Monday, April 7, 2008

How the US Military-Industrial Complex Seeks to Contain and Control the Earth and Its Eco-System

Go to Original
By Dr. Kingsley Dennis


The Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges once famously wrote of a great Empire that created a map that was so detailed it was as large as the Empire itself. The actual map itself grew and decayed as the Empire itself conquered or lost territory. When the Empire finally crumbled, all that remained was the map. In some sense we can say that it is the map in which we live; we occupy a location within a simulation of reality. Although semanticists say that ‘the map is not the territory’, within this digitised age the territory is increasingly becoming the map and the separation between the physical and the digitised rendition is blurring. In this context, to ‘know the map’ gives priority to intervene upon the physical. In recent years many of us have been scrambling to get ‘on the Net’ and thus be ‘mapped’; within a few years we may find that living ‘off the Net’ will no longer be an option.

It is my argument that the future direction of present technological emergence is one that seeks to go beyond networks; rather it is towards ubiquitous technologies that offer a complete immersive (or rather ‘sub-mersive’) experience of a digitised environment. With networks there is always the possibility of moving into the grey and illusive areas in-between. These are the areas where the networks do not, or cannot, cover; neglected zones of poverty and risk, and insecure zones of warlord regions, and smuggling zones. With immersive technological mapping there may one day be no ‘spaces in-between’; the distinction between ‘in’ and ‘out’ dissolved; boundaries melted away under the digital gaze. In this article I argue that the US military-industrial complex is attempting to gain full dominance over the complete information spectrum, including dominating the electro-magnetic spectrum and the Internet, in order to gain full total coverage for purposes of containment and control.

Moving Towards Full Spectrum Dominance

As is now well-known, in 2002 the US Pentagon’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) responded to the alleged lack of intelligence data after the September 11th attacks by establishing the ‘Total Information Awareness’ office, commandeered by John Poindexter1. According to Poindexter’s own words,

"We must be able to detect, classify, identify, and track…This is a high level, visionary, functional view of the world-wide system…The mission here is to take the competing hypotheses from the analytical environment and estimate a range of plausible futures. The objective is to identify common nodes, representing situations that could occur, and to explore the probable impact of various actions or interventions that authorities might make in response to these situations." (Poindexter, 2002)

The latest program in this surveillance project is the Space Based Infrared System (called SBIRS High) that aims to track all global infra-red signatures as well as, what is termed, ‘counterspace situational awareness’ (Dinerman, 2004). The 80s ‘Star Wars’ missile defence project of Reaganite US security policy has been craftily converted into intercepting today’s ‘enemy’: not necessarily rogue missiles, but information and domestic ‘earth-bound’ security. The US military also has in operation the IKONOS remote sensing satellite, which travels at 17, 000 mph 423 miles into space, circumnavigating the globe every 98 minutes, with a 3-foot resolution capacity. Such satellites belong to the private company Space Imaging Inc, who work for the military due to US law that restricts the US government operating upon their own soil (Brzezinski, 2004). Also, the US military RADARSAT satellite uses radar to see through clouds, smoke and dust. The US National Security Agency (NSA) utilizes top of the range KEYHOLE-11 satellites that have a 10-inch resolution, which means headlines can be read from someone sitting on a bench in Iran, although this resolution remains officially unacknowledged (Brzezinski, 2004).

As an example of more distributed and networked ‘industrial/civil surveillance’, many bridges within North America have acoustic sensors and underwater sonar devices anchored to the base of the bridges to check for the presence of divers, to prevent anyone from placing explosives on the riverbed. These devices are then linked to a central hub for monitoring information feedback. Such post 9-11 fears have led to the setting up of USHomeGuard, a private company established by Jay Walker (founder of, which utilises over a million webcams to watch over 47,000 pieces of critical infrastructure across the US, eg; pipelines, chemical plants, bridges, dams. These webcams are monitored continuously by observers working from home (Brzezinski, 2004). Crandall sees this as a part of the emerging ‘contemporary regime of spectacle…machine-aided process of disciplinary attentiveness, embodied in practice, that is bound up within the demands of a new production and security regime’ (Crandall, 2005). This operational practice, as Crandall sees it, confirms a ‘codification of movement’ and ‘manoeuvres of strategic possibility’, and leading to a ‘resurgence in temporal and locational specificity’ (Crandall, 2005). This is directly related with the US military construction towards an agenda of complete coverage: in their terms, ‘full spectrum dominance’2. In 1997 the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force predicted that within three years ‘we shall be capable of finding, tracking, and targeting virtually in real time any significant element moving on the face of the earth’ (cited in Crandall, 2005).

Perhaps a little premature yet it appears that the US military-industrial machine is attempting to enclose the global open system; to transform it and enmesh it within a closed system of total information awareness; to cover, track, and gaze omnisciently over all flows, mobilities, and transactions. It is a move towards a total system, an attempt to gain some degree of mastery over the unpredictability of global flows through the core component of dominating informational flows. As part of this project the US military are currently establishing a linkage of satellites into what has been dubbed the military ‘Internet in the sky’, which will form part of their secure informational network named as the Global Information Grid, or GIG (Weiner, 2004). First conceived in 1998, and now in construction, $200 billion has already been estimated as a cost for both the hardware and software (Weiner, 2004). This war-net, as the military also term it, forms the core of the US military’s move towards appropriating network-centric warfare (Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 2001a; Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 2001b; Dickey, 2004; Weiner, 2004). The chief information officer at the US Defense Department was noted for saying that ‘net-centric principles were becoming “the centre of gravity” for war planners’ (Weiner, 2004). Some of the names of the military contractors involved in this project include Boeing; Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard; IBM; Lockheed Martin; Microsoft; Raytheon; and Sun Microsystems (Weiner, 2004). As part of this complete coverage – or ‘full spectrum dominance’ – the US military hopes to be able to communicate and control an increasing arsenal of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), integrated into what they are calling the ‘Multimedia Intelligent Network of Unattended Mobile Agents’ (Minuteman). This in turn is part of a larger military project on Intelligent Autonomous Agent Systems (Science-Daily, 2002).

