Saturday, March 29, 2008

PBS on Iraq: A Compilation of Deceit

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By Morgan Strong

There have been five agonizing years of this war in Iraq. Five terrible years of bewilderment and rage.

Commemorating that anniversary, Frontline, the PBS investigative series, allotted four-and-one-half hours over two nights to an in-depth analysis of the war in Iraq and how it came about.

What the broadcast revealed was nothing new. Others have engaged the subject as thoroughly as did Frontline. What we did see in this broadcast, however, was a compilation of the deceit, pettiness, treachery, arrogance, ignorance and stunning callousness by those who took us into this vile war.

The key figures who promoted the war were Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Lewis Libby. Those names were not new, but a new motive for the war was revealed: the recognition of Israel by a new democratic Iraq.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, in an interview with Frontline, revealed this motive in the context of his suspicions about Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who was chosen by the Bush administration to run Iraq. The State Department was funding Chalabi and his Iraq National Congress.

Armitage: I couldn’t get any receipts from him, and he seemed upset about this—I no longer had the State Department fund him. The funding went to the Department of Defense. So it didn’t take me long to come to the belief that Mr. Chalabi was a charlatan.

Frontline: But he had real believers?

Armitage: Yes, he certainly did in the Vice President’s Office.

Frontline: Why?

Armitage: Well, he was very charming and smart. This was one smart cookie.

Frontline: He convinced them that this was the answer they wanted to hear?

Armitage: Well, perhaps when you’re telling people what they want to hear, and that you’ll recognize Israel and you can have bases in Iraq and this will be the new democratic bastion in the Middle East which can change the whole picture of the Middle East, maybe there’s a bit of a siren song there.

Those American officials who promoted the war hoped that a Chalabi-led Iraq would recognize Israel and a new era in the Middle East would begin. Libby, the Vice President’s chief of staff, and Cheney – along with Perle, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld – endorsed the idea of Chalabi running Iraq and convinced a hopelessly befuddled Bush.

What is perhaps equally startling, and thoroughly depressing, is the common pettiness of the five – Libby, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld – as they fought desperately to launch this war in Iraq. They would let nothing and no one stand in their way.

It was Libby who provided the information to Secretary of State Colin Powell on the fabricated claims of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. This information, after some refinement by the CIA, was what Powell drew upon to make his dramatic speech to the U.N. Security Council.

The Frontline broadcast, through interviews with senior members of the Bush administration, showed Cheney and Rumsfeld acting as agents for their subordinates – Wolfowitz, Perle and Libby – all three of whom have had close historic ties to Israel.

In 1996, for instance, Perle joined a small group of researchers who advised Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu on his first steps as Israel’s prime minister. (That group also included Douglas Feith, who would be another key Pentagon figure pushing for war with Iraq.)

The working paper, entitled “A Clean Break,” included plans for ousting Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, which was called “an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” The paper also advocated an alliance with the United States to confront threats to Israel from Syria and Iran.

Six years later, the Perle-Wolfowitz-Libby tandem, aided and abetted by Cheney and Rumsfeld, implemented exactly that strategy inside the U.S. government.

As depicted by the Frontline documentary, Rice was isolated and demeaned by the five, so she presented no obstacle in the path to war even though her single responsibility was to tell the President of the United States that the war was not in this nation’s best interest and was premised on faulty intelligence. She was too cowardly to act.

There is great discussion in the broadcast of the role of faulty intelligence. Everyone, it seems, knew – or suspected strongly – that the claims about Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction were weak.

President Bush knew that these claims were tenuous at best. At one point, following a presentation of evidence by CIA Director George Tenet on the existence of these weapons, Bush pointedly asked: “Is that all you’ve got?”

Tenet replied: “It’s a slam dunk, sir.” In essence; don’t worry I’ll find you something.

Then Tenet went off to cook the intelligence that satisfied the President, enabling him to justify the war to the public.

By the time this sorry process was over, the five – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby and Perle – had in essence wrested the government from the American people. They controlled the mechanics of the state through lies, manipulations and intimidation.

They also isolated Powell, who was the only one in the Bush Cabinet who might have stopped them, but he did not – an act of transparent cowardice on his part.

Powell never raised his doubts to the American people or to their representatives. In truth, no senior official in the Bush administration did. Many government officials knew the information was highly suspect or completely false, but did nothing.

Bush is depicted in the broadcast as a passive incompetent controlled by Cheney, though whether or not the President was manipulated is largely irrelevant. As the chief constitutional officer of the United States, he bears the ultimate responsibility.

There have been 4,000 American men and women killed in Iraq so far. Estimates of Iraqi dead range into the hundreds of thousands, including many civilians and many children.

Beyond the lies, there also were the self-delusions. How in their right minds could the people who started this war believe that a new Iraqi government, with even modest democratic tendencies, would immediately recognize Israel?

And even more farfetched, that all of the Middle East states would rejoice and happily follow suit?

What would happen to the Palestinians? Would they simply be shoved aside in this glorious new era? Did the Bush administration really think that the people of the Middle East would forgive and forget so easily?

How did these people come to govern us? How did such incompetents and ideologues gain our fealty?

Al-Sadr Calls For Support Of Arab States

AlJazeera Video Report From Bastra

AlJazeera exclusive interview with Muqtada Al-Sadr:

The battle for control of southern Iraq is continuing for a fifth day.

In one of the latest offensives, eight people died, including two women and a child, in an air raid.

Meanwhile a witness in Baghdad has told Al Jazeera he saw up to 40 Iraqi army and police surrendering their weapons to supporters of the Mahdi Army.

Its leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, is calling on Arab nations to support his fight against US forces in Iraq.

James Bays reports from Baghdad

Five Things You Need to Know to Understand the Latest Violence in Iraq

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By Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar

Heavy fighting has spread across Shia-dominated enclaves in Iraq over the past two days. The U.S.-backed regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered 50,000 Iraqi troops to "crack down" -- with coalition air support -- on Shiite militias in the oil-rich and strategically important city of Basra, U.S. forces have surrounded Baghdad’s Sadr City and fighting has been reported in the southern cities of Kut, Diwaniya, Karbala and Hilla. Basra’s main bridge and an oil pipeline connecting it to Amara were destroyed Wednesday. Six cities are under curfew, and acts of civil disobedience have shut down dozens of neighborhoods across the country. Civilian casualties have reportedly overwhelmed poorly equipped medical centers in Baghdad and Basra.

There are indications that the unilateral ceasefire declared last year by the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is collapsing. "The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans," one militiaman loyal to al-Sadr told the Christian Science Monitor’s Sam Dagher by telephone from Sadr City. Dagher added that the "same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store."

A political track is also in play: Sadr has called on his followers to take to the streets to demand Maliki’s resignation, and nationalist lawmakers in the Iraqi Parliament, led by al-Sadr’s block, are trying to push a no-confidence vote challenging the prime minister’s regime.

The conflict is one that the U.S. media appears incapable of describing in a coherent way. The prevailing narrative is that Basra has been ruled by mafialike militias -- which is true -- and that Iraqi government forces are now cracking down on the lawlessness in preparation for regional elections, which is not. As independent analyst Reider Visser noted:

On closer inspection, there are problems in these accounts. Perhaps most importantly, there is a discrepancy between the description of Basra as a city ruled by militias (in the plural) ... [and the] facts of the ongoing operations, which seem to target only one of these militia groups, the Mahdi Army loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. Surely, if the aim was to make Basra a safer place, it would have been logical to do something to also stem the influence of the other militias loyal to the local competitors of the Sadrists, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq [SIIC], as well as the armed groups allied to the Fadila party (sic) (which have dominated the oil protection services for a long time). But so far, only Sadrists have complained about attacks by government forces.

The conflict doesn’t conform to the analysis of the roots of Iraqi instability as briefed by U.S. officials in the heavily-fortified Green Zone. It also doesn’t fit into the simplistic but popular narrative of a country wrought by sectarian violence, and its nature is obscured by the labels that the commercial media uncritically apply to the disparate centers of Iraqi resistance to the occupation.

The "crackdown" comes on the heels of the approval of a new "provincial law," which will ultimately determine whether Iraq remains a unified state with a strong central government or is divided into sectarian-based regional governates. The measure calls for provincial elections in October, and the winners of those elections will determine the future of the Iraqi state. Control of the country’s oil wealth, and how its treasure will be developed, will also be significantly influenced by the outcome of the elections.

It’s a relatively straightforward story: Iraq is ablaze today as a result of an attempt to impose Colombian-style democracy on the unstable country: Maliki’s goal, shared by the like-minded allies among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities that dominate his administration, and with at least tacit U.S. approval, is to kill off the opposition and then hold a vote.

To better understand the nature of this latest round of conflict, here are five things one needs to know about what’s taking place across Iraq.

1. A visible manifestation of Iraq’s central-but-under-teported political conflict (not "sectarian violence")

Iraq, which had experienced little or no sectarian-based violence prior to the U.S. invasion, has been plagued with sectarian militias fighting for the streets of Iraq’s formerly heterogeneous neighborhoods, and "sectarian violence" has become Americans’ primary explanation for the instability that has plagued the country.

But the sectarian-based street-fighting is a symptom of a larger political conflict, one that has been poorly analyzed in the mainstream press. The real source of conflict in Iraq -- and the reason political reconciliation has been so difficult -- is a fundamental disagreement over what the future of Iraq will look like. Loosely defined, it is a clash of Iraqi nationalists -- with Muqtada al-Sadr as their most influential voice -- who desire a unified Iraqi state and public-sector management of the country’s vast oil reserves and who forcefully reject foreign influence on Iraq’s political process, be it from the United States, Iran or other outside forces.

