Sunday, August 31, 2008

Denver police harrass journalists and protesters, revealing what their actual function is.

Denver Post - An ABC News producer was arrested outside the Brown Palace Hotel as he attempted to chronicle attendees at a private breakfast held by a Democratic Party campaign committee. ABC said in a statement that Asa Eslocker and a camera crew were "attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting."

"We're getting under their skin, I think," said Brian Ross, ABC News correspondent whose "Money Trail" reports are running every night this week and next from both nominating conventions.

Eslocker, a member of the investigative team, was charged with trespass, interference and failure to follow a lawful order. He was put in handcuffs and taken by police van to the downtown police station.

He was released after posting $500 bond.

On Tuesday, Ross and his crew were asked to leave Hotel Teatro when they tried to photograph a private function. On Monday, they shot pictures of a party at the Denver Art Museum through the glass.

ABC has video shot at the scene of the arrest, showing a hotel security guard, wearing the uniform of a Boulder County Sheriff's Office, ordering Eslocker off the sidewalk.

Denver Post - Denver police moved against a group of protesters, arresting two near the group's "convergence center" north of downtown. Police said they were drawn to the gathering place for the protest group Unconventional Denver at 4301 Brighton Blvd. after spotting what Lt. J. McDonald termed "suspicious activity." When police arrived, they determined there was no illegal activity "but they found some items that might be used as weapons," McDonald said.

Standing near the house, Michael Gonzalez, 20, of Seattle said he thinks the only suspicious activity was a man working on his mini bus in front of the house. The bus runs on vegetable oil.

Several officers approached the owner of the bus, who was working on the oil filter, Gonzalez said. The officers had Tasers in hand and ordered the van owner to put his hands above his head.

Seeing the police approaching, another person slowly walked toward the back end of the building, which has been rented by Unconventional Denver for the week, he said.

"The cops grabbed him and slammed him on his head," Gonzalez said.

The officers seemed suspicious of the bus, which has a giant drum in the back used to hold the vegetable oil, Gonzalez said.

The officers also said that bricks laying on the dusty ground could be used as weapons, Gonzalez said.

"The bricks were used to hold down banners that we were painting," he said. "They weren't weapons. They were paperweights."

The two men, whose names have not yet been released, were arrested for disobeying a lawful order. Police then discussed whether to seek a search warrant for the house but decided they did not have probable cause for further search.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Resurgent Russia

By Brian Cloughly, Counterpunch

As has been shown in Georgia recently, the Russians are in no mood to take any nonsense from anyone, and are intent on once again being a power to be reckoned with. The declaration by the psychotic Dick Cheney that the recent Russian operation in the territory of South Ossetia “must not go unanswered” was silly bluster, and the remarks by Bush and Condoleezza Rice about Russian “aggression” and so forth are equally absurd.

In early August Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, an erratic US-educated, US-backed demagogue, ordered his US-trained, US-equipped troops to rocket villages and then invade the enclave of would-be independent South Ossetia, whose largely Russian-origin inhabitants were being protected by Russian soldiers. His soldiers fired thousands of rockets from multi-barrelled launchers into villages and towns, killing hundreds of civilians. The Russian army went in and thumped the Georgians. So who does much of the West blame for the conflict? Why, Russia, of course.

The hypocrisy of Western reaction to Russia’s justifiable involvement in Georgia is ridiculous. Washington’s condemnation of Moscow is bizarre, and for Bush to state, as he did on 15 August, that “Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century” is preposterous to the point of fantasy. Bush pronounced that “We insist that Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected” which is rich, coming from a man whose drones continue to violate Pakistan’s airspace to fire missiles that have killed scores of Pakistani civilians.

Because of George W Bush there is an ongoing US military occupation of Iraq, a country which posed no threat whatever to the United States and which on his orders was invaded illegally and mercilessly subjugated. His soldiers, outside the NATO command system (such as that is), have killed hundreds of Afghan civilians, resulting in futile protests by Afghanistan’s President Karzai. Sovereignty, anyone?

For the West to try to assume a lofty moral position about Russian troops moving into South Ossetia to protect civilians from the rockets and other barbarity of the Georgian leader is not just laughably hypocritical, it demonstrates a weird consistency in an essentially US-centric view of international affairs. “You are with us or against us” is the battle refrain of Bush Washington’s Crusade, and with some honourable exceptions the European Union governments (if not the peoples) are toeing the line of the lame-duck US president, pathetic in his desperation to show he is a force in international affairs.

The West ignores the fact that the US has been training and equipping Georgia’s armed forces for six years and had a considerable military presence in the country, close to the Russian border. Last week US aircraft flew Georgian troops back home from Iraq, where they had been part of the US occupation “coalition,” which needlessly provocative action will not be forgotten by Moscow.

Washington has been trying to persuade NATO members (it is inappropriate to use the word ‘partners’) that Georgia should join that obsolete military grouping, which is merely a military vehicle for US foreign strategy. Moscow sees this as deliberate provocation, mainly because the stationing of American and other foreign troops so close to its border, for whatever purpose, was and is considered by Moscow to be an open threat. (If there were Russian troops in South America or the Caribbean there would be an almighty howl of indignation from Washington, so let’s have no nonsense about “legitimate presence.”)

The machinations of the White House are regarded rightly in Moscow as meddling in affairs that have nothing whatever to do with US security. Russia was already uneasy about the increase in NATO’s presence along its borders (ten more countries enlisted in a obviously anti-Russian alliance, so far) and by creation of bases for US anti-missile missiles in Poland and supporting radar installations in the Czech republic, with both to be surrounded by US Patriot missile batteries. Moscow could not be expected to ignore this massing of hostile forces in a threatening semi-circle of US-inspired intimidation. Those Western nations which follow the American line, however reluctantly, forget or ignore the fact that there is justifiable national pride in Russia, which suffered mightily from the explosion of corrupt capitalism in the 1990s. Most Russians have no reason to be grateful to the West, and understandably resent the gloating over them after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Millions were thrust into poverty by the machinations of western-inspired mega-criminals who made billions from the suffering of ordinary people, and whose grim and clever antics were energetically supported by wily multinational companies whose contribution to world-wide suffering has been so effective. Their pursuit of profit, most of it extracted from Russia to tax-free havens abroad, involved years of economic plunder from which the country is only just recovering.

In spite of attempts by Bush to manipulate him, Prime Minister Putin has shown that he is a true Russian patriot, and the country’s President, Mr Medvedev, is equally forthright in his insistence that his nation should be accorded the courtesy and consideration that is its due. If the West resents this, then too bad. It so happens that Russia’s economic position is improving and therefore the Cheney threat concerning “serious consequences” is empty, because Europe is not going to join in lunatic schemes for sanctions or other economic measures aimed at bringing down Moscow’s government. Reports last week indicated that foreign investment in Russia had taken a downturn, but the Russian response to that is: So What? ; because it is no bad thing that greedy western corporations should cease to suck out profits from the country.

Russia is sick and tired with being regarded with condescension and disdain by the West and especially by America which it regards, justifiably, as an arrogant imperial power that obeys no laws and brooks no dissent on the international stage. But there was one hilarious comment by Bush, when he said that Russia “must” repair its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations . . .” How fascinating that he thinks “Europe,” of which Russia is part, is a nation. And as to the word “must,” which is used by Rice and Bush with arrogant condescension to other nations at every opportunity, one is reminded of Catherine the Great of Russia who to a foreigner said words to the effect that “Little man, one does not use the word “must” to Princes.” So Medvedev and Putin to Bush.