Recently, a document entitled Information Operation Roadmap was declassified by the Pentagon and made public by the National Security Archive on January 26, 2006. According to this document the term ‘information operations’ includes

The integrated employment of the core capabilities of Electronic Warfare, Computer Network Operations, Psychological Operations, Military Deception and Operations Security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decisions-making while protecting our own. (DoD, 2003: 22)

The document continues by outlining how the US military needs to secure a future electromagnetic capability ‘sufficient to provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, denying, degrading, disrupting, or destroying the full spectrum of globally emerging communication systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependant on the electromagnetic spectrum’ (DoD, 2003: 61). Clearly, the recommendation here is for developing, and extending, current capabilities in order to have full and complete dominance over all globally emerging telecommunications and their hardware.

This shift in military affairs involves re-strategizing informational systems toward what the military see as a ‘transformational communications architecture’ to ‘help create a nimbler, more lethal military force to which information is as vital as water and ammunition’ (Dickey, 2004). Brig. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, describes the military vision as ‘one seamless battlefield, which is linked without the bounds of time or space, to knowledge centres, and deployment bases throughout the world’ (Dickey, 2004). Beginning in 2008 the US Navy plans to replace its Ultra High Frequency Follow-On satellite network with a Mobile User Objective System which will provide voice and data communications through wireless hand-held receivers as part of the Global Information Grid (GIG). The ‘Internet in the Sky’ that will form part of the GIG will consist of both AEHF and TSAT satellite programs (Dickey, 2004). Each AEHF satellite has the capacity to serve as many as 4,000 networks and 6,000 users at once; and the proposed TSAT satellites are claimed to be ten times more powerful than the AEHF. These proposals are currently underway as part of the US’s ‘revolution in military affairs’ to develop not only a superior battlefield information network but also to ‘extend the information grid to deploy mobile users around the globe, creating a new capability for combat communications on the move’ (Dickey, 2004). As for the new generation of surveillance satellites launched since 2005, when these systems are fully operational the elite military complex will be able to gain precise information not only upon alleged ‘enemies’ but also upon the movements of almost any individual upon the planet, at almost any time, anywhere. The complexity of security communications and sensitive information is being targeted within military strategy in an effort to enclose all; to survey the full spectrum of an open system in a bid to collect and contain. In short, to transform the unknown into a known closed system: the containment of the complex global system. This also can be seen within the security of complexity, circulation, and contingency.

Dillon considers that this ‘global security problematic’ is concerned with the circulation of everything as in ‘a systemically interdependent world everything is connected or, in principle, is able to be connected, to everything else’ (Dillon, 2005). For Dillon, circulation shifts the new global security problematic ‘from a “geo-strategic” into an “ecological” problem characterised by the escalatory dynamics of complex interdependencies’ (Dillon, 2005). The challenge of global security in this context lies in the contingency between calculability and doubt. Dillon further sees this as being behind the trend in US military affairs towards the complexity sciences: ‘the fascination of military-strategic science in the United States especially with complexity, chaos, nonlinearity and the new science of life introduced by the digital and molecular revolutions has proclaimed as much since the early 1990s’ (Dillon, 2003).

Security and power relations now clearly transcend traditional geo-political boundaries. Security is both socio-technical and biometric, with the security problematic becoming increasingly virtual and codified, ordered with attempted control of disorder (Dillon, 2003). The militarization of complex global open systems has serious implications for issues of civil liberty, and notions of the surveillance state.

Such domains of complex interdependencies are radicalising, in a militaristic sense, information, communication, command, control, and surveillance. The internal/external circulation and flows characteristic of open systems (whether informational or physical) are under interrogation from Western hegemonic, specifically US, military strategies in an attempt to close them down, plug-up the pores of flows and to blanket-coverage all potential contingencies. These are the operations of clandestine strategies that seek to contain the unpredictable and to map all physical-digital movements and traces.

Emerging technologies that ‘locate’ and ‘trace’ present a world where ‘every object and human is tagged with information specifications including history and position – a world of information overlays that is no longer virtual but wedded to objects, places, and positions’ (Crandall, 2005). Such meshing of the physical and the digital through the medium of sentient communicators is what is foreseen here as steering towards a digitally-rendered global system vulnerable to control via a technical-military elite. This scenario is exactly that as envisioned by ex-US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski, in his ‘Between Two Ages : America’s Role in the Technetronic Era’ (1970), put forward the concept of a future ‘technotronic era’ whereby a more controlled society would gradually emerge, dominated by an elite unrestrained by traditional values. Brzezinski wrote that ‘Power will gravitate into the hands of those who control information’ (Brzezinski, 1970: 1), adding that surveillance and data mining will encourage ‘tendencies through the next several decades toward a technocratic era, a dictatorship leaving even less room for political procedures as we know them’ (Brzezinski, 1970: 12). By gaining control over informational technological communications Brzezinski outlined how this could help achieve control and order over the public:

"Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control." (Brzezinski, 1970: 252)

Also important to consider is that many military technologies become appropriated and absorbed into civil technologies. For example, by 2003 a quarter of all rental vehicles at US agencies used some form of GPS tracking: not only for driver-location but also for the rental agency to know where the car has travelled, and its speed. Also, cars with speakerphones can be enabled from remote devices in order to listen in and eavesdrop on occupants in a car under surveillance, as has been utilized by police forces in the US (Brzezinski, 2004). This type of digitalised surveillance at-a-distance can have serious implications upon increasingly surveyed, tracked, and mapped social practices. It also suggests that technically-based northern ‘societies’ are being manoeuvred towards a surveyed and sensored, or synchronic society

Sensoring the Ecosphere: The Coming of a Synchronic Society?

