo Morales (her other favorite target) "rose to executive power by first using violence to bring down two constitutional presidents and then forcing a new election, which he won." She doesn't explain that Juan Evo Morales Ayma (known as Evo) was a leader of Bolivia's cocalero movement or loose federation of coca leaf-growing campesinos. He's also the leader of his Movement for Socialism Party (MAS which means more). In both capacities he's been a champion of progressive change in his country and organized peaceful protests in 2005 in the capitol La Paz that forced the resignation of President Carlos Mesa who served the interests of capital and ignored the needs of his people. This is what O'Grady calls violence - courageous resistance to repression and intolerance. Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia in December, 2005 in an election controlled by the opposition because the people were so fed up with business as usual they defied all expectations turning out in large numbers to convincingly elect the only man they would entrust to rule their country.

Morales isn't O'Grady's kind of president because he wants to serve all his people and not just the elite few who've always had things in Bolivia their way. So she says "He dreams of an indigenous, collectivist Bolivarian economy under the thumb of an authoritarian government" while falsely claiming most Bolivians are "entrepreneurial." She may be right if she leaves out the indigenous majority (about 70% of the population) most of whom are poor and always had been disenfranchised until now. She accuses Morales of being "coached" by Hugo Chavez who's helping him institute progressive policies and programs which O'Grady rails against - because they're people-friendly and bad for the corporate interests she represents. She stresses Bolivia under Morales "could use some help from the international weaken Evo." But she ends her weekly hate-column by coming back to her favorite target and public enemy number one in her eyes - Hugo Chavez - by trumpeting the notion that it's "clear....doing nothing while Mr. Chavez seizes power on the continent is not an option." It has all the sound of a call to arms to remove President Chavez by force or any other means despite the fact that he's the leading democrat in the hemisphere and beloved by the great majority of his people who will never tolerate a return to the ugly past of rule by the repressive oligarchs they'll never again accept.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Venezuelan Foreign Minister Illegally Detained at JFK Airport and Strip-Searched - by Stephen Lendman broke the news early Saturday evening that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Madura was prevented by airport officials from departing the US from JFK airport on a commercial flight on Saturday following the UN General Assembly meeting. He said officials demanded he surrender his ticket and boarding pass claiming his name was on a so-called "red list." He was then illegally detained, taken to a small room and strip-searched despite his strong protests after having clearly identified who he was. He explained once he did, his treatment only got worse.

This was a clear Bush administration attempt at harassment and deliberate Gestapo-like thuggery as well as a gross violation of international protocol. It was also an irrational act of retaliatory muscle-flexing by an administration losing control and reacting like a schoolyard hoodlum in response to President Hugo Chavez having had the courage to denounce George Bush's corrupted neoliberal policies on a world stage at the UN and to publicly call the US president the devil everyone knows he is. The Foreign Minister told Venezuelan reporters police officers threatened to handcuff and beat him physically if he resisted. They then held him in detention for 90 minutes before he was released denying him at any time any outside contact or legal help.

The reason given by airport officials for his detention was the allegation that he was involved in an aborted coup in Venezuela - 14 years ago in 1992 in which Hugo Chavez as an army officer was involved. It was directed against then President Carlos Andres Perez who happened to be a personal friend of GHW Bush. Perez at the time was extremely unpopular. During his 1988 winning presidential campaign, he promised vitally needed reforms for his people. Then after taking office in 1989 he adopted the same destructive neoliberal policies as before in violation of everything he said he would do. In 1993 Perez was impeached and jailed on multi-million dollar corruption charges but later was given asylum in the US where he now lives in a luxurious Manhattan apartment in New York city. This kind of treatment is a common practice by many US administrations as a show of gratitude to former deposed friendly dictators and former criminals in their employ or in service to their interests. They're allowed to come to the US to enjoy a permanent home in luxury out of the reach of authorities at home that wish to prosecute them for their crimes.

The situation with Minister Maduro is now resolved as inadequate as it is to say that. The Venezuelan government, of course, demands a full apology for this inexcusable act of abuse and effrontery. So far the only statement of apology has come from a low-level US State Department spokesperson, and it was a mealy-mouthed one that may have been intended to continue the insult against the Minister, his government, and, of course, Hugo Chavez above all others.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at

Friday, September 22, 2006


A Courageous Man Speaks Out - Hugo Chavez Was In Rare Form at the UN - by Stephen Lendman

Hugo Chavez chooses his authors, political and social thinkers well, and there's no one better than Noam Chomsky. In his dramatic and courageous speech yesterday to the 61st UN General Assembly, Chavez held up a copy of Chomsky's 2003 book Hegemony or Survival (which I've read and quoted from before). In the book, Chomsky cites the work of Ernst Mayr whom he describes as "one of the great figures of contemporary biology." Mayr noted that beetles and bacteria have been far more successful surviving than the human species is likely to be. He also observed that "the average life expectancy of a species is about 100,000 years" which is about how long ours has been around, and he went on to wonder if we might use our "alloted time" to destroy ourselves and much more with us. Chomsky then noted we certainly have the means to do it, and should it happen, which he says is very possible, we likely will become the only species ever to have made itself extinct.

Hugo Chavez also could have explained what Chomsky had to say about this possibility in his most recent book, Failed States, in which he addresses the three issues he feels are most important - "the threat of nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that the government of the world's only superpower is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of (causing) these catastrophes." Chomsky goes even further raising a fourth issue that the "American system" is in danger of losing its "historic values (of) equality, liberty and meaningful democracy (because of the course it's on)."

Reflecting the thinking and spirit of Noam Chomsky, Hugo Chavez delivered an impassioned speech yesterday to the assembled delegates who came to hear him. It's one likely to be favorably remembered many years from now. At its end, the delegates showed their appreciation and support by giving him a standing ovation (the longest one of all the leaders addressing the Assembly) in contrast to the cool and polite reception given George Bush the previous day who chose not to attend to hear the Venezuelan leader. Too bad he didn't as he might have learned from it if he stayed alert and paid attention. Citing the language in Chomsky's book in his hand, Chavez said: "The hegemonistic pretentions of the American empire are placing at risk the very existence of the human species (and) We appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our head." He went on to explain that earlier the President of the US attended an Organization of American States meeting and proposed a NAFTA-type trade agreement in both regions that is the "fundamental cause of the great evils and the great tragedies currently suffered by our people. Neoliberal capitalism, the Washington Consensus....has generated....a high degree of misery, inequality and infinite tragedy for all the peoples on (this) continent."