The trouble in South Ossetia had been brewing for months and there is no doubt that Moscow was waiting for the US-backed Saakashvili to take a gamble that there would be no reaction when he ordered his vicious attack. What a fool. Equally, there is no doubt that the team of Medvedev and Putin want to see Saakashvili thrown out of power. In fact this was said to Condoleezza Rice by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on the understanding that his statement would be subject to the normal diplomatic convention of confidentiality. Fat chance. Diplomatic decency means nothing in Bush Washington, and Mr Lavrov’s private comment was publicised at the Security Council. If Washington imagines that there will ever again be trust on the part of Moscow, then it is entirely mistaken.

Russia is going places. It is no pussy cat: it is an increasingly powerful bear, and a welcome counter to the self-righteous Imperial Eagle that so enjoys demonstrating its ferocious doctrine of Shock and Awe. Confrontation is the thrust of Washington’s foreign policy, but it has now been met with determination on the part of a proud nation that refuses to be intimidated. There is a lesson here; and it would be wise for other countries, and especially for Europe, to decide where to place their own interests.

Brian Cloughley lives in France. His website is

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Reinventing the Evil Empire

The failure of the American media is again evident in the coverage of the Georgian-Russian conflict. The US media presented the conflict as a Russian invasion of Georgia, whereas in actual fact the American and Israeli trained and equipped Georgian military launched a sneak attack to kill and to drive the Russian population out of South Ossetia, a separatist province. Russia responded, as would any nation defending its lands. South Ossetia has been under Russian control since the fall of the USSR. Now the Grand Idiot Bush screams shrilly that independence for South Ossetia isn't what "the world" wants - and we know how much of a handle Uncle George has on that, don't we?--Pete, with an assist from Paul Craig Roberts (he wrote the first three lines!)

August, 26 2008

For the West, everything changed but stayed the same, hard-wired and in place. Things just lay dormant in the shadows during the Yeltsin years, certain to reemerge once a more resolute Russian leader took over. If not Vladimir Putin, someone else little different.

Russia is back, proud and reassertive, and not about to roll over for America. Especially in Eurasia. For Washington, it's back to the future, the new Cold War, and reinventing the Evil Empire, but this time for greater stakes and with much larger threats to world peace. Conservatives lost their influence. Neocons are weakened but still dominant. The Israeli Lobby and Christian Right drive them. Conflict is preferred over diplomacy, and most Democrats go along to look tough on "terrorism." Notably their standard-bearer, vying with McCain to be toughest.

Ten former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Republics are part of NATO: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In addition, Georgia and Ukraine seek membership. Russia is strongly opposed. And now for greater reason after Poland (on August 20) formally agreed to allow offensive US "interceptor missiles" on its soil. A reported 96 short-range Patriot ones also plus a permanent garrison of US troops - 110 transfered from Germany, according to some accounts. Likely more to follow. In addition, Washington agreed to defend Poland whether or not it joins NATO, so that heightens tensions further.

The Warsaw signing followed the Czech Republic's April willingness to install "advanced tracking missile defense radar" by 2012. In both instances, Russia strongly objected, and on August 20 said it will "react (and) not only through diplomatic protests." Both former Warsaw Pact countries are now targets. The threat of nuclear war is heightened. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock heads closer to midnight - meaning "catastrophic destruction." It's no joking matter.

The US media downplays the threat and hails a pact Zbigniew Brzezinski (a Polish national, former Carter National Security Advisor, and key Obama foreign policy strategist) calls a watershed in the two countries' relationship - "This changes the strategic relationship between the US and Poland. There is a clear and explicit understanding that if there are negative consequences of stationing the missile shield, the US will come to Poland's defense."

On the one hand, a surprising statement from a man critical of Bush administration policies, its failure in Iraq, and the dangers of a widened Middle East war. He fully understands the heightened potential for world conflict but sounds dismissive of the threat. On the other hand, he has bigger fish to fry and apparently willing to wage big stakes on winning. The Iraq war and Iran are distractions by his calculus. The real Great Game embraces all Eurasia and assuring America comes out dominant - not Russia, not China, nor any rival US alliance.

The major media also downplay the dangers and explain nothing about the high stakes. Instead they beat up on Russia and highlight comments from Secretary Rice that missiles aren't "aimed in any way at Russia," or White House spokesperson Dana Perino saying: "In no way is the president's plan for missile defense aimed at Russia. (It's to) protect our European allies from any rogue threats" that suggests Iran, but, clearly means Russia, according to Hauke Ritz's recent analysis in Germany's influential Leaves for German and International Politics journal.

He explained that Iran's missiles can't reach Europe, and that Washington rejected Russia's proposed Azerbaijan-based joint US-Russian anti-missile system - to intercept and destroy Iranian missiles on launch. He thus concluded that Washington's scheme is for offense, not defense. That it targets Russia, not Iran, with Alaskan and other installations close to Russia as further proof. He wrote: "The strategic significance of the system consists of intercepting those few dozen missiles Moscow (can launch) following a first strike. (It's) a crucial develop a nuclear first strike capacity against Russia. The original plan is for....ten interceptor missiles in Poland. But once....established, their number could be easily increased."

According to Ritz, Washington wants a missile system that "guarantee(s a) US (edge) to carry out nuclear war without (risking a) counter-strike." It can then be used for geopolitical advantage "to implement national interests," but it highlights the dangers of possible nuclear confrontation and the catastrophic fallout if it happens.

In an August 20 Veterans of Foreign Wars convention address, Bush was essentially on this theme in focusing on "terrorism" and saying: "We're at war against determined enemies, and we must not rest until that war is won." Georgia "stands for freedom around the world, now the world must stand for freedom in Georgia" - clearly linking Russia's response with "terrorism" and suggesting from his September 2001 address to a joint session of Congress and the America people that: "Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Any that are "will be a hostile state." Clearly, Russia is on his mind just as Moscow is carefully evaluating his threat.

The BBC echoed the US media, covers all the bases, mentioned the Iranian threat, singles out Russia, obfuscates facts about the conflict, sides with Washington and Poland on the new missile deal, and quoted Polish President Lech Kaczynski saying: "no one (with) good intentions towards us and (the West) should" fear the missiles. It also cited a miraculous turnaround in sentiment saying two-thirds of Poles now favor them. Astonishing since overwhelming opposition was recently evident, so it's hard imagining it shifted so fast.

High-Octane Russia Bashing - The Dominant US Media

The Wall Street Journal asserted that Poles "see the US as their strongest ally" given "two centuries of invasions and partitioning by Russia" and other European powers. It also highlighted Russia's "nuclear threat" (not Iran's) in a Gabriel Schoenfeld article painting Russia as an aggressor and America aiding its European allies.

Schoenfeld (a senior editor of the hawkish, pro-Israeli Commentary magazine) cites "Moscow's willingness to crush Georgia with overwhelming force (and claims) the Kremlin has 10 times as many tactical (short-range) warheads as the US." The "shift in the nuclear imbalance....helped embolden the bear." He ignores America's overall nuclear superiority, but it hardly matters as both countries combined have around 97% of these weapons (an estimated 27,000 world total) according to experts like Helen Caldicott - more than enough to destroy the planet many times over.

Nonetheless, Schoenfeld supports the Polish agreement in the face of a "pugnacious Russia (determined to acquire) economic and military power (and) not afraid to use threats and force to get (its) way (with) nuclear weapons central to the Russian geopolitical calculus." It's reminiscent of "the dark days of communist yore (and captures the threat of what) we and Russia's neighbors are up against."