The development of increasingly sentient ‘smart’ environments will go some way towards creating a more systemic relationship of interconnections and interdependencies between humans, objects/machines, and locality. This possibility has led some commentators to speak of an emerging cybernomadic landscape (Saveri, 2004). Here, the emphasis is on an embedded sensory world that will influence and fundamentally alter social practices. Such a cybernomadic landscape has been defined, in a recent IFTF report, by three primary forces of physical-digital fusion; the augmented self; and digitally catalysed masses (Saveri, 2004: 2). Similarly, De Rosnay sees this future as a form of symbiotic humanity: ‘each person functions as a node in this hypernetwork. Symbiotic humanity is both the totality of the network and one of its elements; it exists through the network and the network exists only through it’ (de Rosnay, 2000: 143). In all cases it involves networking with, utilizing, and interacting with objects, something which futurist and author Bruce Sterling refers to as a ‘synchronic society’:

A synchronic society generates trillions of catalogable, searchable, trackable trajectories…Embedded in a monitored space and time and wrapped in a haze of process, no object stands alone; it is not a static thing, but a shaping-thing. (Sterling, 2005: 50)

And a ‘shaped-thing’ may in the future rely upon more efficient and ubiquitous radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, now often euphemistically termed as arphids. These RFID tags can be networked into a global system of positioning and identification:

Your arphid monitors are hooked into the satellite based Global Positioning System. Then your network becomes a mobile system of interlinked objects that are traceable across the planet’s surface, from outer space, with one-meter accuracy, around the clock, from pole to pole. (Sterling, 2005: 92)

A physical-digital augmented environment interlinked with objects is, as Sterling states, based upon identification. Objects, as well as individuals, need to be identified, both in their object-self identity as well as in their positions. And yet this shift is not limited towards individuals or objects; it also extends into Nature and the ecosystem.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced that it considered today’s computer maps of the Earth to be inaccurate. Investment has been put into producing better computer generated terrain maps of the Earth using both radar and laser scanning (Piquepaille, 2005), with a future view for placing radio-towers on the moon or Mars3. These updated moves towards securing a military full spectrum dominance incorporate the latest known developments in smart sensors whereby complex computerised devices at the miniature, or even nano level, will be able to 24/7 monitor ecological, social, and/or biological environments and people:

These new computers would take the form of networks of sensors with data-processing and transmission facilities built in. Millions or billions of tiny computers — called ’motes’, ’nodes’ or ’pods’ — would be embedded into the fabric of the real world. They would act in concert, sharing the data that each of them gathers so as to process them into meaningful digital representations of the world. Researchers could tap into these ’sensor webs’ to ask new questions or test hypotheses. Even when the scientists were busy elsewhere, the webs would go on analysing events autonomously, modifying their behaviour to suit their changing experience of the world. (Butler, 2006a)

Such a scenario, if realised, would drastically alter the material and social fabric of the living world.

Deborah Estrin, director of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing in Los Angeles, California, sees ‘the sensor-web revolution as an important thread in a grander tapestry of global monitoring, which involves billions of dollars being poured into projects to monitor the continents and oceans’ (Butler, 2006a). For example, upcoming projects include:

  • The $200 million EarthScope project from the NSF: 3,000 stations are to be erected that will ‘track faint tremors, measure crustal deformation and make three-dimensional maps of the earth’s interior from crust to core. Some 2,000 more instruments are to be mobile - wireless and sun- or wind-powered - and 400 devices are to move east in a wave from California across the nation over the course of a decade’ (Broad, 2005)

  • The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is to be established at an estimated cost of $500 million. The plan is for a coast-to-coast NEON to ‘involve perhaps 15 circular areas 250 miles in diameter, each including urban, suburban, agricultural, managed and wild lands. Each observatory would have radar for tracking birds and weather as well as many layers of motes and robots and sensors, including some on cranes in forest canopies’ (Broad, 2005)

  • The ‘Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations’, backed by the National Science & Technology Council within the Executive Office of the President, US, has recently published their Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System (IWGEO, 2005). Their vision is to discover, access, collect, manage, archive, process, and model earth geological data in order to better forecast such flows as weather, energy resources, natural resources, pre and post-disasters, as well as a host of other integrated processes. In their words: ‘The Earth is an integrated system. Therefore, all the processes that influence conditions on the Earth are linked and impact one another. A subtle change in one process can produce an important effect in another. A full understanding of these processes and the linkages between them require an integrated approach, including observation systems and their data streams’ (IWGEO, 2005: 47)

The report Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System (IWGEO, 2005) discusses a vast range of geological integrated monitoring systems. However, a caveat here is necessary, for the above projects towards environmental mapping contain shades of a western geographical imagination.

Cartography, as a pioneering navigational science and art, has long been used for validating colonial expansion, Imperial incursions, and for designating western territorial trophies. The geographical imagination is continually formed as residues of knowledge build one upon the other as images become re-appropriated for geo-political agendas. The western global imagination has participated in the de-centring of global geographies in past centuries, and may again be party to later digital formations of knowledge gathering and geo-strategies of dominance and power. As with the Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System which aims to monitor, track, catalogue, and forecast global processes and movements, geographical spaces will be subjected to a US-centric digital gaze. Denis Cosgrove views such a gaze as ‘implicitly imperial, encompassing a geometric surface to be explored and mapped, inscribed with content, knowledge and authority’ (2001: 15).