Hugo Chavez called George Bush "the devil" several times and said he came here yesterday and "from this rostrum (talked) as if he owned the world." He denounced the President's talk, said he's responsible for all conflict in the Middle East, and that those opposed to these policies are resisting his imperial model of domination. Chavez predicted the US empire will fall, said "What we need now more than a new international order," and that he wants to see a reinvented UN be part of what can help achieve it. He said the UN under its current rules "does not work" and must be changed to bring more democracy to the organization. He called for the "foundation of a new United Nations" and proposed four fundamental changes including the "need to....suppress....the veto in the decisions taken by the Security Council (because) that elitist trace is incompatible with democracy, incompatible with the principles of equality and democracy." He also called for expanding the Security Council to include developing nations as permanent members and wants to strengthen the role of the Secretary General. He stressed that today the UN body is "worthless" and needs to be "refounded."

Hugo Chavez is dedicated to the principles and spirit of the Bolivarian Revolution he gave the people of Venezuela and wants to spread it to the developing world as a counter-force to the US model of global dominance of the developed North over the less-developed South with the US as hegemon-in-chief. He called on leaders from the developing world to unite and resist to build a new world model based on social equity and justice. Judging by the reception Chavez got yesterday, it looks like he made some progress toward that goal, especially in Latin America that's become an incubator of resistance against the unipolar world the US is beginning to lose its grip on and in support of the multi-polar one Hugo Chavez wants to help create.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Hugo Chavez's New World Vision - by Stephen Lendman

After agreeing to supply discounted oil to the richest city in Europe - London - to help its low income residents use the city's buses at a reduced cost after earlier providing discounted heating oil for the poor in several northeastern US cities including its richest one - New York, Hugo Chavez is at it again. This time he offered to aid the US oil and cash-rich state of Alaska by providing an even greater benefit - free or subsidized heating oil. In the richest, most powerful country in the world, federal, state and local governments continue to provide fewer essential services to their citizens most in need like helping them stay warm in winter when they can't afford to do it on their own. The result is many of them don't and some die as a result.

Even without federal help, Alaska easily has enough resources and plenty of oil inside its borders to help its most needy if it chooses to. Currently the state has a Permanent Fund of $34 billion and a $2 billion budget reserve fund for a population of about 660,000 people. Still, each winter thousands of Alaskans can't afford to buy enough heating oil, especially since its price rose so dramatically in the past few years. Alaska has its own federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, but it's woefully underfunded and unable to provide enough help. So if the state and federal government won't do the job, Hugo Chavez said he would step in with financial aid through Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA's subsidiary CITGO Petroleum Corporation. The money will be donated to state Native non-profit organizations as part of a greater effort that will also help other communities in the state. It's also one part of CITGO's overall program to provide 5 - 10 million gallons of heating oil to help Native Americans nationwide. The goal is to help thousands of poor Alaskans and Native Americans in other states stay warm in the winter in cases where they're unable to get help any other way.

Think of it. Tiny Venezuela has a population of about 27 million people that's 1/12th the size of the US. And it had a 2005 Gross Domestic Product of about $160 billion that's less than 2% of the US GDP of $12.5 trillion last year and less than half of oil giant Exxon-Mobil's $371 billion 2005 sales volume. Still Hugo Chavez is willing to share his nation's oil and financial resources so those in need in the US can get some of the help its own government won't provide and help other nations as well that don't have enough ability to do it themselves. Don't ever expect Exxon-Mobil to offer aid as its game plan is to manipulate oil prices for maximum sales and profit growth with little or no regard for social responsibility that would only lower them.

The Vision of Chavez's Democratic Bolivarian Revolution Vs. Bush's Belligerent Imperialism

Look at the difference between how Hugo Chavez governs at home and shares with others abroad based on the principles of social equity and justice compared to the way George Bush does it. He and his hard-right Republican allies believe it's right to take from the poor and plunder other nations abroad to benefit the rich and powerful at home. To do it he's been waging illegal wars of aggression almost since he took office and just declared a permanent "long war" clash of civilizations against 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide to subjugate and exploit them for the corporate interests he represents.

Hugo Chavez will stand for re-election on December 3 this year. His approval rating is so high (compared to Bush's low one), no opposition candidate can defeat him in a free, fair and open election although the Bush administration is planning an unknown array of dirty tricks trying to do it. Compare that to the way elections are now run in the US where the only sure way George Bush and neocon Republicans can win is by rigging the outcomes. They have to because growing numbers of voters are fed up with them and reject their failed policies of endless war against enemies that don't exist, tax cuts for the rich combined with reduced social services for everyone else to pay for them, and a crackdown on civil liberties to quell dissent that always happens in the face of injustice.

A lot more people would reject them as well if they knew and took to heart Founding Father and President James Madison's belief about the dangers of war and how it extends "the discretionary power of the Executive." He wrote: "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." And Abraham Lincoln once wrote while he was still in the Congress that "kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending....that the good of the people was the object." Both these now revered men would shudder at how right they were if they knew how fast those freedoms and greater good for the people have been lost under the Bush administration, its policies of universal repression, and plan to turn the US into a nation of serfs and then do the same thing all over the world and make ordinary Americans have to pay the bills for it and end up poorer as a result.

Things aren't this way in Venezuela and shouldn't be anywhere. Under the letter and spirit of the Bolivarian Revolution, the country is governed under a system of real participatory democracy where the people get to vote and those they elect actually serve them. In the US what's called democracy is only for the privileged few. All others are left behind in a system morphing toward modern-day feudalism based on how an earlier failed 20th century tyrant ruled which he explained in his own words - "(by) a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligent nationalism." Sound familiar?

