Saturday, April 22, 2006
By Kurt Vonnegut
Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.
But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America's becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
When you get to my age, if you get to my age, which is 81, and if you have reproduced, you will find yourself asking your own children, who are themselves middle-aged, what life is all about. I have seven kids, four of them adopted.
Many of you reading this are probably the same age as my grandchildren. They, like you, are being royally shafted and lied to by our Baby Boomer corporations and government.
I put my big question about life to my biological son Mark. Mark is a pediatrician, and author of a memoir, The Eden Express. It is about his crackup, straightjacket and padded cell stuff, from which he recovered sufficiently to graduate from Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: "Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is." So I pass that on to you. Write it down, and put it in your computer, so you can forget it.
I have to say that's a pretty good sound bite, almost as good as, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." A lot of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, 500 years before there was that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.
The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either hemisphere even knew that there was another one.
But back to people, like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, who've said how we could behave more humanely, and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my favorites is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state of Indiana. Get a load of this:
Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was only 4, ran 5 times as the Socialist Party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:
As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
As long as there is a criminal element, I'm of it.
As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools or health insurance for all?
How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. .
And so on.
Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.
For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.
But, when you stop to think about it, only a nut case would want to be a human being, if he or she had a choice. Such treacherous, untrustworthy, lying and greedy animals we are!
I was born a human being in 1922 A.D. What does "A.D." signify? That commemorates an inmate of this lunatic asylum we call Earth who was nailed to a wooden cross by a bunch of other inmates. With him still conscious, they hammered spikes through his wrists and insteps, and into the wood. Then they set the cross upright, so he dangled up there where even the shortest person in the crowd could see him writhing this way and that.
Can you imagine people doing such a thing to a person?
No problem. That's entertainment. Ask the devout Roman Catholic Mel Gibson, who, as an act of piety, has just made a fortune with a movie about how Jesus was tortured. Never mind what Jesus said.
During the reign of King Henry the Eighth, founder of the Church of England, he had a counterfeiter boiled alive in public. Show biz again.
Mel Gibson's next movie should be The Counterfeiter. Box office records will again be broken.
One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.
And what did the great British historian Edward Gibbon, 1737-1794 A.D., have to say about the human record so far? He said, "History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind."
The same can be said about this morning's edition of the New York Times.
The French-Algerian writer Albert Camus, who won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, wrote, "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide."
So there's another barrel of laughs from literature. Camus died in an automobile accident. His dates? 1913-1960 A.D.
Listen. All great literature is about what a bummer it is to be a human being: Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Crime and Punishment, the Bible and The Charge of the Light Brigade.
But I have to say this in defense of humankind: No matter in what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got there. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these crazy games going on, which could make you act crazy, even if you weren't crazy to begin with. Some of the games that were already going on when you got here were love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf and girls' basketball.
Even crazier than golf, though, is modern American politics, where, thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.
Actually, this same sort of thing happened to the people of England generations ago, and Sir William Gilbert, of the radical team of Gilbert and Sullivan, wrote these words for a song about it back then:
I often think it's comical
How nature always does contrive
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative.
Which one are you in this country? It's practically a law of life that you have to be one or the other? If you aren't one or the other, you might as well be a doughnut.
If some of you still haven't decided, I'll make it easy for you.
If you want to take my guns away from me, and you're all for murdering fetuses, and love it when homosexuals marry each other, and want to give them kitchen appliances at their showers, and you're for the poor, you're a liberal.
If you are against those perversions and for the rich, you're a conservative.
What could be simpler?
My government's got a war on drugs. But get this: The two most widely abused and addictive and destructive of all substances are both perfectly legal.
One, of course, is ethyl alcohol. And President George W. Bush, no less, and by his own admission, was smashed or tiddley-poo or four sheets to the wind a good deal of the time from when he was 16 until he was 41. When he was 41, he says, Jesus appeared to him and made him knock off the sauce, stop gargling nose paint.
Other drunks have seen pink elephants.
And do you know why I think he is so pissed off at Arabs? They invented algebra. Arabs also invented the numbers we use, including a symbol for nothing, which nobody else had ever had before. You think Arabs are dumb? Try doing long division with Roman numerals.
We're spreading democracy, are we? Same way European explorers brought Christianity to the Indians, what we now call "Native Americans."
How ungrateful they were! How ungrateful are the people of Baghdad today.
So let's give another big tax cut to the super-rich. That'll teach bin Laden a lesson he won't soon forget. Hail to the Chief.
That chief and his cohorts have as little to do with Democracy as the Europeans had to do with Christianity. We the people have absolutely no say in whatever they choose to do next. In case you haven't noticed, they've already cleaned out the treasury, passing it out to pals in the war and national security rackets, leaving your generation and the next one with a perfectly enormous debt that you'll be asked to repay.
Nobody let out a peep when they did that to you, because they have disconnected every burglar alarm in the Constitution: The House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the FBI, the free press (which, having been embedded, has forsaken the First Amendment) and We the People.
About my own history of foreign substance abuse. I've been a coward about heroin and cocaine and LSD and so on, afraid they might put me over the edge. I did smoke a joint of marijuana one time with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, just to be sociable. It didn't seem to do anything to me, one way or the other, so I never did it again. And by the grace of God, or whatever, I am not an alcoholic, largely a matter of genes. I take a couple of drinks now and then, and will do it again tonight. But two is my limit. No problem.
I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.
But I'll tell you one thing: I once had a high that not even crack cocaine could match. That was when I got my first driver's license! Look out, world, here comes Kurt Vonnegut.
And my car back then, a Studebaker, as I recall, was powered, as are almost all means of transportation and other machinery today, and electric power plants and furnaces, by the most abused and addictive and destructive drugs of all: fossil fuels.
When you got here, even when I got here, the industrialized world was already hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very soon now there won't be any more of those. Cold turkey.
Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn't like TV news, is it?
Here's what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey.
And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we're hooked on.
Kurt Vonnegut is a legendary author, WWII veteran, humanist, artist, smoker and In These Times senior editor. His classic works include Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Cat's Cradle, among many others. His most recent book, A Man Without a Country, collects many of the articles written for this magazine.
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006
Bylined to: William R. Clark
Iran's euro-denominated oil bourse to open in March; US$ crash imminent!
|"A successful Iranian bourse will solidify the petroeuro as an alternative oil transaction currency, and thereby end the petrodollar's hegemonic status as the monopoly oil currency. Therefore, a graduated approach is needed to avoid precipitous U.S. economic dislocations."|
"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous... Having said that, all options are on the table."
-- George W. Bush, February 2005
William R. Clark writes: Contemporary warfare has traditionally involved underlying conflicts regarding economics and resources. Today these intertwined conflicts also involve international currencies, and thus increased complexity.
Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran's nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian "petroeuro" system for oil trade.
Similar to the Iraq war, military operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of 'petrodollar recycling' and the unpublicized but real challenge to US$ supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.
It is now obvious the invasion of Iraq had less to do with any threat from Saddam's long-gone WMD program and certainly less to do to do with fighting International terrorism than it has to do with gaining strategic control over Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintain the US$ as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market.