For the moment, anti-Iranian rhetoric has subsided with Russia the new dominant villian. En route to the NATO Brussels August 18 meeting, Secretary Rice called Russia's action against Georgia a "very dangerous game and perhaps one the Russians want to reconsider." Russian "aggression" is the buzzword, and the media dutifully trumpet it.

Entire Article:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Not Let the Republicans Deal with This Mess?

I've been thinking this for some time now, having no love for the proclamations of the vague Obama and absolutely no desire to listen (again!) to those who try to convince me that it's all only until he gets into office (when apparently his collectivist steak will emerge from hiding). I've had it with this system and have devoted myself to campaigning for IRV and proportionate representation. Until then, however, we have an economic mess of astronomic proportion, and should hand it over to those who made it, the imbecilic republicans and the insane neo-cons. The Democratic party (such as it is) will be decimated should it be blamed for failure to remedy the worst recession in U.S. history. The house of cards continues to fall, let's let those motherfuckers deal with it. McCain 08!--Pete

By Dave Lindorff, Counterpunch

If the direr warnings about the US economy and the general state of the world are correct, maybe we should be glad that Obama’s presidential campaign is in failure mode.

Two terms of the Bush/Cheney administration have pretty much destroyed the dollar, wrecked the US industrial base, emasculated the US military, undermined public faith in the legal system, wrecked the educational system, bankrupted working people, fired up many labor unions, bankrupted the government and threatened the retirement and Medicare systems.

Do we really want to now hand this mess over to a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress?

All that will do is ensure that Democrats will end up having to confront, and in the end get the blame for the whole looming catastrophe, allowing the otherwise thoroughly discredited Republicans and neocons who created this disaster to come back claiming it was the fault of the liberals and their pinko friends.

A better idea might be to let the Republicans win it, and then have to deal with it and take the consequences.

Imagine President John McCain trying to invade Iran. Half the US armor is broken and waiting for repairs in junkyards of Iraq and Kuwait. Meanwhile, the Chinese might at any time just up and say they’re unwilling to finance another US war.

Imagine John McCain trying to balance the budget, or better yet, rescue the dollar! He could raise interest rates, but that would tank the already stumbling economy. There’s nothing he could cut in the budget that wouldn’t cause a national riot. But on the other hand, if he lets the dollar keep sinking, we get massive inflation, because America doesn’t make anything anymore; it’s all imported.

Veterans are increasing in number, while their health services are being slashed, and the number of homeless vets is soaring. It won’t be long before President McCain would be faced with a new bonus-march assault on Washington by angry vets, reminiscent of the one that followed WWI. Would he want to send Gen. Petraeus in, ala Gen. Douglas McArthur, to confront them? Would the federal troops open fire on their wounded and hurting brethren?

I can certainly see some merit to the idea that maybe now that Republicans have almost completely destroyed the America I grew up in, they should have to take the heat for what they have done. And there is going to be a lot of heat.

The only problem I have with this tantalizing notion is that there is also some real heat to worry about—global warming heat, and that’s getting to a point of no return. Another four years of Republican no-nothingism on the environment could be fatal not just to America’s future, but to humanity’s future itself.

But then, it’s probably too late for pro-active measures on climate change now anyhow. A thorough collapse of the US economy, with people no longer able to afford cars and gas to drive them, might do more to slow the global heating cycle than any measures that a Democratic Congress and administration might pass.

So that could work out for the best too.

America is a land founded upon greed (for all the grant rhetoric about inalienable rights, the revolution was basically about not wanting to pay taxes, after all, and that obsession appears not to have changed much down the years), developed through greed, and it looks like greed may ultimately destroy the place. Who better to deliver the coup de grace to a national economy than a guy who is so stinking rich he doesn’t remember how many houses he owns? Who better to run the American Titanic into an iceberg than the Navy veteran son of two generations of admirals (especially one whose antics caused one of the biggest non-hostile disasters on a US aircraft carrier in history)? Who better to have to face the wrath of a nation than a guy who couldn’t even stand up to a pantywaist bully of a president who had sucker-punched him repeatedly?

So I guess we can watch Obama channel Kerry and Gore with equanimity. The Republicans are going to get what they deserve anyhow, and we Americans, who bought the Kool-Aid for so long, will get ours too.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at

"Change," "Hope" ... Why They Must be Talking About Joe Biden!

One thing you can bet the house on is that when the corporate media effuse gushingly and unquestioningly over a chosen running mate, that running mate is surely compromised. The gatekeepers of the severely diminished fourth estate don't want anything to do with actual change, the status quo being quite to their liking, thank you very much. This is why there hasn't been one critical word in the MSM about Joe Biden, a man the Washington press corps go to for their cherished "access", without which they would have to actually "work" and "report".

Thank creation for those intrepid souls who still believe in democracy and truth-telling, such as Alexander Cockburn, editor of the invaluable Counterpunch. Here is a little reality from Mr. Cockburn on the subject of Joe Biden vs. Hope and Change.--Pete

By Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch

Change” and “hope” are not words one associates with Senator Joe Biden, a man so ripely symbolic of everything that is unchanging and hopeless about our political system that a computer simulation of the corporate-political paradigm senator in Congress would turn out “Biden” in a nano-second.

The first duty of any senator from Delaware is to do the bidding of the banks and large corporations which use the tiny state as a drop box and legal sanctuary. Biden has never failed his masters in this primary task. Find any bill that sticks it to the ordinary folk on behalf of the Money Power and you’ll likely detect Biden’s hand at work. The bankruptcy act of 2005 was just one sample. In concert with his fellow corporate serf, Senator Tom Carper, Biden blocked all efforts to hinder bankrupt corporations from fleeing from their real locations to the legal sanctuary of Delaware. Since Obama is himself a corporate serf and from day one in the US senate has been attentive to the same masters that employ Biden, the ticket is well balanced, the seesaw with Obama at one end and Biden at the other dead-level on the fulcrum of corporate capital.

Another shining moment in Biden’s progress in the current presidential term was his conduct in the hearings on Judge Alito’s nomination to the US Supreme Court. From the opening moments of the Judiciary Committee's sessions in January, 2006, it became clear that Alito faced no serious opposition. On that first ludicrous morning Senator Pat Leahy sank his head into his hands, shaking it in unbelieving despair as Biden blathered out a self-serving and inane monologue lasting a full twenty minutes before he even asked Alito one question. In his allotted half hour Biden managed to pose only five questions, all of them ineptly phrased. He did pose two questions about Alito’s membership of a racist society at Princeton, but had already undercut them in his monologue by calling Alito "a man of integrity", not once but twice, and further trivialized the interrogation by reaching under the dais to pull out a Princeton cap and put it on.

In all, Biden rambled for 4,000 words, leaving Alito time only to put together less than 1,000. A Delaware newspaper made deadly fun of him for his awful performance, eliciting the revealing confession from Biden that "I made a mistake. I should have gone straight to my question. I was trying to put him at ease."

Biden is a notorious flapjaw. His vanity deludes him into believing that every word that drops from his mouth is minted in the golden currency of Pericles. Vanity is the most conspicuous characteristic of US Senators en bloc , nourished by deferential acolytes and often expressed in loutish sexual advances to staffers, interns and the like. On more than one occasion CounterPunch’s editors have listened to vivid accounts by the recipient of just such advances, this staffer of another senator being accosted by Biden in the well of the senate in the week immediately following his first wife’s fatal car accident.

His “experience” in foreign affairs consists in absolute fidelity to the conventions of cold war liberalism, the efficient elder brother of raffish “neo-conservatism”. Here again the ticket is well balanced, since Senator Obama has, within a very brief time-frame, exhibited great fidelity to the same creed.