The tyrant was Benito Mussolini, and he called it fascism, although despite his claim, he didn't invent it. Nineteenth century born and early 20th century philosopher Giovanni Gentile did, and he's sometimes called the "philosopher of fascism." He explained it in the Encyclopia Italiana saying "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Like all good dictators finding an idea he liked, Mussolini replaced Gentile's name with his own and claimed credit for it. Now in the US under George Bush it's showing up again as a feudal corporatocracy heading straight toward a full-blown version of the Mussolini/Hitler model, US-style with many of the same trappings - a messianic mission and appeal to patriotism to fight an endless war on terrorism sacrificing constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties to do it and enriching corporations that profit from it. And all this falsely couched in the "land of the free and home of the brave" rhetoric and spirit from "The Star-Spangled Banner" anthem all children are taught at an early age to sing in school with hands over heart and never forget.

Hugo Chavez represents a different vision. Among world leaders, he's the best hope to give democracy meaning again throughout the Americas and beyond, and that's why the Bush administration is determined to oust him before he spreads much more of his good will. The Chavez way is gaining ground because it's a new paradigm based on global solidarity, equality and political, economic and social justice that opposes the failed Bush neoliberal imperial world model more people everywhere are fed up with and want no more of. It's shown up on the streets of Mexico for weeks and again on Sunday when hundreds of thousands of people packed the great Zocalo square in Mexico City in support of winning candidate Lopez Obrador denied by massive fraud the office of president he won in July. They stand with him in solidarity and his intention to set up a parallel government after he's sworn in as its "legitimate president" on November 20. Hugo Chavez stands with him as well, and on Saturday at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Havana accused Mexico's ruling party of stealing the election and destroying the chance for good relations with Venezuela.

There were more signs of discontent with the old order at the 16th annual NAM summit, attended by representatives from over 110 nations. At it, Hugo Chavez declared "American imperialism is in decline. A new bi-polar world is emerging. The non-aligned group has been relaunched to unite the South under its umbrella (in opposition)." At the summit's conclusion, a final document was drafted expressing support for Venezuela, its constitutional government and democratically elected President Hugo Chavez. It criticized US aggressive policies against Chavez and supported the right of the Venezuelan people to choose their own form of government, their leader and representatives, and their economic and political system free from foreign intervention. The document also expressed "firm support and solidarity for Bolivia" and Cuba including demanding the US end its economic, trade and financial blockade that violates the UN Charter and other international law.

It also acknowledged Iran's right to develop its commercial nuclear industry that's in full compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) based on known evidence about it. Further, it sharply criticized US foreign policy and its wars of illegal aggression as well as Israel's wars against Lebanon and Palestine and the US role in them. It also spoke out by implication against the unilateral US domination of the UN calling on this international body to do more to respect and better represent the needs and rights of smaller nations. The document affirmed the right of each nation's national sovereignty and was a strong rebuke of the US Bush administration and its imperial policies. In addition, it represented a strong statement of growing resistance to it from around the world that's likely to gain added resonance as long as Hugo Chavez is able to pursue his policies of putting the needs and rights of people ahead of those of wealth and power.

Other Unexpected Criticism

Chavez isn't alone as other critics are emerging in places as unexpected as the UK where British Labour Party 23-year veteran MP and former Cabinet Minister Clare Short just announced she's leaving New Labour because she's "profoundly ashamed" of the Government and Prime Minister Tony Blair's "craven" support for "US neoconservative foreign policy (that) has dishonoured the UK, undermined the UN and international law and helped to make the world a more dangerous place." She said she was "standing down (to) speak the truth and support the changes that are needed." She's not alone in the Blair government as growing numbers of other party "back-benchers" are joining her in a show of solidarity and disgust for a government allied shamelessly with Washington's corrupted notion of might makes right and the use of it in the pursuit of wealth and power as an end in itself.

Stay tuned for the coming chapters in this epic struggle for a new and better world vision and an end to the old one that doesn't work, never did or will, and that more people than ever are determined to free themselves from. It's what Abraham Lincoln meant when he once said: "Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, which we hope and believe is to liberate the world." It was the same message South America's great Liberator Simon Bolivar had when he once spoke of the imperial curse he sought to free his people from that "plague(d) Latin America with misery in the name of liberty." From the NAM summit in Havana, Hugo Chavez echoed similar thoughts in his address to the General Assembly on September 15. In it he said: "....let's unite in the South and we will have a future, we will have dignity, our people will have life....Let's unite to liberate ourselves, to exist, to self-construct the South."

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Imperialism 101 - The US Addiction to War, Mayhem and Madness - Part II - by Stephen Lendman

Part I of this article explained that the US was always a warrior, imperial nation, building it in steps and addicted to its madness. First we took it from its original inhabitants; then we expanded it beyond our borders by seizing the half of Mexico we wanted; later we established colonies abroad; and now, our method of choice is to rule the world through compliant leaders in client states everywhere serving our interests. We began doing it gradually following WW II when we emerged as the only dominant nation left standing, unchallengeable as the world's only economic, political and military superpower. Even before the war ended, we planned to take full advantage of that indomitable status once it did. We pursued it throughout the "cold war" and in the 1990s when it was over. Then came 9/11, the gloves came off in the Bush administration, and top officials in it ended any pretense of what our real aims are. The rest, as they say, is history, and the nations we target in our quest for world dominance and our own people at home pay a dreadful price. Below is a case study of our imperial madness in Iraq documenting how painful that price is.

A Case Study In Imperial Mayhem and Madness and Its Disasterous Consequences - First the Victims

If the US had a slogan or motto on how best to fight wars it might be "all's surely fair in war as well as love." The only rules we observe are the ones we make up as we go along. With that code of conduct and with total disregard for the rule of domestic or international law, designated targets can only expect their earth scorched followed by a living hell delivered in the name of democracy and liberation. Iraq, like Southeast Asia in the sixties and seventies and Nicaragua and El Salvador in the eighties, is a classic example with Afghanistan being more of the same. The people on our receiving end of our gunsights know democracy American-style is none at all.

For anyone paying attention to events unfolding in Iraq from the few credible sources available (meaning unembedded journalists, reports from our disillusioned military and leaks including high level ones), there's little doubt the situation on the ground is disastrous and getting worse - for us as well as the Iraqis. From these reports on the ground, we continue learning more of what the Pentagon and administration try to suppress, always with the full cooperation of the corporate-run media. But the truth can't be hidden, the lies are unravelling, and the charade of progress is being seen as a shamless myth.