Throughout 2004, information provided by former administration insiders revealed the Bush/Cheney administration entered into office with the intention of toppling Saddam. Candidly stated, 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' was a war designed to install a pro-US government in Iraq, establish multiple US military bases before the onset of global 'Peak Oil,' and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency ( i.e. "petroeuro"). However, subsequent geopolitical events have exposed neoconservative strategy as fundamentally flawed, with Iran moving towards a petroeuro system for international oil trades, while Russia evaluates this option with the European Union.
In 2003, the global community witnessed a combination of petrodollar warfare and oil depletion warfare. The majority of the world's governments -- especially the EU, Russia and China -- were not amused -- and neither are the U.S. soldiers who are currently stationed inside a hostile Iraq.
In 2002, I wrote an award-winning online essay that asserted Saddam Hussein sealed his fate when he announced on September 2000 that Iraq was no longer going to accept dollars for oil being sold under the UN's Oil-for-Food program, and decided to switch to the euro as Iraq's oil export currency.
Indeed, my original pre-war hypothesis was validated in a Financial Times article dated June 5, 2003, which confirmed Iraqi oil sales returning to the international markets were once again denominated in US$ ... not euros.
- The tender, for which bids are due by June 10, switches the transaction back to dollars -- the international currency of oil sales -- despite the greenback's recent fall in value.
Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq's oil be sold for euros, a political move, but one that improved Iraq's recent earnings thanks to the rise in the value of the euro against the dollar. 
The Bush administration implemented this currency transition despite the adverse impact on profits from Iraqi's export oil sales. (In mid-2003 the euro was valued approx. 13% higher than the dollar, and thus significantly impacted the ability of future oil proceeds to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure). Not surprisingly, this detail has never been mentioned in the five US major media conglomerates who control 90% of information flow in the US, but confirmation of this vital fact provides insight into one of the crucial -- yet overlooked -- rationales for 2003 the Iraq war.
Concerning Iran, recent articles have revealed active Pentagon planning for operations against its suspected nuclear facilities. While the publicly stated reasons for any such overt action will be premised as a consequence of Iran's nuclear ambitions, there are again unspoken macroeconomic drivers underlying the second stage of petrodollar warfare – Iran's upcoming oil bourse. (The word bourse refers to a stock exchange for securities trading, and is derived from the French stock exchange in Paris, the Federation Internationale des Bourses de Valeurs.)
In essence, Iran is about to commit a far greater "offense" than Saddam Hussein's conversion to the euro for Iraq's oil exports in the fall of 2000.
Beginning in March 2006, the Tehran government has plans to begin competing with New York's NYMEX and London's IPE with respect to international oil trades – using a euro-based international oil-trading mechanism. The proposed Iranian oil bourse signifies that without some sort of US intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given US debt levels and the stated neoconservative project of US global domination, Tehran's objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil market.
From the autumn of 2004 through August 2005, numerous leaks by concerned Pentagon employees have revealed that the neoconservatives in Washington are quietly -- but actively -- planning for a possible attack against Iran.
In September 2004 Newsweek reported:
Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible US. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is "busier than ever," an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line US policies toward the countries…'
…administration hawks are pinning their hopes on regime change in Tehran – by covert means, preferably, but by force of arms if necessary. Papers on the idea have circulated inside the administration, mostly labeled "draft" or "working draft" to evade congressional subpoena powers and the Freedom of Information Act. Informed sources say the memos echo the administration's abortive Iraq strategy: oust the existing regime, swiftly install a pro-US government in its place (extracting the new regime's promise to renounce any nuclear ambitions) and get out. This daredevil scheme horrifies U.S. military leaders, and there's no evidence that it has won any backers at the cabinet level. 
Indeed, there are good reasons for US military commanders to be 'horrified' at the prospects of attacking Iran. In the December 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows reported that numerous high-level war-gaming sessions had recently been completed by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has run war games at the National War College for the past two decades. Col. Gardiner summarized the outcome of these war games with this statement, "After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers: You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work."
Despite Col. Gardiner's warnings, yet another story appeared in early 2005 that reiterated this administration's intentions towards Iran. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh's article in The New Yorker included interviews with various high-level US intelligence sources.
Hersh wrote: In my interviews [with former high-level intelligence officials], I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. Everyone is saying, 'You can't be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,' the former [CIA] intelligence official told me. But the [Bush administration officials] say, 'We've got some lessons learned -- not militarily, but how we did it politically. We're not going to rely on agency pissants.' No loose ends, and that's why the CIA is out of there. 
The most recent, and by far the most troubling, was an article in The American Conservative by intelligence analyst Philip Giraldi. His article, "In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran," suggested the resurrection of active US military planning against Iran -- but with the shocking disclosure that in the event of another 9/11-type terrorist attack on US soil, Vice President Dick Cheney's office wants the Pentagon to be prepared to launch a potential tactical nuclear attack on Iran -- even if the Iranian government was not involved with any such terrorist attack against the US:
The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing -- that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack -- but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections. 
Why would the Vice President instruct the US military to prepare plans for what could likely be an unprovoked nuclear attack against Iran?
Setting aside the grave moral implications for a moment, it is remarkable to note that during the same week this "nuke Iran" article appeared, the Washington Post reported that the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of Iran's nuclear program revealed that, "Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years." This article carefully noted this assessment was a "consensus among US intelligence agencies, [and in] contrast with forceful public statements by the White House."
The question remains: Why would the Vice President advocate a possible tactical nuclear attack against Iran in the event of another major terrorist attack against the US ... even if Tehran was innocent of involvement?
Perhaps one of the answers relates to the same obfuscated reasons why the US launched an unprovoked invasion to topple the Iraq government ... macroeconomics and the desperate desire to maintain US economic supremacy.
In essence, petrodollar hegemony is eroding, which will ultimately force the US to significantly change its current tax, debt, trade, and energy policies, all of which are severely unbalanced. World oil production is reportedly "flat out," and yet the neoconservatives are apparently willing to undertake huge strategic and tactical risks in the Persian Gulf. Why? Quite simply ... their stated goal is US global domination ... at any cost.
To date, one of the more difficult technical obstacles concerning a euro-based oil transaction trading system is the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil 'marker' as it is referred to in the industry. The three current oil markers are US dollar denominated, which include the West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI), Norway Brent crude, and the UAE Dubai crude. However, since the summer of 2003, Iran has required payments in the euro currency for its European and Asian/ACU exports ... although the oil pricing these trades was still denominated in the dollar.
Therefore a potentially significant news story was reported in June 2004 announcing Iran's intentions to create of an Iranian oil bourse. This announcement portended competition would arise between the Iranian oil bourse and London's International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). [Both the IPE and NYMEX are owned by US consortium, and operated by an Atlanta-based corporation, IntercontinentalExchange, Inc.]
The macroeconomic implications of a successful Iranian bourse are noteworthy. Considering that in mid-2003 Iran switched its oil payments from EU and ACU customers to the euro, and thus it is logical to assume the proposed Iranian bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil marker -- denominated in the euro currency. This event would remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petroeuro system for international oil trades. From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the US, and the EU accounted for 45% of exports sold to the Middle East. (Following the May 2004 enlargement, this percentage likely increased).
