Saturday, June 17, 2006
Rat Study Shows Dirty Better Than Clean
Jun 16, 10:56 PM (ET)
By SETH BORENSTEIN
WASHINGTON (AP) - Gritty rats and mice living in sewers and farms seem to have healthier immune systems than their squeaky clean cousins that frolic in cushy antiseptic labs, two studies indicate. The lesson for humans: Clean living may make us sick.
The studies give more weight to a 17-year-old theory that the sanitized Western world may be partly to blame for soaring rates of human allergy and asthma cases and some autoimmune diseases, such as Type I diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The theory, called the hygiene hypothesis, figures that people's immune systems aren't being challenged by disease and dirt early in life, so the body's natural defenses overreact to small irritants such as pollen.
The new studies, one of which was published Friday in the peer reviewed Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, found significant differences in the immune systems between euthanized wild and lab rodents.
When the immune cells in the wild rats are stimulated by researchers, "they just don't do anything they sit there; if you give them same stimulus to the lab rats, they go crazy," said study co-author Dr. William Parker, a Duke University professor of experimental surgery. He compared lab rodents to more than 50 wild rats and mice captured and killed in cities and farms.
Also, the wild mice and rats had as much as four times higher levels of immunoglobulins, yet weren't sick, showing an immune system tuned to fight crucial germs, but not minor irritants, Parker said. He said what happened in the lab rats is what likely occurs in humans: their immune systems have got it so cushy they overreact to smallest of problems.
"Your immune system is like the person who lives in the perfect house and has all the food they want, you're going to start worrying about the little things like someone stepping on your flowers," Parker said.
Challenged immune systems - such as kids who grow up with two or more pets - don't tend to develop as many allergies, said Dr. Stanley Goldstein, director of Allergy & Asthma Care of Long Island.
Parker said his study has drawbacks because he can't be sure that the age of the wild and lab rodents are equivalent, although he estimates the ages based on weight. He also could not control what happened in the past to the wild rats to see if they had unusual diseases before being captured and killed.
It would have been more useful had Parker studied extremely young wild rodents because, according to the hygiene hypothesis, that's when the protection from dirty living starts, said Dr. Stuart Levy, director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University.
Human epidemiological studies have long given credence to the hygiene theory, showing that allergy and asthma rates were higher in the cleaner industrialized areas than in places such as Africa. Parker's studies, looking at animal differences, may eventually help scientists find when, where and how environmental exposure help protect against future allergies and immune disorders, said Goldstein, and Dr. Jeffrey Platt of the Mayo Clinic in Minn., both of whom were not part of Parker's studies.
Parker said he hopes to build a 50-foot artificial sewer for his next step, so that he could introduce the clean lab rats to an artificial dirty environment and see how and when the immunity was activated.
That may be the biggest thing to come out of the wild and lab rodent studies, Platt said: "Then all of a sudden it becomes possible to expose people to the few things (that exercise the immune system) and gives them the benefit of the dirty environment without having to expose them to the dirt."
Somali Islamic Leader Blasts U.S.
06.17.2006, 06:42 AM
The leader of the Islamic militants who captured the Somali capital earlier this month said 300 Ethiopian troops entered the country on Saturday and accused the United States of supporting the incursion.
The Ethiopian troops entered Somalia through the border town of Dolow in the southwestern region of Gedo at 8 a.m., Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, told journalists.
"We want the whole world to know what's going on. The United States is encouraging Ethiopia to take over the area. Ethiopia has crossed our borders and are heading for us. They are supporting the transitional federal government," Ahmed said.
"They have deployed a lot of soldiers around the border towns, which is why we have been saying that Ethiopia is going to send in troops to Somalia," the cleric said.
Custodians of chaos
In this exclusive extract from his forthcoming memoirs, Kurt Vonnegut is horrified by the hypocrisy in contemporary US politics
Saturday January 21, 2006
"Do unto others what 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, five hundred 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.
We've sure come a long way since then. Sometimes I wish we hadn't. I hate H-bombs and the Jerry Springer Show
But back to people like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, each of whom have said in their own way how we could behave more humanely and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my favourite humans 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 not yet four, ran five times as the Socialist party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, almost 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 am 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?
When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn't you like to say. "As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
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 George W Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld 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!
It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the US Constitution.
But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'état imaginable.
I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale".
George W Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.
To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!
Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.
PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!
And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.
So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.
They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilise the reserves! Privatise the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!
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. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president.
The title of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is a parody of the title of Ray Bradbury's great science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Four hundred and fifty-one degrees Fahrenheit is the combustion point, incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero of Bradbury's novel is a municipal worker whose job is burning books.
While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
And still on the subject of books: our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what's really going on.
I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, published in early 2004, that humiliating, shameful, blood-soaked year.
In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African-Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry - who stand unopposed.
In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as Nazis once were.
And with good reason.
In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanised millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.
Piece of cake.
In case you haven't noticed, we also dehumanised our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.
Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.
Piece of cake.
The O'Reilly Factor.
So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.
Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed there were weapons of mass destruction there.
Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the first world war. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the first world war so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.
Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?
Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people, too. I am a veteran of the second world war and I have to say this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.
My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."
Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas
Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler. What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?
© 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Extracted from A Man Without a Country: A Memoir of Life in George W Bush's America, to be published by Bloomsbury on February 6, price £14.99
(InfoWorld Daily Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) The future of U.S. government IT systems will include a big focus on converting old data into electronic form, two government IT leaders said Friday.
The U.S. government's intelligence agencies are looking heavily into technology that can quickly convert typewritten and even handwritten text into electronic data, said Greg Pepus, senior director of federal outreach at In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm funded by U.S. agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Intelligence agents need technology that can quickly convert notes handwritten in Arabic or in symbols to electronic data that can be easily shared and put into a database, he said.
"The problem is the vast majority of data in the world isn't in databases," Pepus said during a panel discussion about the future of U.S. government IT needs at the Gartner Inc. Government Conference 2006 in Washington, D.C.
In addition, In-Q-Tel is looking for better search technologies that allow wide-ranging searches across multiple databases in one interface, Pepus said. The goal is to produce targeted searches that allow intelligence analysts to spend less time searching for data and more time analyzing it, he said.
The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) is looking for the some of the same technology as In-Q-Tel, but for different reasons, said Kimberlee Mitchel, senior technical advisor for the agency. The SSA has massive amounts of data still in "unstructured" formats such as paper, and the agency wants to move that data to electronic form, she said.
The move to electronic form will allow the agency to better track and serve U.S. citizens who are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, she said. In the future, U.S. citizens shouldn't have to file paperwork to receive checks, she said.
"We envision a future where we gather data almost transparently," she said. "When you're eligible for Social Security, the check shows up in your checking account."
The SSA is also looking at handwriting recognition software, and new ways to ensure data integrity, as data moves from paper to electronic form and is shared between U.S. agencies, Mitchel said. "Your data is only as good as where it comes from," she said.
While the federal government looks into software than can convert paper data into electronic form, some state governments see open-source software as the wave of the future, said Dennis Wells, deputy chief information officer for the Office of Information Services at the Oregon Department of Human Resources.
Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, has funded open-source projects and identified open-source development as an economic driver for the state, Wells noted. Oregon is also working with other states to push open-source technology as a way to generate the myriad of reports states need to file with the federal government, Wells said.
States are looking at ways to encourage software vendors to offer open-source packages that could be tailored to each state's needs, instead of each state buying its own software to generate reports to the federal government, he said. "We think there's a smarter way to do it," he said.
Contradictions Cloud Inquiry Into 24 Iraqi Deaths
By John M. Broder
The New York Times
Saturday 17 June 2006
This article was reported by John M. Broder, David S. Cloud, John Kifner, Carolyn Marshall, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, and was written by Mr. Broder.
What really happened in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005?
On that day, marines killed 24 Iraqi civilians, including 10 women and children and an elderly man in a wheelchair. But how and why it happened and who ultimately bears responsibility are matters of profound dispute.
Interviews with marines who were present that day or their lawyers, Iraqi residents who witnessed the attack and military investigators provide broadly conflicting accounts of the killings. This article, based on those interviews, does not resolve those discrepancies. But it does lay bare the task facing investigators as they try to square the accounts with ambiguous forensic evidence, and suggests that the work will be hindered by the passage of time, the tricks of memory and the fog of fast-paced action at several different locations in Haditha, a tense Euphrates River valley city, seven months ago.
Investigators and townspeople have said that marines overreacted to a fatal roadside bombing and shot the civilians, only one of whom was armed, in cold blood.
Marines and their lawyers, who are only now beginning to speak out after months of harsh portrayals of their actions, contend that they believed they were under a concerted attack, and entitled under their rules of engagement to use lethal force against those who they believed were responsible for a roadside bomb that killed a marine.