The nationalists now represent a majority in Iraq’s parliament but are opposed by what might be called Iraqi separatists, who envision a "soft partition" of Iraq into at least four semiautonomous and sectarian-based regional entities, welcome the privatization of the Iraqi energy sector (and the rest of the Iraqi economy) and rely on foreign support to maintain their power.

We’ve written about this long-standing conflict extensively in the past, and now we’re seeing it come to a head, as we believed it would at some point.

2. U.S. is propping up unpopular regime; Sadr has support because of his platform

One of the ironies of the reporting out of Iraq is the ubiquitous characterization of Muqtada al-Sadr as a "renegade," "radical" or "militant" cleric, despite the fact that he is the only leader of significance in the country who has ordered his followers to stand down. His ostensible militancy appears to arise primarily from his opposition to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

He has certainly been willing to use violence in the past, but the "firebrand" label belies the fact that Sadr is arguably the most popular leader among a large section of the Iraqi population and that he has forcefully rejected sectarian conflict and sought to bring together representatives of Iraq’s various ethnic and sectarian groups in an effort to create real national reconciliation -- a process that the highly sectarian Maliki regime has failed to accomplish.

It’s vitally important to understand that Sadr’s popularity and legitimacy is a result of his having a platform that’s favored by an overwhelming majority of Iraqis.

Most Iraqis:

With the exception of their opposition to Al Qaeda, the five major separatist parties -- Sunni, Shia and Kurdish -- that make up Maliki’s governing coalition are on the deeply unpopular side of these issues. A poll conducted last year found that 65 percent of Iraqis think the Iraqi government is doing a poor job, and Maliki himself has a Bush-like 66 percent disapproval rate.

As in Vietnam, the United States is backing an unpopular and decidedly undemocratic government in Iraq, and that simple fact explains much of the violent resistance that’s going on in Iraq today.

3. "Iraqi forces" are, in fact, "Iranian- (and U.S.-) backed Shiite militias"

Every headline this week has featured some variation of the storyline of "Iraqi security forces" battling "Shiite militias." But the reality is that it is a battle between Shite militias -- separatists and nationalists -- with one militia garbed in Iraqi army uniforms and supported by U.S. airpower, and the other in civilian clothes.

It has always been the great irony of the occupation of Iraq that "our" man in Baghdad is also Tehran’s. Maliki heads the Dawa Party, which has long enjoyed close ties to Iran, and relies on support from SIIC, a staunchly pro-Iranian party, and its powerful Badr militia. The "government crackdown" is an escalation of a long-simmering conflict in the south between the Badr Brigade, the Sadrists and members of the Fadhila Party, which favors greater autonomy for Basra but rejects SIIC’s vision of a larger Shiite-dominated regional entity in Southern Iraq.

4. Colombia-style democracy

Basra has been engulfed in a simmering conflict since before the British pulled their troops back to a remote base near the airport and turned over the city to Iraqi authorities. But the timing of this crackdown is not coincidental; Iraqi separatists -- Dawa, SIIC and others -- are expected to do poorly in the regional elections, while the Sadrists are widely anticipated to make significant gains. It is widely perceived by those loyal to Sadr that this is an attempt to wipe out the movement he leads prior to the elections and minimize the influence that Iraqi nationalists are poised to gain.

The United States, for its part, continues to take sides in this conflict -- in addition to providing airpower, U.S. forces are enforcing the curfew in Sadr City -- rather than playing the role of neutral mediator. That’s because the interests of the Bush administration and its allies are aligned with Maliki and his coalition. That they are not aligned with the interests of most Iraqis is never mentioned in the Western press, but is a key reason why Bush’s definition of "victory" -- the emergence of a legitimate and Democratic state that supports U.S. policy in the region -- has always been an impossible pipedream.

5. Chip off the old block: Maliki’s attempt to criminalize dissent

It’s unclear whether Sadr has lifted the cease-fire entirely, or simply freed his fighters to defend themselves. He continues to call for peaceful resistance.

Whatever the case may be, it’s not entirely accurate to say that he "chose" this conflict. The reality is that while his army was holding the cease-fire, attacks on and detentions of Sadrists have continued unabated. Sadr renewed the cease-fire last month, but he did so over the urging of his top aides, who argued that their movement was threatened with annihilation. He later authorized his followers to carry weapons "for self-defense" to head off a mutiny within his ranks.

Ahmed al-Massoudi, a Sadrist member of Parliament, last week "accused the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) of planning a military campaign to liquidate the Sadrists."

The lawmaker told Voices of Iraq that Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim’s "SIIC and the Dawa Party have held meetings with officers of the militias merged recently into security agencies to launch a military campaign outwardly to impose order and law, but the real objective is to liquidate the Sadrist bloc." "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is directly supervising this scheme with officers from the Dawa Party and the SIIC," he added. Despite his close ties with Tehran and deep involvement in Shiite militia activity, Hakim has been invited to the White House, where he was feted by Bush himself.

Sadr called for nationwide civil disobedience that would have allowed his followers to flex some political muscle in a nonviolent way. His orders, according to Iraqi reports were to distribute olive branches and copies of the Koran to soldiers at checkpoints.

The Maliki regime responded by saying that individuals joining the nationwide strike would be punished and that those organizing it are in violation of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Act issued in 2005. A spokesman for the prime minister promised to punish any government employees who failed to show up for work.

This is consistent with a long-term trend: the U.S.-backed government’s obstruction of Iraqi efforts to foster political reconciliation among diverse groups of Iraq nationalists. (Read more about this here.)

Propaganda and the surge

The Maliki regime has set an ultimatum demanding that the militias -- the nationalist militias -- lay down their arms within the next two days or face "more serious consequences." Al-Sadr has also issued an ultimatum: The government must cease its attacks on his followers, or his followers will escalate. It is an extremely dangerous situation, especially given the fact that the main U.S. resupply routes stretch from Baghdad through the Shia-dominated southern provinces.

But the precariousness of the situation appears to be of little concern to the military command, which issued a statement saying that the violence was a result of the success of the U.S. troop "surge" (Bush called the "crackdown" a "bold decision’’ that shows the country’s security forces are capable of combating terrorists). It’s yet another example of the administration putting U.S. geostrategic (and economic) interests ahead of Iraqi reconciliation and democratic governance.

The much-touted troop "surge" had little to do with the drop in violence in recent months -- it didn’t even correlate with the lull chronologically and was certainly a minor causal factor at best. A number of factors led to the reduced violence, but Sadr’s cease-fire had the greatest impact. Nonetheless, the Maliki regime, backed by the United States, continued a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Sadr’s followers, denied them space to peacefully resist the occupation and forced his hand.

Given the degree to which the coalition has continued to stir a hornets’ nest, we may be seeing a perfect illustration of the dangers of believing one’s own propaganda play out as Iraq is once again set aflame.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer. Raed Jarrar is Iraq Consultant to the American Friends Service Committee. He blogs at Raed in the Middle.

Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border

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Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran's borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

"The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran "that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost."

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran's military infrastructure in the near future.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf.

The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006.

The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.

Murdering Iranians

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Terrible rumors from Russia continue to swirl around the Middle East that the Cheney-Bush junta has decided to bomb Iran on April 4th or 6th, targeting not only nuclear-power research facilities but ships, planes, antiaircraft installations, and the Iranian pentagon. Apparently the nuclear-power reactor being built by Russian companies will be spared, but not much else. Will it happen? Certainly the neocon hate network is working overtime to make it so. Bush fired the anti-neocon Admiral Fallon. One thing we know for sure: it will be the typical Bush administration snafu, with horrific consequences for the region and the world, not to speak of the Iranian people, and reap much trouble for the US empire. Indeed, it could mark the end of the empire if, as Bill Lind worries, the Iranians in retaliation cut off water-food-ammo supply routes to US troops in Iraq, and, with the help of Shiite militians, capture large numbers of them. Need I mention that Ron Paul, our champion of peace, is the leading opponent of war on Iran?

'Your turn is next,' Gadhafi warns Arab leaders after US toppling of Saddam

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DAMASCUS, Syria: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi poured contempt on fellow Arab leaders at a summit Saturday and warned that they might be overthrown like former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Gadhafi's rambling, off-the-cuff speech to the opening of the Arab summit both bewildered and brought reluctant smiles to the faces of the other leaders.

The maverick Libyan's litany of insults at Arabs and his undiplomatic railing at the disarray of Arab regimes have become almost a tradition at the annual gathering.

Dressed in lush purple and pink robes with a traditional Libyan cloak and cap, Gadhafi blasted Arab countries for doing nothing while the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew Saddam.

"How can we accept that a foreign power comes to topple an Arab leader while we stand watching?" he said. He said Saddam had once been an ally of Washington, "but they sold him out."

"Your turn is next," Gadhafi told the leaders, some of whom looked stunned while others broke into laughter at his frankness. "Destruction will be yours."

In recent years, Gadhafi has dramatically repaired ties with the United States — once his top enemy — by giving up his country's weapons of mass destruction programs and paying compensation for the 1988 Pan Am bombing. Libya is hoping for a landmark visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, though one is still not set, and has stepped up economic ties to the West.

Still, that hasn't stopped Gadhafi from denouncing U.S. domination of the world and criticizing other Arab countries for their closeness to Washington.

In his speech, Gadhafi slammed Arab disunity and inaction on the region's multiple crises.