Emerging technologies in information-sensoring indicate an authoritarian, predominantly military, strategy for Earth monitoring. Increasingly, relationships between humans/devices/environments are being merged, or steered, towards a new construction of social life - one that embeds the individual, as a digitally-rendered identity, within a global informational ‘grid-lock’.

If such an irreversible shift is made towards digitally-rendered societies this would arguably ‘lock-in’ a form of monitored control society. With such predictions of an increasingly sensored and enmeshed global system it is difficult to see how living ‘off the Net’ will be a choice in the near future.


As this article has argued there are both overt and covert strategies within the US military-industrial complex towards securing full spectrum dominance over global information flows, which include dominating the electro-magnetic spectrum and the Internet. Increasingly western technological societies are moving towards developing sensored environments whereby information is processed on individuals as well as securing geographical data. This suggests a future whereby in order to move legitimately an individual will be subjected to a complex network of informational tracking and verification. This will undoubtedly see an increased militarisation of the civil sphere. Such a re-configuration of the social, through increased dependency upon physical-digital systems, will inevitably involve various structural relations of power. For example, individuals not deemed ‘worthy’ will be denied the right of movement through digitally-controlled spaces. This is not to imply that all acts of social passage will necessarily be uncomfortably noticed by the general legitimised user. It is likely that in-built strategies of marginalisation will be increasingly ‘normalised’ as part of shifting social practices: a regular state of affairs within a twenty-first century beset by manipulated terror in-securities.

Further, there are indications that these entwined and embedded information flows will seek to incorporate not only the physical and digital, but also the biological. In other words, each unit of information will be sought to be coded and therefore ‘secured’ under a full spectrum dominance agenda. Goonatilake (1999) sees this as moving towards a meta-communications environment that will merge human/genetic, cultural, machine as information codes and which will serve as information carriers:

The future will thus result in intense communications not only between machines and humans, but also with genetic systems so that information in the three realms of genes, culture and machines will result in one interacting whole. The three for all purposes would be interacting as one communicating system. (Goonatilake, 1999: 197)

We may soon be moving towards a momentous shift, perhaps the most important paradigmatic shift our current civilization has ever witnessed: a transformation into a digitally contained and controlled global environment.

This leaves the future vulnerable to extreme possibilities. Already there has been much Internet ‘chatter’ about the potential this offers for ‘exotic’ containment and control practices, including the possibility that a space-based, armed communications network is capable of beaming electromagnetic pulse technology upon virtually any chosen spot on the Earth. The potential here for mass mind control strategies is severely worrying and unnerving.

As we move towards the second decade of the twenty-first century we come increasingly close to a crossroads. One path indicates a move towards a deep and entrenched militarisation of the civil sphere where control and containment are the order of the day; the other path leads towards increased civil participation, engagement, and empowerment. It is perhaps a choice between global emancipation or complete global grid-lock.

Dr. Kingsley Dennis is a Research Associate in the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) based at the Sociology Department at Lancaster University, U.K. His research involves examining physical–digital convergences and how these might impact upon social processes. He is concerned with the digital rendition of identity and the implications of surveillance technologies.



E–mail: Kingsley [at] kingsleydennis [dot] co [dot] uk


Arquilla, J. and Ronfeldt, D. (2001a) ’Networks, Netwars, and the Fight for the Future’. First Monday, 6 (10), URL:

Arquilla, J. and Ronfeldt, D. F. (2001b) Networks and Netwars : The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

Broad, W. (2005) A Web of Sensors, Taking Earth’s Pulse. New York Times: May 10th 2005

Brzezinski, M. (2004) Fortress America: On the front lines of Homeland Security - an inside look at the coming surveillance state. New York: Bantam.

Brzezinski, Z. (1970) Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era. New York: Viking

Butler, D. (2006) ’Everything, Everywhere’. Nature, 440 402-405.

Cosgrove, D. (2001) Apollo’s Eye: A cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.

Crandall, J. (2005) ’Operational Media’

Dept. of Defense (2003) Information Operations Roadmap, (accessed 12/07/2006)

de Rosnay, J. (2000) The Symbiotic Man: A New Understanding of the Organization of Life and a Vision of the Future. New York: McGraw Hill.

Dickey, B. (2004) ’Internet in the Sky’

Dillon, M. (2003) ’ Virtual Security: A Life Science of (Dis)order’. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Volume 32 (3), 531-558.

Dillon, M. (2005) Global Security in the 21st Century: Circulation, Complexity and Contingency. Chatham House: The Royal Institute of International Affairs: (pp. 2-3)

Dinerman, T. (2004) ’Can the US really build a global persistent surveillance system?’

Goonatilake, S. (1999) Merged Evolution: Long-Term Implications of Biotechnology and Information Technology. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach.

IWGEO (2005) Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System. National Science & Technology Council (Executive Office of the President): (pp. 1-166)

Piquepaille, R. (2005) ’Better terrain maps of Earth… and beyond’

Poindexter, J. (2002) ’Overview of the Information Awareness Office’

Saveri, A. (2004) The Cybernomadic Framework. Institute for the Future: March 2004

Science-Daily (2002) ’"Internet In The Sky" Will Guide Unmanned Vehicles Into Battle, Aid In Emergencies’

Sterling, B. (2005) Shaping Things. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Weiner, T. (2004) ’Pentagon Envisioning a Costly Internet for War’


Poindexter is an ex-retired Navy Admiral, and one-time National Security Advisor to President Reagan

2 ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ is a key term used in the Joint Vision 2020 report – a document outlining future visions for the US Department of Defense. See

3 Even Google has attempted to get a slice of the action by releasing Google Mars. See:

Losing the War for Reality

Go to Original
By Robert Parry

When future historians look back at the sharp decline of the United States in the early 21st Century, they might identify the Achilles heel of this seemingly omnipotent nation as its lost ability to recognize reality and to fashion policies to face the real world.