The 24 Iraqis killed included 5 men in a taxi and 19 other civilians in several houses, where, marines have contended, their use of grenades and blind fire was permitted under their combat guidelines when they believed their lives were threatened.
However, investigators have found evidence that the men in the taxi were not fleeing the bombing scene, as the marines have told military officials. Investigators have also concluded that most of the victims in three houses died from well-aimed rifle shots, not shrapnel or random fire, according to military officials familiar with the initial findings.
The houses where the killings took place show no evidence of the violent room-clearing assault described by the marines and their lawyers, the officials said.
The bodies have not yet been exhumed for autopsies, and defense lawyers can be expected to challenge the narrow use of photographic evidence on these points. But according to two people briefed on the investigation, one member of the Marine squad at Haditha, himself closely tied to some of the deaths, is now cooperating with investigators.
The Army general investigating allegations of a cover-up has submitted his report to Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the No. 2 American commander in Iraq, the military announced yesterday, but its conclusions have not been made public.
There is little dispute over how the events that led to the deaths of the civilians began. A 13-man squad of the 3rd Platoon of Company K, known as Kilo Company, set off before dawn on Nov. 19 from its Haditha headquarters, Fire Base Sparta, to help replace some Iraqi Army troops at a combat outpost about three miles to the south. The squad, in four Humvees, was returning to Sparta heading west along a route the members called Chestnut Road.
A Bomb in the Road
About two miles from their base, an improvised explosive device, or I.E.D., buried in the road exploded under the fourth vehicle, instantly killing Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20, of El Paso. Two other marines, Lance Cpl. James Crossan and Lance Cpl. Salvador Guzman, were seriously injured.
What happened immediately after the bomb hit, and over the next four to five hours as the squad dispersed and called in reinforcements, remains in dispute. Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the leader of the squad, told his lawyer, Neal A. Puckett, that he had quickly set up a defensive perimeter around the convoy and called in the casualty report. He said he had seen a white car, now usually referred to as a taxi, containing a driver and four young men. The marines suspected that those men were spotters for the bomb.
Several marines approached the car, shouting commands in broken Arabic. According to Sergeant Wuterich's account, the men jumped out of the car and disobeyed orders to stop. The marines shot and killed them.
But residents watching the episode from nearby homes have told contradictory stories.
Some described the men as students on their way to a technical college in Baghdad, and said they had been shot while still sitting in the car. Others said they had been pulled from the car, ordered to lie on the ground and then executed.
According to Mr. Puckett, Sergeant Wuterich and his men believed their rules of engagement permitted them to shoot men of military age running away from the site of an improvised explosive device.
Two people briefed on the investigation said Thursday that evidence gathered on the shooting of the taxi passengers now appeared to be the most at odds with the account given by marines through their lawyers.
One Defense Department official said photographs indicated that the positions of those corpses - and the pooling of their blood - can be viewed as sharply inconsistent with the marines' version that the Iraqi men were shot as they fled.
"We may not know for sure what happened, but it doesn't look like there was any running involved," said the official, who would only discuss the inquiry on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains under investigation.
A second person who has been briefed on the inquiry said that "there was no question" that the taxi shooting "is the most problematic" and that Navy investigators were focusing on the actions of one particular marine in the squad, although no charges had been filed.
The marines have said they believed they were coming under small-arms fire from a house on the south side of the road. A four-man "stack" of marines, led by Sergeant Wuterich, who up to that point had no combat experience but was the senior enlisted man on the scene, broke into the house.
They found no one in the first room, but heard noises behind a door. A marine with experience in the deadly house-to-house fighting in Falluja a year earlier rolled in a grenade and another marine fired blind "clearing rounds" into the room, Mr. Puckett, Sergeant Wuterich's lawyer, said.
The technique is known as "clearing by fire," said a marine who was with a nearby squad that day but who asked not to be identified because his role in the events is under investigation. "You stick the weapon around and spray the room," he said. "It's called prepping the room."
He added: "You've got to do whatever it takes to get home. If it takes clearing by fire where there's civilians, that's it."
Many of the marines in Kilo Company had served on their previous deployment in Falluja, which had largely been cleared of civilians before they entered, and where permissive rules of engagement were in force. But Haditha was a different combat environment, with insurgents intermingled with civilians. In training between the two deployments, marines were taught how to protect civilians, and were instructed on more restrictive combat rules.
Months of Violence
Haditha, deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, had taken a heavy toll in marines that spring and summer. In August, six scout-snipers from an Ohio reserve battalion were ambushed and killed on patrol.
Two days later, 14 more were killed when their amphibious track ran over antitank mines stacked three high. Four others were killed early in a fierce firefight inside a hospital, where insurgents hid behind patients.
"Saying who's a civilian or a 'muj' in Iraq, you really can't," the marine said. "That's how wishy-washy it was. This town did not want us there at all." Mr. Puckett, the lawyer, said that the marines in Haditha believed that they were operating within established rules when they cleared the house.
When the smoke cleared, however, the marines found seven civilians dead, including two women and a 4-year-old boy. Two young children survived the attack by hiding under a bed, the children told reporters later. Another child and an woman escaped.
The marines saw a back door open, Mr. Puckett said, and believed themselves to be in "hot pursuit" of an insurgent gunman. They burst into a second house, using assault rifles and grenades to clear a room, killing eight civilians, including two women and five children ages 3 to 14.
This account, however, does not square with the survivors' recollections and the conclusions of the military's preliminary investigation led by Col. Gregory Watt of the Army.
For several reasons, Colonel Watt does not believe the marines' version is accurate, according to a military official who has been briefed on the investigation but who would not discuss it on the record because it was not yet complete.
Colonel Watt has interviewed more than two dozen people, including all the marines in the First Squad, their reinforcements and Iraqi civilians in Haditha, including the morgue director.
Some marines told Colonel Watt they were let into the houses they entered; others said they conducted forced entries, the military official said. Colonel Watt was also troubled by the fact that marines did not change their tactics after discovering that they had killed unarmed civilians in the first house, the official said. A dozen more civilians were killed after the first encounter.
The wounds of the dead Iraqis, as seen in photographs and viewed by the morgue director, were not consistent with attacks by fragmentation grenades and indiscriminate rifle fire, Colonel Watt found. The civilian survivors said the victims were shot at close range, some while trying to protect their children or praying for their lives. The death certificates Colonel Watt examined were chillingly succinct: well-aimed shots to the head and chest.
In addition, if the marines had violently cleared the houses using automatic weapons and fragmentation grenades, there would be lots of damage and bullet marks in the walls. Early investigators said they found no such evidence, although the walls may have been patched before they arrived.
As this was going on, a Marine quick-reaction force was trying to make its way to the bomb site. So was another unit, a nine-man squad led by Sgt. Francis Wolf, a young but experienced combat veteran, and joined by Capt. Lucas McConnell, according to a corporal who was with the group.
Members of this squad gave differing accounts of their actions. One said that they quickly came under fire. "All we knew was, there's a big firefight," one marine in this group told his lawyer, Paul L. Hackett, a major in the Marine Reserves and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress from Ohio in a special election last fall. "You just heard it everywhere, medium, heavy machine gun fire."
The marine represented by Mr. Hackett added: "This whole section of the city is a kill zone. We're getting shot every time we turn around."
But a corporal from this same group, who had been badly wounded in Falluja but was able to return for a second deployment, said there was intermittent small-arms fire that did not appear to him to be directed at his patrol. The other marine may have been hearing the First Squad's action about 700 yards up the road at the bombing site and thought they were under fire, he suggested.
After clearing the second house, Sergeant Wuterich realized there had been a significant number of civilian deaths, and reported to the platoon's operations center that there had been "collateral damage" from the operations, according to his lawyer. He estimated the dead as 12 to 15 Iraqis. Investigators are looking into whether and how a junior officer, who was monitoring the action from a nearby observation post, passed along the report of civilian casualties.
Before the episode ended, marines killed four more men in a third house, one of whom was armed with an AK-47, according to Mr. Puckett's account. Another squad shot a 45-year-old man who they said appeared to be carrying a weapon, but who actually was using a cane. Groups of marines came to the scene throughout the day to evacuate the wounded and bundle up the dead.
Regrets and Cautions
When they found civilians had been killed, a marine said, Sergeant Wuterich "was pretty torn up about it. He was pretty remorseful." Captain McConnell, the same marine said, refused a request later that day to have a tank fire on a house considered threatening, saying: "There could be women and children. We've had enough women and children die today."
The next day, the Marines issued a press release stating that 15 Iraqi civilians had been killed in a bombing in Haditha and that marines had killed 8 insurgents after they opened fire on Kilo Company. That statement has not been corrected or retracted.