"Where is the Arabs' dignity, their future, their very existence? Everything has disappeared," he said. "Our blood and our language may be one, but there is nothing that can unite us"

"If they (Arabs) will not reorganize themselves, they will turn into protectorates. They will be marginalized and turn into garbage dumps," he said.

Gadhafi also mocked a plan by the Arab League to start Arab cooperation on a joint nuclear program. "How can do we that? We hate each other, we wish ill of each other and our intelligence services conspire against each other. We are our own enemy."

Gadhafi repeated his frequently made proposal that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be settled by creating one democratic state where the two peoples live together, to be called Isratine.

He threw a compliment-cum-backhanded insult at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, praising him as the "hero of Oslo," referring to the 1993 Oslo peace accords that created the Palestinian Authority, now headed by Abbas, but are derided by many Arabs for failing to bring a final peace.

Abbas scowled at the comment.

Gadhafi has angered other Arab leaders with his sharp remarks at past summits.

Last year, he boycotted the summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but gave a televised speech saying "Liza" — referring to Rice — had dictated the gathering's agenda.

In 2005, he told the summit in Algeria that Palestinians and Israelis are "stupid." A year earlier, he sat smoking cigars on the conference floor of the Tunisia summit to show his contempt for the other leaders.

During a 2003 gathering, he traded insults with Saudi King Abdullah in the conference hall.

Justice and the Monsters of War

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By Missy Beattie

Will Cheney Ever Sleep on a Concrete Bed?

On Thursday, CNN's Kyra Phillips, broadcasting from Iraq, gave viewers a tour of Saddam Hussein's last residence before he was hanged-a prison cell in Baghdad where he was held under US guard in a structure built during his reign. As Phillips observed, there was no luxury. The dictator, who had once lived in splendor, slept on concrete next to a toilet and basin.

A military officer showed Phillips the cell and talked with her about Hussein's final days. He related that Hussein kept a journal. Included among the voluminous entries were poems. Some of the writings reflected an obsession with his legacy. Afraid that history would inaccurately portray him, Hussein desperately wanted to be perceived as a man who went to his death with a clear conscience. He never mentioned his use of torture.

Outside Hussein's cell was a small garden, one he'd requested. He spent his last days tending this garden, smoking cigars, and writing.

While imprisoned, Hussein was called VIC, an acronym for very important criminal.

The CNN segment ended with a photograph of Saddam Hussein, taken not long before his death. Phillips remarked that Hussein appeared angry.

Of course, he was angry-for damn good reason. His country was bombed in a shameful campaign called "Shock and Awe." He was overthrown and condemned to die, based on lie after lie after lie. George Bush and Dick Cheney were the "very important" finger pointers who erroneously connected Iraq to 9/11 and, also, falsely told the world that Saddam was poised to use his arsenal of weapons to vaporize our cities.

These monsters of war, whose catastrophic damage has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than 4,300 coalition troops, are the real proprietors of weapons of mass destruction. They, like Saddam, as far as we know, don't write about torture, but they endorse it. Bush and Cheney should each be called MOC-master of carnage. They should share the name and the dishonor. A concrete bed next to a toilet is more than they deserve.

I am a taxpayer who does not want my money to purchase crimes against humanity. To pay for occupations. For Dick Cheney's mobile ambulance. For Bush excursions to other countries, mugging and shaking his booty. For Guantanamo. For speechwriters who create arrogant, aggressive 'axis of evil' threats and skits like Bush's obscene search for WMD under his desk. I could go on and on and on.

I am more than willing, though, to shell out for the arrest of these mass murderers, their trials, convictions, and sentences. And to see them locked up in small cells with concrete beds next to their toilets.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, I'd stand o'er their graves 'til I'm sure that they're dead.

Sadr urges support for 'resistance'

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Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader, has called on Arab countries to support his militia's battle against "US occupation", with clashes between Shia groups and Iraqi government troops entering their fifth day.

The remarks came as Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, called the Shia militias in the southern city of Basra "worse than al-Qaeda".

More than 200 people have reportedly died since an Iraqi military crackdown in Basra sparked violence across the country.

Al-Maliki, who is personally supervising the operation in Basra, said on Saturday that Iraqi forces would not leave "without restoring security and order".

"We will continue to stand up to these gangs in every inch of Iraq," he said in remarks broadcast on state-owned television on Saturday.

"There are some among us who are worse than al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is killing innocents, al-Qaeda is destroying establishments and they [Shia fighters] also," he said.

Later on Saturday, the Baghdad military command extended the curfew in the capital indefinitely, state television Al-Iraqiya said.

The curfew, which was imposed late on Thursday, was to have been lifted on Sunday at 5am (0200 GMT).

Basra operation

The Basra crackdown was aimed at disarming the city's warring Shia militias, including the Mahdi Army of al-Sadr, as well as crushing a number of criminal gangs.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera in Damascus, al-Sadr called on the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations to recognise "the Iraqi resistance".

"I appeal to these parties to add legitimacy to the resistance and to stand by, not against, the Iraqi people because the Iraqi people need Arabs as much as they need any other person," he said.

"Iraq is still under occupation and the United States' popularity is reducing every day and every minute in Iraq.

"I call, through Al Jazeera, for the departure of the occupying troops from Iraq as soon as possible."

Disarmament rejected

Meanwhile, fighters loyal to the Shia leader rejected the prime minister's call to disarm.

"Al-Sadr has told us not to surrender our arms except to a state that can throw out the occupation," Haider al-Jabari, a member of the Sadr movement's political bureau, said.

On Thursday al-Maliki said that Basra residents would receive a "reward" if they handed in "heavy and medium-size weapons".

However, in Baghdad an official from al-Sadr's movement said Iraqi soldiers had attempted to hand their weapons over to him.

"We told them they should keep their arms. We gave them a Quran and they went back," Salman al-Afraiji said.

A curfew is in place in the capital amid the violence, with restrictions set to be reviewed by the military command on Sunday.

James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Baghdad, said on Saturday that missiles were still being fired.

"I heard six mortars or rockets - it's difficult to distinguish between the sound of mortars and Katyusha rockets - land in the Green Zone," he said.

'Hospitals overflowing'

Ahmed, a resident of slum neighbourhood which is home to about two million people, said the situation was deteriorating.

"The hospitals are overflowing with wounded. They can't take any more. Even the medical stores are closed," he told the AFP news agency.

"There is no electricity, no water or fuel. We are afraid of gunbattles. The main markets are also closed."

Qassim Mohammed, a spokesman for Baghdad health directorate, said in Sadr City: "Seventy-five people have been killed and 498 wounded in clashes in Sadr City in the last four days."

He accused American forces of "creating obstacles" in transporting victims of the violence to safety.

In Basra, Iraqi police said that eight civilians were killed and seven wounded in an air raid by US aircraft on a house on Saturday.

The US military said it was looking into the report. Both US and British military aircraft have provided air support to Iraqi forces in southern Iraq.

Fighting has also been reported in the central city of Karbala.

Russia and Japan form nuclear alliance

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna) - Paris is in shock: nuclear giants Atomenergoprom and Toshiba have decided to form an alliance in civilian nuclear power operations, including power plant construction and fuel production.

The two companies signed a framework agreement last week, under which the Russian company will enrich uranium produced in Kazakhstan, while Toshiba will produce nuclear fuel and undertake the designing and engineering of nuclear power plants.

The firms may establish a strategic partnership in the future, Toshiba said. By securing a stable supply of nuclear fuel through the alliance with Atomenergoprom, Toshiba hopes to sharpen its competitive edge.

Experts predict that the alliance will become the world's leader in the nuclear sector.

Previously, the market was divided between four players: the French-German alliance of Areva and Siemens, two American-Japanese groups, Toshiba-Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi, and Russia's Atomenergoprom.

The Russian-Japanese alliance will cut the number of players to three. Moreover, Toshiba now owns a 70% stake in Westinghouse.

The French newspaper Les Echos described the alliance as "the main event in the nuclear production cycle." As a nuclear power and leading player on the global market of nuclear power engineering, France is worried that the Russian-Japanese tie-up could become a major rival of the French Areva.

The newspaper reports that the French government intends to merge Areva and Alstom into a nuclear power plant building super-company.

The Russian-Japanese merger was prompted by Russia's desire to swim with the tide, although Toshiba was neither its initial nor only choice. Russia made offers of strategic partnership to several candidates, but Toshiba offered the best terms.

Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Rosatom, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said: "The Japanese have the engineering know-how to build nuclear power plants within three years. They are the recognized leaders in this respect; it takes us five years to build a nuclear power plant. So, we will learn from them if the alliance is formed. We may also cooperate in mutual supplies of large-size equipment. [The alliance] will also allow Russia to emerge on the global market for nuclear fuel."

Atomenergorpom has the technologies of an open nuclear fuel cycle and can build civilian nuclear facilities under turnkey conditions. It also has cutting-edge water-water reactor (VVR) technologies.

Although it has signed only a framework agreement with Toshiba, experts believe that the document is the first step to forming a full-scale transnational alliance. It will be set up as an absolute parity, without the partners exchanging stakes or assets, but agreeing to jointly plan their business. The alliance will work toward a global goal of developing and applying safe, clean and efficient nuclear generation systems.

"The framework agreement is a sign made to the market; subsequent moves will be based on the assumption that business is a highly practical matter, with adequate decisions depending on each particular project," said Novikov.

"If we decide to build a nuclear power plant in Russia's Far East, as stipulated in the general plan for placing nuclear power plants, it would be logical to invite the Japanese," he said.