Obama opposed the launching of the US attack on Iraq in 2003. He was not yet in the US Senate, but having arrived there in 2005 he has since voted unhesitatingly for all appropriations of the vast sums required for the war’s prosecution. Biden himself voted enthusiastically for the attack, declaring in the Senate debate in October, 2002, in a speech excavated and sent to us by Sam Husseini:

I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security. I believe that failure to overwhelmingly support this resolution is likely to enhance the prospects that war will occur. ... [Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons. ... For four years now, he has prevented United Nations inspectors from uncovering those weapons...

The terms of surrender dictated by the United Nations require him to declare and destroy his weapons of mass destruction programs. He has not done so. ...

Many predicted the administration would refuse to give the weapons inspectors one last chance to disarm. ...

Mr. President, President Bush did not lash out precipitously after 9/11. He did not snub the U.N. or our allies. He did not dismiss a new inspection regime. He did not ignore the Congress. At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation. ...

For two decades, Saddam Hussein has relentlessly pursued weapons of mass destruction. There is a broad agreement that he retains chemical and biological weapons, the means to manufacture those weapons and modified Scud missiles, and that he is actively seeking a nuclear capability. ...

We must be clear with the American people that we are committing to Iraq for the long haul; not just the day after, but the decade after.... [Biden confided to his colleagues that this would be a long fight, but was still for it.]I am absolutely confident the President will not take us to war alone. I am absolutely confident we will enhance his ability to get the world to be with us by us voting for this resolution.

In step with his futile bid for the Democratic nomination, Biden changed his mind on the war, and part of his mandate will be to shore up the credentials of the Democratic ticket as being composed of “responsible” helmsmen of Empire, stressing that any diminution of the US presence in Iraq will be measured and thus extremely slow, balanced by all the usual imperial ventures elsewhere around the globe.

Why did Obama chose Biden? One important constituency pressing for Biden was no doubt the Israel lobby inside the Democratic Party. Obama, no matter how fervent his proclamations of support for Israel, has always been viewed with some suspicion by the lobby. For half the lifespan of the state of Israel, Biden has proved himself its unswerving acolyte in the senate.

And Obama picked Biden for the same reason Michael Dukakis chose Senator Lloyd Bentsen in 1988: the marriage of youth and experience, so reassuring to uncertain voters but most of all to the elites, that nothing dangerous or unusual will discommode business as usual. Another parallel would be Kennedy’s pick of Lyndon Johnson in 1960, LBJ being a political rival and a seasoned senator. Kennedy and Johnson didn’t like each other, and surely after Biden’s racist remarks about “clean” blacks, Obama cannot greatly care for Biden. It seems he would have preferred Chris Dodd but the latter was disqualified because of his VIP loans from Countrywide.

Alexander Cockburn can be reached at

Friday, August 22, 2008

McCain wasn't tortured, just ask BushCo

Here we have an amusing post regarding Andrew Sullivan's expose of alleged torture techniques that had been used on John McCain during his imprisonment in Viet Nam, all of which have been called merely "enhanced interrogation" by the craven Bush Administration. Via Daily Kos.--Pete

Daily Kos
- From Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish: "In all the discussion of John McCain's recently recovered memory of a religious epiphany in Vietnam, one thing has been missing. The torture that was deployed against McCain emerges in all the various accounts. It involved sleep deprivation, the withholding of medical treatment, stress positions, long-time standing, and beating. Sound familiar?

"According to the Bush administration's definition of torture, McCain was therefore not tortured. Cheney denies that McCain was tortured; as does Bush. So do John Yoo and David Addington and George Tenet. In the one indisputably authentic version of the story of a Vietnamese guard showing compassion, McCain talks of the agony of long-time standing. A quarter century later, Don Rumsfeld was putting his signature to memos lengthening the agony of "long-time standing" that victims of Bush's torture regime would have to endure. These torture techniques are, according to the president of the United States, merely "enhanced interrogation."

Sullivan's coup de grace: "In the Military Commissions Act, McCain acquiesced to the use of these techniques against terror suspects by the CIA. And so the tortured became the enabler of torture. Someone somewhere cried out in pain for the same reasons McCain once did. And McCain let it continue."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why T. Boone Pickens' 'Clean Energy' Plan Is a Ponzi Scheme

By Scott Thill, AlterNet

"If you are going out of business, you don't go down with the ship, you get another ship. For us, it's natural gas." -- T. Boone Pickens, "Becoming a Billionaire"

You can't always get what you want, the Rolling Stones counseled. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need. Factor billions of dollars, questionable loyalties and a privatization rap sheet invested more in profit than people into the equation, and you usually can get both what you want and what you need. In the case of hyper-loaded oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, that means having your cake on climate crisis, fossil fuel addiction, eminent domain, water privatization and corporate earnings -- and eating it too.

In July, the oil magnate unveiled a well-publicized campaign, the Pickens Plan, which begins with an obvious premise: "America is addicted to foreign oil." Pickens' proposal to kick the habit is straightforward and simple: "Building new wind-generation facilities and better utilizing our natural gas resources can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports in 10 years."

Sounds fair enough, especially given that Pickens and climate-crisis herald Al Gore have melded minds on the issue. But not hard enough, which is where the cracks in the Pickens Plan begin. "(Gore) asked if we could we join together and do something," Pickens explained to Bloomberg News. "I told him no, because global warming is on page two for me. Page one is foreign oil.''

That page seems to be recently written. As previously noted on either side of the red-blue divide, Pickens has funneled millions into 527s like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, helping derail John Kerry's bid for the White House in 2004. He simultaneously committed hundreds of thousands on top of that to the election and inauguration of both Bush administrations, both spearheaded by fossil fools whose kinship with foreign oil producers not only launched an invasion into an oil-rich but nevertheless sovereign nation, but also nearly tripled the price of oil in seven years and handed campaign contributors like Exxon the most bloated earnings in corporate history.

Sure, Pickens eventually decided to stop funding political campaigns, but that deathbed conversion happened the same July that the Pickens Plan ramped up its nearly $60 million media blitz.

It gets worse. Pickens is currently the head of BP Capital Management, a secretive hedge fund (aren't they all?) that has extensive connections to the magnate's hated "foreign oil" interests. The most glaring example from its investment portfolio is Halliburton, which was once run by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, is currently headquartered not in America but Dubai, and whose main business segments and subsidiaries involve oil exploration, construction, production and refining. And that's not mentioning its resume on rampant fraud and corruption, especially in Iraq but also elsewhere, which has so far cost American taxpayers billions.

But Halliburton isn't the only BP Cap holding that stinks. Pickens is also heavily invested in Schlumberger, the world's largest oil services corporation; nuclear and conventional energy powerhouse Shaw Group; the embattled ex-Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown and Root and so on. For a very rich man who decries the influence foreign oil has on American life, Pickens sure hasn't put his money where his mouth is. He's put his money where the oil is.

"Even under the Pickens Plan," explains Treehugger's Matthew McDermott, "the U.S. will be importing a significant amount of oil. It's a step toward energy independence in that it expands renewable energy production, but I think framing this debate in terms of energy independence isn't the way to go. If you want to take a populist angle on this, pushing the very real benefits that wind power and renewables in general can have in local economies stands on much more solid ground."

If Pickens were a populist, that might be true. But he's not; he's a stone-cold capitalist whose taste for profit outweighs his desire for the common good. Pickens may have spent $3 billion on wind farms to generate enough electricity to take the load off natural gas, which is currently used to heat homes and more, but only so that it can be used for cars and trucks.