About a dozen enlisted marines, including Sergeant Wuterich and Sergeant Wolf, who engaged in or witnessed the shootings are under investigation for possible charges ranging from dereliction of duty to murder. A number of their superiors, up to the division level, are also under scrutiny for failing to report the events accurately and respond appropriately.
Two mid-level officers, including Captain McConnell, have already been relieved, for reasons not yet made public.
Gary Myers, a lawyer who has been retained by a marine under investigation in the Haditha shooting, said he had been told by his client that the marines were operating within existing regulations. Mr. Myers suggested that responsibility should be placed on the commanders who approved those rules of engagement, and not on the soldiers on the ground at Haditha. "I don't want to see these marines isolated and vilified," he said.
John M. Broder reported from Los Angeles and Camp Pendleton, Calif., for this article; David S. Cloud, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker from Washington; John Kifner from Cincinnati; and Carolyn Marshall from Camp Pendleton.
Israel admits shell report flaws
From Stephen Farrell in Sudaliya
Radio and hospital reports contradict the Israeli account of fatal beach explosion
THE Israeli Army has admitted to The Times that its official account of the explosion that killed eight Palestinians picnicking on a Gaza beach last week was flawed. The account is also contradicted by a UN radio transmission.
The army has told The Times that its report was flawed because it failed to mention two gunboat shells fired at about the time of the deaths. It insists, however, that they landed too far away to have been responsible.
Video footage of the anguished 11-year-old Huda Ghalia running between the corpses of her family on the beach at Sudaliya caused fury across the Arab world. Immediately the explosion Israel expressed regret and suspended all artillery fire — but never admitted responsibility.
On Tuesday the Israeli military issued the results of an investigation that exonerated itself. Officials said that the explosion could have been caused by a Palestinian landmine. “The accumulating evidence proves that [Friday’s] incident was not because of Israeli forces,” Amir Peretz, the Defence Minister, said.
Israel says that its land artillery batteries fired six shells at northern Gaza between 4.30pm and 4.48pm that afternoon, and that it can account for all but one, which was fired at 4.30pm. However, its investigation said that that shell was aimed too far away to have killed the Palestinians.
The investigation relies heavily on timing. It cites surveillance footage of the beach showing that it was quiet between 4.54 and 4.57pm, and film of ambulances apparently arriving at the scene at 5.15.
It says that the incident must therefore have happened between 4.57 and 5.10pm — at least nine minutes after it says it stopped firing land artillery.
But The Times has established that at 4.43pm the UN received a radio call from one of its officials in northern Gaza that said: “At 16.33hrs IDF artillery shelling has started again targeting the northern area, two artillery shells so far. One of the shells fell down at the coast west of the evacuated old Dugit settlement, some casualties among the people spending their day at the . . . ” Transmissions could be picked up by anyone with a scanner, which are widely available in Gaza.
Presented with the evidence of the UN transmission last night, Major-General Meir Kalifi, who led the Israeli investigation, insisted that the 4.33pm report was an earlier incident, near the abandoned settlement of Dugit. “[We] know of a request from the Red Cross to the Red Crescent at 4.30pm regarding one wounded individual along the beach. [We] believe that that is the case you are referring to,” General Kalifi said. “This is most likely in the Dugit area. Indeed they were shelling in the Dugit area, but the Dugit area was not near the incident. It was 700 metres away.”
However, Israeli military officials did concede that they made an error in the summary of the investigation’s conclusions concerning shells fired by ships. It cited General Kalifi as saying that all 17 naval shells were fired “approximately four hours before the incident”.
Israeli officials have now told The Times that two naval shells were fired at about the time of the deaths — at 4.24pm and 4.55pm — but that they were too far away to matter. Captain Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, said: “The announcement was wrong. The announcement referred to the shells fired in the area of the incident before noon. We apologise.”
Palestinian hospital and ambulance records — some computerised, some handwritten and far from reliable — also contradict aspects of the Israeli chronology, as do survivor accounts. Those indicate that the fatal explosion may have happened before 4.54, when Israel’s aerial cameras were trained on the quiet beach.
The logs of Kamal Adwan hospital, in northern Gaza, also show that seven patients were admitted at 5.05pm, ten minutes before Israel says it filmed ambulances arriving.
# An Israeli air strike in Gaza killed two senior Islamic Jihad Palestinian militants last night. Palestinian doctors said that several civilian bystanders were injured in the strike.
16.30-16.48 Israel claims its ground batteries fired six shells. Investigation says all but the first at 16.30 are accounted for. Official investigation summary does not mention naval shells fired at 16.24 and 16.55, but officials say they are too far away to matter
16.43 Radio transmission from a UN field monitor in northern Gaza states: “At 16.33 IDF artillery shelling has started again targeting the northern area, two artillery shells so far. One of the shells fell down at the coast west of the evacuated old Dugit settlement, some casualties . . .”
16.57-17.10 The period when Israel says the picnickers must have died. This is based on film of beach between 16.54 and 16.57 apparently showing “nothing irregular”, on Palestinian reports of mass casualties at 17.12, and on a film showing ambulances arriving at 17.15
Additional reporting by Ian MacKinnon
The Name Is Kafka . . . Franz Kafka
By Michael Kinsley
Friday, June 16, 2006; A25
"So put aside your Captain Crunch decoder ring," recommends the Central Intelligence Agency, "for the moment." This is on the Internet site of the CIA's legal department. It's part of a pitch for recruits so startlingly moronic -- even as an attempt at adorable self-mockery -- that you think it must be some subtle comment on the double meaning of the word "intelligence." In good hall-of-mirrors fashion, it's lifted from some book, but the book quotes supposedly real CIA employees. Whatever, this is the agency's self-presentation on its own Web site.
"If the theme music from Mission Impossible runs through your head," it says, "or you get the urge to order a martini 'shaken, not stirred,' at the mention of the letters 'CIA,' '' -- why, then, you're just the kind of lawyer we want!
"We've been a major player in developing the law of national security vs. the First Amendment," the agency deadpans. "Or the Fourth Amendment. . . ." When "Americans [abroad] come across on our screen, they've got constitutional rights we've got to think about . . . . Or electronic surveillance . . . . In areas like that, we're helping to create the law, and that's a real rush."
And it's all true. The CIA is in the forefront of efforts to make sure that democracy, individual rights and stuff like that don't get in the way of our crusade for the spread of democracy, individual rights and stuff like that.
For years, all the intelligence agencies have been tussling with the American Civil Liberties Union over documents about the innovative Bush administration policy of locking people up in foreign countries where they can be tortured without the inconvenience of anyone knowing about it or bringing up, you know, like, the Constitution. It is not yet clear -- though there is little reason for optimism -- whether the courts will let them get away with it, but the official position of the executive branch under President Bush is that the U.S. government can lock you up anywhere in the world, torture you and tell no one about it. And if someone does find out and starts talking trash like "habeas corpus" or "Fourth Amendment," too bad: It's all okay under the president's inherent powers as commander in chief. Congress -- unbeknownst to Congress -- approved it all in its resolution shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, urging the president to fight terrorism. And the president deputized the CIA and other agencies to go forth and use this authority, in documents that you can't have and that may or may not exist.
In a twist fully worthy of Kafka, or at least Joseph Heller ("Catch-22"), the very suspicion that bad things are going on is a reason you can't find out. As a CIA legal document explains: "CIA confirmation of the existence of [evidence] would confirm a CIA interest in or use of specific intelligence methods and activities." After all, the agency gaily reasons, the "CIA would not request . . . authorization from the president for intelligence activities in which it had no interest."
Meanwhile, in another federal court, the ACLU has been arguing with the National Security Agency about the wiretapping of international phone calls to and from the United States. The 1978 intelligence reform law made clear as cellophane that these agencies had no authority to wiretap citizens of this country and in this country without permission from a judge. So clear, in fact, that the president doesn't deny that his wiretapping program violates the 1978 law. Instead, he says that Congress overruled that law in its 2001 resolution to oppose terrorism. That, plus the usual inherent powers of the presidency.
What's more, government lawyers say, they can prove all this. Or at least they could, but they can't, because the evidence must remain secret for national security reasons. And what are those reasons? Well, the reasons why the reasons why the program is okay are also secret. And without this evidence, there cannot be a trial. Sorry.
It's true that you and I are not being grabbed on the streets and sent to a former secret police torture-training camp in Godforsakistan. Nor is the government eavesdropping on your international phone calls or mine. Probably. Because I like you, I'll forgo the usual ominous warning about how they came after him and then they came after her and then they came after you. I'll even skip the liberal sermonette about how even bad guys have rights.