For 26 million Iraqis, liberation American-style is none whatever. For them it's an endless living hell nightmare since the US first attacked and invaded in January, 1991. At that time we deliberately and illegally destroyed essential infrastructure like power generating stations and clean water facilities vital to the health, welfare and safety of the people. We also wontonly slaughtered many thousands of defenseless civilians and Iraqi military who had given up the fight they wanted no part of in the first place. The likely toll was at least 100,000 killed in just a few weeks of brutal one-sided combat mostly inflicted from the air against a target country we knew was defenseless. Our initial cost was modest for an operation involving 580,000 military personal - 146 killed (including by friendly fire) and 467 wounded. A far greater cost to US forces would show up later that's discussed below.

What followed Operation Desert Storm was a dozen years of continued air-assault bombings along with oppressive and unjustifiable economic sanctions. Combined they destroyed all the institutions of a modern civil society which Iraq was prior to 1991. They left in their wake an epic humanitarian disaster by every measure imaginable including median Iraqi income creating mass poverty. Because of the country's oil wealth, Iraq was once the most advanced and developed country in the Middle East with a per capita income of $2,313 in 1979. By 2003, that income had declined to $255 per capita and in 2004 it had fallen further to about $144. It's easy to understand why based on a study by the college of economics at Baghdad University that estimated the unemployment rate to be about 70%. Even the so-called "oil for food" program did little to relieve the crisis prior to the current invasion and war. It wasn't intended to as the US plan was to inflict the greatest possible hardships on the people hoping it would encourage them to rise up and topple Saddam. In fact, it had the opposite effect despite the severity of the toll. Instead of blaming Saddam, Iraqis relied on him for whatever relief they could get. It wasn't much or nearly enough because the US allowed him little to give.

The combination of war and economic sanctions likely caused the death of at least one million by even conservative estimates including 500,000 children. Other estimates put the number as high as 1.5 million in total by the end of the nineties. When Denis Halliday resigned in 1998 as UN head of Iraqi humanitarian relief he said he did so because he "had been instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over one million individuals, children and adults." He went on to say 5,000 Iraqi children were dying needlessly every month.

Conditions got far worse following the US illegal aggression beginning in March, 2003. The daily toll of death and destruction from the ongoing endless conflict is unknown precisely, but even honest conservative estimates are appalling and shocking despite efforts by the Pentagon to suppress them. The British Lancet reported in October, 2004 by their "conservative assumptions" an Iraqi toll of about 100,000 "excess deaths" post March, 2003. They then updated their earlier estimate in February, 2006 to a likely 300,000 that seven months later is considerably higher. Other assessments suggest an even greater number, up to 500,000 according to one estimate a few months ago. Whatever the true number, the US inflicted disaster on Iraq and its people is one of epic proportions in all respects.

It's destroyed a once prosperous nation and left in its wake today a surreal lawless armed camp wasteland with few or no essential services like electricity, clean water, medical care, fuel or most everything else needed for sustenance and survival. It shows up in Baghdad's morgue that can't cope with the number of corpses it gets daily while those still living can't get desperately needed care at hospitals unable to provide it. It's also there in the US-run torture-prisons where anyone can be brutalized in a kind of a ritual foreplay for no reason at all. Thing's aren't improving. They get steadily worse as the occupation grinds on and death squads room at will including the US "Salvador option" ones modeled after the types used in the Reagan era against the leftist guerrilla resistance in El Salvador in the 1980s that murdered many thousands. This is what life in most of Iraq is now like, and it clearly warrants the label genocide. It also makes all US officials at the highest levels responsible for it guilty of egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity. Will they ever be held to account for what they've done? Never, as long as the US occupier lives by the rules of victor's justice that insures none at all for the victims.

A notable sign of US-style justice happened at the end of July when the Pentagon awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (DDSM) to retiring General Geoffrey Miller who supervised the infamous US torture-prisons at Guantanamo and later Abu Ghraib. The DDSM was established by Richard Nixon's 1970 Executive Order so the Secretary of Defense could award it to officers of the US Armed Forces "whose exceptional performance of duty and contributions to national security or defense have been at the highest levels." Clearly generals or other officers in charge of torture now qualify for the award.

The Toll of Mayhem and Madness On Our Own Military Forces On the Ground and Reporters

No one should ever believe anything from government sources, especially our own. We practically invented and defined the art of disseminating lies and practicing deceit. We're at it daily, particularly in how and what we report on the war in Iraq. The military holds update briefings at its media nerve center for the war - CentCom. It's a worthless exercise there and whenever else US officials report on the war. Anyone expecting to get a true picture of conditions on the ground won't ever because the most important information known is censored or suppressed. In times of war, the first casualty is truth, and the corporate-run media is always willing to oblige to keep it that way.

The Pentagon is also ready to use its muscle to censor, shut down, or destroy any news source in the country that may reveal what it wants suppressed. It repeatedly harasses and assaults Al-Jazeera closing it down and in 2003 attacked its Baghdad offices by air killing one of its correspondents and injuring another. Previously in Afghanistan in November, 2001, Al-Jazeera's Kabul offices were destroyed by a US missile in a deliberate attempt to stop unfavorable news reports from coming out. Another time a US tank with no provocation fired point blank at the Palestine Hotel in the capitol where most non-embedded international journalists are based killing reporters from Reuters and the Spanish network Telecino. These are just a few examples of the deadly effects of US efforts to silence honest news reporting from the country. The International Press Institute (IPI) keeps a journalist death watch count and reports that including all of 2003 76 journalists have been killed in Iraq by all assailants making this country by far the most dangerous venue in the world for members of the fourth estate. That number has now been updated by other sources that report since March, 2003 to the present 107 journalists and other media workers have been killed in this most dangerous of all places for them to work.