Like the legendary Greek warrior – whose sea-nymph mother dipped him in protective waters except for his heel – the United States was blessed with institutional safeguards devised by wise Founders who translated lessons from the Age of Reason into a brilliant constitutional framework of checks and balances.

What the Founders did not anticipate, however, was how fragile truth could become in a modern age of excessive government secrecy, hired-gun public relations and big-money media. Sophisticated manipulation of information is what would do the Republic in.

That is the crucial lesson for understanding the arc of U.S. history over the past three decades. It is a central theme of a new book by former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman, Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.

As a senior Kremlinologist in the CIA’s office of Soviet analysis, Goodman was on the front lines of the information war in the early 1980s when ideological right-wingers took control of the U.S. government under Ronald Reagan and began to gut the key institutions for assessing reality.

One of the target institutions was the national press corps, which came under sustained assault from the Right – with reporters facing accusations of disloyalty and “liberal bias” from both inside the Reagan administration and from well-financed right-wing attack groups. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History or Secrecy & Privilege.]

Another key institution on the Right’s radar scope was the CIA’s analytical division, which was responsible for supplying objective information about the world’s dangers to senior government officials.

However, in the 1970s and early 1980s, CIA analysts were seeing evidence of an accelerating decline in the Soviet Union, especially in its technological capabilities and its economy. Thus, Moscow seemed genuinely interested in détente with the West, especially a winding down of the dangerous and expensive arms race, the analysts concluded.

“A CIA paper warning of the Soviet Union’s impending descent into economic stagnation, ‘Soviet Economic Problems and Prospects,’ was issued in 1977, setting out the reasons why the Soviet economy was in trouble and why its future was so grim,” wrote Goodman in his book.

While many Americans might have thought the Soviet decline would be good news, it wasn’t welcomed by the U.S. right-wing or inside the military industry. They preferred that the American people still perceive an ascendant and implacable communist enemy, all the better to justify brush-fire wars and higher spending on weapons systems.

So, when Reagan captured the White House in 1980, his followers set their sights on purging the CIA’s analytical division of its historical commitment to objectivity, to be replaced by a submissive readiness to deliver politically desirable data.

Robert Gates’s Role

As Goodman’s book explains in impressive detail, the key action officer for carrying out this reversal of the CIA’s analytical role was a young bureaucrat named Robert Gates, who is now George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense.

Goodman recalls the CIA’s analytical tradition of honest scholarship, which was established in the early days of the Cold War by the likes of Harvard professor William Langer, a former intelligence analyst in World War II.

“Langer and his successor, Yale professor Sherman Kent, were keen analysts in their own right and merciless in criticizing the work of their colleagues,” Goodman wrote. “Both Langer and Kent were independent, tenacious, and tough-minded. They made sure that analysts ‘told it like it was,’ even if the conclusions of the estimates were not consistent with favored policy.

“Kent emphasized that he wanted intelligence delivered with the ‘bark on,’ no matter how unpopular the message was to policymakers.”

However, that ethos began to erode in 1973 – beginning with President Richard Nixon’s appointment of James Schlesinger as CIA director and Gerald Ford’s choice of George H.W. Bush for that job in 1976 – but the principle of objectivity wasn’t swept away until Ronald Reagan put in his campaign chief, William Casey, as CIA director. Casey then chose the ambitious Robert Gates to run the analytical division.

Rather than Kent’s mandate for “bark on” intelligence, Goodman observed, “Bob Gates turned that approach on its head in the 1980s and tried hard to anticipate the views of policymakers in order to pander to their needs.

“Unlike Kent, Gates consistently told his analysts to make sure never to ‘stick your finger in the eye of the policymaker.’”

It didn’t take long for the winds of politicization to start blowing through the halls at Langley.

“Bill Casey and Bob Gates guided the first institutionalized ‘cooking of the books’ at the CIA in the 1980s, with a particular emphasis on tailoring intelligence dealing with the Soviet Union, Central America, and Southwest Asia,” Goodman wrote.

“Casey’s first NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] as CIA director, dealing with the Soviet Union and international terrorism, became an exercise in politicization. Casey and Gates pushed this line in order to justify more U.S. covert action in the Third World.

“In 1985, they ordered an intelligence assessment of a supposed Soviet plot against the Pope, hoping to produce a document that would undermine Secretary of State [George] Shultz’s efforts to improve relations with Moscow. The CIA also produced an NIE in 1985 that was designed to produce an intelligence rationale for arms sales to Iran.”

After years of overestimating growth of Soviet military spending, which had been pegged at 4 to 5 percent a year, CIA analysts sought in 1983 to correct the growth rate down to 1 percent, only to be blocked by Gates, according to Goodman.

“Gates would not permit the paper with the revised growth rates to be published, but warned [Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger, who ‘went nuts,’ according to two former CIA analysts,” Goodman wrote. “Two years later, Gates finally permitted the paper to be circulated, but he refused to publish a paper.”

The Triumph of Career

From his front-row seat at CIA headquarters, Goodman watched in dismay as Gates applied his bureaucratic skills to reverse the agency’s analytical principles.

“While serving as deputy director for intelligence from 1982 to 1986, Gates wrote the manual for manipulating and centralizing the intelligence process to get the desired intelligence product,” Goodman wrote.