But your rights and mine are not supposed to be at the whim of the government, let alone the president. They are based in the Constitution and the willingness of those we put in power to obey it -- even as interpreted by judges they may disagree with. The most distressing aspect of this story is the apparent attitude of our current rulers that the Constitution is an obstacle to be overcome -- by conducting dirty business abroad or by wildly disingenuous interpretations of laws and the Constitution.
Just look at what these supposed worshipers at the shrine of "strict constructionism" and "original meaning" have done to the 2001 anti-terrorism resolution. Did any senator who voted for this resolution have any idea that he or she was, in essence, voting to repeal all the protections for individuals against government agency abuse that Congress enacted in 1978?
The fact that there are countries in this world where the government can torture people in secret and without fear of courts is supposed to be a tragedy -- not a convenience.
TIA Lives On - Minus Abuse Protections
By Justin Rood - June 16, 2006, 2:36 PM
Your tax dollars at work: Congress attempted to kill the ill-conceived Terrorist Information Awareness program in 2003. But instead, the Rasputin-like program -- designed to somehow find terrorists from a sky-high pile of credit card bills, car rental receipts and travel records -- came back, bigger and stronger and arguably worse than ever, National Journal's Shane Harris reports today (article not available online -- yet, anyway).
How could a program designed to monitor the minute data of millions of innocent Americans be any worse? By stripping its privacy protections and abuse safeguards, and opening the database up to browsers all over the national security community. Have at it, boys -- there's only one Consitution, so you'll have to share the scissors:
As National Journal revealed in February, the NSA’s Advanced Research and Development Activity took over TIA and carried on the experimental network in late 2003. ARDA continued vetting new tools and even kept the aggressive experiment schedule. . . documents show.
But it discontinued some programs, most notably a multimillion-dollar effort to build privacy-protection technologies. ARDA also abandoned the effort to build audit trails in TIA, which would have permanently recorded any abuse by users.
The National Journal reports the program is now accessed by, among others: the NSA, the CIA, DIA, CENTCOM, the National Counterterorrism Center, the Guantanamo prison, and Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
By Chris Floyd
Published: June 16, 2006
After last week's killing of terrorist chieftain Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (or someone just like him) in Iraq, remembrances of his most celebrated alleged victim surfaced briefly in the press: Nicholas Berg, the young American businessman whose horrific beheading was publicized in a video fortuitously released a few days after the first revelations of torture by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib.
**seems that Al Z guy is always around right when the US needs him to get something ghastly off the front page. First Abu Ghraib and now Haditha. How convenient.**
It was this video -- which featured five surprisingly chubby terrorists, masked, one wearing a gold ring forbidden by extremist Islam, another reading in halting Arabic -- that made Zarqawi the Pentagon poster boy for the insurgency. Pentagon documents unearthed by The Washington Post this April revealed that the elevation of Zarqawi's profile was a deliberate, multimillion-dollar propaganda campaign aimed at the U.S. people to foment the lie that the insurgency was largely an al-Qaida terrorist operation, not a native rebellion against the occupation. As one Pentagon general put it: "The Zarqawi Psy-Op program is the most successful information campaign to date." One can only hope that the timely beheading of Nicholas Berg was not part of this "information campaign."
Of course, Zarqawi was a Bush tool from the beginning. Before the war, his two-bit terrorist group -- operating in the Kurdish-held Iraqi north, where Saddam had no power -- was targeted for destruction by U.S. forces. But the White House canceled the strike three times, the Atlantic reports, because it would have interfered with that earlier psy-ops attack on the U.S. people: selling the Iraq invasion. The war-peddlers needed Zarqawi to "prove" the nonexistent link between Saddam and al-Qaida.
But despite the central role that Berg unwillingly played in the concoction of the Zarqawi legend, he was largely airbrushed from the lurid coverage of its grand finale. That's because any new story on Berg would naturally center around his most outspoken survivor, his father Michael. And Michael Berg is a man with a dangerous message, a radical subversion of every value that the Bush administration is fighting to preserve.
In many ways, of course, it's an ancient danger, a destabilizing notion that has threatened the guardians of civilization for thousands of years. Its advocates have always been relegated to the lunatic fringe, ignored and forgotten, except in rare cases when their subversion has taken hold, usually among the lower orders. In each such case, however, the civilized world has, like a healthy body, acted swiftly to remove the carriers of disorder. Still, in every generation the bacillus emerges once again, and Michael Berg, no doubt weakened by his grief, has become seriously infected.
It's no wonder, then, that his media appearances last week were so brief and circumscribed. For there he was, the father of a victim murdered in the most gruesome fashion imaginable by the terrorist Zarqawi (or someone just like him), a survivor fully entitled to exult in the revenging fury and violent self-righteousness that are among the chief values of the Bush imperium -- and all Berg could talk about was mercy and forgiveness. He would not even take pleasure in the death of Zarqawi, whom he called a "fellow human being." Instead, he grieved for Zarqawi's family and wished that the brutal killer could have been subjected to "restorative justice" -- made to work in a hospital with children maimed by war, for example -- setting him on a path where his human decency might have been restored.
Nor would Berg praise that guardian of civilization, President Bush, for finally ending the career of the terrorist he had used so cynically to justify aggressive war. Instead, Berg blamed Bush for unleashing mass death on the people of Iraq, and instigating the cycle of violence that had consumed his son -- in murky circumstances. Just before his death, Nicholas Berg had been held by U.S. forces for 13 days without any charges or stated reason, missing his scheduled flight home; he was released only after his family filed a lawsuit charging illegal detention. Four days later, he disappeared again, into that dark maw where high politics and low murder feast on the same lies, the same flesh.
But even for the authors of war, for the state terrorists who kill on an industrial scale, Berg called for restoration, not revenge: They should be removed from power and compelled to some compassionate labor that might redeem their corrupted humanity.
It goes without saying that Berg's comments were instantly condemned throughout the vast engine of bile-driven groupthink known as the right-wing media. He was reviled as a traitor, a fool, a terrorist-lover, "less than human," a monster whose son will slap his face in the afterlife. He was derided for his quixotic congressional campaign as the Green Party candidate for Delaware: What place do such weapons of the weak -- mercy, forgiveness, nonviolence -- have in the halls of power? For the mainstream, he was just a blip, a quirky diversion in the flood of triumphant stories on Zarqawi's demise.
And to be sure, it is foolish to oppose the cherished values of our 21st-century civilization: violence, bluster, ignorance and fear. It's foolish to take upon oneself the responsibility to break the cycle of violence at last, to say, "Let it end with me, if nowhere else; let it end now, no matter what the provocation; let something new, something more human, some restoration take root in this bloodstained ground."
But what if such folly is the only way for humankind to begin climbing out of the festering pit we have made of the world?
Get Out Your Tinfoil Hats
Isn't This Fun ...
Blanton's & Ashton's reports that a group called Netvocates has been watching their blog. Who or what is Netvocates, you might ask? Their website claims they go after blogs who say bad things about a company or its products, but B&A has them dead to rights:
Basically, Netvocates is an organization that sends people out to web logs to post propoganda in comments. They appear to be tied to conservatives and there appears to be a tie to townhall.com, the ultra-right-wing web site. Cybersoc.com spent time running down the facts on Netvocates and the man behind Netvocates. I recommend that people who read blogs check out the Cybersoc.com posting. Education is armor.
At Agitprop, we regularly say awful things about religion, the administration, the right wing, psychotic authors, college republicans, and the odd automobile. Never seen Netvocates on the 'ol Sitemeter, but that doesn't mean they haven't been watching.
Agitprop respectfully suggests that all bloggers, big or small, tag all your posts with the Netvocates label. We've got to help them watch us, after all.
Pentagon Details US Abuse of Detainees
By Lolita C. Baldor
The Associated Press
Friday 16 June 2006
Washington - Murky procedures, lack of oversight and inadequate resources led to mistakes in the way U.S. troops treated Iraq and Afghanistan detainees. But two Pentagon reports, made public Friday, found no widespread mistreatment or illegal actions by the military.
**"mistakes"....and really, with the Pentagon investigating itself, what else do you think they'd find?**
A human rights group called the reports a whitewash that ignored countless documented accounts of detainee abuse.
One report detailed several incidents involving U.S. special operations forces in 2003-04. It said interrogators fed some Iraqi detainees only bread and water for up to 17 days, used unapproved interrogation practices such as sleep deprivation and loud music and stripped at least one prisoner.
That report concluded the detainees' treatment was wrong but not illegal and reflected inadequate resources and lack of oversight and proper guidance rather than deliberate abuse. No military personnel were punished as a result of the investigation.