In spite of the danger and toll its taken, much of what Washington and the corporate-run media conceal is being reported from unembedded journalists and a growing number of unofficial accounts emerging or leaking out. They show what conditions are really like on the ground and the effect the conflict has had on US ground forces in the country. They're being increasingly stressed and terrified out of their minds, most are physically and/or psychologically traumatized or ill, many quite seriously from the deadly effects of depleted uranium (DU) poisoning and other toxins that have already disabled as many as 350,000 or more Gulf war veterans according to what can be pieced together from the little information the Veterans Administration (VA) reports (they don't explain from what or make a serious effort to find out). The psychological toll is also growing from witnessing or obeying orders to participate in the daily barbaric slaughter of Iraqi civilians including women, children, the elderly and infirm. The result is the rate of suicides is believed to be rising to alarming levels as is the number of desertions the Pentagon reports to be about 40,000 since 2000 from all branches of the military, half of them from the Army. Over 5,500 of them are Iraq related (the Pentagon keeps this very quiet) with many dozens more joining their ranks each month. In addition, many others are refusing to return to Iraq for another tour of duty after serving there one or more times. Those who do it unannounced are being quietly discharged in most cases, while the ones going public to denounce the war saying they won't serve in it any longer face courts martial, dishonorable discharge and possible prison terms.

Little of the above information has been reported, but most disturbing of all is the true unreported daily death and injury toll of US military personnel that's far higher than the official numbers. Department of Defense (DOD) reports are now being quietly circulated indicating over 12,000 dead, not the current announced total approaching 2,700. That figure includes thousands of previously unreported deaths of US military personnel who died en route to German or other hospitals or after arriving there. There's also evidence from Military Air Transport Service (MATS) manifests that show many more bodies shipped to Dover Air Force Base than are officially reported when there are any reports at all.

The true number of serious injuries has also been grossly understated. It could be twice as high as the official numbers based on reports from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany alone that has treated over 25,000 wounded military patients even as the DOD only officially acknowledges around 15,000 in total and then quietly at first increased the number to about 19,000. These injuries, rarely discussed, include loss of limbs, brain damage and other debilitations that will scar those affected by them for the rest of their lives if after treatment and recovery they even survive. And there's never any mention of the later physical and/or psychological pain and suffering veterans endure or how many of them had or likely will have their lives shortened as a result of the time they spent in combat theaters "serving their country."

In addition to the stress of trauma, possible death or serious injury US forces face, they must also cope with the problems of daily life on the ground making their lives difficult or too often unbearable. Many of their Forward Operations Bases don't get enough daily drinking water and other necessities such as proper food to eat regularly. It makes an intolerable situation even worse. For many there's also a lack of basic amenities like clean clothes, a daily shower and a comfortable bed to sleep in. In addition, the equipment on the ground is being consumed and not replaced including weapons, vehicles, ordinance, body armor and most everything else. Despite the multi-billions spent on this imperial adventure, too little of it is going to "the boots on the ground," because too much of it is budgeted for corporate friends of the administration feasting on huge no-bid contracts. The situation isn't improving. In fact, it's steadily deteriorating despite official denials.

By the time our forces are finally withdrawn from Iraq, as one day they will, the human disaster will be almost incomprehensible. From just a short one-time deployment during the 1991 Gulf war, hundreds of thousands of our forces sent there are now on some form of disability either from the deadly effects of DU poisoning, the stew of other toxins they were exposed to, the physical injuries they received or the permanent psychological scars they may take to the grave. But the worst is yet to come. Beginning with the Afghanistan war in late 2001 and the Iraq war from March, 2003, over 1.3 million of our military forces have served one or more tours of duty for extended periods in what are beyond question the most dangerous and toxic environments on earth. The best estimates (because the VA won't say) are that between 30 - 70% of Gulf war vets so far are now on some kind of disability. If only that same range is applied to the 1.3 million of our military now serving or having served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, between 400,000 and 900,000 of them may end up on disability or die from exposure to the DU munitions used in these wars which we've learned are vastly more toxic than the ones used in the Gulf war. And if they manage to avoid DU poisoning, they may succumb to the effects from the many other toxic pollutants they had to live with or become scarred or maimed for life from the violent environments they had to serve in or the acts they had to commit fulfilling their duty there.

In simple terms, it's likely we can expect an eventual overall catastrophic human disaster and one being covered up because of its enormity. US high officials and Pentagon brass that planned this holocaust to both sides likely knew the human cost to our forces alone would be high but decided anyway the innocent mostly young people we sent to fight were expendable and could be written off to be replaced by new and fresh equally innocent recruits - as long as their dirty secret never gets out. The lives lost or ruined on both sides are dismissed as "collateral damage" or just a "price that has to be paid." It's a human price and one that's paid to enrich well-connected big corporations that love wars because they're so profitable.

The Madness of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution gives the power to declare war solely to the Congress. The Founding Fathers rightfully believed that authority so important they codified it. They wanted to assure that for the single most important issue a nation ever faces, that awesome power would never be placed in the hands of a single individual like the president. They wanted only the legislative branch to have it and only exercise it after careful, deliberative debate. That branch still has it, but for the last 65 years it's abrogated its authority and allowed Presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush to usurp it. The result has been the many wars we've fought since WW II along with the many we encouraged, supported and financed plus all the CIA covert mischief and abuse going on at all times.

The result is that every war this country fought in since WW II from Korea to Iraq to the one now planned and "signed off" on by George Bush against Iran and possibly Syria and Venezuela as well to oust President Hugo Chavez to begin on future so far unknown dates was and will be acts of illegal aggression. In each case the US either committed the first overt hostile act or goaded its designated target country enough to do it to provide us with a casus belli for the war we planned and intended to wage. We provoked the North Koreans (through our South Korean proxies) enough in 1950 to get them to respond to give us an excuse to enter a civil conflict between the North and South. We did the same thing again to Iraq (through our Kuwaiti proxies) in 1990-91. In each case, from Korea to the present, we did it against adversaries that never threatened to attack us or had any intention to. Our actions each time were planned, willful acts of illegal aggression, which is what the Nazis were tried for at Nuremburg.