Gates promoted pliable CIA careerists to top positions, while analysts with an independent streak were sidelined or pushed out of the agency.

“In the mid-1980s, the three senior [Soviet division] office managers who actually anticipated the decline of the Soviet Union and Moscow’s interest in closer relations with the United States were demoted,” Goodman wrote, noting that he was one of them.

“All understood the weakness of the Soviet Union, but were removed from their managerial responsibilities by the director of the Soviet office, Douglas MacEachin, under the orders of the deputy director of intelligence, Bob Gates.”

The reason, Goodman wrote, was: “The Reagan administration would not accept any sign of Soviet weakness or constraint, and CIA director Casey and deputy director Gates made sure intelligence analysis presented the Russian Bear as threatening and warlike.”

These institutional blinders remained in place for the rest of the 1980s.

“As a result, the CIA missed the radical change that Mikhail Gorbachev represented to Soviet politics and Soviet-American relations, and missed the challenges to his rule and his ultimate demise in 1991,” Goodman wrote.

So, when the Soviet Union – the CIA’s principal target – collapsed without any timely warning to the U.S. government, the CIA didn’t as much “miss” this development as it was blinded by ideological taskmasters to the reality playing out in plain sight.

Covering Up

Then, rather than take the Soviet intelligence failure to heart, Gates and other bureaucrats went to work covering their tracks. For that, they got the help of Harvard’s Kennedy School, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars to finance case studies to show that the CIA “got it right,” Goodman wrote.

“The office director for the Soviet Union during much of the 1980s, when the work of politicization was undertaken, Douglas MacEachin, was sent to Harvard as intelligence officer in residence to help the director of the case studies, Philip Zelikow, prepare these studies,” Goodman wrote.

“In 1993, MacEachin became the CIA’s deputy director for intelligence,” Goodman wrote. “Zelikow and MacEachin were reunited in 2004, when Zelikow was named staff director of the 9/11 commission and appointed MacEachin a team leader on the staff. Zelikow and MacEachin made sure that the commission did not indict the CIA for its contributions to the 9/11 intelligence failure.”

In the 1980s, two other brave analysts – Richard Barlow and Peter Dickson – were punished when they clashed with the Casey-Gates desires regarding analyses on nuclear proliferation issues, particularly evidence that Pakistan was developing a nuclear bomb.

At the time, the Reagan administration wanted the Pakistan-bomb issue downplayed because the Pakistani intelligence service was helping the United States funnel arms to Islamic fundamentalists flocking to Afghanistan to fight Soviet troops.

Ironically, after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in the late 1980s, the chief beneficiaries of that covert U.S. program included Osama bin Laden, who used the Afghan war to organize his band of al-Qaeda terrorists, and Pakistani physicists, who did develop a nuclear bomb and sold the technology to “rogue” countries.

Yet, in the 1980s, while out-of-step analysts were pushed aside, many of Gates’s protégés – the likes of John McLaughlin, Paul Pillar and Alan Foley – went on to successful CIA careers. Eventually, they would play key roles in the politicizing of the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD, Goodman wrote.

A central theme of Goodman’s book is that the consequences of this obsequious intelligence – this failure to face reality – have been disastrous:

“Much of the intelligence damage in the run-up to the Iraq War was due to the DI [the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence] believing that it was actually ‘serving’ the White House in preparing its assessments of Iraqi WMD. [Old-time analysts] Langer and Kent did not see themselves as ‘serving’ the White House, but ‘informing’ the White House.”

Gates Advances

Goodman noted that other cozy relationships helped advance Gates’s career and blocked a truthful recounting of recent American history. Goodman even traced the end of serious congressional oversight of intelligence to 1991 and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s capitulation during Gates’s confirmation hearings to be CIA director.

After Gates had been blocked from the top CIA job in 1987 because of his ties to the Iran-Contra scandal, Gates “set about to launder his credentials and particularly to insinuate himself with [Sen. David] Boren,” D-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Goodman wrote.

“In 1991, the White House checked with Boren to see if Gates could receive confirmation this time around, and Boren angered many Democrats on the intelligence committee when he guaranteed confirmation to White House aide Boyden Gray.”

But a firestorm over Gates’s role in politicizing CIA intelligence threatened his nomination in fall 1991. Rather than back off this time, however, President George H.W. Bush told committee Republicans “that he was ‘going to the mat’ for Gates and wanted his nomination confirmed at all cost,” Goodman wrote.

Gates’s future ultimately was saved by Boren and his top aide, George Tenet, who shepherded the nomination through the committee and then the full Senate.

Once Gates got in as director, he went to work shielding Bush from political scandal, including Bush’s secret military support of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the 1980s, according to Goodman.

Gates helped squelch the House Banking Committee’s examination of a multi-billion-dollar Iraqi-financing operation involving the Italian-owned Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Goodman wrote, adding:

“The fact is that the Bush administration was engaged in an effort to subsidize and arm Saddam Hussein right up to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the CIA was totally aware of these efforts.”

The Casey-Gates approach of putting politics and ideology ahead of objective analysis was still alive and well a decade later when then-CIA director George Tenet offered President George W. Bush the “slam-dunk” intelligence on Iraq’s WMD.

Though Goodman suspects that Bush would have invaded Iraq whatever the CIA did, “it is conceivable … that honest leadership from George Tenet and John McLaughlin and a strong CIA stand could have created more opposition to the war from the Congress, the media, and the public,” Goodman wrote.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, Goodman wrote: “The CIA’s failure in the run-up to the Iraq War was a total corporate breakdown.”

Even in the wake of the Iraq WMD disaster, politicization has remained dominant, according to Goodman.