The findings were included in more than 1,000 pages of documents the Pentagon released to the American Civil Liberties Union on Friday under a Freedom of Information request. They included two major reports - one by Army Brig. Gen. Richard Formica on specials operations forces in Iraq and one by Brig. Gen. Charles Jacoby on Afghanistan detainees.
While some of the incidents have been reported previously and reviewed by members of Congress, this was the first time the documents were made public. Many portions of the reports were blacked out, including specific names and locations.
"Both the Formica and the Jacoby report demonstrate that the government is really not taking the investigation of detainee abuse seriously," said Amrit Singh, an ACLU attorney.
Singh called the reports "a whitewash." In particular, she said, there have been numerous documents showing that special operations forces abused detainees, but Formica only reviewed a few cases.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said: "We've undertaken significant steps to investigate, hold people accountable and change our operations as appropriate. This is all part of our effort to be transparent and show that we investigate all allegations thoroughly, and we take them seriously."
Less than a week ago, three detainees committed suicide at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, highlighting accusations of abuse. A little more than two years ago, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq came to light, with its graphic photographs of detainees being sexually humiliated and threatened with dogs.
The Bush administration has been criticized internationally, including by U.S. allies, for abusive treatment of terror war detainees. Late last year, Congress forced Bush to accept a ban on the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners by U.S. troops.
Administration officials have said the U.S. uses legal interrogation techniques - not torture - to gain information that could head off terror attacks.
The Formica review recommended better training, new standards for detention centers and updated policies for detainee operations, among other things. The final report is dated November 2004.
Formica reviewed three allegations of abuse by special operations forces who held detainees in temporary facilities, often hastily set up near where they were captured. He found that overall conditions "did not comport with the spirit of the principles set forth in the Geneva Conventions," which require humane treatment of prisoners.
For example, Formica said, the forces used five interrogation techniques that were allowed at one point but had been rescinded by then: sleep or food deprivation, yelling and loud music, forcing detainees to remain in stressful physical positions and changing environmental conditions.
Formica also said stripping prisoners "was unnecessary and inconsistent with the principles of dignity and respect" in the Geneva Conventions. And while one of the prisoners fed just bread and water appeared to be in good condition, he said, 17 days of that diet "is too long."
He said more serious allegations of rape, sodomy and beatings were not substantiated by medical examinations and the accusers' stories changed over time and were not credible.
Jacoby was dispatched in May 2004 to examine the treatment of detainees at facilities in Afghanistan.
His report found "no systematic or widespread mistreatment of detainees," but concluded that the opportunities for mistreatment and the ever-changing battlefield there demanded changes in procedures.
He said there was "a consistent lack of knowledge" regarding the capture, processing, detention and interrogation of detainees, with different policies at facilities across the country. Jacoby also concluded that "inconsistent and unevenly applied" interrogation standards created opportunities for abuse and impeded efforts to gain timely intelligence.
To date, there have been about 600 investigations into detainee-related incidents, including natural deaths and detainee assaults on other detainees, according to Army spokesman Paul Boyce. As a result, he said, 267 soldiers have received some type of punishment, including 85 courts-martial and 95 nonjudicial actions.
Posted By: ChristopherBollyn
Date: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 11:39 p.m.
CRITICAL U.S. GOVERNMENT AND MILITARY COMPUTER
NETWORKS USING ISRAELI "SECURITY" SOFTWARE
American Free Press
The most critical computer and communication networks used by the U.S. government and military are secured by encryption software written by an Israeli "code breaker" tied to an Israeli state-run scientific institution.
The National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. intelligence agency with the mandate to protect government and military computer networks and provide secure communications for all branches of the U.S. government uses security software written by an Israeli code breaker whose home office is located at the Weizmann Institute in Israel.
A Bedford, Massachusetts-based company called RSA Security, Inc. issued a press release on March 28, 2006, which revealed that the NSA would be using its security software:
"U.S. Department of Defense Agency Selects RSA Security Encryption Software" was the headline of the company's press release which announced that the National Security Agency had selected its encryption software to be used in the agency's "classified communications project."
RSA stands for the names of the founders of the company: Ronald L. Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard M. Adleman. Adi Shamir, the lead theoretician, is an Israeli citizen and a professor at the Weizmann Institute, a scientific institution tied to the Israeli defense establishment.
"My main area of research is cryptography – making and breaking codes," Shamir's webpage at the Weizmann Institute says. "It is motivated by the explosive growth of computer networks and wireless communication. Without cryptographic protection, confidential information can be exposed to eavesdroppers, modified by hackers, or forged by criminals."
The NSA/Central Security Service defines itself as America’s cryptologic organization, which "coordinates, directs, and performs highly specialized activities to protect U.S. government information systems and produce foreign signals intelligence information."
The fact that the federal intelligence agency responsible for protecting the most critical computer systems and communications networks used by all branches of the U.S. government and military is using Israeli-made encryption software should come as no surprise. The RSA press release is just the icing on the cake; the keys to the most critical computer networks in the United States have long been held in Israeli hands.
AFP inquired with the NSA about its use of Israeli-made security software for classified communications projects and asked why such outsourcing was not seen as a national security threat. Why is "America’s cryptologic organization" using Israeli encryption codes?
NSA spokesman Ken White said that the agency is "researching" the matter and would respond in the coming week.
American Free Press has previously revealed that scores of "security software" companies – spawned and funded by the Mossad, the Israeli military intelligence agency – have proliferated in the United States. The "security" software products of many of these usually short-lived Israeli-run companies have been integrated into the computer products which are provided to the U.S. government by leading suppliers such as Unisys.
Unisys integrated Israeli security software, provided by the Israel-based Check Point Software Technologies and Eurekify, into its own software, so that Israeli software, written by Mossad-linked companies, now "secures" the most sensitive computers in the U.S. government and commercial sector.
The Mossad-spawned computer security firms typically have a main office based in the U.S. while their research and development is done in Israel. The Mossad start-up firms usually have short lives before they are acquired for exaggerated sums of money by a larger company, enriching their Israeli owners in the process and integrating the Israeli directors and their Mossad-produced software into the parent company.
RSA, for example, an older security software company, acquired an Israeli-run security software company, named Cyota, at the end of 2005 for $145 million.
In January 2005, Cyota, "the leading provider of online security and anti-fraud solutions for financial institutions" had announced that "security expert" Amit Yoran, had joined the company's board of directors. Prior to becoming a director at Cyota, Yoran, a 34-year old Israeli, had already been the national "Cyber Czar," having served as director of the Department of Homeland Security's National Cyber Security Division.
Yoran had been appointed "Cyber Czar" at age 32 by President George W. Bush in September 2003.
Before joining DHS, Yoran had been vice president for worldwide managed security services at Symantec. Prior to that, he had been the founder, president and CEO of Riptech, Inc., an information security management and monitoring firm, which Symantec acquired in 2002 for $145 million.
Yoran and his brother Naftali Elad Yoran are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at Westpoint. Elad graduated in 1991 and Amit in 1993. Along with their brother Dov, the Yoran brothers are key players in the security software market. Amit has also held critical positions in the U.S. government overseeing computer security for the very systems that apparently failed on 9/11.
Before founding Riptech in 1998, Yoran directed the vulnerability-assessment program within the computer emergency response team at the US Department of Defense. Yoran previously served as an officer in the United States Air Force as the Director of Vulnerability Programs for the Department of Defense's Computer Emergency Response Team and in support of the Assistant Secretary of Defense's Office.
In June 2005, Yoran joined the board of directors of Guardium, Inc., another Mossad-spawned "provider of database security solutions" based in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Guardium is linked with Ptech, an apparent Mossad "cut out" computer security company linked with the 9/11 attacks.
Ptech, a computer software company in Quincy, Mass., was supposedly a small start-up company founded by a Lebanese Muslim and funded by a Saudi millionaire. Yet Ptech's clients included all the key federal governmental agencies, including the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Naval Air Command, Congress, the Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, NATO, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service and even the White House.
The marketing manager at Ptech, Inc. when the company started in the mid-1990s, however, was not a Muslim or an Arab, but an American Jewish lawyer named Michael S. Goff who had suddenly quit his law firm for no apparent reason and joined the Arab-run start-up company.
Goff was the company's information systems manager and had single-handedly managed the company's marketing and "all procurement" of software, systems and peripherals. He also trained the employees. Goff was obviously the key person at Ptech.
In the wake of 9/11, during the Citizens' Commission hearings in New York, Indira Singh, a consultant who had worked on a Defense Advanced Research Project, pointed to Ptech and MITRE Corp. being involved in computer "interoperability issues" between the FAA and NORAD. At this time Ptech's ties to Arabs was the focus, and Goff was out of the picture.