The Tribunal called their crime the "supreme international crime" and specifically said: "To initiate a war of not only an international crime, it is the supreme crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." For the last 55 years, the US has repeatedly committed "supreme international crimes" but has yet to be held to account for any of them. In a just world, those in power during each of those illegal wars would have been put in the dock, tried, convicted and either hanged like the most egregious Nazis or given appropriate prison terms for their crimes. The US has also violated the UN Charter that allows a nation the right to use force in its self-defense only under two conditions: when authorized to do it by the Security Council or under Article 51 that permits the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security." By attacking another nation without provocation and with no Security Council authorization, the US violated this sacred covenant. It also violated the US Constitution that says...."all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land." The Bush administration continues to remind us of its disdain for all laws that conflict with its policies.

It should also remind responsible people that's why the International Criminal Court was established by the Rome Statute of 1998 to which the US is a signatory. The Court's authority became effective after receiving its required number of ratifying signatures in 2002 to be a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide as defined by the Nuremberg Charter of 1945. However, the Bush administration refuses to participate in the Court unless its military personnel are given immunity from prosecution - an outrageous demand made for obvious reasons. As a result, no US official or military offender will be held to account before the court unless brought there against their will which isn't likely. That's not how things work in a world ruled by victor's justice. Only losers pay the price in that kind of world, even when they're victims.

Besides committing the supreme international crime of illegal aggression, the US is a serial offender in other ways. It violated international law by waging war without restraint using every weapon it chooses including illegal chemical and possibly biological agents. During the 1950s the effects of such agents were ilicitly tested in selected US cities including New York and San Francisco on our own unwitting population. However, through the years post WW I, the 1925 Geneva Convention Gas Protocol and various succeeding Geneva Weapons Conventions outlawed the use of chemical and biological agents in any form for any reason in war. In addition, under various UN Conventions and Covenants that are binding international law for its signatories, the use of any weapons that cause harm after the battle including away from the battlefield, harm the environment, or kill, wound or cause harm inhumanely are illegal and banned.

Since the Gulf war in 1991, the US has routinely used illegal weapons including depleted uranium munitions in four wars that spread deadly toxic irremediable radiation over the target sites attacked and a vast area beyond them. These DU weapons are poisonous under international law and violate all the above conditions. Even the respected Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is legally non-binding to its signatories, implies a moral duty never to use any weapons as potentially harmful as DU ones or any chemical or biological agents.

In all its wars the US has also willfully violated international law by deliberately attacking non-military targets as a tactical strategy against area "resistance." It's also been callously indifferent to heavy civilian "collateral damage" (words that signify war crimes for some) in attacking military ones. The choice of weapons has been indiscriminate as well and include ones judged illegal and outlawed. In Iraq these have been chemical gases, questionable cluster bombs and a terror weapon called "flashettes" which explode and shoot out 1000s of nails in all directions with deadly results. Two even more deadly terror weapons have been indiscriminately used in Iraq including in civilian areas. One is the napalm-like white phosphorous bombs and shells, known as Willy Pete, that burn flesh to the bone and can't be extinguished by water that only makes it worse when used. The other is an updated version of napalm called Mark 77 firebombs which do about the same thing to flesh.

One other terror weapon likely also is used called a thermobaric bomb which is a modification of still another prohibited weapon called fuel air explosives (FAE) that in their original form are enormously powerful and destroy and incinerate structures and people. The thermobaric update contains polymer-bonded or solid fuel-air explosives in its payload. It's also able to penetrate buildings, underground shelters and tunnels creating a blast pressure great enough to suck the oxygen out from the spaces and lungs of anyone in the vicinity. Used against civilians, these weapons are illegal under the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. However, George Bush arrogantly dismisses the Geneva Conventions claiming they don't apply in the "war on terror." He echoed the sentiment of his then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (the current Attorney General) whose memo in early 2002 stated: "The nature of the new war (on terror) places a high premium on other factors such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists.....In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." Such is the language of tyrants and those around them in high places. The Pentagon also acts with disdain for the law and freely uses whatever terror weapons it chooses against any target.

The sum of these actions and policies is that the George Bush's legacy will based on the notion of endless illegal aggression in the "permanent state of war" his administration declared after 9/11 that now has been rebranded as "the long war" against "Islamo-fascism." It also sanctions the use of banned weapons against civilians, and it believes the most sacred international law is quaint, obsolete and out of date. Is it any wonder this administration has laid waste to scores of villages, towns and cities across Iraq and Afghanistan and done it not just to destroy targets but to send a message that no restraint will be shown to crush all resistance against imperial aggression. This scorched earth policy is called the "Fallujah model" which, of course, was the city in al-Anbar province of 350,000 US ground and air forces attacked full-force in November, 2004. It was done using most every terror weapon they had, other than nuclear ones, to inflict maximum destruction including to essential infrastructure like water, electrical power and hospitals to wipe out whatever resistance was there. Now the same model is being used against the people of Ramadi, the capitol of al-Anbar and a city larger than Fallujah that was surrounded and attacked by a large combined US and proxy Iraqi force beginning on June 9. The assault is still ongoing, and in the words of its US commander, it's unclear how long it will take to "pacify" the city.

What the commander meant but left unsaid was that US style pacification means mass killing and destruction like what was done to Fallujah or alternately following the "Leningrad", "Ben Tre" or "Jenin" model. Whether the plan is to break the will of the people and starve it to submission, "destroy the town to save it" or just inflict barbaric retribution in an act of vengeance and do it against innocent people there, these acts are outrageous war crimes and crimes against humanity. What the commander also didn't say is what's been coming from unembedded and leaked reports on the ground - that despite the intense and protracted effort to suppress the resistance, the US military has effectively lost control over all of al-Anbar province west of Baghdad that comprises about one-third of the country. This assessment was confirmed in August by Col. Pete Devlin, the Marine Corps chief of intelligence, who characterized the situation there as beyond repair and that US forces have lost the battle in al-Anbar. It's happened in spite of the intense fighting across areas under US control including the tactical strategy of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The latter crimes are those the Nuremburg Charter cited to explain what Hitler did to the Jews. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) ruled these actions are the historical and legal precursors to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. From the 15 year unrelenting assault against the Iraqi people beginning with the Gulf war, the devastating economic sanctions, continued bombings throughout the 1990s up to the 2003 illegal war, occupation and daily crimes committed under it, the US is as guilty of genocide as were the Nazis against the Jews and all others they sought to eliminate.