Experts also say that Russia may join forces with Toshiba to manufacture equipment for nuclear power plants.

Taken together, this promises dynamic, effective and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Rosatom corporation, said: "An alliance of two giant companies would have a positive effect on the nuclear renaissance, making it more predictable and technically feasible."

He said that all consumers of commodities and services of the nuclear fuel cycle would enjoy the fruits of Russian-Japanese partnership.

Harufumi Mochizuki, head of Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, is of the same opinion.

Reversal Urged in Journalist's Case

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By Pete Yost

Washington - Lawyers for a former USA Today reporter asked a federal appeals court Friday to reverse a contempt of court citation against the journalist, who refuses to reveal her sources for stories about the criminal investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Attorneys for Toni Locy said she has no money to pay the fines imposed by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who ordered her to pay up to $5,000 a day out of her own pocket.

Locy's lawyers called the fines "destructive sanctions" and said the judge had abused his discretion.

"She would have to turn to her family, her friends or to others" to pay the fines, "but the order forbids her to do so," said the court filing by Locy's lawyers.

The attorneys said Walton failed to apply the law. Federal courts in Washington, D.C., recognize a qualified First Amendment privilege enabling reporters to protect their sources in civil cases.

Locy has been pulled into a lawsuit against the government by scientist Steven Hatfill, who came under scrutiny in the still-unsolved anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others. The anthrax mailings to Capitol Hill lawmakers and members of the media came just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Thirty-one news organizations including The Associated Press supported Locy in a separate filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Locy worked for the AP after she left USA Today.

Privacy Act claims like the ones Hatfill filed should not be "transformed into all-purpose anti-leak remedies wielded against government speech with reporters as collateral damage," stated the brief by news organizations.

Hatfill's private interest in obtaining additional evidence for his civil damages claim "cannot outweigh the public's interest in protecting journalists' abilities to report on matters as consequential as that at issue here: one of the largest, if not the largest, still-unsolved investigations in recent history into murders that terrified a nation," the news media's filing stated.

Walton is demanding that Locy provide the names of all the dozen or so Justice Department and FBI sources who provided her information for stories on the probe into the anthrax attacks.

She says she cannot recall which of her sources supplied information for two stories she wrote about Hatfill in May and June 2003.

Locy's stories said that investigators were questioning whether they had focused on the wrong person, that evidence against Hatfill was largely circumstantial, that Hatfill's answers to questions were evasive and that an FBI search of a pond near Hatfill's house did not lead to any evidence tying him to the attacks.

Appeals court judges Douglas Ginsburg, Judith Rogers and Brett Kavanaugh are hearing Locy's case. Ginsburg was appointed by President Reagan, Rogers by President Clinton and Kavanaugh by the current President Bush.

Treasury’s Plan Would Give Fed Wide New Power

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Washington - The Treasury Department will propose on Monday that Congress give the Federal Reserve broad new authority to oversee financial market stability, in effect allowing it to send SWAT teams into any corner of the industry or any institution that might pose a risk to the overall system.

The proposal is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation's hodgepodge of financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now the worst financial calamity in decades.

Democratic lawmakers are all but certain to say the proposal does not go far enough in restricting the kinds of practices that caused the financial crisis. Many of the proposals, like those that would consolidate regulatory agencies, have nothing to do with the turmoil in financial markets. And some of the proposals could actually reduce regulation.

According to a summary provided by the administration, the plan would consolidate an alphabet soup of banking and securities regulators into a powerful trio of overseers responsible for everything from banks and brokerage firms to hedge funds and private equity firms.

While the plan could expose Wall Street investment banks and hedge funds to greater scrutiny, it carefully avoids a call for tighter regulation.

The plan would not rein in practices that have been linked to the housing and mortgage crisis, like packaging risky subprime mortgages into securities carrying the highest ratings.

The plan would give the Fed some authority over Wall Street firms, but only when an investment bank's practices threatened the entire financial system.

And the plan does not recommend tighter rules over the vast and largely unregulated markets for risk sharing and hedging, like credit default swaps, which are supposed to insure lenders against loss but became a speculative instrument themselves and gave many institutions a false sense of security.

Parts of the plan could reduce the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is charged with maintaining orderly stock and bond markets and protecting investors. The plan would merge the S.E.C. with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates exchange-traded futures for oil, grains, currencies and the like.

The blueprint also suggests several areas where the S.E.C. should take a lighter approach to its oversight. Among them are allowing stock exchanges greater leeway to regulate themselves and streamlining the approval of new products, even allowing automatic approval of securities products that are being traded in foreign markets.

The proposal began last year as an effort by Henry M. Paulson Jr., secretary of the Treasury, to make American financial markets more competitive against overseas markets by modernizing a creaky regulatory system.

His goal was to streamline the different and sometimes clashing rules for commercial banks, savings and loans and nonbank mortgage lenders.

"I am not suggesting that more regulation is the answer, or even that more effective regulation can prevent the periods of financial market stress that seem to occur every 5 to 10 years," Mr. Paulson will say in a speech on Monday, according to a draft. "I am suggesting that we should and can have a structure that is designed for the world we live in, one that is more flexible."

Congress would have to approve almost every element of the proposal, and Democratic leaders are already drafting their own bills to impose tougher supervision over Wall Street investment banks, hedge funds and the fast-growing market in derivatives like credit default swaps.

But Mr. Paulson's proposal for the Fed echoes ideas championed by Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Both see the Fed overseeing risk across the entire financial spectrum, but Mr. Frank is likely to favor a stronger Fed role and to subject investment banks to the same rules that commercial banks now must follow, especially for capital reserves.

The Treasury plan would let Fed officials examine the practices and even the internal bookkeeping of brokerage firms, hedge funds, commodity-trading exchanges and any other institution that might pose a risk to the overall financial system.

That would be a significant expansion of the central bank's regulatory mission.

When Fed officials agreed this month to rescue Bear Stearns, once the nation's fifth-largest investment bank, they pointedly noted that the Fed never had the authority to monitor its financial condition or order it to bolster its protections against a collapse.

In two unprecedented moves, the Fed engineered a marriage between JPMorgan Chase and Bear Stearns, lending $29 billion to JPMorgan to prevent a Bear bankruptcy and a chain of defaults that might have felled much of the financial system.

For the first time since the 1930s, the Fed also agreed to let investment banks borrow hundreds of billions of dollars from its discount window, an emergency lending program reserved for commercial banks and other depository institutions.

But Mr. Paulson's proposal would fall well short of the kind of regulation that Democrats have been proposing. Mr. Frank and other senior Democrats have argued that investment banks and other lightly regulated institutions now compete with commercial banks and should be subject to similar regulation, including examiners who regularly pore over their books and quietly demand changes in their practices.

In a recent interview, Mr. Frank said he realized the need for tighter regulation of Wall Street firms after a meeting with Charles O. Prince III, then chairman of Citigroup.

When Mr. Frank asked why Citigroup had kept billions of dollars in "structured investment vehicles" off the firm's balance sheet, he recalled, Mr. Prince responded that Citigroup, as a bank holding company, would have been at a disadvantage because investment firms can operate with higher debt and lower capital reserves.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, has taken a similar stance.

"Commercial banks continue to be supervised closely, and are subject to a host of rules meant to limit systemic risk," Mr. Schumer wrote in an op-ed article on Friday in The Wall Street Journal. "But many other financial institutions, including investment banks and hedge funds, are regulated lightly, if at all, even though they act in many ways like banks."

Mr. Paulson's proposal is likely to provoke bruising turf battles in Congress among agencies and rival industry groups that benefit from the current regulations.

Administration officials acknowledged on Friday that they did not expect the proposal to become law this year, but said they hoped it would help frame a policy debate that would extend well after the elections in November.

In a nod to the debacle in mortgage lending, the administration proposed a Mortgage Origination Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of state governments in regulating mortgage brokers and protecting consumers.

The bulk of the proposal, however, was developed before soaring mortgage defaults set off a much broader credit crisis, and most of the proposals are geared to streamlining regulation.

This plan would consolidate a large number of regulators into roughly three big new agencies.

Bank supervision, now divided among five federal agencies, would be led by a Prudential Financial Regulator, which could send examiners into any bank or depository institution that is protected by either federal deposit insurance or other federal backstops. It would eliminate the distinction between "banks" and "thrift institutions," which are already indistinguishable to most consumers, and shut down the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Any effort to merge the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with the S.E.C. is likely to provoke battles.

Yet another proposal would, for the first time, create a national regulator for insurance companies, an industry that state governments now oversee.

Administration officials argue that a national system would eliminate the inefficiencies of having 50 different state regulators, who have jealously guarded their powers and are likely to fight any federal encroachment.

Arthur Levitt, a former S.E.C. chairman who has long pushed for stronger investor protection, said his first impression of the plan was positive. Even though the S.E.C.'s powers might be reduced, Mr. Levitt said, the plan would create a broader agency to regulate business conduct in all financial services.

"It's a thoughtful document," he said. "I'm intrigued by the fact that it puts an emphasis on investor protection, and that it establishes an agency specifically for that purpose, which would operate across all markets. I think that's a very constructive first step."

Frontline USA - Baltimore's stories

Avi Lewis uncovers economic hardships, racial disparity and a notorious crime rate.

White House aide resigns amid probe of Cuba funds

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By Pablo Bachelet

WASHINGTON — A White House aide has resigned amid a Justice Department investigation into allegations that he misused an unspecified amount of U.S. grant money intended to promote democracy in Cuba.