Tenet’s successor, former Republican congressman Porter Goss, issued a memo to the CIA staff telling them to “support the administration and its policies in our work. As Agency employees, we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or its policies.”

In Goodman’s view, other post-9/11 changes in the structure of the U.S. intelligence community – such as topping it off with another presidential appointee as Director of National Intelligence – have failed to address the underlying problem of a lost ethos that was committed to telling the truth no matter the political consequences.

Faced with mounting opposition to the Iraq War in 2006, President Bush also dipped back into his father’s old roster of pliable bureaucrats and brought Robert Gates back into the government as Secretary of Defense. Gates helped put a fresh face on the “surge.” [For more on Gates, see’s archive, "Who Is Bob Gates?"]

Lost Moral Compass

To Goodman, the erroneous intelligence analyses – that caused the United States to massively over-spend on military hardware to confront a declining Soviet threat in the 1980s and that led the nation into a bloody quagmire in Iraq this decade – were not simply mistakes.

“The intelligence provided in the Gorbachev era and the run-up to the Iraq War represented the failure of the CIA’s moral compass,” Goodman wrote. “There have been pluses and minuses over the sixty-year history of the CIA, but the past twenty-five years have provided an unending cycle of failure in telling truth to power. …

“The moral failure is the most worrisome aspect of all because, without the willingness to tell truth to power, reform and reorganization of CIA become irrelevant.”

That lost ethos of seeking truth and telling it – both in the political and journalistic worlds – also goes a long way to explaining how the American Republic lost its way.

The Iraq War, for $100 Month

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By Bill Adair

Sen. Barack Obama says the war costs each household about $100 per month. We do the math and find he's right.

The cost of the Iraq war has often been expressed in billions or trillions, numbers so big and abstract they remind us of Carl Sagan's description of the universe ("billions and billions of stars...").

The candidates have cited alternative uses for the war money, saying it would have been better spent on health coverage for the uninsured (Sen. Hillary Clinton) or on more school teachers (Sen. Barack Obama).

In a speech on March 20, 2008, Obama took a different approach and emphasized the personal cost of the war.

"When Iraq is costing each household about $100 a month, you're paying a price for this war," he said in the speech in Charleston, W.Va.

At $100 per month, the war cost to each U.S. household would be more than cable TV (average bill: $58), but less than a car payment (average bill: $400-500).

We asked the Obama campaign about the source of the $100 figure and were told it came from The Three Trillion Dollar War, a new book by Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, and Linda J. Bilmes, a former Commerce Department official from the Clinton administration who is now a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

The book says the monthly operating cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is about $16-billion.

"To think of it another way," the book says, "roughly every American household is spending $138 per month on the current operating costs of the wars, with a little more than $100 per month going to Iraq alone."

(Of course, Obama's simplified analysis does not reflect the variations in income tax levels. And you don't have to write a check for the war each month. The war costs are included in government spending that is paid for by taxes.)

There was no footnote for the $100 estimate, so we called Bilmes to ask how she had calculated it. She said they took the Bush administration's 2008 request for war funding - $196-billion - and divided it by 12 to get a monthly cost. That works out to $16-billlion for both wars and about $12-billion just for the Iraq portion.

Then, she and Stiglitz divided those figures by the number of U.S. households and came up with $138 for both wars and slightly more than $100 for Iraq alone, she said.

We double-checked the authors' sources and math, and found they were right.

Indeed, the Bush administration request for 2008 was $196-billion for both wars, with $159-billion going to Iraq, according to a summary by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. A recent Census Bureau report said there were 116-million households. So that works out to about $140 per month for both wars and about $114 for Iraq alone. (Our numbers are slightly higher than Bilmes and Stiglitz because we used the latest estimates from CRS and a newer and slighter higher count for households.)

To verify the Bilmes and Stiglitz calculation, we checked with Steven Kosiak, vice president for budget studies with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on defense issues. He said their methodology was correct and that the number "sounds about right."

Bilmes, a Democrat who is neutral in the presidental race, said Obama could have used an even higher figure if he had included other war costs that aren't in the Pentagon's $196-billion tab. These include disability payments, the cost of replacing war-fighting equipment and interest on the borrowed money.

By using the figure he did, Obama "really was being conservative on this," Bilmes said. "He's not overstating it in any way."

And so we find Obama is right about the war's monthly cost. We find his claim to be True.

The Foreclosure Prevention Act (a k a the Bank and Builder Bailout Act)

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By Dean Baker

Conservatives used to complain liberals always wanted to throw money at problems. While there may have been some truth at times to this charge, Congress decided to literally take this path in its approach to the housing bubble last week.

There are many villains in the story of the housing bubble, but the homebuilders and the mortgage industry would go on almost everyone’s list. The homebuilders rushed ahead with new developments under the delusion the bubble would last forever. The result is an unprecedented glut in housing.

The mortgage industry aggressively promoted adjustable rate mortgages to the most vulnerable segments of the population, giving us the subprime crisis. They didn’t care mortgages couldn’t be paid because they could dump them into the secondary market almost immediately after they were issued.

During their spring recess, members of Congress heard from angry constituents who feared the loss of their home or the loss of much of their home equity due to plunging house prices. This prompted Congress to rush into action when it came back into session last week.

The centerpiece of the "Foreclosure Prevention Act" approved by the Senate is a tax break for the homebuilders and the mortgage bankers - in effect throwing taxpayer dollars at two of the industries most responsible for the housing bubble. That should satisfy troubled homeowners.