Despite the complete absence of coverage from the five US corporate media conglomerates, these foreign news stories suggest one of the Federal Reserve's nightmares may begin to unfold in the spring of 2006, when it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for US$60 on the NYMEX and IPE ... or purchase a barrel of oil for €45-€50 euros via the Iranian Bourse. This assumes the euro maintains its current 20-25% appreciated value relative to the dollar ... and assumes that some sort of US "intervention" is not launched against Iran. The upcoming bourse will introduce petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world -- global oil and gas trades. In essence, the US will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via US Treasury bills, and the US$'s demand/liquidity value will fall.
It is unclear at the time of writing if this project will be successful, or could it prompt overt or covert US interventions ... thereby signaling the second phase of petrodollar warfare in the Middle East.
Regardless of the potential US response to an Iranian petroeuro system, the emergence of an oil exchange market in the Middle East is not entirely surprising given the domestic peaking and decline of oil exports in the US and UK, in comparison to the remaining oil reserves in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. What we are witnessing is a battle for oil currency supremacy.
If Iran's oil bourse becomes a successful alternative for international oil trades, it would challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London (IPE) and New York (NYMEX), a factor not overlooked in the following (UK) Guardian article:
Iran is to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and Opec producers that could threaten the supremacy of London's International Petroleum Exchange.
…Some industry experts have warned the Iranians and other OPEC producers that western exchanges are controlled by big financial and oil corporations, which have a vested interest in market volatility.
The IPE, bought in 2001 by a consortium that includes BP, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, was unwilling to discuss the Iranian move yesterday. "We would not have any comment to make on it at this stage," said an IPE spokeswoman. 
During an important speech in April 2002, Mr. Javad Yarjani, an OPEC executive, described three pivotal events that would facilitate an OPEC transition to euros. He stated this would be based on
(1) if and when Norway's Brent crude is re-dominated in euros,
(2) if and when the U.K. adopts the euro, and
(3) whether or not the euro gains parity valuation relative to the dollar, and the EU's proposed expansion plans were successful.
Notably, both of the later two criteria have transpired: the euro's valuation has been above the dollar since late 2002, and the euro-based EU enlarged in May 2004 from 12 to 22 countries. Despite recent "no" votes by French and Dutch voters regarding a common EU Constitution, from a macroeconomic perspective, these domestic disagreements do no reduce the euro currency's trajectory in the global financial markets ... and from Russia and OPEC's perspective ... do not adversely impact momentum towards a petroeuro.
- In the meantime, the UK remains uncomfortably juxtaposed between the financial interests of the US banking nexus (New York/Washington) and the EU financial centers (Paris/Frankfurt).
The most recent news reports indicate the oil bourse will start trading on March 20, 2006, coinciding with the Iranian New Year. The implementation of the proposed Iranian oil Bourse – if successful in utilizing the euro as its oil transaction currency standard -- essentially negates the previous two criteria as described by Mr. Yarjani regarding the solidification of a petroeuro system for international oil trades.
It should also be noted that, throughout 2003-2004, both Russia and China significantly increased their central bank holdings of the euro, which appears to be a coordinated move to facilitate the anticipated ascendance of the euro as a second World Reserve Currency.   China's announcement in July 2005 that is was re-valuing the yuan/RNB was not nearly as important as its decision to divorce itself form a U.S. dollar peg by moving towards a "basket of currencies" -- likely to include the yen, euro, and dollar. Additionally, the Chinese re-valuation immediately lowered their monthly imported "oil bill" by 2%, given that oil trades are still priced in dollars, but it is unclear how much longer this monopoly arrangement will last.
Furthermore, the geopolitical stakes for the Bush administration were raised dramatically on October 28, 2004, when Iran and China signed a huge oil and gas trade agreement (valued between $70-$100 billion dollars.) 
It should also be noted that China currently receives 13% of its oil imports from Iran. In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the US-administered Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) nullified previous oil lease contracts from 1997-2002 that France, Russia, China and other nations had established under the Saddam regime. The nullification of these contracts worth a reported $1.1 trillion created political tensions between the US and the European Union, Russia and China. The Chinese government may fear the same fate awaits their oil investments in Iran if the US were able to attack and topple the Tehran government. Despite US desires to enforce petrodollar hegemony, the geopolitical risks of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would surely create a serious crisis between Washington and Beijing.
It is increasingly clear that a confrontation and possible war with Iran may transpire during the second Bush term.
Clearly, there are numerous tactical risks regarding neoconservative strategy towards Iran. First, unlike Iraq, Iran has a robust military capability. Secondly, a repeat of any "Shock and Awe" tactics is not advisable given that Iran has installed sophisticated anti-ship missiles on the Island of Abu Musa, and therefore controls the critical Strait of Hormuz – where all of the Persian Gulf bound oil tankers must pass.
The immediate question for Americans?
Will the neoconservatives attempt to intervene covertly and/or overtly in Iran during 2005 or 2006 in a desperate effort to prevent the initiation of euro-denominated international crude oil sales?
Commentators in India are quite correct in their assessment that a US intervention in Iran is likely to prove disastrous for the United States, making matters much worse regarding international terrorism, not to the mention potential effects on the US economy.
…If it [ US] intervenes again, it is absolutely certain it will not be able to improve the situation…There is a better way, as the constructive engagement of Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has shown...Iran is obviously a more complex case than Libya, because power resides in the clergy, and Iran has not been entirely transparent about its nuclear program, but the sensible way is to take it gently, and nudge it to moderation. Regime change will only worsen global Islamist terror, and in any case, Saudi Arabia is a fitter case for democratic intervention, if at all. 
A successful Iranian bourse will solidify the petroeuro as an alternative oil transaction currency, and thereby end the petrodollar's hegemonic status as the monopoly oil currency. Therefore, a graduated approach is needed to avoid precipitous US economic dislocations.
Multilateral compromise with the EU and OPEC regarding oil currency is certainly preferable to an 'Operation Iranian Freedom,' or perhaps another CIA-backed coup such as operation "Ajax" from 1953.
Despite the impressive power of the US military, and the ability of our intelligence agencies to facilitate 'interventions,' it would be perilous and possibly ruinous for the US to intervene in Iran given the dire situation in Iraq. The Monterey Institute of International Studies warned of the possible consequences of a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities:
An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities … could have various adverse effects on US interests in the Middle East and the world. Most important, in the absence of evidence of an Iranian illegal nuclear program, an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by the US or Israel would be likely to strengthen Iran's international stature and reduce the threat of international sanctions against Iran. 
It is not yet clear if a US military expedition will occur in a desperate attempt to maintain petrodollar supremacy. Regardless of the recent National Intelligence Estimate that down-played Iran's potential nuclear weapons program, it appears increasingly likely the Bush administration may use the specter of nuclear weapon proliferation as a pretext for an intervention, similar to the fears invoked in the previous WMD campaign regarding Iraq.
If recent stories are correct regarding Cheney's plan to possibly use a another 9/11 terrorist attack as the pretext or casus belli for a US aerial attack against Iran, this would confirm the Bush administration is prepared to undertake a desperate military strategy to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, while simultaneously attempting to prevent the Iranian oil Bourse from initiating a euro-based system for oil trades.