Felipe Sixto, a Cuban-American from Miami, was the special assistant to President Bush for inter-governmental affairs, dealing with Cuba, Native American issues, state legislators, Latino elected officials and Puerto Rico.

The White House announced his resignation Friday. Before joining the administration last summer, Sixto had been chief of staff to Frank Calzon, the head of the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba, which receives some of the funds through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Sixto didn't respond to e-mails or phone calls to his home.

Officials provided no details on the allegations. White House spokesman Blair Jones said the White House learned of the allegations from Sixto when he resigned from his post on March 20.

''Our understanding is that Mr. Sixto allegedly had a conflict of interest with the use of USAID funds in his former employment,'' Jones said. White House lawyers investigated and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

Calzon said he welcomed the investigation. He didn't say how much money was involved.

Florida Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart said in a joint statement that they were ''deeply disturbed by any allegation of misuse of taxpayer funds'' and urged the Department of Justice and the USAID's inspector general ''to move thoroughly and swiftly in investigating all the facts in this matter.''

Joe Garcia, a Democrat running to unseat Mario Diaz-Balart, said the resignation underscored ''the fundamental flaws of a policy designed to win votes in Miami and patronize partisan supporters, not bring freedom to Cuba.''

''Millions of dollars intended to fuel a democratic change in Cuba are ending up in the hands of Bush/Diaz-Balart cronies and never makes it to the island,'' Garcia said. U.S. policy should require that at least 80 percent of the money be made available to Cuban opposition groups on the island, he added.

In 2006, the Government Accountability Office pointed out that most Cuba grants were awarded without competitive bids, and it found some instances of abuse, such as the purchase of cashmere sweaters with U.S. taxpayer money. But the report also found that the grant money led to large amounts of equipment and literature getting distributed to Cuban democracy activists.

Calzon's Center for a Free Cuba works with foreign governments and activists in Cuba to raise awareness of human rights abuses and distributes literature and other materials on the island. Calzon said it was the center that initiated an investigation in mid-January when the allegation of misused funds emerged.

Calzon said he expects that any misappropriated funds will be returned to the federal government.

Sixto, who is in his late 20s, is married and has one child.

Bush and McCain's shared foreign policy approach

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By Glenn Greenwald

On Wednesday, John McCain delivered what was billed as a "major foreign policy" speech and today, David Brooks gushed that it was "as personal, nuanced and ambitious a speech as any made by a presidential candidate this year." In particular, Brooks said that the speech demonstrates just how different McCain’s foreign policy approach is from that of Bush/Cheney: "Anybody who thinks McCain is merely continuing the Bush agenda is not paying attention."

The reality is exactly the opposite. Thematically, rhetorically and substantively, McCain’s speech, particularly as it concerned the Middle East, was essentially a replica of the speech George Bush has been giving for the last seven years. It trumpeted virtually every tenet of the neoconservative faith: to be safe, the U.S. must slay tyranny around the world, spread democracy, bring freedom to the grateful peoples of the Middle East so they turn towards us and away from the Terrorists, using "more than military force" -- but also military force. We’ll only be safe by controlling and transforming the Middle East to look the way we want it to look.

McCain is a pure neoconservative in exactly the way that Bush and Cheney are, which is exactly why David Brooks, and like-minded ideologues like Bill Kristol, swoon over McCain’s foreign policy "principles." That’s fine. Brooks is a neoconservative and it’s thus perfectly natural that he would find a neoconservative foreign policy speech to be filled with wisdom and insight. But to pretend that it’s some grand departure from the Bush/Cheney approach is pure deceit.

Just as was true for Bush in 2000, McCain is running at a time when the Republican brand is sullied (in 2000 because of the ugly Gingrich/impeachment crusades and in 2008 because of the destructive Bush years). Thus, McCain is being politically marketed in exactly the same way that Bush the presidential candidate was (he’s a uniter not divider; a new kind of Republican; you always know where he stands; he’s a conservative who deviates from dogma and appeals to Democrats; he transcends partisanship; we’re going to be a more humble nation, etc. etc.). It’s exactly the same wrapping. And the media believed all of that about Bush and they now believe it all about McCain.

But beyond just the political packaging, McCain -- with a couple of pointed exceptions -- is a carbon copy of Bush in substance as well, at least with regard to war and foreign policy. Just compare McCain’s supposedly moving and novel foreign policy address with two randomly selected Bush speeches on the "war on terror" from 2005 -- this one and this one. On the key, defining points, they’re virtually identical. I’ve compared the key passages of McCain’s speech to the same passages from the Bush War on Terrorism speeches here.

They sound like they have exactly the same speechwriters and precisely the same world-view. And all of that is to say nothing of the self-evidently identical positions they have on Iraq (we must stay forever) and Iran (we’ll bomb them if they seem like they might develop the know-how to build a nuclear weapon). They’re cut from the same cloth, except that McCain might actually be even more willing to use military force than Bush has been.

It’s true that, in his speech, McCain advocated a reduction in America’s nuclear weapon stockpile and called for a "a successor to the Kyoto Treaty," something Bush/Cheney did not and would not accept. And he also advocated the creation of what he calls "the League of Democracies" -- an idea that, according to this Editorial in the right-wing Investor’s Business Daily, is the brainchild of the Right’s premiere foreign policy scholar and intellectual historian, Jonah J. Goldberg.

But on the foreign policy issues that are most consequential, McCain is George Bush. They pay lip service to the same pretty concepts of internationalism and democracy in order to justify endless militarism, occupation and war. They believe the "transcendent" obligation of America is to use its military force and other resources to re-make the world in our image. The Middle East is our personal playground and controlling it will consume most of our attention and energy. We should work cooperatively with other countries whenever they are willing to support our foreign adventures.

With regard to the most complex and dangerous conflicts, they even sound almost exactly alike in their simple-minded belligerence. Here was Bush’s "solution" to the Israel/Hezbollah war, spat out between food bites to Tony Blair:

What they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it’s over.
And here was McCain’s equally insightful solution to the civil war in Iraq:
One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, "Stop the bullshit."
The American Emperor issues moronic dictates to the world’s primitive peoples, and they obey -- just as has happened for the last eight years -- and thousands-year old religious and ethnic conflicts vanish and freedom and Western democracy sprout magically in their place. As Matt Welch, author of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, said in a February speech at the Cato Institute:
[McCain’s] whole career, his life, his training, his family background has been to be a member of . . . the Imperial Class; [he’s] motivated by an inspiring trust of America’s governance of the world; [and] he would be the most imperial-oriented President, most militaristic President, since Teddy Roosevelt, at least.
Just as one would expect, given their identical worldviews, Bush and McCain burdened with exactly the same absurd contradictions. Hence: the key to our security is to undermine Muslims’ resentment towards the U.S., which we’ll accomplish by occupying Iraq indefinitely and threatening Iran. "Victory" in Iraq means a government supported by the majority of Iraqis and yet which somehow is simultaneously a "key U.S. ally in the war on terror" and a friend of Israel.

And: We must stop supporting autocracies, as we pursue hegemonic policies that make us increasingly dependent upon Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. Democracy is the linchpin of peace, yet our enemies are Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iranian hardliners supported by large portions of those countries’ populations. We should continue to interfere in Middle East countries (thus ensuring increased anti-Americanism) and simultaneously spread democracy (thus ensuring the election of anti-American political leaders). We must rein in government spending while pursuing hegemonic policies that we can’t remotely afford to pay for, etc. etc.

Whatever all of that is, a departure from the Bush/Cheney doctrine isn’t it. It’s precisely what has led us over the last eight years to where we are. It isn’t the role of journalists to decide whether we ought to continue the Bush/Cheney policies, but it is their role to prevent John McCain and his Brooksian supporters from pretending that this isn’t what he’s advocating.

Lawyer: Gitmo trials pegged to '08 campaign

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By Carol Rosenberg

The Navy lawyer for Osama bin Laden's driver argues in a Guantánamo military commissions motion that senior Pentagon officials are orchestrating war crimes prosecutions for the 2008 campaign.

The Pentagon declined late Friday to address the defense lawyer's allegations, noting that the matter is under litigation.

The brief filed Thursday by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer directly challenged the integrity of President Bush's war court.

Notably, it describes a Sept. 29, 2006, meeting at the Pentagon in which Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, a veteran White House appointee, asked lawyers to consider Sept. 11, 2001, prosecutions in light of the campaign.

"We need to think about charging some of the high-value detainees because there could be strategic political value to charging some of these detainees before the election," England is quoted as saying.

A senior Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, declined to address the specifics, saying "the trial process will surface the facts in this case."

"It has always been everybody's desire to move as swiftly and deliberately as possible to conduct military commissions," he added. "But I can tell you emphatically that leadership has always been extraordinarily careful to guard against any unlawful command influence."

The brief quotes England as a stipulation of fact and cites other examples of alleged political interference, which Mizer argues makes it impossible for Salim Hamdan, 37, to have a fair trial.

It asks the judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, to dismiss the case against Hamdan as an alleged 9/11 co-conspirator on the grounds that Bush administration leadership exercises "unlawful command influence."

Allred has set hearings at Guantánamo for April 30.

Hamdan is the former Afghanistan driver of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden whose lawyers challenged an earlier war court format to the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down the war court as unconstitutional.

Pentagon prosecutors call him a war criminal for driving bin Laden in Afghanistan before and during the 9/11 attacks and allegedly working as his sometimes bodyguard. Even if he didn't help plot the suicide attacks, they argue, he is an al Qaeda co-conspirator.