Add to that the systematic use of torture at the hellhole prisons with names now well-known and many others around the world the CIA and military run or "rendition" victims to so they can learn how American justice works. It's the same way it worked in Nazi Germany and under all other regimes run by tyrants. Victims have no rights and can be treated any way their oppressors choose. International laws that are the supreme law of the land are quaint and ignored, the notion of innocent unless or until proved guilty is a nonstarter, and knowing torture isn't an effective way to break resistance and obtain credible information hardly matters. When you're the world's only superpower, can decide alone what's lawful or not, and are on the rampage, who'll be brave or foolish enough to challenge you? Few, in any, dare.

Is Justice Possible in A World Where Might Makes Right

The rule of law is sacred and should protect us from oppression and injustice. It doesn't because a greater force prevails - the power of the strong over the weak, to write the laws it wants and ignore all others, to recklessly pursue its ends, to pillage and plunder because it can get away with it. It's called the law of might makes right, ruled by the code of victors' justice where only the vanquished are held to account and no one has rights except the powerful who make their own. It's a world of lawlessness, disorder and endless conflict, our world, and it's brought to us by a rogue superpower posing as a model democratic state. Those under its oppressive heel, now and in the past, know it well. For many of them it's the curse of having too much of a valued natural resource the US wants to control and exploit. It was true for Iraq and is no different for Iran and Venezuela that also are on the US target list.

What's clear abroad is also true in the US where sacred constitutional law and the political process are effectively dead letters. So too are long-established international laws and norms that interfere with the plans of the new rulers of the world. The power of the Executive declared it so, and the Congress (a Greek chorus posing as a legitimate legislative body) went along - while a modern-day Rome slowly burns and threatens all humanity with its fallout.

It never should have been this way nor was it intended to following WW I. Because of the frightening horror from that conflict, 63 nations, including the US, were signatories to the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 that renounced war as an instrument of foreign policy and said never again. The Pact failed to prevent WW II that began 11 years later nor has the UN formed in its aftermath been able to do be any more successful. This world body was established to maintain international order and security and to develop friendly relations among nations to strengthen universal peace. Its stated mission in its Charter was that it was to be an international body "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind." It hasn't done it and never will as long as it's a wholly owned subsidiary of the reigning superstate (aka predator) that co-opts it to serve its interests and prevents it from functioning as it should. What can all humanity look forward to if the institutions established to protect us don't work, and the only rule of law is the one of the jungle and survival of the fittest and most powerful. More on this below.

A Possible Hidden Economic Connection to the Iraq War and Future Ones Planned

The clear connection to the Iraq war, and likely ones in some form planned against Iran and Venezuela, is the ocean of oil each country literally floats on. Saddam became a target for regime change when he refused to submit and cede control of it to the US demanding he do it. Now the Iranian mullahs and its President Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez may be next in our target queue for the same reason. Like Iraq, with only conventional weapons for defense, these two countries are no match militarily against an all out US assault unlike North Korea that may have a nuclear deterrent giving that country a degree of invulnerability only states with that type weapon have against an aggressive superpower. The US picks its targets judiciously, and like a schoolyard bully never attacks an adversary that can put up a decent fight - at least by its military.

There also may be another motive behind our belligerence besides the clear oil related one. It's much less visible, not discussed, and well concealed beneath the radar. It relates to the notion believed by some economists that flawed and/or out of date methodologies are used to compute some of our key economic data like the gross domestic product (GDP), the total employment and unemployment figures known as the monthly jobs report, and the federal deficit. The reasoning goes that if the unemployment rate today was computed by the same methodology used during The Great Depression when it rose to 25% of the working population, the true current figure would be about 12% instead of the reported 4.7% which includes part-time workers and anyone working as little as one hour during the reporting period. It also excludes all those who wish to work but have stopped looking (discouraged workers) because they can't find any.

A cover story just out in the September 25 issue of Business Week magazine lends credence to the notion that official published government data is manipulated and flawed to look better than, in fact, it is. The article is titled: "What's Really Propping Up The Economy." It states since 2001, all newly created private sector jobs (1.7 million) came from one source - the health care industry which includes the drug companies and insurers offering health insurance. This one industry today represents 12% of the workforce and $2 trillion in annual spending (about one-sixth of the nation's GDP and growing). The story goes on to explain that without the private sector jobs from this one source "the nation's labor market would be in a deep coma" so that while some other sectors like construction and areas related to it added 900,000 jobs since 2001, that gain was offset by "the pressures of globalization and new technology (that) have wreaked havoc on the rest of the labor market" resulting in factories closing and shrinkage in other areas. Even information technology, "the great electronic promise of the 1990s," turned into a bust as far as its ability to generate new jobs. Instead of creating any, it lost 1.1 million of them since 2001 and now employs fewer people than in 1998 "when the Internet frenzy kicked into high gear."

This kind of data doesn't reflect a healthy, expanding economy and clearly is a strong indication of one showing very disturbing signs. The current situation is still further complicated by a failing policy of imperial overreach, massive and out-of-control federal deficits discussed below, and the greatest housing boom in history that propped up the economy, became a bubble, and is now unwinding and likely to become painful before it ends. Just how much and how fast won't be known until a future time when an assessment is made of the amount of damage done and what economic conditions are in its wake. It may show things to be lots different than the rosy way they're portrayed now by most analysts.

It may be why at least one economist (maybe an honest one) believes a more accurate calculation of the real GDP indicates it's contracting and not expanding in a healthy fashion as is now reported each quarter. And most disturbing of all is an analysis of the federal deficit, the computation of which has been miscalculated since the Johnson administration began using accounting gimmicks to hide the true costs of the Vietnam war. If the deficit were calculated based on GAAP methodology (the accounting rules required of all publicly traded corporations in preparing their financial statements), the true figure would have been $665 billion for fiscal year 2003 and $760 billion for 2005 instead of the reported $375 billion 2003 figure and $318 billion for 2005. But that greater figure expands to an astonishing $3,700,000,000,000 ($3.7 trillion) for 2003 and a similarly frightening one for 2005 if the annual increase in the net amount of unfunded Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government pension obligations are included. This shadow deficit has been mounting since the Johnson years and shows that the US government in fiscal year 2003 had a negative net worth of $34,000,000,000,000 ($34 trillion) by one estimate.