Read Entire Article

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bush: Why don’t you shut up?

Taking the words of the illustrious King of Spain, in his imbecillic retort to President Hugo Chavez, we use them not as a response to a diatribe but rather, a just retort to an imbecile. President George W. Bush, why don’t you shut up?

President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? In your statement on Monday regarding the legitimate actions of the Russian Federation in Georgia, you failed to mention once the war crimes perpetrated by Georgian military forces, which American advisors support, against Russian and Ossetian civilians. Kinda embarrassing, eh?

President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Your faithful ally, Mikhail Saakashvili, was announcing a ceasefire deal while his troops, with your advisors, were massing on Ossetia’s border, which they crossed under cover of night and destroyed Tskhinvali, targeting civilian structures just like your forces did in Iraq. Kinda humanitarian, eh?

President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? The military forces of your faithful ally, Georgia, supported by American advisors, while on a mission as peacekeepers in Ossetia, were ordered to open fire on Russian peacekeeping forces in the same team. Kinda noble, eh?

President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Your American transport aircraft gave a ride home to thousands of Georgian soldiers from Iraq directly into the combat zone. Did your boys wish them good luck as they stepped off the aircraft? I can almost hear it, “Give ‘em Hell!” Kinda friendly, eh?

President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? How do you account for the fact that among the Georgian soldiers fleeing the fighting yesterday you could clearly hear officers using American English giving orders to “Get back inside” and how do you account for the fact that there are reports of American soldiers among the Georgian casualties? Kinda odd, eh?

President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Do you really think anyone gives any importance whatsoever to your words after 8 years of your criminal and murderous regime and policies? Do you really believe you have any moral ground whatsoever and do you really imagine there is a single human being anywhere on this planet who does not stick up his middle finger every time you appear on a TV screen? Kinda makes ya’ll think, eh?

Do you really believe you have the right to give any opinion or advice after Abu Ghraib? After Guantanamo? After the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens? After the torture by CIA operatives? Kinda difficult, eh?

Do you really believe you have any right to make a statement on any point of international law after your trumped-up charges against Iraq and the subsequent criminal invasion? Like spittin’ into the wind, right?

President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Suppose Russia for instance declares that Georgia has weapons of mass destruction? And that Russia knows where these WMD are, namely in Tblisi and Poti and north, south, east and west of there? And that it must be true because there is “magnificent foreign intelligence” such as satellite photos of milk powder factories and baby cereals producing chemical weapons and which are currently being “driven around the country in vehicles”? Suppose Russia declares for instance that “Saakashvili stiffed the world” and it is “time for regime change”?

Nice and simple, isn’t it, President Bush?

So, why don’t you shut up? Oh and by the way, send some more of your military advisors to Georgia, they are doing a sterling job. And they look all funny down the night sight, all green. Hahaha!

Thank you, That would be all.



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

War in the Caucasus: Towards a Broader Russia-US Military Confrontation?

Please forgive the long piece on Georgia's assault on the capital of South Ossetia and the expected response from Russia. I thought it important to bring to light some information that makes it clearer that the U.S. and NATO have been involved since jump street, since Georgia is a U.S. protectorate. The operation was planned and coordinated with the Georgian president and military. The question is, "how does this tie in to the corporate globalists' agenda in the region"? Read on...--Pete

Global Research, August 10, 2008

During the night of August 7, coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Georgia's president Saakashvili ordered an all-out military attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.

The aerial bombardments and ground attacks were largely directed against civilian targets including residential areas, hospitals and the university. The provincial capital Tskhinvali was destroyed. The attacks resulted in some 1500 civilian deaths, according to both Russian and Western sources. "The air and artillery bombardment left the provincial capital without water, food, electricity and gas. Horrified civilians crawled out of the basements into the streets as fighting eased, looking for supplies." (AP, August 9, 2008). According to reports, some 34,000 people from South Ossetia have fled to Russia. (Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City, August 10, 2008)

The importance and timing of this military operation must be carefully analyzed. It has far-reaching implications.

Georgia is an outpost of US and NATO forces, on the immediate border of the Russian Federation and within proximity of the Middle East Central Asian war theater. South Ossetia is also at the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipeline routes.

Georgia does not act militarily without the assent of Washington. The Georgian head of State is a US proxy and Georgia is a de facto US protectorate.

Who is behind this military agenda? What interests are being served? What is the purpose of the military operation.

There is evidence that the attacks were carefully coordinated by the US military and NATO.

Moscow has accused NATO of "encouraging Georgia". Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underscored the destabilizing impacts of "foreign" military aid to Georgia: .

“It all confirms our numerous warnings addressed to the international community that it is necessary to pay attention to massive arms purchasing by Georgia during several years. Now we see how these arms and Georgian special troops who had been trained by foreign specialists are used,” he said.(Moscow accuses NATO of having "encouraged Georgia" to attack South Ossetia, Russia Today, August 9, 2008)

Moscow's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, sent an official note to the representatives of all NATO member countries:

“Russia has already begun consultations with the ambassadors of the NATO countries and consultations with NATO military representatives will be held tomorrow," Rogozin said. "We will caution them against continuing to further support of Saakashvili."

“It is an undisguised aggression accompanied by a mass propaganda war,” he said.

(See Moscow accuses NATO of having "encouraged Georgia" to attack South Ossetia, Russia Today, August 9, 2008)

According to Rogozin, Georgia had initially planned to:

"start military action against Abkhazia, however, 'the Abkhaz fortified region turned out to be unassailable for Georgian armed formations, therefore a different tactic was chosen aimed against South Ossetia', which is more accessible territorially. The envoy has no doubts that Mikheil Saakashvili had agreed his actions with "sponsors", "those with whom he is negotiating Georgia's accession to NATO ". (RIA Novosti, August 8, 2008)

Contrary to what was conveyed by Western media reports, the attacks were anticipated by Moscow. The attacks were timed to coincide with the opening of the Olympics, largely with a view to avoiding frontpage media coverage of the Georgian military operation.

On August 7, Russian forces were in an advanced state readiness. The counterattack was swiftly carried out.

Russian paratroopers were sent in from Russia's Ivanovo, Moscow and Pskov airborne divisions. Tanks, armored vehicles and several thousand ground troops have been deployed. Russian air strikes have largely targeted military facilities inside Georgia including the Gori military base.

The Georgian military attack was repelled with a massive show of strength on the part of the Russian military.

In this image made from television, Russian military vehicles are seen moving towards the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, on Friday, Aug. 8, 2008. (AP / APTN)

Act of Provocation?

US-NATO military and intelligence planners invariably examine various "scenarios" of a proposed military operation-- i.e. in this case, a limited Georgian attack largely directed against civilian targets, with a view to inflicting civilian casualties.

The examination of scenarios is a routine practice. With limited military capabilities, a Georgian victory and occupation of Tskhinvali, was an impossibility from the outset. And this was known and understood to US-NATO military planners.

A humanitarian disaster rather than a military victory was an integral part of the scenario. The objective was to destroy the provincial capital, while also inflicting a significant loss of human life.

If the objective were to restore Georgian political control over the provincial government, the operation would have been undertaken in a very different fashion, with Special Forces occupying key public buildings, communications networks and provincial institutions, rather than waging an all out bombing raid on residential areas, hospitals, not to mention Tskhinvali's University.

Tskhinvali's University before the bombing

The Russian response was entirely predictable.

Georgia was "encouraged" by NATO and the US. Both Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels were acutely aware of what would happen in the case of a Russian counterattack.