As described the Hamdan brief, the England meeting came three weeks after President Bush disclosed in a live address that he had ordered the CIA to transfer "high-value detainees" from years of secret custody to Guantánamo for trial.

Bush also disclosed that the CIA used "an alternative set of procedures" to interrogate the men into confessing - since revealed by the CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, to include waterboarding.

They included reputed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other men against whom the Pentagon prosecutor swore out death-penalty charges in a complex Sept. 11, 2001, conspiracy case on Feb. 11.

The proposed 90-page charge sheets list the names of 2,973 victims of the 9/11 attacks. The men have not been formally charged. Instead they are in the control of a White House appointee, Susan J. Crawford, whose title is the war court's convening authority, and her legal advisor, Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann.

Under the law governing the commissions, the alleged 9/11 conspirators would formally be charged 30 days after Crawford approves them.

That currently leaves a seven-month window during the 2008 election campaign.

An expert on military justice, attorney Eugene Fidell, said the Hamdan motion brings into sharp relief the problem of Pentagon appointees' supervisory relationship to the war court.

"It scrambles relationships that ought to be kept clear," said Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

The quote attributed to England is "enough that you'd want to hold an evidentiary hearing about it, with live witnesses. It does strike me as disturbing for there to be even a whiff of political considerations in what should be a quasi-judicial determination."

England is a two-term White House appointee. He joined the Bush administration in 2001 as Navy secretary, briefly served as deputy Homeland Security secretary and then returned to the Pentagon, where he supervised the prison camps' administrative processes.

Crawford was a Republican attorney appointee in the Pentagon when Vice President Dick Cheney was defense secretary.

Hamdan's military lawyer argues that standard military justice has barriers that separate various functions, which he contends Pentagon appointees have crossed in the war court.

In April the defense team plans to call the former chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who recounted the England remark since submitting his resignation, claiming political interference.

Davis, who had approved charges against Hamdan, served as former chief Pentagon prosecutor until he resigned over what he called political interference by general counsel William J. Haynes.

Haynes has since quit.

They also want to call as a witness the deputy chief defense counsel, a retired Army lawyer named Michael Berrigan, who, according to the filing, was mistakingly sent a draft copy of 9/11 conspiracy charges being prepared by the prosecution.

In the filing, Hartmann, the legal advisor, orders Berrigan to return it, which the defense team claims illustrates the muddied role of the legal advisor.

He supervised the prosecution, announced the 9/11 conspiracy charges on Feb. 11, then said he would evaluate them independently and recommend to Crawford how to proceed.

The Mizer motion is also the latest attack on the legitimacy of war-court prosecutions by a variety of feisty uniformed defense attorneys, who have doggedly used civilian courts and courted public opinion against the process since the earliest days.

Mizer sent the brief directly to reporters for major news organizations, rather than leave it to the Office of Military Commissions to post it on a Pentagon website.

The Pentagon has been releasing motions for the public to read after they have been argued - and ruled on by the judge.

With delays in other cases, the Hamdan case is now on track to be the first full-blown U.S. war-crimes tribunal since World War II.

The current time frame would put the trial before the Supreme Court rules on an overarching detainee rights case in June.

Iran, Switzerland ink key gas deal

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TEHRAN -- A Swiss company has signed a natural gas purchase contract with Iran, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey announced here on Monday in a news conference with her Iranian counterpart Manuchehr Mottaki.

Switzerland’s Elektrizitaetsgesellschaft Laufenburg (EGL) sighed a 25-year deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company for the delivery of 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

“We have a strategic interest to secure our gas supplies and diversify our gas suppliers,” Reuters quoted the Swiss minister as saying.

“We have to import all our gas and oil,” she added.

She said the deal was “important in a long-term perspective” for both sides.

She said in Geneva on Sunday, before traveling to Tehran that the agreement could help ease Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

The gas will be pumped to one of EGL's power stations in Italy.

The deal comes despite U.S. pressure on European countries to cut their business ties with Tehran as a means to pressure it to give up its right to nuclear enrichment.

Mottaki congratulated the Swiss gas company “for its foresight in diversifying its energy resources”.

“We hope this agreement would open a new chapter in the two countries’ economic cooperation,” he noted.

Iran cooperation with IAEA praiseworthy

Calmy-Rey appreciated Iran’s enhanced voluntary cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

She urged the Islamic Republic to continue its cooperation with the IAEA in order to win the support and trust of the international community about its nuclear activities.

Mottaki appreciated Switzerland’s positive approach toward Iran-IAEA cooperation and told reporters that in their meeting he had explained to her that Tehran’s collaboration with the agency has led to resolving all the remaining issues, and this was also stated in the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s report on Feb. 22.

“From now on we will continue our cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency based on the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and the agency’s charter as a normal country with normal condition,” Mottaki asserted.

Switzerland has independent stance on Iran

The Iranian foreign minister said that his talks with his Swiss counterpart were “useful” in various areas.

“We talked about mutual economic cooperation, continuation of political relations, and maintaining the consultations. We also discussed the recent developments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine.”

Switzerland has a rather “independent” stance toward Iran.

The Swiss Embassy in Tehran has been acting as an intermediary between Iran and the U.S. as the two countries have no diplomatic relationship.

He also stated that they discussed concern over the condition of Muslims in Europe, and also held talks about insults to Islamic sanctities in Europe.

“Ms. Calmy-Rey’s constructive views in those areas have made it possible for the two countries to continue the process of talks,” he noted.

Bern’s approach to the Middle East issues is positive, Mottaki said, adding that the country has tried to take some humanitarian steps, especially in regard to recent developments in the Gaza Strip.

Kissinger’s 1974 plan for food control genocide

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By Joseph Brewda

On Dec. 10, 1974, the U.S. National Security Council under Henry Kissinger completed a classified 200-page study, “National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.” The study falsely claimed that population growth in the so-called Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs) was a grave threat to U.S. national security. Adopted as official policy in November 1975 by President Gerald Ford, NSSM 200 outlined a covert plan to reduce population growth in those countries through birth control, and also, implicitly, war and famine. Brent Scowcroft, who had by then replaced Kissinger as national security adviser (the same post Scowcroft was to hold in the Bush administration), was put in charge of implementing the plan. CIA Director George Bush was ordered to assist Scowcroft, as were the secretaries of state, treasury, defense, and agriculture.

The bogus arguments that Kissinger advanced were not original. One of his major sources was the Royal Commission on Population, which King George VI had created in 1944 “to consider what measures should be taken in the national interest to influence the future trend of population.” The commission found that Britain was gravely threatened by population growth in its colonies, since “a populous country has decided advantages over a sparsely-populated one for industrial production.” The combined effects of increasing population and industrialization in its colonies, it warned, “might be decisive in its effects on the prestige and influence of the West,” especially effecting “military strength and security.”

NSSM 200 similarly concluded that the United States was threatened by population growth in the former colonial sector. It paid special attention to 13 “key countries” in which the United States had a “special political and strategic interest”: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. It claimed that population growth in those states was especially worrisome, since it would quickly increase their relative political, economic, and military strength.

For example, Nigeria: “Already the most populous country on the continent, with an estimated 55 million people in 1970, Nigeria’s population by the end of this century is projected to number 135 million. This suggests a growing political and strategic role for Nigeria, at least in Africa.” Or Brazil: “Brazil clearly dominated the continent demographically.” The study warned of a “growing power status for Brazil in Latin America and on the world scene over the next 25 years.”

Food as a weapon

There were several measures that Kissinger advocated to deal with this alleged threat, most prominently, birth control and related population-reduction programs. He also warned that “population growth rates are likely to increase appreciably before they begin to decline,” even if such measures were adopted.

A second measure was curtailing food supplies to targeted states, in part to force compliance with birth control policies: “There is also some established precedent for taking account of family planning performance in appraisal of assistance requirements by AID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and consultative groups. Since population growth is a major determinant of increases in food demand, allocation of scarce PL 480 resources should take account of what steps a country is taking in population control as well as food production. In these sensitive relations, however, it is important in style as well as substance to avoid the appearance of coercion.”

“Mandatory programs may be needed and we should be considering these possibilities now,” the document continued, adding, “Would food be considered an instrument of national power? ... Is the U.S. prepared to accept food rationing to help people who can’t/won’t control their population growth?”

Kissinger also predicted a return of famines that could make exclusive reliance on birth control programs unnecessary. “Rapid population growth and lagging food production in developing countries, together with the sharp deterioration in the global food situation in 1972 and 1973, have raised serious concerns about the ability of the world to feed itself adequately over the next quarter of a century and beyond,” he reported.

The cause of that coming food deficit was not natural, however, but was a result of western financial policy: “Capital investments for irrigation and infrastructure and the organization requirements for continuous improvements in agricultural yields may be beyond the financial and administrative capacity of many LDCs. For some of the areas under heaviest population pressure, there is little or no prospect for foreign exchange earnings to cover constantly increasingly imports of food.”

“It is questionable,” Kissinger gloated, “whether aid donor countries will be prepared to provide the sort of massive food aid called for by the import projections on a long-term continuing basis.” Consequently, “large-scale famine of a kind not experienced for several decades -- a kind the world thought had been permanently banished,” was foreseeable -- famine, which has indeed come to pass.