"Ptech was with MITRE Corporation in the basement of the FAA for two years prior to 9/11," Singh said. "Their specific job is to look at interoperability issues the FAA had with NORAD and the Air Force in the case of an emergency. If anyone was in a position to know that the FAA – that there was a window of opportunity or to insert software or to change anything – it would have been Ptech along with MITRE."
The Mossad-run Guardium company is linked with Ptech through Goff Communications, the Holliston, Mass.-based public relations firm previously run by Michael S. Goff and his wife Marcia, which represents Guardium. Since being exposed in AFP in 2005, however, Michael's name no longer appears on the company website.
Photo: Amit Yoran, the Israeli "Cyber Security Czar" appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003. Yoran has held various positions since the 1990s in which he oversaw computer security for the Dept. of Defense computers.
Although he and his brother reportedly grew up in Pound Ridge, New York during the 1970s and 1980s, the heads of the Jewish community told AFP that they had never heard of him. One said that she had conducted a survey of the Jews living in the small village of Pound Ridge in the 1970s and she would have remembered if a wealthy Israeli family named Yoran had been found.
Why did the locals in Pound Ridge NOT remember the Yorans?
Probably because they were NOT in Pound Ridge - but in Israel. The Pound Ridge address was used to give the appearance that the Yorans were Americans. I spoke with Elad and he has a distinctive Israeli accent - not what you would expect for a guy who grew up in a posh Yankee village.
So who are the Yorans? Who are their parents and why did they come to the United States? To raise a couple high-level moles to infiltrate the most sensitive U.S. computer networks? How could they have lived for 20 years in Pound Ridge and NOT be remembered.
Military Probe: Were Secrets Disclosed To Expelled Reporters at Gitmo?
By Joe Strupp
Published: June 15, 2006 11:40 AM ET
NEW YORK Military officials at Guantanamo Bay have launched an investigation to find out if officers at the prison there revealed "classified or sensitive material" to reporters, according to the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.
**like maybe information that prisoners were tortured, or that those three suicides were something else altogether?**
The Observer, as E&P explored in several stories on Wednesday, is one of three newspapers whose journalists were expelled from the prison base Wednesday after spending five days at the site covering the aftermath of three prisoner suicides. The Observer's reporter Michael Gordon and photographer Todd Sumlin were directed to leave, along with Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald and Carol Williams of the Los Angeles Times.
In a story in today's paper, the Observer reported that the "investigation was ordered the same day that an Observer story from Guantanamo ... caused controversy within the Defense Department. The story reported on the details of an officers' staff meeting at the prison in the wake of three detainee suicides."
The paper noted that Gordon had been "allowed to listen in and report on that meeting Monday by the detention center commander, Army Col. Mike Bumgarner." It said that the story was published Tuesday and quoted Bumgarner saying the prisoners had lost trust in the officers. "There is not a trustworthy son of a ----- in the entire bunch," Bumgarner said in the story.
Later Tuesday, the four journalists were required by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office to leave the base. They reached Miami via a military aircraft on Wednesday.
A Pentagon spokesman. J.D. Gordon, has said the Observer story was not the reason that the journalists were forced to leave. But he acknowledged that some Pentagon officials were uncomfortable with some of the details that the Observer published, telling E&P that the story caused "controversy."
The Observer also reported that it had received a Pentagon statement on Wednesday that said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris -- Bumgarner's superior -- had called for the inquiry "to determine if classified and/or unclassified sensitive information about detention operations with respect to recent detainee suicides was disclosed to the public."
An Army brigadier general has been appointed to run the investigation, the Observer reported, and will report his findings to Harris within 15 days, the statement said. Military spokespeople would not confirm to the paper if Bumgarner or any other individuals were the target of the inquiry.
The Observer reports that the Pentagon was expecting a "puff piece" from Michael Gordon and Sumlin, who were initially at the camp on Saturday to profile Bumgarner when the suicides occurred.
Instead, the Observer stated, Gordon -- with the permission of Bumgarner and his superiors on the base -- "provided an insider account of how the prison's officers handled the suicides and their aftermath, including details that the Pentagon says are creating bad press around the world."
"Detainee lawyers seized on them and used them for a P.R. campaign in Europe to say their clients are being mistreated," J.D. Gordon told the Observer.
Reporter on 'Suicide Watch' in Gitmo
Don't Bow To God's Bullies
By Rev. Jim Rigby, HuffingtonPost.com
Posted on June 15, 2006, Printed on June 17, 2006
Whereas American theology was born out of a hope for democracy, much of it is wedded to a picture of Christ as a benevolent dictator. Should we be surprised that a hierarchical cosmology would produce hierarchical churches and nations? Should we be surprised that religious nations that picture Christ as a loving dictator have produced conquistadors, inquisitors and crusaders?
What else could they produce? As the tree is, so shall be the fruit. The word "Lord" was not in the original Bible. It is an English word from feudal times. Whereas the Greek word kurios had a range of meanings, from a title of respect to a title of leadership to a name for the sacred, the English translation "Lord" refers specifically to a male European land baron. Many people have softened that interpretation in their own minds, but in times of great stress, such nuance falls away and many Christians seek a white male king. He may be called "Pope" he may be called "the decider President," he may be called "televangelist," but the title only masks what he is, a benevolent (or not so benevolent) dictator.
Neither Calvin nor Luther spoke English, but they helped the Popes lay the groundwork for the view of God as a cosmic dictator. From Popes, Luther and Calvin we have some of the ugliest slurs ever recorded against women, intellectuals and those who refused the church's message. How did Christians hold slaves, oppress women and slaughter nonbelievers? Perhaps they could not see Christ in non-male, non-European, and non-Christian people because they were limited by their theology. Their "Christ" was merely a glorification of the most powerful member of their own culture.
To picture God in terms of power is also one of the great bait-and-switch gimmicks of all time. People within the power hierarchy proclaim that God is the ultimate authority, and then appoint themselves as God's interpreters and enforcers. They are God's humble bullies. It has been one of the most successful con games of all time.
The real Jesus was born illegitimately. He called himself "the human one." Just like Buddha, his authority came from truth, not power. He taught whoever has love has God. He said those who work for the common good are his church.
The real Jesus was an anarchist. He spent his life refusing to claim power over anyone. He said that God is understood in terms of love not power. We add nothing to the majesty of "the human one" by adding a throne or a crown. If he did not want to rule over others in life, why should he want it in death? That is why Jesus is called "lamb of God"; he spoke not as the king of the universe, but from its heart.
If you want to know why Americans are so frightened and why we are attacking anything that would challenge our dominance over others, read the Bible. Like Cain we have murdered members of our human family. Even when we silence our victims, the ground beneath our feet cries out against us.
Today's church lifts its arms to praise Christ wearing liturgical garments woven in sweatshops. So called "Christian America" is still a nation built on the work of slaves. We do not see them because they toil invisibly in other countries. Today's church doles out bits of charity from booty stolen from God's powerless people the world over. Anyone who claims to believe in a just God, or even in justice itself, has to know at some level that the prayers for liberation coming from third world countries will be heard and answered. At some level, people of faith have to know that unless America repents of the sin of empire we are a doomed nation.
Whatever prophetic voices survive in the church must take a message to the mainstream denominations. "We are guilty of our leaders' crimes. Just because we are silent and passive does not mean that we are innocent. If we have any status in the power hierarchy, we are partially responsible for its misdeeds."
I realize that most of the church consists of wonderful and compassionate people, but that does not matter if we turn over our power to those less charitable. The moderate mainstream church is helpless against fundamentalism because it is built on a nuanced version of the same cracked foundation of a theology of power.
Whether or not we can change America in time to avoid a political and ecological apocalypse, it is never too late to do the right thing. All of us can begin to plant seeds of a better future for our children's children. For Christians today, that means suffering the consequences of refusing to bow to the dictator Christ of this culture.
The Rev. Jim Rigby is pastor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, Tex. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Democrats Say Key Superfund Data Is Being Withheld From the Public
By T. Christian Miller
The Los Angeles Times
Friday 16 June 2006
The EPA won't release some data on 140 Superfund locations. Senate Republicans say their rivals may want to reinstate a cleanup fee.
Washington - Senate Democrats on Thursday accused the Bush administration of withholding key details about toxic waste sites that present risks of exposure to nearby residents.
At a congressional hearing, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the Environmental Protection Agency had designated as confidential the details of about 140 Superfund sites where toxic exposure remained uncontrolled.
Boxer and other Democrats said the secret data included information about how much money and time it would take to clean up the dangerous sites, including one site where the EPA predicted it would take 26 years to close off access to toxics.
"This isn't a question of left or right," Boxer said, waving a document marked "Privileged" by EPA officials to prevent its release to the public. "This is a question of right and wrong."
The EPA said that it had blocked only information related to law enforcement and that the public had access to all relevant health-risk data for the sites, seven of which are in California.