The question is: was this a deliberate provocation intended to trigger a Russian military response and suck the Russians into a broader military confrontation with Georgia (and allied forces) which could potentially escalate into an all out war?

Georgia has the third largest contingent of coalition forces in Iraq after the US and the UK, with some 2000 troops. According to reports, Georgian troops in Iraq are now being repatriated in US military planes, to fight Russian forces. (See, August 10, 2008)

This US decision to repatriate Georgian servicemen suggests that Washington is intent upon an escalation of the conflict, where Georgian troops are to be used as cannon fodder against a massive deployment of Russian forces.

US-NATO and Israel Involved in the Planning of the Attacks

In mid-July, Georgian and U.S. troops held a joint military exercise entitled "Immediate Response" involving respectively 1,200 US and 800 Georgian troops.

The announcement by the Georgian Ministry of Defense on July 12 stated that they US and Georgian troops were to "train for three weeks at the Vaziani military base" near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. (AP, July 15, 2008). These exercises, which were completed barely a week before the August 7 attacks, were an obvious dress rehearsal of a military operation, which, in all likelihood, had been planned in close cooperation with the Pentagon.

The war on Southern Ossetia was not meant to be won, leading to the restoration of Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia. It was intended to destabilize the region while also triggering a US-NATO confrontation with Russia.

On July 12, coinciding with the outset of the Georgia-US war games, the Russian Defense Ministry started its own military maneuvers in the North Caucasus region. The usual disclaimer by both Tblisi and Moscow: the military exercises have “nothing to do” with the situation in South Ossetia. (Ibid)

Let us be under no illusions. This is not a civil war. The attacks are an integral part of the broader Middle East Central Asian war, including US-NATO-Israeli war preparations in relation to Iran.

The Role of Israeli Military Advisers

While NATO and US military advisers did not partake in the military operation per se, they were actively involved in the planning and logistics of the attacks. According to Israeli sources (, August 8, 2008), the ground assault on August 7-8, using tanks and artillery was "aided by Israeli military advisers". Israel also supplied Georgia with Hermes-450 and Skylark unmanned aerial vehicles, which were used in the weeks leading up to the August 7 attacks.

Georgia has also acquired, according to a report in Rezonansi (August 6, in Georgian, BBC translation) "some powerful weapons through the upgrade of Su-25 planes and artillery systems in Israel". According to Haaretz (August 10, 2008), Israelis are active in military manufacturing and security consulting in Georgia.

Russian forces are now directly fighting a NATO-US trained Georgian army integrated by US and Israeli advisers. And Russian warplanes have attacked the military jet factory on the outskirts of Tbilisi, which produces the upgraded Su-25 fighter jet, with technical support from Israel. (, August 10, 2008)

When viewed in the broader context of the Middle East war, the crisis in Southern Ossetia could lead to escalation, including a direct confrontation between Russian and NATO forces. If this were to occur, we would be facing the most serious crisis in US-Russian relations since the Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962.

Georgia: NATO-US Outpost

Georgia is part of a NATO military alliance (GUAM) signed in April 1999 at the very outset of the war on Yugoslavia. It also has a bilateral military cooperation agreement with the US. These underlying military agreements have served to protect Anglo-American oil interests in the Caspian sea basin as well as pipeline routes.

Both the US and NATO have a military presence in Georgia and are working closely with the Georgian Armed Forces. Since the signing of the 1999 GUAM agreement, Georgia has been the recipient of extensive US military aid.

Barely a few months ago, in early May, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused Washington, "claiming that [US as well as NATO and Israeli] military assistance to Georgia is destabilizing the region." (Russia Claims Georgia in Arms Buildup, Wired News, May 19, 2008). According to the Russian Defense Ministry

"Georgia has received 206 tanks, of which 175 units were supplied by NATO states, 186 armored vehicles (126 - from NATO) , 79 guns (67 - from NATO) , 25 helicopters (12 - from NATO) , 70 mortars, ten surface-to-air missile systems, eight Israeli-made unmanned aircraft, and other weapons. In addition, NATO countries have supplied four combat aircraft to Georgia. The Russian Defense Ministry said there were plans to deliver to Georgia 145 armored vehicles, 262 guns and mortars, 14 combat aircraft including four Mirazh-2000 destroyers, 25 combat helicopters, 15 American Black Hawk aircraft, six surface-to-air missile systems and other arms." (Interfax News Agency, Moscow, in Russian, Aug 7, 2008)

NATO-US-Israeli assistance under formal military cooperation agreements involves a steady flow of advanced military equipment as well as training and consulting services.

According to US military sources (spokesman for US European Command), the US has more than 100 "military trainers" in Georgia. A Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman "said there were no plans to redeploy the estimated 130 US troops and civilian contractors, who he said were stationed in the area around Tblisi" (AFP, 9 August 2008). In fact, US-NATO military presence in Georgia is on a larger scale to that acknowledged in official statements. The number of NATO personnel in Georgia acting as trainers and military advisers has not been confirmed.

Although not officially a member of NATO, Georgia's military is full integrated into NATO procedures. In 2005, Georgian president proudly announced the inauguration of the first military base, which "fully meets NATO standards". Immediately following the inauguration of the Senakskaya base in west Georgia, Tblisi announced the opening of a second military base at Gori which would also "comply with NATO regulations in terms of military requirements as well as social conditions." (Ria Novosti, 26 May 2006).

The Gori base has been used to train Georgian troops dispatched to fight under US command in the Iraq war theater.

It is worth noting that under a March 31, 2006, agreement between Tblisi and Moscow, Russia's two Soviet-era military bases in Georgia - Akhalkalaki and Batumi have been closed down. (Ibid) The pullout at Batumi commenced in May of last year, 2007. The last remaining Russian troops left the Batumi military facility in early July 2008, barely a week before the commencement of the US-Georgia war games and barely a month prior to the attacks on South Ossetia.

The Israel Connection

Israel is now part of the Anglo-American military axis, which serves the interests of the Western oil giants in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Israel is a partner in the Baku-Tblisi- Ceyhan pipeline which brings oil and gas to the Eastern Mediterranean. More than 20 percent of Israeli oil is imported from Azerbaijan, of which a large share transits through the BTC pipeline. Controlled by British Petroleum, the BTC pipeline has dramatically changed the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucusus:

"[The BTC pipeline] considerably changes the status of the region's countries and cements a new pro-West alliance. Having taken the pipeline to the Mediterranean, Washington has practically set up a new bloc with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Israel, " (Komerzant, Moscow, 14 July 2006)

While the official reports state that the BTC pipeline will "channel oil to Western markets", what is rarely acknowledged is that part of the oil from the Caspian sea would be directly channeled towards Israel, via Georgia. In this regard, a Israeli-Turkish pipeline project has also been envisaged which would link Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon and from there through Israel's main pipeline system, to the Red Sea.

The objective of Israel is not only to acquire Caspian sea oil for its own consumption needs but also to play a key role in re-exporting Caspian sea oil back to the Asian markets through the Red Sea port of Eilat. The strategic implications of this re-routing of Caspian sea oil are far-reaching. (For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 2006)

What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel's Tipline, from Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon.

"Turkey and Israel are negotiating the construction of a multi-million-dollar energy and water project that will transport water, electricity, natural gas and oil by pipelines to Israel, with the oil to be sent onward from Israel to the Far East,

The new Turkish-Israeli proposal under discussion would see the transfer of water, electricity, natural gas and oil to Israel via four underwater pipelines.