- However, as members of the UN Security Council; China, Russia and EU nations such as France and Germany would likely veto any US-sponsored UN Security Resolution calling the use of force without solid proof of Iranian culpability in a major terrorist attack.
A unilateral US military strike on Iran would isolate the US government in the eyes of the world community, and it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse.
Indeed, such an event would create pressure for OPEC or Russia to move towards a petroeuro system in an effort to cripple the US economy and its global military presence.
I refer to this in my book as the "rogue nation hypothesis."
While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to 'dump the dollar,' the reasons for any such drastic reaction are likely straightforward from their perspective -- the global community is dependent on the oil and gas energy supplies found in the Persian Gulf.
Hence, industrialized nations would likely move in tandem on the currency exchange markets in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world's largest hydrocarbon energy supply. Any such efforts that resulted in a dollar currency crisis would be undertaken -- not to cripple the US$ and economy as punishment towards the American people per se -- but rather to thwart further unilateral warfare and its potentially destructive effects on the critical oil production and shipping infrastructure in the Persian Gulf.
Barring a US attack, it appears imminent that Iran's euro-denominated oil bourse will open in March 2006.
Logically, the most appropriate US strategy is compromise with the EU and OPEC towards a dual-currency system for international oil trades.
|Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes...known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few … No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. -- James Madison, Political Observations, 1795|
- . Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O' Neill, Simon & Schuster publishers (2004)
- . Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, Free Press (2004)
- . William Clark, "Revisited - The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War with Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth," January 2003 (updated January 2004)
- . Peter Philips, Censored 2004, The Top 25 Censored News Stories, Seven Stories Press, (2003) Story #19: U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq
- . Carol Hoyos and Kevin Morrison, "Iraq returns to the international oil market," Financial Times, June 5, 2003
- . Faisal Islam, "Iraq nets handsome profit by dumping dollar for euro," [UK] Guardian, February 16, 2003
- . "Oil bourse closer to reality," IranMania.com, December 28, 2004. Also see: "Iran oil bourse wins authorization," Tehran Times, July 26, 2005
- . "War-Gaming the Mullahs: The U.S. weighs the price of a pre-emptive strike," Newsweek, September 27 issue, 2004.
- . James Fallows, 'Will Iran be Next?,' Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, pgs. 97 – 110
- . Seymour Hersh, "The Coming Wars," The New Yorker, January 24th – 31st issue, 2005, pgs. 40-47
- . Philip Giraldi, "In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran," American Conservative, August 1, 2005
- . Dafina Linzer, "Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb U.S. Intelligence Review Contrasts With Administration Statements," Washington Post, August 2, 2005; Page A01
- . C. Shivkumar, "Iran offers oil to Asian union on easier terms," The Hindu Business Line (June 16, ` 2003)
- . Terry Macalister, "Iran takes on west's control of oil trading," The [UK] Guardian, June 16, 2004
- . "The Choice of Currency for the Denomination of the Oil Bill," Speech given by Javad Yarjani, Head of OPEC's Petroleum Market Analysis Dept, on The International Role of the Euro (Invited by the Spanish Minister of Economic Affairs during Spain's Presidency of the EU) (April 14, 2002, Oviedo, Spain)
- . "Iran's oil bourse expects to start by early 2006," Reuters, October 5, 2004
- . "Russia shifts to euro as foreign currency reserves soar," AFP, June 9, 2003
- . "China to diversify foreign exchange reserves," China Business Weekly, May 8, 2004
- . Richard S. Appel, "The Repercussions from the Yuan's Revaluation," kitco.com, July 27, 2005
- . China, Iran sign biggest oil & gas deal,' China Daily, October 31, 2004.
- . "Terror & regime change: Any US invasion of Iran will have terrible consequences," News Insight: Public Affairs Magazine, June 11, 2004
- . Analysis of Abu Musa Island
- . Sammy Salama and Karen Ruster, "A Preemptive Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences," Monterry Institute of International Studies, August 12, 2004 (updated September 9, 2004)
Today's danger: Undocumented fruit pickers
by Christy J., April 21, 2006
Re Mexicans and my liberty...
I want to thank you, H&HH, for taking the stand against this hysterical "war on Mexicans." It's really depressing to me, to see the extent to which Republican propaganda has been internalized by good people, even many self-identified "left-wing" partisans who know better on most other issues.
When we let Republican hate-mongers define what the issues are, we are always, always, always told to be afraid. Be afraid of the terrorists, be afraid of the homosexuals, be afraid of the war on Christianity, and now be afraid of fruit pickers.
Look, it's a rock-solid rule of American politics: Republicans lie. They lie about everything. If you sit down and think about it, you can come up with a hundred Republican lies from the Bush era, everything from Iraq to 9/11 to tax cuts to the Bush-made Social Security "crisis." A good indicator that you're being lied to is when a Republican says anything. Never fails.
I ain't saying Democrats are all virtuous, but when most Democrats speak you have to at least listen before deciding whether it's hogwash. Republicans haven't said anything that wasn't hogwash since Dwight D Eisenhower. They just lie and lie and lie and lie and lie and yet some people are willing to believe the Republicans are telling the truth about today's horrible danger: undocumented fruit pickers.
Don’t let them poison your heart with anger and worry and hate. Ask yourself: Who's hurting you more, Mexicans or Republicans? Who's hurting you at all? Most of the people most worried about Mexicans don't even know any Mexicans, let alone being hurt by them.
Anyone who believes the immigration panic, you're just swallowing the rightwing liars' bait.
Al-Qaeda to 'move fight' to Saudi Arabia
From correspondents in Paris
April 22, 2006
A SUSPECTED senior Al-Qaeda operative who escaped from a US airbase in Afghanistan last July called on members overnight in a video statement to move to fight in Saudi Arabia, predicting they would soon overcome US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"You must have a precise programme in mind: we will soon conquer America (the United States) in Afghanistan and Iraq. We must then head directly towards the peninsula of Mahomet (Saudi Arabia)," Saudi Mohammad al-Qahtani, said in the video statement released on the internet.
"We will have acquired great military experience...We call on our brothers who are fighting at the moment in the peninsula of Mahomet to continue their fight. We will soon be there," he said.
Al-Qahtani was one of four Al-Qaeda members who escaped from the US Bagram airbase last July.
The escape of the four men, described by the US army as "dangerous combatants", is a source of embarrassment at the main US base in Afghanistan.
Zimbabwe's white farmers say they have been invited to apply for land - in an apparent U-turn by the government which has seized their land.
All but 300 of the 4,000 white farmers have been forced off their land since President Robert Mugabe started his "fast-track" land reform in 2000.
A farmers' leader says some 200 applications have already been made and more are coming in.
Critics say the reforms have devastated the economy and led to massive hunger.
Much of the formerly white-owned land is no longer being productively used - either because the beneficiaries have no experience of farming or they lack finance and tools.
Many farms were wrecked when they were invaded by government supporters.
The government has admitted that the exercise has been beset by corruption.
But Mr Mugabe blames Zimbabwe's economic problems on a plot by Western countries to topple him.