(Executive Intelligence Review)

Human Rights and Media Manipulation

Go to Original
By Michael Barker

When the twentieth century becomes history it will be seen as distinctive, I believe, for three developments in liberal Western societies: the growth of democracy; the rise of huge concentrations of economic power, known as corporations; and the professionalizing and institutionalizing of propaganda, especially as a means for safe-guarding the power of free-enterprise corporations against democracy. (Alex Carey, 1987) [1]

Most regular readers of alternative media will be acutely aware of the US government’s antidemocratic history. Indeed, according to William Blum and Dr Danielle Ganser, since 1945 this much neglected history has seen the US government attempt to “overthrow more than 40 foreign governments”, “crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements” and provide support to right-wing terrorist (stay behind) armies in every European country. Unfortunately as most members of the public rely upon the corporate media – for the most part unaware that a useful and democratic alternative media exists – they are for the most part unaware of the extent of this antidemocratic foreign policy (and perhaps more importantly still they are unaware that they can do something to change it).

This is not to say that the journalists within the corporate media suffer from amnesia: indeed, with regard to the coverage of the death of Chile’s former dictator, Augusto Pinochet (in 2006), an exchange between British-based media watchdog, Media Lens, and The Guardian’s (UK) Isabel Hilton, illustrates that, in spite of their reporting, many journalists are well aware of the US’s antidemocratic history. Responding to Hilton’s article recalling Pinochet’s life and death, Media Lens wrote to her, suggesting that the “real shock value” of Pinochet’s rise to power “lies in the fact that the United States organised the coup”. Media Lens challenged Hilton about this, asserting that “not a word in your article even hinted at it. Why not?” Hilton’s full response was:

“There is never room to say everything in a rather short article and I have written about the US role many times. Is it surprising or shocking that the US played a central role? Hardly. The US had played that role in coups all over the sub continent for some time, (for me the worst was the one against Arbenz -- worse for its long term effect) their role in Chile was not surprising for anyone who followed Latin American events, and the shock factor had long since worn off.”

Given her evident knowledge of American history it is strange that regular consumers of British corporate media are still shocked when they first learn of the US’s antidemocratic role in Chile; a subject that recently gained widespread attention in John Pilger’s excellent documentary The War on Democracy. Thus Media Lens replied to Hilton:

“Yes, you know that, but do your readers? In fact journalists generally refer to the US role in Pinochet’s coup in vague terms (as in current reporting) – the details and motives are rarely discussed. As for the wider US pattern of forcibly subordinating people to profit, this is essentially a taboo subject for the media.”

Media Lens received no further response from Hilton.

While Hilton may not be shocked by the antidemocratic nature of the US’s involvement in Chile, I remain shocked by the CIA’s brutal intervention. Moreover, I am equally shocked by the ongoing antidemocratic work of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – an Orwellian ‘nongovernmental organization’ that was formed in the early 1980s to wage the cultural cold war that was formerly fought by the CIA. William Colby, who directed the CIA from 1973 until 1976, noted that the beauty of the NED’s PR-friendly approach to imperialism is that: “It is not necessary to turn to the covert approach. Many of the programs which… were conducted as covert operations [can now be] conducted quite openly, and consequentially, without controversy.”

Professor William I. Robinson has described this rhetorical shift in US foreign policy – from CIA to NED (and CIA) – in much detail; most notably in his seminal book Promoting Polyarchy (1996). With regard to Chile, Robinson highlights how with NED aid Patricio Aylwin rose to the Chilean presidency in 1990 a fitting reward for an individual who worked with the CIA to play a critical role in facilitating the 1973 military coup. As Robinson observes:

The Chilean coup was part of a pattern in Latin America of military takeovers in the 1960s and 1970s with U.S. approval and often active assistance, in the face of mass struggles that broke out everywhere against the prevailing social and economic inequalities and highly restricted political systems. But Washington abruptly switched tracks in the mid-1980s and began to ‘promote democracy’ in Latin America and around the world. In Chile, Aylwin and his party once again received U.S. assistance, this time as part of a ‘democracy promotion’ program channelled through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), which would help Aylwin become president. Ironically, the return to power in 1990 of Aylwin and the party that openly participated in the 1973 military coup was projected around the world as the culmination of a ‘democratic revolution’ sweeping Latin America.”

Understanding this shift of ‘democratic’ aid from the CIA to the NED is critical to understanding the nature of contemporary imperialism, but unfortunately it is a shift that for the most part has remained unchallenged (in both the corporate media and alternative media alike) – for a discussion of The New York Times’ coverage of the NED see here. Consequently it is not surprising that critical attention has not turned to the activities of the NED in China – either in the mainstream or alternative press – despite the fact that in 2006 the NED distributed $5.7 million of grants to China-related groups. This sum is more significant because the NED is active in “over 90 countries” and in 2006 they distributed a total of $94 million to groups all over the world, which means that in 2006 Chinese groups received a massive six percent of their total grants. [2]

In order to begin to remedy this information deficit surrounding the work of the NED in China, this article examines the ‘democratic’ background of one group that obtained excellent access to both the alternative and corporate media, this group is Human Rights in China.

‘Human Rights’ in China

Human Rights in China (HRIC) was founded in 1989, and according to their website they are an “international, Chinese, non-governmental organisation with a mission to promote universally recognised human rights and advance the institutional protection of these rights in the People’s Republic of China (China).” According to the NED’s senior program officer for Asia, Louisa Coan Greve, “Human Rights in China is considered as reliable as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as a source of accurate human rights information.” Moreover, despite the fact Human Rights in China have received ongoing support from the NED, one of their reports (from 1997) disingenuously notes that their work is “independent of any political groups or governments.” [3]

According to the NED’s project database, Human Rights in China received their first NED grant in 1992 (which was worth $74,000) to “support a Legal Education and Assistance Project that provides legal advice and support for prisoners of conscience and victims of political persecution in China”. [4] This legal project then received a further $120,000 in 1993, and another $155,000 the ensuing year. On top of this $155,000 grant, they obtained an additional $20,000 in 1994 to help them prepare for the UN World Conference on Women which was held in Beijing in September 1995.

In 1995, as a result of Human Rights in China’s “emergency response to the ‘May crackdown’ in Beijing” they received a supplement NED grant worth $10,000 for its Human Rights Education and Assistance Project. They also obtained $25,000 for its Women’s Rights Assessment Project, and a further $140,000 to produce their twice-monthly radio program, and to help them engage “with international NGOs, the media, governments and intergovernmental bodies to maintain pressure on the Chinese government to improve its human rights record.”

Human Rights in China obtained continued NED support in 1996 and 1997, and in 2001 they received a grant to allow them to publish their quarterly journal China Rights Forum and maintain a web site. Since 2000, Human Rights in China have been given a further five NED grants worth a total of $1.8 million – which have increased in size each year (the largest being their most recent $0.5 million grant). [5]

‘Democratic’ Directors

Human Rights in China (HRIC) work appears to be closely related to that undertaken by it’s better known counterpart, Human Rights Watch, as Robert L. Bernstein, the founder and former chair of Human Rights Watch is currently the chair of HRIC’s board of directors (he is also a member of the national council of the ‘democratic’ Human Rights First). Not surprisingly Human Rights Watch and HRIC regularly work together to publish human rights reports, which is fitting as extremely close ties exist between Human Rights Watch and the global democracy manipulators (like the NED).(For further details see, Hijacking Human Rights: A Critical Examination of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Branch and their Links to the ‘Democracy’ Establishment.)

The founder of Human Rights in China, Fu Xinyuan, is Associate Professor of Pathology at Yale University School of Medicine; he also sits on the advisory board of the Israel Science Foundation (which is “Israel’s predominant source of competitive grants funding for basic research”). [6] Ironically, in 2005, The Guardian (UK) reported that foreign grant reviewers were boycotting the Israel Science Foundation due to the Israeli government’s human rights violations.

Since 2002, Human Rights in China’s executive director has been Sharon Hom – an individual who also serves as a member of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Advisory Committee, and is an emerita professor of law at the City University of New York School of Law. Prior to Hom’s appointment to Human Rights in China, the organization’s longstanding executive director – from 1991 to 2002 – was Qiang Xiao, who was formerly the vice-chair of the steering committee of the NED-initiated World Movement for Democracy, and presently acts as the director of the China Internet Project (at the University of California at Berkeley), sits on the board of advisors for the NED-funded International Campaign for Tibet, and is the chief editor of China Digital Times.

The China Digital Times (formerly the China Digital News) at which Qiang Xiao is chief editor, describes itself as a “collaborative news website covering China’s social and political transition and its emerging role in the world.” The project receives funding from the MacArthur Foundation amongst others, and their executive editor, Sophie Beach, was formerly a senior research associate for Asia at the ‘democratic’ Committee to Protect Journalists. In addition, the chair of the China Digital Times advisory board is Orville Schell who is an emeritus board member of Human Rights Watch and a vice chair of their Asia Advisory Committee, is a director of the ‘democratic’ National Committee on United States-China Relations, a member of the core founding group of the Dalai Lama Foundation (a group whose president, Tenzin Tethong, is also the founder of the NED-funded Tibet Fund), and has worked for the Ford Foundation in Indonesia. In 2004 (at least) Schell was a director of Human Rights in China, and he also acts a member of the elite planning group, the Council on Foreign Relations, is the founder of the Pacific News Service, and ironically serves on the advisory board of the Center for Investigative Reporting. Finally, John Gage, another member of China Digital Times’ advisory board with strong ‘democratic’ ties, currently serves on the advisory board of the deceptively named US Institute of Peace (the NED’s sister organization), and is a director of Relief International.