“Baku oil can be transported to Ashkelon via this new pipeline and to India and the Far East.[via the Red sea]"

"Ceyhan and the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon are situated only 400 km apart. Oil can be transported to the city in tankers or via specially constructed under-water pipeline. From Ashkelon the oil can be pumped through already existing pipeline to the port of Eilat at the Red Sea; and from there it can be transported to India and other Asian countries in tankers. (REGNUM)

In this regard, Israel is slated to play a major strategic role in "protecting" the Eastern Mediterranean transport and pipeline corridors out of Ceyhan. Concurrently, it also involved in channeling military aid and training to both Georgia and Azerbaijan.

A far-reaching 1999 bilateral military cooperation agreement between Tblisi and Tel Aviv was reached barely a month before the NATO sponsored GUUAM agreement. It was signed in Tbilisi by President Shevardnadze and Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyu. These various military cooperation arrangements are ultimately intended to undermine Russia's presence and influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In a pro forma declaration, Tel Aviv committed itself, following bilateral discussions with Moscow, on August 5, 2008, to cut back military assistance to Georgia.

Russia's Response

In response to the attacks, Russian forces intervened with conventional ground troops. Tanks and armored vehicles were sent in. The Russian air force was also involved in aerial counter-attacks on Georgian military positions including the military base of Gori.

The Western media has portrayed the Russian as solely responsible for the deaths of civilians, yet at the same time the Western media has acknowledged (confirmed by the BBC) that most of the civilian casualties at the outset were the result of the Georgian ground and air attacks.

Based on Russian and Western sources, the initial death toll in South Ossetia was at least 1,400 (BBC) mostly civilians. "Georgian casualty figures ranged from 82 dead, including 37 civilians, to a figure of around 130 dead.... A Russian air strike on Gori, a Georgian town near South Ossetia, left 60 people dead, many of them civilians, Georgia says." (BBC, August 9, 2008). Russian sources place the number of civilian deaths on South Ossetia at 2000.

A process of escalation and confrontation between Russia and America is unfolding, reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Are we dealing with an act of provocation, with a view to triggering a broader conflict? Supported by media propaganda, the Western military alliance is intent on using this incident to confront Russia, as evidenced by recent NATO statements.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Obama and the Empire

By William Bum, Counterpunch

The New Yorker magazine in its July 14 issue ran a cover cartoon that achieved instant fame. It showed Barack Obama wearing Muslim garb in the Oval Office with a portrait of Osama bin Laden on the wall. Obama is delivering a fist bump to his wife, Michelle, who has an Afro hairdo and an assault rifle slung over her shoulder. An American flag lies burning in the fireplace. The magazine says it's all satire, a parody of the crazy right-wing fears, rumors, and scare tactics about Obama's past and ideology.

The cartoon makes fun of the idea that Barack and Michelle Obama are some kind of mixture of Black Panther, Islamist jihadist, and Marxist revolutionary. But how much more educational for the American public and the world it would be to make fun of the idea that Obama is even some kind of progressive.

I'm more concerned here with foreign policy than domestic issues because it's in this area that the US government can do, and indeed does do, the most harm to the world, to put it mildly. And in this area what do we find? We find Obama threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don't do what the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more than once to attack Pakistan if their anti-terrorist policies are not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed country not to his liking; calling for a large increase in US troops and tougher policies for Afghanistan; wholly and unequivocally embracing Israel as if it were the 51st state; totally ignoring Hamas, an elected ruling party in the occupied territory; decrying the Berlin Wall in his recent talk in that city, about the safest thing a politician can do, but with no mention of the Israeli Wall while in Israel, nor the numerous American-built walls in Baghdad while in Iraq; referring to the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez as "authoritarian", but never referring similarly to the government of George W. Bush, certainly more deserving of the label; talking with the usual disinformation and hostility about Cuba, albeit with a token reform re visits and remittances. But would he dare mention the outrageous case of the imprisoned Cuban Five[1] in his frequent references to fighting terrorism?

While an Illinois state senator in January 2004, Obama declared that it was time "to end the embargo with Cuba" because it had "utterly failed in the effort to overthrow Castro." But speaking as a presidential candidate to a Cuban-American audience in Miami in August 2007, he said he would not "take off the embargo" as president because it is "an important inducement for change."[2] He thus went from a good policy for the wrong reason to the wrong policy for the wrong reason. Does Mr. Obama care any more than Mr. Bush that the United Nations General Assembly has voted -- virtually unanimously -- 16 years in a row against the embargo?

In summary, it would be difficult to name a single ODE (Officially Designated Enemy) that Obama has not been critical of, or to name one that he has supported. Can this be mere coincidence?

The fact that Obama says he's willing to "talk" to some of the "enemies" more than the Bush administration has done sounds good, but one doesn't have to be too cynical to believe that it will not amount to more than a public relations gimmick. It's only change of policy that counts. Why doesn't he simply and clearly state that he would not attack Iran unless Iran first attacked the US or Israel or anyone else?

As to Iraq, if you're sick to the core of your being about the horrors US policy brings down upon the heads of the people of that unhappy land, then you must support withdrawal –- immediate, total, all troops, combat and non-combat, all the Blackwater-type killer contractors, not moved to Kuwait or Qatar to be on call. All bases out. No permanent bases. No permanent war. No timetables. No approval by the US military necessary. No reductions in forces. Just OUT. ALL. Just like what the people of Iraq want. Nothing less will give them the opportunity to try to put an end to the civil war and violence instigated by the American invasion and occupation and to recreate their failed state.

George W. Bush, 2006: "We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done as long as the government wants us there."[3]

George W. Bush, 2007: "It's their government's choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave."[4]

Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, 2008: "said his government was 'impatiently waiting' for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops."[5]

Barack Obama, 2008: We can "redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months."[6]

Obama's terms of withdrawal equals no withdrawal. Literally. Has he ever said that the war is categorically illegal and immoral? A war crime? Or that anti-American terrorism in the world is the direct result of oppressive US policies? Instead he calls for a troop increase and "the first truly 21st century military ... We must maintain the strongest, best-equipped military in the world."[7] Why of course, that's what the people of the United States and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and the rest of the people in this sad world desperately desire and need -- greater American killing power! Obama is not so much concerned with ending America's endless warfare as he is with "succeeding" in them, by whatever perverted definition of that word.

And has he ever dared to raise the obvious question: Why would Iran, even if nuclear armed, be a threat to attack the US or Israel? Any more than Iraq was such a threat. Which was zero. Instead, he has said things like "Iran continues to be a major threat" and repeats the tiresome lie that the Iranian president called for the destruction of Israel.[8]

Obama, one observer has noted, "opposes the present US policy in Iraq not on the basis of any principled opposition to neo-colonialism or aggressive war, but rather on the grounds that the Iraq war is a mistaken deployment of power that fails to advance the global strategic interests of American imperialism."[9]

He and his supporters have made much of the speech he delivered in the Illinois state legislature in 2002 against the upcoming US invasion of Iraq. But two years later, when he was running for the US Senate, he declared: "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage."[10] Since taking office in January 2005, he has voted to approve every war appropriation the Republicans have put forward. He also voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State despite her complicity in the Bush Administration's false justifications for going to war in Iraq. In doing so, he lacked the courage of 12 of his Democratic Party Senate colleagues who voted against her confirmation.

If you're one of those who would like to believe that Obama has to present moderate foreign policy views to be elected, but once he's in the White House we can forget that he lied to us repeatedly and the true, progressive man of peace and international law and human rights will emerge ... keep in mind that as a US Senate candidate in 2004 he threatened missile strikes against Iran[11], and winning that election apparently did not put him in touch with his inner peacenik.