"There is an understanding that our members want to play a significant role in agriculture production, food security and generation of foreign currency for the country," Trevor Gifford, Commercial Farmers' Union vice-president told Reuters news agency.
"It is within this context that we were invited to submit the applications and I do know that instructions have been given to provincial land committees to process the applications and we are now awaiting responses," he said.
'No going back'
Didymus Mutasa, the minister in charge of land reform, could not be reached for comment.
But on Wednesday he said: "There is definitely no going back on our policy on land."
He also said that 99-year leases for commercial farms would be distributed by June, which he hoped would lead to higher agricultural output.
Earlier this year, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told the BBC News website that any Zimbabwean was free to apply for land, whether white or black, as long as they used it.
Under colonial rule, the best agricultural land was reserved for whites - a policy which Mr Mugabe says he is trying to reverse.
But many white-owned farms were highly mechanised, productive businesses which formed the backbone of the economy.
The opposition says Mr Mugabe is using the land to buy votes.
DALLAS: Oilfield services conglomerate Halliburton said that first-quarter net income rose 33 per cent, a boost driven largely by increased sales and robust rig activity in North America.
The Houston-based company reported net income of $488 million, or 91 cents a share, compared to $365m, or 72 cents a share in the same quarter last year.
Stripping out 1 cent for discontinued operations, the results were three cents a share better than the 87 cent per share profit among analysts polled by Thomson Financial.
Revenue rose to $5.2 billion from $4.8bn in the same period of 2005, short of Wall Street's estimate of $5.62bn.
"These are solid looking gains year-over-year," said Jeff Tillery, an analyst with Pickering Energy in Houston.
Halliburton was led from 1995 to 2000 by Vice-President Dick Cheney, and it has been criticised since the beginning of the Iraq war for its large government contracts, some of them awarded without a bidding process.
No Longer Sitting Pretty
The Nation | Editorial
08 May 2006 Issue
Two years and nine months to go. How much more can George W. Bush take? More important, how much more can we?
Bush's approval rating is bottoming out. Retired generals have launched a media coup against his Secretary of Defense. Republican strategists have actually started to consider the unthinkable: Their party could lose control of the House. (That does not yet seem likely, but the consequences are frightening for GOPers: Congressional investigations and subpoenas.) Bush's best pals in the "coalition of the willing" are not faring well: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was defeated in Italy, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair is once again on the ropes. The war in Iraq continues to get uglier - perhaps morphing into intractable sectarian conflict - and progress on the political front there seems elusive. And let's not forget, no WMDs have been found.
Worse (for Bush), it seems that every few days there's another news story - some related to the prosecution of accused liar Scooter Libby - that reminds the public that Bush's primary case for the now unpopular war was based on bunk and that he overstated that bunk. A coming-to-an-end (or a chickens-coming-home?) feeling has enveloped the Bush White House that no staff shuffle can puncture. (Will the American people cry, "Hooray! There's a new press secretary and Karl Rove has a different job title"?)
Bush's approval ratings in recent polls have dropped into the mid-30s - twenty to thirty points lower than Bill Clinton's ratings during his tawdry Monica scandal. Bush may say he doesn't care about the polls, but other Republicans do, fearing that Bush has become a pair of concrete shoes for Congressional candidates running in November - some of whom are running away from joint appearances with Bush. Accompanying Bush's decline is a drop in Republicans' overall numbers. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that registered voters favor a House Democratic candidate over a Republican by 55 to 40 percent - the biggest Democratic edge since the mid-1980s. Given the gerrymandering of House districts and the GOP's ability to raise a tremendous amount of money and to demagogue Democrats on national security issues, Republicans don't need to panic yet. But any party would rather be swimming with the current than staring at an incoming wave. The only good news for Bush, poll-wise, is that he's ahead of Dick Cheney.
The retired generals' revolt has raised questions about the Commander in Chief, such as: How come he's the last person in the room to know the war is going poorly and that the guy he picked to run it has screwed up royally? The White House had Bush speak out in defense of Rumsfeld, but did they really believe the public would take the word of a onetime MIA National Guardsman over that of the generals - especially when Bush's credibility, because of those missing weapons of mass destruction, is shot? Bush and his White House tacticians don't seem to get it: It doesn't matter what he says anymore. He's delivered a series of we're-making-progress speeches to rally support for the war, but there has been no discernible impact on the public's attitude. He's busted in the rhetoric department. Reality, for the moment, has trumped his spin.
There's still plenty of time for him to make things worse (see Iran). But the Rumsfeld imbroglio is a pointed reminder that this is a man stuck too much within himself and his world of distortion. And relying on false or disingenuous assertions is not working for him the way it once did. So finally - years too late - he is paying a price. Alas, so is the rest of the world.
Editor's Note: In the last reconstruction appropriation for Iraq, the State Department sought $100 million for the building of prisons in the next fiscal year. This was the only specified allocation in the budget.
UN Damns 'Illegal' Iraq Detention
Friday 21 April 2006
The UN's human rights official in Iraq has said the Iraqi authorities are illegally holding thousands of people.
Gianni Magazzeni said that of the 15,000 people held under Iraqi control, little more than half were under the jurisdiction of the justice ministry.
This is the only body with the right to detain suspects for more than 72 hours.
But he said thousands were also being detained by the interior ministry and hundreds by the defence ministry, in clear breach of Iraqi law.
More than 14,000 people are also being held by US-led coalition forces in Iraq.
Mr Magazzeni said the UN believed that number was far too high and he urged the US military authorities to either charge or release them.
"We think that the 15,000 being held for 'urgent security reasons' are far too many and we are working very closely [with the coalition] to reduce that number considerably," Mr Magazzeni said.
'Torture and Execution'
He said the UN still did not have access to prisoners being held in unidentified coalition prisons, and called for them to be released or handed over to Iraqi authorities to be charged.
"We want them to speed up this process," Mr Magazzeni said. He added that the UN was "very concerned about ongoing violations" of human rights in Iraq.
"Torture and summary executions happen every day," Mr Magazzeni said.
There have been widespread and recurring reports of death squads, allegedly linked to Shia political factions, targeting Sunni Iraqis.
Mr Magazzeni said the so-called death squads had become more active in Iraq since the bombing of the revered Shia shrine at Samarra in February.
"We've seen an increase in the instances of allegations of actions by such militias or death squads that sometimes are linked with police forces or forces within state entities in Iraq," he said.
The Firing of Mary McCarthy
By Larry Johnson
Saturday 22 April 2006
The case against the CIA Intelligence Officer, Mary McCarthy, fired for her alleged role in leaking information about secret prisons to the Washington Post's Dana Priest smells a little fishy. Let me state at the outset that the officer in question, Mary McCarthy, is an old acquaintance. I hasten to add that I do not consider her a friend. She was my immediate boss in 1988-89 and was instrumental in my decision to leave the CIA and take a job at the State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism. Mary, in my experience, was a terrible manager. I left the CIA in 1989 despite having received two exceptional performance awards during my last eight months on the job because I could not stand working under her.