"There is far more information available for each [high-priority] site than has ever been available before," said Susan Parker Bodine, the assistant administrator responsible for the Superfund program, which was designed to clean up toxic waste sites such as chemical dumping grounds and contaminated factories.
Republicans said Democrats were trying to manufacture a political issue, and noted that Senate tradition had long prevented the release of sensitive information.
They also said they feared that Democrats were seeking to reinstate a controversial tax in which chemical manufacturers and other companies were forced to pay a fee to contribute to cleaning up waste sites, even if the firms played no role in creating the mess.
"This tax would fall on businesses already paying for their own cleanup or that had never created any kind of a Superfund site," said Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate environment committee. "It would put a burden on those companies."
Democrats have routinely accused the Bush administration of restricting access to information designed to protect the public. One Republican-sponsored bill moving through Congress would limit data available on toxic substances released into communities, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has blocked information on flooding dangers in Florida.
Thursday's hearing of the Superfund and waste management subcommittee was the first in four years. The Superfund program was created almost three decades ago in response to environmental disasters such as Love Canal, a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where chemical contamination forced the removal of 800 families and led to $200 million in remediation costs.
The cleanup effort has drawn criticism ever since, from environmentalists who claim it is underfunded and too slow, and from industry officials who say it is costly and punitive.
Bodine said that the agency had made significant progress, but that larger, more costly projects - including many of the 140 sites at issue at Thursday's hearing - take more time to remediate.
Those sites are areas where the public still faces some possible exposure to toxic substances - such as a building near buried radioactive waste that was not surrounded by a fence. A skateboard park built over the site, however, was protected by a layer of dirt.
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said he was disturbed by some of the answers from Bodine, who at times appeared flustered and at a loss for words under the Democrats' questions. New Jersey, with 20, has the highest number of sites with uncontrolled exposure.
The EPA's decision to withhold information is "nonsense, and everybody knows it's nonsense," Lautenberg said. "It's deceptive."
Seven California sites on the national Superfund list still present a risk of exposure to residents. The Environmental Protection Agency has refused to release details on such areas.
* Ft. Ord, Marina
* Lava Cap Mine, Nevada City
* McCormick & Baxter Creosoting Co., Stockton
* Montrose Chemical Corp., Torrance
* Omega Chemical Corp., Whittier
* Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine, Clearlake
* United Heckathorn Co., Richmond
The Tripolar Chessboard
By Michael T. Klare
Thursday 15 June 2006
Putting Iran in great power context.
For months, the American press and policy-making elite have portrayed the crisis with Iran as a two-sided struggle between Washington and Tehran, with the European powers as well as Russia and China playing supporting roles. It is certainly true that George Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are the leading protagonists in this drama, with each making inflammatory statements about the other in order to whip up public support at home. But an informed reading of recent international diplomacy surrounding the Iranian crisis suggests that another equally fierce - and undoubtedly more important - struggle is also taking place: a tripolar contest between the United States, Russia, and China for domination of the greater Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea region and its mammoth energy reserves.
When it comes to grand strategy, top Bush administration officials have long attempted to maintain American dominance of the "global chessboard" (as they see it) by diminishing the influence of the only other significant players, Russia and China. This classic geopolitical contest began with a flourish in early 2001, when the White House signaled the provocative course it planned to follow by unilaterally repudiating the U.S.-Russian Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and announcing new high-tech arms sales to Taiwan, which China still considers a breakaway province. After 9/11, these initial signals of antagonism were toned down in order to secure Russian and Chinese assistance in fighting the war on terror, but in recent months the classic chessboard version of great-power politics has again come to dominate strategic thinking in Washington.
Advancing the Strategic Pawns
This resurgence was perhaps first signaled on May 4, when Vice President Dick Cheney went to Lithuana, the former Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), to lambaste the Russian government at a pro-democracy confab. He accused Kremlin officials of "unfairly and improperly" restricting the rights of Russian citizens and of using the country's abundant oil and gas supplies as "tools of intimidation [and] blackmail" against its neighbors. He also condemned Moscow for attempting to "monopolize the transportation" of oil and gas supplies in Eurasia - a direct challenge to U.S. interests in the Caspian region.
The next day, Cheney flew to the former SSR of Kazakhstan in oil and natural gas rich Central Asia, where he urged that country's leaders to ship their plentiful oil through a U.S.-sponsored pipeline to Turkey and the Mediterranean rather than through Russian-controlled pipelines to Europe.
Then, on June 3, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld weighed in on China, telling an audience of Asian security officials that Beijing's "lack of transparency" with respect to its military spending "understandably causes concerns for some of its neighbors." These comments were accompanied by publicly announced plans for increased U.S. spending on sophisticated weapons systems liked the F-22A Air-superiority Fighter and Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines that could only be useful in a big-power war for which there were just two candidates, Russia and China.
Like Russia, China has also aroused Washington's ire over its aggressive energy policies - but in China's case over its increasing attempts to nail down oil and gas supplies for its burgeoning, energy-poor economy. In Military Power of the People's Republic of China, its most recent report on Chinese military capabilities issued on May 23, the Pentagon decried China's use of arms transfers and other military aid as inducements to countries like Iran and Sudan to gain access to energy reserves in the Middle East and Africa, and for acquiring warships "that could serve as the basis for a force capable of power projection" into the oil-producing regions of the planet.
There's nothing new about the Bush administration's urge to rollback Russia and "contain" China. Such thinking was famously articulated in the "Defense Planning Guidance for 1994-99," written by then Undersecretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz and leaked to the press in early 1992. "Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union," the document famously declared. This remains the principal aim of U.S. strategy today, but it has now been joined by another key objective: to ensure that the United States - and no one else - controls the energy supplies of the Persian Gulf and adjacent areas of Asia.
When first articulated in the "Carter Doctrine" of 1980, this precept was directed exclusively at the Gulf; now, under President Bush, it has been extended to the Caspian Sea basin as well - a consequence of rising oil prices, fears of diminishing supplies, and the vast oil and natural gas deposits believed to be housed there. To assert U.S. influence in this region, once part of the Soviet Union, the White House has been setting up military bases, supplying arms, and conducting a sub-rosa war of influence with both Moscow and Beijing.
Knight's Moves in the Gulf
It is in this context that the current struggle over Iran must be viewed. Iran occupies a pivotal position on the tripolar chessboard. Geographically, it is the only nation that abuts both the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, positioning Tehran to play a significant role in the two areas of greatest energy concern to the United States, Russia, and China. Iran also abuts the strategic Strait of Hormuz - the narrow waterway from the Gulf to the Indian Ocean through which about one-quarter of the world's oil moves every day. As a result, if Washington ever lifted its trade embargo on Iran, its territory could be used as the most obvious transit route for the delivery of oil and natural gas from the Caspian countries to global markets, especially in Europe and Japan.
As the most populous and industrialized nation in the Persian Gulf basin, Iran has always played a significant role in that region's affairs - a situation that has often troubled neighbors like Saddam Hussein's Iraq (which invaded Iran in 1980, beginning a bloody eight-year war that ended in an exhausted stalemate). In recent years, Iran has also gained regional clout as the center of the Shia branch of Islam. Long despised and abused by Sunnis, the Shia are now in the ascendancy in neighboring Iraq and are gaining greater visibility in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the Shia-populated areas of Saudi Arabia nearest to Kuwait (where crucial Saudi oil fields lie) in what is starting to be thought of as the "Shia crescent."
At present, Iran's military capabilities are not impressive - a result, in part, of the U.S. embargo on sales of spare parts to the Iranian air force (largely equipped with American aircraft during the reign of the former Shah). But Iran has acquired submarines and other modern weapons from Russia and has developed a ballistic missile capability - probably with help from North Korea and China. Were it ever to succeed in acquiring nuclear weapons, it would indeed become a formidable regional power, possibly calling into question America's projected military domination of the Gulf. It is for this reason more than any other that Washington is so determined to block its acquisition of nuclear arms.
While both Russia and China claim to be opposed to such a development, they certainly wouldn't view it with the same degree of dread and fury as does the Bush administration - a consideration that has no doubt given added impetus to its drive to block Iran's nuclear efforts.
Above all, of course, Iran possesses the world's second largest reserves of petroleum - an estimated 132 billion barrels (11.1% of the world's known reservoirs); and also the second largest reserves of natural gas - 971 trillion cubic feet (15.3% of known reservoirs). The Iranians may possess less oil than the Saudis and less gas than the Russians, but no other country controls so much of both of these vital resources. Many states including China, India, Japan, and the European Union countries already depend on Iran for significant shares of their petroleum supplies; and China and the others have been busy negotiating deals to develop, and then draw on, its mammoth natural gas reserves. Iran will not only remain a major energy supplier, but also one of the few that has the capacity -ñ with the right kind of investment - to substantially boost its output in the years ahead when many other sources of oil and gas will have gone into decline.