When, in 2005, the other Illinois Senator, Dick Durbin, stuck his neck out and compared American torture at Guantanamo to "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings", and was angrily denounced by the right wing, Obama stood up in the Senate and ... defended him? No, he joined the critics, thrice calling Durbin's remark a "mistake".[12]

One of Obama's chief foreign policy advisers is Zbigniew Brzezinski, a man instrumental in provoking Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, which was followed by massive US military supplies to the opposition and widespread war. This gave rise to a generation of Islamic jihadists, the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and more than two decades of anti-American terrorism. Asked later if he had any regrets about this policy, Brzezinski replied: "Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, in substance: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war."[13]

Another prominent Obama adviser -- from a list entirely and depressingly establishment-imperial -- is Madeleine Albright, who should always wear gloves because her hands are caked with blood from her roles in the bombings of Iraq and Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

In a primary campaign talk in March, Obama said that "he would return the country to the more 'traditional' foreign policy efforts of past presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan."[14] Use your imagination. Bloody serial interventionists, all.

Why have well-known conservatives like George Will, David Brooks, Rush Limbaugh, Joe Scarborough, and others spoken so favorably about Obama's candidacy?[15] Whatever else, they know he's not a threat to their most cherished views and values.

Given all this, can we expect a more enlightened, less bloody, more progressive and humane foreign policy from Mr. Barack Obama? Forget the alleged eloquence and charm; forget the warm feel-good stuff; forget the interminable clichés and platitudes about hope, change, unity, and America's indispensable role as world leader; forget all the religiobabble; forget John McCain and George W. Bush ... All that counts is putting an end to the horror -- the bombings, the invasions, the killings, the destruction, the overthrows, the occupations, the torture, the American Empire.

Al Gore and John Kerry both took the progressive vote for granted. Neither had ever been particularly progressive themself. Each harbored a measure of disdain for the left. Both paid a heavy price for the neglect. I and millions like me voted for Ralph Nader, or some other third-party candidate, or stayed home. Obama is doing the same as Gore and Kerry. Progressives should let him know that his positions are not acceptable, keeping up the anti-war pressure on him and the Democratic Party at every opportunity. For whatever good it just might do.

I'm afraid that if Barack Obama becomes president he's going to break a lot of young hearts. And some older ones as well.

Writer Norman Solomon has written: "These days, an appreciable number of Obama supporters are starting to use words like "disillusionment." But that's a consequence of projecting their political outlooks onto the candidate in the first place. The best way to avoid becoming disillusioned is to not have illusions in the first place."

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World's Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at:


[1] William Blum, "Cuban Political Prisoners ... in the United States"

[2] Washington Post, February 25, 2008; p.A4

[3] New York Times. December 1, 2006, p.1

[4] White House press conference, May 24, 2007

[5] Washington Post, July 9, 2008

[6] Obama's website:

[7] Speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, April 23, 2007

[8] (leading Israeli newspaper), May 16, 2007

[9] Bill Van Auken, Global Research, July 18, 2008 --

[10] Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2004

[11] Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2004

[12] Congressional Record, June 21, 2005, p.S6897

[13] For the full Brzezinski interview see

[14] Associated Press, March 28, 2008

[15] See, for example, Peter Wehner, "Why Republicans Like Obama", Washington Post, February 3, 2008, p.B7

Monday, August 04, 2008

Feds Raid Medical Herb Dispensary on the Day Appellate Court Rules That State Law is Paramount!

This is the type of tyrannical, quasi-military urban invasion that we should be actively and aggressively fighting. This is the stuff of a rogue, rampant, runaway government bent on dictatorial power. The people of the state of California voted for medical marijuana dispensaries with Proposition 215 in 1996 and it was passed into law by 56% of the vote - far more than presidents ever get! This is truly a law of the people and an example of the importance of state's rights. Not only that, but it appears from the photo that federal drug law enforcement is being farmed out to private Christo-fascist military contractors! Can you say creeping fascism?--Pete

Posted by Auguste, Pandagon

There’s not a single item in this article that doesn’t make me stuff-throwing, puppy-kicking angry.

Federal agents raided a Culver City medical marijuana dispensary and spent more than four hours there, making no arrests but leaving the shop in disarray, it was reported Friday.

Nice place you have here. Shame if anything were to happen to it...on the taxpayer’s dime.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrived about noon Thursday at Organica Collective in the 13400 block of Washington Boulevard, DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen told the Los Angeles Times.

“Marijuana remains a controlled substance, and it is illegal under federal law to possess, dispense or cultivate marijuana in any form,” she said.

Someone should probably teach DEA spokesperson Sarah Pullen a little bit about the timing of public statements:

The federal operation came on the day an appellate court in San Diego ruled that federal law does not preempt the state’s law allowing the use of medical marijuana—a ruling touted by supporters of California’s medical marijuana law as a significant win.

Unless Congress passed that one law making DEA spokespeople pope-like in their infallibility, this is a real black eye for the feds. Or it would be, if I thought any of them cared.

Doghouse Riley has a photo which suggests that DEA agents are big Blackwater fans, which is probably consistent with this whole authoritarian clusterfuck of an operation.


At the dispensary, agents left behind trash, counters strewn with open and empty glass jars, piles of receipts thrown on the ground, upturned couch cushions, bits of marijuana on the edges of counters and an ATM with its doors torn open and emptied, The Times reported.

Not only that but they ate all the damn Fritos! You know, ATM tampering is a federal crime. I’m sure once local police refer it up the chain, the FBI will want to know...about…

Culver City police assisted federal agents at the scene.

I’ve tried at least three times to find the words to describe how wrong this is. Local police cooperating with the DEA to enforce a law which contradicts local law may be the worst thing I’ve heard this weekend, and I heard a detailed story about medical waste.

As for the dumbass in the Blackwater t-shirt, one reporter wonders something which should have occurred to me instantly:

Is the Bush Administration Using Blackwater Mercenaries in the DEA?

Or more to the point, are we contracting with Blackwater to provide backup for the DEA? For that matter, whatever became of the Blackwater hearings?

But let’s assume for a moment that this was purely a DEA operation. Federal agents storm a private business, purportedly due to illegal activities, but make no arrests. They do it in contradiction of local laws, with the help of local law enforcement. They break shit, intimidate citizens, take a bunch of stuff and leave. And all this just happens to occur on a day when the courts are about to deliver a bit of a slap in the face? I hate to be the boy who cried fascism, but: Fascism, for fuck’s sake.

Related News:

Congress has recessed for the summer without voting on the medical marijuana amendment that Congressmen Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) offer every summer. Unfortunately, this means the amendment will not come up for a vote this year — the first year since 2002.

If passed, the amendment would have prevented the Justice Department — which includes the DEA — from interfering with the medical marijuana laws on the books in 12 states.

Congress decided that rather than considering the Justice Department's annual spending bill, which contains thousands of funding requests and issue-oriented amendments, Congress will instead simply vote to allow this year's funding levels to carry over until next year.

However, there are two other pieces of legislation in Congress that your U.S. House member needs to hear from you about:

1. The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2008 (H.R. 5842) would give states greater authority to determine their own medical marijuana policies.

2. The Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act of 2008 (H.R. 5843) would remove federal penalties for possessing up to 3.5 ounces of marijuana.

Would you please take one minute to visit MPP's online action center and ask your U.S. House member to co-sponsor these two bills?

Meanwhile, we're also gearing up for the changed — and more favorable — political climate that we can expect from a new presidential administration and Congress next year. You'll be hearing more from us about our plans for 2009 in the coming months.

As always, thank you for your support.

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Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.