That said, I take no delight in the news that she was fired. In fact, there are some things about the case that puzzle me. For starters, Mary never worked on the Operations side of the house. In other words, she never worked a job where she would have had first hand operational knowledge about secret prisons. She worked the analytical side of the CIA and served with the National Intelligence Council. According to press reports, she subsequently worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) from 2001 thru 2005. That is a type of academic/policy wonk position and, again, would not put her in a position to know anything first hand about secret prisons.
Sometime within the last year she returned to CIA on a terminal assignment. I've heard through the grapevine that she was attending the seminar for officers who are retiring while working with the Inspector General (IG). Now things get interesting. She could find out about secret prisons if Intelligence Officers involved with that program had filed a complaint with the IG or if there was some incident that compelled senior CIA officials to determine an investigation was warranted. In other words, this program did not come to Mary's attention (if the allegations are true) because she worked on it as an ops officer. Instead, it appears an investigation of the practice had been proposed or was underway. That's another story reporters probably ought to be tracking down.
I am struck by the irony that Mary McCarthy may have been fired for blowing the whistle and ensuring that the truth about an abuse was told to the American people. There is something potentially honorable in that action; particularly when you consider that George Bush authorized Scooter Libby to leak misleading information for the purpose of deceiving the American people about the grounds for going to war in Iraq. While I'm neither a fan nor friend of Mary's, she may have done a service for her country. She was a lousy manager in my experience, but she is not a traitor and has not betrayed the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. That dirty work was done by the minions of George Bush and Dick Cheney. It is important to keep that fact in the forefront as the judgment on Mary McCarthy's acts is rendered.
Larry C. Johnson is CEO and co-founder of BERG Associates, LLC, an international business-consulting firm that helps corporations and governments manage threats posed by terrorism and money laundering. Mr. Johnson, who worked previously with the Central Intelligence Agency and US State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism (as a Deputy Director), is a recognized expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, crisis and risk management. Mr. Johnson has analyzed terrorist incidents for a variety of media including the Jim Lehrer News Hour, National Public Radio, ABC's Nightline, NBC's Today Show, the New York Times, CNN, Fox News, and the BBC. Mr. Johnson has authored several articles for publications, including Security Management Magazine, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. He has lectured on terrorism and aviation security around the world.
Berlusconi Refuses to Concede Defeat
By IAN FISHER
ROME, April 21 — Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi kept up his struggle against the election he lost, saying today that he would demand more scrutiny of the results despite a high court decision awarding victory to his center-left challenger, Romano Prodi.
"I have not and will not make any telephone call because why should I give them good wishes," Mr. Berlusconi said in a visit to the northeastern city of Trieste. "That would be against the country's interests."
One call that was made, though, came from the White House, when President Bush phoned to congratulate Prime Minister-elect Prodi, who expressed his appreciation.
Mr. Bush said he looked forward to working with him on "a number of common priorities that we have" and to seeing him again soon. Italy is a valued ally and a good partner, the president said.
Italy, too, exhausted by its national elections and its razor-thin verdict, seemed to be moving beyond Mr. Berlusconi's continuing refusal to concede defeat. Attention instead began to turn to what may be a new — and possibly serious — crisis: the fight among Mr. Prodi's fractious allies over the highest positions in a new government.
One Italian newspaper called the spat an "emblematic mess" in that it underscores the fundamental weakness of a new Prodi government: his need to appease the nine different parties in his coalition, at a time when he will hold the slimmest possible majority in Parliament.
The biggest fight concerns who snags the prestigious post of head of the lower house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. Two of Mr. Prodi's most important allies — Massimo D'Alema of the largest coalition party, Democrats of the Left, and Fausto Bertinotti, of the Refounded Communists — both want the title.
In an early sign of difficulties for Mr. Prodi, Mr. Bertinotti was quoted by the La Stampa newspaper as saying that he might withdraw from the coalition if he does not get the post — a move that would doom the new government before it even began.
In comments to reporters today, Mr. Prodi played down the significance of the fight, saying that he would resolve the issue by Monday.
"I will serenely make a decision," he said, according to the ANSA news agency. "Everyone will be obliged to accept it. It will not be a difficult decision, even if it obviously might be painful, like all decisions in these cases."
Meantime, Mr. Berlusconi, who has served as prime minister for the last five years, today continued working to define his political role in the way he knows best — pugnaciously.
In an interview with the Piccolo newspaper in Trieste, Mr. Berlusconi broke two days of silence since Italy's highest court on Wednesday confirmed preliminary election results showing Mr. Prodi had won.
He is under pressure even from some allies to acknowledge Mr. Prodi's victory, in the name of national unity and endorsing the nation's democracy. But, rather, Mr. Berlusconi said he should be acknowledged for a feat that awarded him a "political" victory if not an actual one: that he won some 220,000 more absolute votes than Mr. Prodi's coalition and that his party, Forza Italia, polled better than any other.
"Who wants to be recognized as a winner for having kept the majority of the seats," Mr. Berlusconi said, "must then necessarily recognize that the political victory in terms of consensus goes to the House of Liberty and Forza Italia, with its 24 percent, the first party in the country."
The House of Liberty is the name of the center-right coalition led by Mr. Berlusconi. In one of the ironies of this election, Mr. Prodi's coalition won despite an electoral law that Mr. Berlusconi pushed through Parliament in order to help him and his allies. Many experts say that without that law, Mr. Berlusconi would have won the election.
Meantime, though, several members of his coalition acknowledged defeat, key among them Pier Fernando Casini, head of the United Christian Democrats, which represents many devout Roman Catholics.
"The U.D.C. is called to assume the role of national opposition," Mr. Casini said, using the party's initials in Italian. He added, however, that he would not compromise on moral issues important to his party.
Unlike many other Western countries, Italy has not had a strong tradition of losers in elections actually conceding, athough the issue has grown in recent years since Italy moved more toward a system of two defined political groupings.
Today, Mr. Prodi said that a telephone call from Mr. Berlusconi would be a sign of "good institutional manners" but was no longer necessary to legitimize his victory.
"If he does it, he does it," he told reporters. "If he doesn't, the institutions have their own strength, and democracy goes forward all the same.
"Certainly, it's a shame," Mr. Prodi added. "These rites, these customs, reinforce the democratic system. They aren't indispensable, but they give an indication of style."
* Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
**how convenient **
Olmert accuses Syria and Iran of involvement in Tel Aviv suicide bombing
By The Associated Press
Prime Minister-designate Ehud Olmert on Friday accused the Syrian and Iranian governments of involvement in the Tel Aviv suicide bombing that took place Monday.
"The order for the Tel Aviv suicide bombing came from Damascus and when the operation was complete the report went back to Damascus," Olmert told a visiting group of U.S. senators, according to his office.
Olmert also said Iran, which provides funding to Islamic Jihad, and the new Hamas-led government bear responsibility for the attack.
"There is a channel of communication between Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority," he said.
The Islamic Jihad militant group claimed responsibility for Monday's suicide bombing, which killed nine people. The group is headquartered in Damascus.
By Robert Parry
April 20, 2006
If a full and truthful history of the disastrous Iraq War is ever written, there should be a chapter devoted to the pivotal role played by the Washington Post’s hawkish editorial page and the many like-minded thinkers who are published in the newspaper’s Op-Ed section.