Another economist paints an even grimmer picture than the one above. That economist, Boston University Professor Laurence Kotlikoff, prepared a recent detailed report for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in which he stated, by some measures, the US is already bankrupt and unable to pay its creditors (the ones holding its debt instruments and due its entitlement payments). Professor Kotlikoff wrote that a country's solvency depends on its ability to honor its lifetime fiscal obligations which are the difference between all required future spending and the revenue expected to be received to do it. That gap will widen exponentially as the accumulated US sovereign and other debt obligations plus the amount of revenue needed to cover the bill for retiring Baby Boomers' unfunded liabilities of social security, medicare, medicaid, government pensions and all else rises to an incomprehensible and unmanageable $65,900,000,000,000 ($65.9 trillion) by the calculations he used from a study by two other professors. Professor Kotlikoff explained this figure is over five times the current US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and double the national wealth. He added that if his analysis is right, it means the US is bankrupt, will face a fiscal calamity ahead and will have to default on its debt, entitlements and other obligations.

Professor Kotlikoff had more to say on this matter in a recent extended essay he wrote for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review July/August issue titled "Is the United States Bankrupt?" In it he stated that future US workers would need to be taxed at the rate of 55 - 80% over their working lifetimes to pay for the estimated $80 trillion in unfunded future entitlement liabilities or more than six times the current US GDP. Whichever of his two numbers is more accurate (if either one is), Professor Kotlikoff is beginning to be heard and is gaining some adherents. They believe the US faces a potential future fiscal meltdown even though it's understood the nation's balance sheet isn't static and includes increasing assets as well as liabilities that must be figured into any bottom line calculation of net obligations. So as dire as the current and future situation may be, the true state of the problem likely won't be known precisely until the inevitable day of reckoning arrives revealing how ugly it is.

What is known is that whichever analysis of the problem is right, the future consequences eventually will likely shake the world and change our way of life at home irrevocably at the least. So how does that relate to this country's addiction to war and the current notion of permanent or long ones. Simple. Hot wars stimulate the economy and make it grow - especially extended ones. They require lot's of spending, but so far the funding's there for them from institutional and foreign investors willing to buy our sovereign debt and the Federal Reserve always cooperative by printing up lots of ready cash. But all this comes at a price. Along with shamless tax cuts for the rich and massive corporate welfare subsidies and war-related contracts, it's caused the federal budget and current account deficits to balloon exacerbating an unmanageable fiscal problem since 2001 alone the result of George Bush's reckless policies of excess greed and imperial overreach. The latter is his new "long war" policy, and the more of them we wage, the more positive it is for the economy and corporate profits - in the short run. Without them and their spoils, the economy might not be as healthy or could even be in trouble.

So the nation may face a Hobson's choice: continue our profligate spending ways or see our fiscal house of cards collapse - a conundrum with no solution. The larger our economy gets, the more dependent it is on wars and militarism for economic stimulus. It results in more debt to get the same bang for the bucks we now spend like drunken politicians. It's an unending cycle requiring increasingly greater capital infusions without end in a sort of fiscal game of musical chairs, but one where we dare not let the music stop. Because our economy is so large, we need huge amounts of capital to maintain growth. But finding it becomes harder, and our addiction to it is like being on a treadmill we can't get off of. As a result, we may heading for an eventual day of reckoning, like the one Professor Kotlikoff envisions, no one wants to imagine or confront. It's the same problem a drug addict has needing bigger fixes for the same effect. That behavior guarantees a bad ending, eventually killing the addict. In the same way, no nation can spend and borrow beyond its means forever and always need more for the same results. Nations doing it are like out of control drug addicts and face the same unavoidable fate. They can delay the inevitable but not forever. The penalty for the sins of excess are high, painful and certain. The day eventually comes when the "piper" must be paid. It may not be next month or next year, but "pipers" are very patient and always have the final say. Richard Nixon's former chief economic advisor, Herb Stein, said it well: "Things that can't go on forever, won't." He might have added how unpleasant it is when the day of reckoning comes.

The Road to Hell Is Paved with Endless War, Its Fallout and A Future No One Wants

The US is now at a dangerous watershed moment struggling to save the tattered republic and our sacred constitutional rights. Unless we reverse the present course, our future may be the one Orwell foresaw when he wrote: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face....forever...." Like the totalitarian state of Oceania led by Big Brother in his best known book 1984, we're waging a permanent long war; no one is safe anymore - from our own government; we're all being illegally surveilled; anyone may be forcibly taken away, detained, tortured or murdered - all to make the world safe for a brave new world order ruled ruthlessly by capital that's called democracy. It's one without a political process because the Congress gave it up to a "Unitary Executive" with the power to abrogate the separation of powers doctrine, bypass the lawmakers and courts and act as he chooses to protect the nation's security or for whatever other reason he decides.

We're now nearing a crisis because George Bush chose to invoke the wartime contingency "national security initiatives" established during the Reagan years that gives the President the power to suspend the Constitution and declare martial law. Bush did it by signing executive orders post 9/11 giving himself absolute power in times of whatever he alone decides is a "national emergency." If he assumes it, he'll become a dictator, accountable to no one, which he claims the right to do on his say alone. The only sensible recourse is for mass people action (like now ongoing for weeks in the streets of Mexico against authoritarian rule) to prevent our crossing the Rubicon and passing from a shaky republic to the tyranny of a full-blown national security police state and a future no one wants. It can happen here just as it did in ancient Rome and in Weimar Germany when the good people there lost their model democratic state. They allowed Hitler to steal it while they weren't paying attention. They bought into his demonic appeal to his divine mission as the nation's savior (sound familiar?) and his pretense to be protecting them from an outside threat that didn't exist. That history should remind us how fragile our sacred liberties are and how easily they're lost when tyrants are allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged. We're at a moment now when there's still time to act before it's too late to save a nation conceived in liberty that may soon no longer have it. Edmund Burke explained it long ago when he said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I'm sure today he'd remember the importance of women.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog address at