Returning to Human Rights in China, although their website provides no current list of their staff or directors (one is available for 2004, see here), a basic internet search has shown that the following people act as their directors:

· Andrew J. Nathanwho is a trustee of Freedom House, a director of the NED-funded Center for Modern China, a member of the editorial board of the NED’s Journal of Democracy, the former Director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute where he is presently a faculty member, is a member of Human Right Watch’s Asia Advisory Committee – where he was chair from 1995 to 2000, and is a member of the both the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee on United States-China Relations

· R. Scott Greathead – who is also a founder and director of Human Rights First , and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations

· Harold Hongju Koh Koh – who was the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor during the Clinton administration, and is a director of both the National Democratic Institute (a core NED grantee) and Human Rights First

· Perry Link – who serves on the advisory board of the NED-funded Beijing Spring (see later), is the former chair of the Princeton China Initiative, and is a member of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Advisory Committee

· Hu Ping – who is a former president of the NED-linked Chinese Alliance for Democracy, a “regular commentator for Radio Free Asia”, and has been chief editor of Beijing Spring since 1993

· Nina Rosenwald – who is a trustee of Freedom House, serves on the advisory board of the American Center for Democracy, is a director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations

In addition, former Human Rights in China director Fiona Druckenmiller is a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and is a former director of Human Rights Watch. Other people involved with Human Rights Watch with ‘democratic’ ties include the chair of their executive committee Liu Qing, who serves on the advisory board of Beijing Spring, is a former editor of the April Fifth Forum, and is “a close ally of Wei Jingsheng” – a Chinese activist who won the NED’s 1998 Democracy Award. As a number of HRIC’s team are linked to Beijing Spring, the following section will introduce their ‘democratic’ work.

Beijing Spring: ‘Democratic’ Media

Beijing Spring is a monthly Chinese-language magazine (sold in and outside of China) that was founded during the Democracy Wall Movement by Wang Dan (who in 1998 received the NED’s 1998 Democracy Award, and since 2002 has been the president of Beijing Spring), Zhou Weimin, and Chen Ziming (who founded the Beijing Social and Economic Sciences Research Institute in 1986, and in 1991 won the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award along with his colleague Wang Juntao). [7] According to the NED, the magazine “carries analysis and commentary by authors inside and outside China regarding political developments, social issues, and the prospects for democratization in China”, and since 2001, Beijing Spring has received annual NED aid (in 2006 they received $195,000). [8]

Beijing Spring’s editorial board is home to the following ‘democratically’ linked individuals Wang Dan, Hu Ping, Kuide Chen (who has worked for both the NED-funded Princeton China Initiative, and the NED-funded Center for Modern China), Yu Dahai (who was the founding president of the NED-funded Chinese Economists Society), Zheng Yi, and Beijing Spring manager Xue Wei (who between 1982 and 1993 worked for the Chinese Alliance for Democracy – a group that received a single NED grant in 1992).

Likewise, the members of Beijing Spring’s advisory board exhibit many ‘democratic’ ties and include Perry Link, Andrew J. Nathan, Liu Qing, Fang Lizhi (who, in 1995, was a board member of HRIC, in 2000 was a member of Human Rights Watch’s Academic Freedom Committee, and is a member of the international council of advisors for the International Campaign for Tibet), Su Shaozhi (who is the former chair of the Princeton China Initiative), and Yu Ying-shi (who helped set up the Princeton China Initiative). As a number of people affiliated with Beijing Spring have also been linked to the Princeton China Initiative, this organization will now be briefly examined.

The Princeton China Initiative (the Initiative) was founded in 1989 and closed operations in 2004, and between 1992 and 2005 they received seven grants from the NED to allow exiled Chinese dissidents to publish two monthly newsletters, China Focus (English-language), and The Road (Chinese-language). [9] In 1989 Liu Binyan (deceased December 5, 2006) a key person at the Initiative was “China’s most prominent journalist” and a Neiman fellow at Harvard University, but when he was banned from returning to China that year he helped found and head the Initiative. One important ‘democratically’ linked person who was involved with the Initiative during it’s early years was their managing director Lorraine Spiess. Prior to joining the Initiative, Spiess had been the executive director of the Canada China Business Council, and had “worked on Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) programs to support China’s ongoing economic reforms.” Spiess’ ‘democratic’ links were strengthened when she left the Initiative, as from 1993 to 1995 she was the regional program director for the International Republican Institute (a core NED grantee) during which time she also worked closely with Phyllis Chang, the Ford Foundation’s program officer for Democracy and Rights in Beijing.

What Next?

As noted at the start of this article, the corporate media do not provide an accurate reflection of society, thus it is not surprising that the democracy manipulating nature of Human Rights in China (and Human Rights Watch) remain unmentioned in their coverage. This is because as Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky suggested in their seminal work Manufacturing Consent, the mass media’s primary (usually unstated) goal is to manufacture public consent for elite interests. Bearing this in mind, it is logical – in spite of contrary evidence – that the mass media portrays a NED-funded group as a progressive organization, and that this critique of Human Rights in China will be rendered invisible in the mainstream media. (It probably doesn’t help that even the BBC World Service Trust received a grant from the NED in 2006.) Thus the anti-democratic nature of mainstream media is an obvious impediment to progressive social change: indeed concerned citizens:

“…need to consider whether the same media system that serves to naturalise and legitimise elite decision-making, can really encourage its antithesis, collective grassroots decision-making. It seems an anathema to even consider that by working on the terms set by the mass media, social movements are actually legitimising and tightening its hegemonic power over society, even while it simultaneously acts to de-legitimise or ignore the global justice movement.”

Short of working with others (like Media Lens) to challenge the (il)legitimacy of the mainstream media, another immediate solution to some of the problems identified in this article involves supporting independent investigative journalism by giving money to the alternative media instead of the corporate media. To pay for their valuable services simply click on one of the following links, Centre for Research on Globalization, CounterPunch, Medialens, Monthly Review, Spinwatch, Znet, or alternatively support a local outlet of your choice.

Furthermore, to prevent elite manipulation of human rights and democracy, first and foremost progressive citizens will also have to educate themselves about the work of democracy manipulators (like the NED) a process that has been made easier by the launch of two groups, the International Endowment for Democracy and In the Name of Democracy. However, although it is certainly important to develop a comprehensive understanding of the role of the democracy manipulating establishment in circumscribing progressive social change, people can begin to rectify the democratic dilemma posed by the NED and its supporters by publicly denouncing their activities, and by refusing to work with them in the future. It seems that only then can progressive groups begin considering adopting more participatory funding arrangements that will help to allow them to promote a popular form of democracy that serves people not imperialism. [10]

Michael Barker is a British citizen based in Australia. Most of his other articles can be found here.


[1] To Alex Carey’s prescient analyses of corporate power one might now add how ironically, even democracy itself is now being used as an instrument of propaganda against democracy.

[2] In 1997, Representative Christopher H. Smith, Chairman of the Subcommittee on international Operations and Human Rights observed that: “Of the billions of dollars we spend every year trying to protect and defend freedom around the world, the $30 million we spend on NED is probably the most cost-effective item in the budget. Because NED is small and because it is not a U.S. government agency, it can directly intervene to empower the victims of oppression even as our official foreign relations apparatus is doing its best to get along with the governments that are perpetrating this oppression.”

Of the $5.7 million that the NED gave to China-related groups in 2006, $4.6 million was earmarked for just working in China. The rest of the money was given for work in China (Hong Kong) $0.4 million, China (Tibet) $0.3 million, and China (Xinjiang) $0.4 million.

[3] China: Whose Security? “State Security” in China’s New Criminal Code, April 1997, Vol. 9 (4).

[4] The NED project database lists their grants under three names, “Human Rights in China, Inc.”, “Human Rights in China, Inc. (HRIC)”, and “Human Rights in China”. All forthcoming quotes relating to the NED’s China grants can be found on the NED’s database.

[5] It is also interesting to note that in 1996, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (the British version of the NED) also provided Human Rights in China with a £13,000 grant to “produce 500 copies of a human rights manual in Chinese to provide basic teaching material on human rights issues.” While in 1994 Human Rights in China received a $20,000 grant from the Canadian version of the NED, Rights and Democracy, to help them publish China Rights Forum.

[6] The Israel Science Foundation has an annual budget of “roughly $60 million” and it funds around “1,300 grants a year, providing 2/3 of all such funds.”

[7] On February 12, 1991, Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming were imprisoned in China: in 1994, both were then released from prison on medical parole, and while Wang moved to America, Chen was rearrested in the following year and only released from house arrest in 2002.

[8] In 2004, their NED grant was used to allow Beijing Spring to “engage in a new initiative to work together with Uyghur democracy activists to increase awareness among Chinese communities, in China and abroad, of the dire restrictions on freedoms in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.”

[9] In 1996, the NED noted: the Princeton China Initiative’s “English-language monthly, ‘China Focus,’ with an international circulation of 1,500, provides in-depth analysis and insight into underlying trends often not reported in conventional media. It has drawn praise from professional China-watchers for consistently providing essential information about the current, on-the-ground situation within China. The Chinese-language monthly, ‘The Road,’ with a circulation of 3,000, allows readers inside China access to ideas and information otherwise blocked by state censorship.”

[10] To date, the issue of developing sustainable funding (in ways compatible with participatory principles) for progressive social change has not been seriously addressed by progressive activists – a recent exception being INCITE!’s (2007) The Revolution Will Not Be Funded (published by South End Press). For further examples of articles and books that have examined the antidemocratic nature of many ostensibly progressive funding bodies, see my recent article Do Capitalists Fund Revolutions? (Part 1, Part 2).