As arguably the most influential newspaper in the nation’s capital, the Post might have been expected to encourage a healthy pre-war debate that reflected diverse opinions from experts in the fields of government, diplomacy, academia, the military and the broader American public. War, after all, is not a trivial matter.
Instead, the Post’s editorial section served as a kind of pro-war bulletin board, posting neoconservative manifestos attesting to the wisdom of invading Iraq and tacking up harsh indictments of Americans who dissented from George W. Bush’s war plans.
Yet what is perhaps most amazing is that even now – after all that’s been learned about Bush’s Iraq War deceptions – the Post’s editorial page continues to act as the administration’s hall monitor for the war, trying to keep the American people and especially Washington insiders in line.
This month, the Post published two more editorials disparaging critics of the Iraq War. One resumed the near-three-year-old campaign to tear down former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson for challenging “twisted” pre-war intelligence on Iraq; a second scolded retired generals for speaking out against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
In an April 9 editorial, “A Good Leak,” the Post’s editors praised President Bush’s decision in June-July 2003 to declassify parts of a National Intelligence Estimate that were then leaked to favored reporters to undermine Wilson’s criticism of intelligence used to scare the American public about Iraq’s supposed nuclear weapons program.
The Post editorial bought into virtually all the administration’s spin points, accepting at face value that Bush intended simply “to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons.” The editorial even attacked Wilson as “the one guilty of twisting the truth.”
Yet, the Post leaves out a number of key facts, including that Bush selectively declassified parts of the NIE – sections on Iraq’s alleged pursuit of enriched uranium in Africa – though his top aides knew that those points were hotly disputed by many U.S. intelligence experts when the NIE was written and had since been disproved.
The available evidence indicates that Bush’s goal was not to educate the public with “a good leak,” but to avoid getting caught in a deception that had misled the nation to war.
Ironically, that was the conclusion of a front-page news article in the Post on the same day as the editorial, April 9. The news article cited the fact that Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chose to leak information they knew to be false.
“The evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before,” the Post’s news article said. “United Nations inspectors had exposed the main evidence for the uranium charge as crude forgeries in March 2003, but the Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained they had additional, secret evidence that they could not disclose.
“In June , a British parliamentary inquiry concluded otherwise, delivering a scathing critique of Blair’s role in promoting the story. With no ally left, the White House debated whether to abandon the uranium claim and became embroiled in bitter finger-pointing about whom to fault for the error. …
“It was at that moment that Libby, allegedly at Cheney’s direction, sought out at least three reporters to bolster the discredited uranium allegation. Libby made careful selections of language from the 2002 estimate, quoting a passage that said Iraq was ‘vigorously trying to procure uranium’ in Africa.”
In other words, what the Post’s editorial-page editors judged to be “a good leak” was part of a continued disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting Wilson’s accurate assessment about “twisted” intelligence – and keeping the American public confused.
For a U.S. editorial board of a major newspaper to embrace, uncritically, a government’s deception of the American people turns the concept of a watchdog press upside down – and it is an especially grave offense on a life-and-death issue like war.
But the Post’s editorial board went even further, echoing long-standing Republican attacks on Wilson, who has said he traveled to Niger in 2002 at the CIA’s request and concluded from his trip that suspicions of an Iraqi uranium purchase were almost surely untrue.
The Post’s editorial, however, challenges Wilson’s honesty, claiming that “several subsequent investigations” have demonstrated that “in fact, (Wilson’s) report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium.”
But the Post’s claim is, at best, misleading and, more likely, dishonest.
According to all available evidence, Wilson told the truth, that based on his interviews with former Niger government officials, he concluded that the alleged uranium purchase almost certainly did not occur and was not even feasible given the tight international controls on Niger’s enriched uranium, called yellowcake.
Wilson did report to the CIA that he was told by former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki that he had suspected that an Iraqi commercial delegation to Niger in 1999 might be interested in buying yellowcake, but that the uranium topic didn’t come up at Mayaki's meeting with the Iraqis and – whatever their intentions – nothing was sold to Iraq.
In 2002, the State Department’s intelligence analysts, who had already correctly concluded that the Niger claims were baseless, reviewed Wilson’s report and believed that his information corroborated their judgment that the Iraq-yellowcake story was bogus.
However, CIA analysts, who then were pushing the Niger allegations, seized on Wilson’s comment about Mayaki suspecting that Iraq was in the market for yellowcake as corroboration for the CIA position.
That’s why the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee wrote in its July 7, 2004, assessment of the WMD intelligence that “for most analysts, the information in the [Wilson] report lent more credibility to the original CIA reports on the uranium deal, but State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research analysts believed that the report supported their assessment that Niger was unlikely to be willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq.”
The CIA analysts had “cherry-picked” the one fact from Wilson’s report that could be used to support their faulty judgment about the Niger uranium, while the State Department analysts, who had debunked the Niger story, also found backing for their correct assessment from Wilson’s report.
But either way, it wasn’t Wilson’s fault that the CIA and other erroneous analysts outnumbered the State Department analysts who drew the right conclusions from Wilson’s investigation.
Yet, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Republican National Committee and the Washington Post’s editorial page did their own “cherry-picking” in seizing on the phrase “most analysts” as a way to attack Wilson’s honesty. Under any logical scrutiny, however, that argument makes no sense.
The Post editorial goes on to slam Wilson again, by citing the supposed findings of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the administration’s leak of the identity of Wilson’s wife, undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.
“Mr. Wilson subsequently claimed that the White House set out to punish him for his supposed whistle-blowing by deliberately blowing the cover of his wife,” the Post editorial said. “After more than 2 ½ years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson’s charge.
“In last week’s court filing, he [Fitzgerald] stated that Mr. Bush did not authorize the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity. Mr. Libby’s motive in allegedly disclosing her name to reporters, Mr. Fitzgerald said, was to disprove yet another false assertion, that Mr. Wilson had been dispatched to Niger by Mr. Cheney. In fact Mr. Wilson was recommended for the trip by his wife.”
But again, the Post editorial writers have gotten almost all their facts wrong, especially the assertion that Fitzgerald didn’t find evidence to support Wilson’s claim that he had been targeted for reprisals because of his whistle-blowing.
In the court filing on April 5, 2006, Fitzgerald said his investigation uncovered government documents that “could be characterized as reflecting a plan to discredit, punish, or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson” because of his criticism of the administration’s handling of the Niger evidence.
Fitzgerald added that “the evidence will show that the July 6, 2003, Op-Ed by Mr. Wilson [in the New York Times] was viewed by the Office of Vice President as a direct attack on the credibility of the Vice President (and the President) on a matter of signal importance: the rationale for the war in Iraq. Defendant [Libby] undertook vigorous efforts to rebut this attack during the week following July 7, 2003.”
In other words, Libby’s “vigorous efforts” against Wilson were not simply part of some educational program for reporters; the goal was to defend the credibility of Bush and Cheney at a time (summer 2003) when the American people were learning that the principal argument for going to war – Iraq’s supposed stockpiles of WMD – was false.