In 1953, after the CIA helped oust Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, who had nationalized the Iranian oil industry, American energy firms came to play a commanding role in Iran's oil industry with the blessing of the Shah. This remained true until he fell in the Khomeini revolution of 1979. They would no doubt love to return to Iran, if given the opportunity; but Washington's hostility to the Islamic regime in Tehran now precludes their reentry. Under Executive Order 12959, signed by President Clinton in 1995 and renewed by President Bush, all U.S. companies are barred from operating in Iran. But should "regime change" ever occur there - the implied objective of U.S. policy - this Executive Order would be lifted and U.S. firms would be able to do what Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and other firms are now doing, exploiting Iranian energy supplies. Just how much energy figures into the administration's desire for political change in Iran cannot be fully judged from the outside, but given the close ties Bush, Cheney, and other key administration officials have with the U.S. energy industry, it is hard to believe that it doesn't play a highly significant one.
For China's energy plans, Iran's "pariah" status has certainly been a boon. Because U.S. firms are barred from investing and European companies face American economic penalties if they do so (under the congressionally mandated Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996), Chinese companies have had a relatively open playing field as they shop for promising energy deals like the $50 billion one signed in 2004 to develop the massive Yadavaran gas field and to buy 10 million tons of Iranian liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually for 25 years.
Russia, unlike energy-desperate China, is practically drowning in oil and natural gas, but has an abiding interest in not seeing energy-rich neighboring Iran fall under the sway of the U.S. and, as a major supplier of nuclear equipment and technology, also has a special interest in lending a profitable hand to Iran's energy establishment. The Russians are completing the construction of a civilian nuclear reactor at Bushehr in southwest Iran, a $1 billion project, and are eager to sell more reactors and other nuclear energy systems to the Iranians. This, of course, is a source of considerable frustration to Washington, which seeks to isolate Tehran and prevent it from receiving any nuclear technology. (Although an entirely civilian project, Bushehr would no doubt be on the target list for any American air attack intended to cripple Iran's nuclear capacity.) Nevertheless, the head of the Russian nuclear energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, announced in February, "We don't see any political obstacles to completing Bushehr" and bringing it on line "in the swiftest possible period."
Given what is at stake, it is easy to see why the United States, Russia, and China all have such an abiding interest in the outcome of the Iranian crisis. For Washington, the replacement of the clerical government in Tehran with a U.S.-friendly regime would represent a colossal, threefold accomplishment: It would eliminate a major threat to America's continued dominance of the Persian Gulf, open up the world's number two oil-and-gas supplier to American energy firms, and greatly diminish Chinese and Russian influence in the greater Gulf region.
From a geopolitical perspective, there could be no greater win on the global chessboard today. Even if Washington failed to achieve regime change but, using its military might, crippled Iran's nuclear establishment without sustaining major damage itself in Iraq or elsewhere, this would still be a significant geopolitical win, exposing the inability of either Russia or China to counter American moves of this sort. (This would only work, of course, if the Bush administration was able to contain the inevitable fallout from such action, whether increased ethnic strife in Iraq or a sharp spike in oil prices.)
Not surprisingly, Moscow and Beijing are doing everything in their power to prevent any American geopolitical triumph in Iran or Central Asia from occurring, though without provoking an outright breach in relations with Washington - and so endangering complex economic ties with the United States.
As this grand geopolitical "Great Game" unfolds, with the potential economic well-being of the planet at stake, all sides are trying to line up allies wherever possible, using whatever diplomatic levers are available. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. position in both the Persian Gulf and Central Asia has noticeably deteriorated. At present, the Bush administration's greatest weakness remains the schism in U.S.-European relations created by the unilateral U.S. invasion itself. Because the Europeans felt betrayed by that action, they have largely refrained from helping out either in the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq or in funding the reconstruction of the country. This has imposed a ghastly and mounting cost on the United States. Fearing a repetition of this fiasco in Iran, the White House has clearly decided to let the diplomatic process play out on the Iranian crisis in a way they refused to do when it came to Saddam's Iraq. So, within limits, they are letting the Europeans set the diplomatic game plan for "resolving" the nuclear dispute.
This, in turn, has given Moscow and Beijing their one obvious option for averting what could be a geopolitical disaster for them in Iran: the potential use of a Security Council veto to block the imposition of U.S.-threatened sanctions on Iran under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which could legitimize not only such sanctions but also the use of force against any state deemed to pose a threat to international peace. The Europeans want to prevent such a vote from occurring - knowing that any "failure" at the UN might only strengthen the arguments of the hawks in Washington who want to move unilaterally and by force against Iran. As a result, they are listening to the Russians and Chinese who insist on relying on diplomacy - and nothing else - to resolve the crisis, however long that takes.
"Russia believes that the sole solution for this problem will be based on the work of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency],"said the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, in March. Very similar statements have been issued by Chinese officials, who have expressly ruled out force as an acceptable solution to the crisis. In February, for instance, the Chinese Ambassador to the IAEA, Wu Hailongon, called on "all relevant parties to exercise restraint and patience" and "refrain from any action that might further complicate or deteriorate the situation."
Checkmate for Whom?
That all key parties see this unfolding crisis as part of a larger geopolitical struggle is beyond doubt. For example, the Russians and Chinese have begun to create something of a counter-bloc to the United States in Central Asia, using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a vehicle. Originally established by Moscow and Beijing to combat ethnic separatism in Central Asia, the SCO - now including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan - has become more like a regional security organization, a sort of mini-NATO (but also an anti-NATO). Clearly, the Russians and the Chinese hope that it will help them turn back U.S. influence in the energy-rich former Islamic territories of the old Soviet Union, and in this it has shown - in Uzbekistan, at least - some signs of realpolitik success. At a recent meeting of the organization, the current members went so far as to invite Iran to join as an observer - to the obvious displeasure of Washington. "It strikes me as passing strange," Secretary Rumsfeld opined recently in Singapore, "that one would want to bring into an organization that says it's against terrorism... the leading terrorist nation in the world: Iran."
At the same time, the United States has sought to line up its own allies - including south Asian wildcard, India - for a possible military confrontation with Iran. Even though Bush insists that he's prepared to rely on diplomacy to resolve the crisis, Pentagon officials have sought the assistance of NATO in planning air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. In March, for example, the head of NATO's Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, General Axel Tuttelmann, indicated that his force was ready to assist American forces at the very onset of a U.S. attack on Iran. The German press has also reported that former CIA director Peter Goss visited Turkey late last year to request that country's assistance in conducting air strikes against Iran.
Despite continuing calls for diplomacy to prevail, all sides in this wider struggle recognize that the current situation cannot last forever. For one thing, the shaky position of the Bush administration - politically at home, in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in its attempts to secure geopolitical advantage in Central Asia, and economically at a global level - continues to develop fissures and to embolden those countries, Iran included, which might frustrate its desires. To top Bush officials, still dreaming of global energy hegemony, the situation may seem increasingly perilous, but the window to act may also appear in danger of closing. Their appetite for European, Chinese, or Russian stalling tactics, no less Iranian intransigence, may not be great; and, however much Moscow and Beijing try to persuade the Iranians to back down on nuclear matters, thereby averting American military action, their influence in Tehran may not prove strong enough.
If, in the coming few months, Iran rejects U.S. demands for the complete and permanent termination of its nuclear enrichment activities, the United States will certainly insist on the imposition of sanctions at the UN. If, in turn, the Security Council (with the acquiescence of Russia and China) adopts purely symbolic gestures to no visible effect, Washington will then demand tougher sanctions under Chapter 7; and if either Russia or China vetoes such measures, the Bush administration will almost certainly choose to use military means against Iran, playing out Moscow's and Beijing's worst fears.
Russia and China can thus be expected to stretch out the diplomatic process for as long as possible, hoping thereby to make military action by the United States appear illegitimate to the Europeans and others. By the same token, the hawks in Washington will undoubtedly become increasingly impatient with the delays - viewing them as rear-guard strategic moves by Russia and China - and so will push for military action by the end of this year if nothing has been accomplished by then on the diplomatic front.
As the crisis over Iran unfolds, most of the news commentary will continue to focus on the war of words between Washington and Tehran. Political insiders understand, however, that the most significant struggle is the one that remains just out of sight, pitting Washington against Moscow and Beijing in the battle for global influence and energy domination. From this perspective, Iran is just one battlefield - however significant - in a far larger, more long-lasting, and momentous contest.
Michael T. Klare is the Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum (Owl Books) as well as Resource Wars, The New Landscape of Global Conflict.