It’s also untrue for the Post editorial to say that Fitzgerald concluded that Libby’s motive for leaking was to disprove the “false assertion” that Wilson had been sent to Niger by Cheney. A fair reading of Fitzgerald’s April 5 filing would support a conclusion that Libby was sent out in a counterattack against the threat that Wilson posed to the overall White House credibility on Iraq’s WMD, not to clarify who authorized Wilson's trip.
The Post editorial also exaggerates when claiming that Fitzgerald “stated that Mr. Bush did not authorize the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity.” The filing contains nothing definitive on this point, beyond Fitzgerald recounting Libby’s grand jury testimony which has Bush approving disclosure of selective pieces of intelligence, but doesn’t mention Plame.
The absence of Libby’s testimony about whether Bush also may have approved the leak of Plame’s identity is not proof that Bush didn’t give such authorization to others; it simply means that Libby didn’t testify to that suspicion. Libby is facing a five-count indictment for perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI.
Another troubling aspect of the Post’s April 9 editorial is how closely it tracks with the long-running Republican assault on Wilson.
For years now, Republicans and their right-wing media allies have focused on tiny points of Wilson’s statements as a way to blur the larger picture – that Wilson was right about the absence of an active Iraqi nuclear program while the Bush administration was wrong.
The Post editorial page followed the Republican lead again in an April 18 editorial entitled “the Generals’ Revolt.” A sub-head characterized the Iraq War complaints from a half dozen retired generals as “finger-pointing” that should be excluded from the debate over whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign.
While acknowledging valid concerns about Rumsfeld’s mismanagement of the Iraq War, the Post editorial calls the “rebellion” of the retired generals “problematic.”
“It threatens the essential democratic principle of military subordination to civilian control – the more so because a couple of the officers claim they are speaking for some still on active duty,” the editorial said.
It then compares the Iraq War critiques by these retired generals to the opposition from the uniformed military, including then-Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefls of Staff, against President Bill Clinton’s plan to allow gays in the military.
But the comparison is faulty. For one, the retired generals are retired, not active-duty as Powell was in 1993. Also, until these half dozen or so ex-generals spoke out critically about Bush’s Iraq policies, no one in memory had ever argued that private citizens who previously served in the military should remain silent about questions of war and peace.
The Post editorial board never objected when retired generals appeared on CNN or other TV news programs supporting the Iraq War or when President Bush claimed that he was following the advice of the generals in Iraq, including some of those now out of uniform who are contradicting Bush’s claim.
Rather than following the facts and logic to a conclusion, the Post editorials seem to start with an ideological conclusion – that Bush must be defended – and then cobble the available spin points together into some dubious argument.
These two editorials in April also do not stand alone. They are part of a long pattern at the Post to ignore or denigrate Iraq War critics – both in the news columns and on the opinion pages.
Sometimes before the Iraq invasion, Post readers learned about voices of dissent by reading Post columnists denouncing the dissenters. For instance, when former Vice President Al Gore gave a speech about Iraq and Bush’s “preemptive war” doctrine on Sept. 23, 2002, his talk got scant press coverage, but did elicit a round of Gore-bashing on the TV talk shows and on the Post’s Op-Ed page. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Politics of Preemption.”]
Post columnist Michael Kelly called Gore’s speech “dishonest, cheap, low” before labeling it “wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible.” [Washington Post, Sept. 25, 2002] Post columnist Charles Krauthammer added that the speech was “a series of cheap shots strung together without logic or coherence.” [Washington Post, Sept. 27, 2002]
When reading the Post’s pre-war coverage, there was a whiff of totalitarianism in which dissidents never get space to express their opinions but are still excoriated by the official media. When the state speaks, however, the same media hails the government’s brilliance.
For instance, after Secretary of State Powell’s now-infamous speech to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, a Post editorial called his arguments “irrefutable,” adding: “it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.”
That judgment was echoed across the Op-Ed page by Post columnists from Right to Left, a solid wall of misguided consensus.
But the Post’s gullibility about Powell’s testimony wasn’t an exception. As a study by Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin noted, “The [Post] editorials during December  and January  numbered nine, and all were hawkish.” [American Prospect, April 1, 2003]
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the failure to discover evidence supporting the administration’s pre-war claims, editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt acknowledged that the Post should have been more skeptical.
“If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction,” Hiatt said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. “If that’s not true, it would have been better not to say it.” [CJR, March/April 2004]
But Hiatt’s supposed remorse hasn’t stopped him and the Post editorial page from continuing their assault on anyone who questions Bush’s Iraq War strategy.
On Feb. 7, 2005, Hiatt penned a column under his own name, entitled “Bad News Donkeys,” in which he chastised Sen. John Kerry and other Democrats for not showing enough enthusiasm over the Jan. 30, 2005, elections in Iraq.
Hiatt wrote that Kerry “grumped” his answer about the Iraq election when the senator told NBC’s Tim Russert that “I think it’s gone as expected.” Days later when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pressed for a clearer exit strategy for U.S. troops, Hiatt judged that her comments “sounded grudging and morose.”
In case Post readers hadn’t gotten Hiatt’s point, he finished up his column comparing the Democrats to the sad-sack character Eeyore in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.
Though the Jan. 30, 2005, election turned out to be more a mirage than an oasis, the Post’s editorial page was back asserting its august judgments again in June 2005 after thousands of readers complained that the Post was ignoring the “Downing Street Memo” and other evidence of Bush’s Iraq War deceptions.
On June 15, 2005, the Post’s lead editorial asserted that “the memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration’s prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002.”
While that claim may be true in a way – because some people indeed were challenging Bush’s case for war, albeit without the damning details – the problem was that the Post and other pro-war news outlets were treating those skeptics as fringe characters who should be ignored.
Looking back to 2002 and early 2003, it would be hard to find any “reputable” commentary in the mainstream U.S. press calling Bush’s actions fraudulent, which is what the “Downing Street Memo” and other British evidence have since revealed Bush’s actions to be.
The British documents prove that much of the pre-war debate inside the U.S. and British governments was how best to manipulate public opinion by playing games with the intelligence.
On July 23, 2002, for instance, Blair met with his top foreign policy advisers to review the Iraq situation. According to the minutes, which became known as the “Downing Street Memo,” Richard Dearlove, chief of the British intelligence agency MI6, described a recent trip to Washington at which he discussed Iraq with Bush’s top national security officials.
“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,” Dearlove said.
One might have thought that this pattern of official deception – effectively making fools out of the Post’s editorial page and, to a lesser extent, the news columns – would have stirred up some outrage from Hiatt and his boss, Washington Post Chairman Donald Graham.
But Hiatt and Graham seem to be beyond shame, or perhaps they are committed neoconservatives who simply won’t let facts get in the way of their ideological convictions.
Now, despite even more evidence of the Bush administration’s pre-war lies, the Post editorial board is back at its role trying to construct a consensus by marginalizing Ambassador Wilson and silencing the retired generals.
The Post’s goal apparently is to protect George W. Bush from public outrage over his Iraq War deceptions – that have led to so much death, injury and destruction – while sparing the Post’s editors from the journalistic disdain that they have so richly earned.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'