But this may not be the end of it. There are plans for a large-scale buyout of bad mortgage debt. There are several different proposals being circulated, but the basic story is the same. The government would guarantee new mortgages that would be used to buy up existing mortgages of homes facing foreclosure. While the new mortgages would be issued at prices that are less than the value of the original mortgage, they will almost certainly give the banks far more money than if the market was left alone.

For example, a bank may have issued a mortgage for $220,000 on a home that is now worth $200,000. Under the various proposals, the government-guaranteed mortgage would give the bank a check for between $170,000 and $200,000. This means a loss for the bank, but, almost certainly, a much smaller loss than if it carried through the foreclosure.

The handout to the banks is justified as an effort to keep homeowners in their houses. This may be reasonable in depressed markets like Detroit or Cleveland, but simple arithmetic shows this plan provides no benefit to homeowners in bubble-inflated markets like Los Angeles and Boston.

In these markets, houses now sell for more than 20 times the annual rent on a comparable unit. This means, even with a low 6 percent mortgage, after adding in taxes, insurance and maintenance, homeowners will likely pay 60 percent to 80 percent more in housing costs than if they rented. The additional housing costs will come at the expense of health care, quality childcare, and other necessary expenses. Furthermore, since house prices are falling in these bubble markets, it is extremely unlikely these families will accumulate any equity. In short, just like the tax breaks approved last week, these bailout proposals are yet another way to put money in the pockets of bankers under the guise of helping homeowners.

There are real ways to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Amending the bankruptcy law to allow judges to rewrite the terms of home mortgages, so families can keep their home, would be a good start. We can also change the rules on foreclosure to allow homeowners the option to remain in their home as renters paying the fair market rent. This would provide security to homeowners, since they could not just be thrown out on the street. More importantly, it would provide lenders with a real incentive to negotiate terms that allow homeowners to stay in their homes as owners, since banks do not want to become landlords.

The Fed and Congress were incredibly negligent in allowing the housing bubble to grow to such enormous proportions. Acting on the advice of economists who couldn’t see the bubble, Congress now seems determined to compound this failure. It is trying to hand as many taxpayer dollars as possible to the banks in a futile attempt to prop up the bubble and keep homes unaffordable for young people. Thankfully, it is an election year.

Minister: Israel Would Destroy Iran if Attacked

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Jerusalem - An Israeli government minister warned on Monday that Israel would respond to any Iranian attack by destroying that country, public radio reported.

"An Iranian attack against Israel would trigger a tough reaction that would lead to the destruction of the Iranian nation," National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said in remarks of rare virulence.

"Iranians are aware of our strength but continue to provoke us by arming their Syrian allies and Hezbollah," he said during a meeting at his ministry.

Ben-Eliezer, a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet, stressed however that the Iranians were unlikely to attack as "they understand the meaning of such an act".

Last month, Defence Minister Ehud Barak told visiting US Vice President Dick Cheney that "no option" would be ruled out in Israel's bid to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israel, along with its ally the United States and other Western powers, accuses Iran of pursuing the development of a nuclear bomb under the guise of its civilian nuclear programme - a charge Tehran denies.

Israel considers Iran its top enemy following repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map.

Ben-Eliezer also stressed that an ongoing five-day home front defence exercise was not meant to threaten Israel's neighbours, but stressed that "the scenarios considered in the exercise could be reality tomorrow".

He said Israel could one day find itself in a situation in which hundreds of rockets rain down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

"Nowhere would be safe from Syrian and Hezbollah rockets," Ben-Eliezer said.

The scenario for Monday's drill had Israel coming under simultaneous attack from Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in the north and from Palestinian militants in Gaza to the south.

The exercise, which started on Sunday, comes amid media reports of heightened tensions along Israel's heavily guarded border with Syria and just days after Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora put his armed forces on alert.

Citigroup Confirms $33 Million Gender Bias Settlement

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By Jonathan Stempel

New York - Citigroup Inc on Friday confirmed it agreed to pay $33 million to about 2,500 current and former female brokers at its Smith Barney unit to settle a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit.

The agreement also requires the largest U.S. bank to change how it awards bonuses and assigns accounts, and to adopt measures to help retain and promote women, papers filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco show.

Citigroup and the plaintiffs further agreed on the appointment of a diversity monitor, and of an "industrial psychologist" to oversee how the bank implements changes, court papers show. The changes are to remain in force at least four years.

"We're pleased to have this matter moving toward final resolution," spokesman Alexander Samuelson said. "We are committed to continuing to provide a professional and respectful work environment to all of our employees."

The plaintiffs had accused Smith Barney in the original March 2005 complaint of preventing female brokers from competing fairly for new accounts, promotions and pay, and of depriving women of equal training and sales support.

They also accused Smith Barney of using past performance as a means to award business and pay - putting women who had been discriminated against in the past at a disadvantage.

It is not immediately clear how many of the brokers still work for New York-based Citigroup. A hearing on the proposed settlement is set for April 30, court records show.

Citigroup and the plaintiffs had substantively agreed on the monetary portion of the settlement last summer, but needed more time to work out additional remedies, court papers show.

Many Wall Street banks and brokerages have faced and settled gender bias lawsuits over the years.

In one well-known case, Smith Barney settled accusations a decade ago by women who alleged that men harassed them with fraternity-house antics in the "Boom-Boom Room," a basement space in a Smith Barney branch in Garden City, New York.

Foreclosures Come to McMansion Country

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By Andy Sullivan

Leesburg, Virginia - Million-dollar fixer-upper for sale: five bedrooms, four baths, three-car garage, cavernous living room. Big holes above fireplace where flat-screen TV used to hang.

The U.S. housing crisis has come to McMansion country.

Just as the foreclosure crisis has hollowed out poorer neighborhoods, "for sale" signs are sprouting in upscale developments so new they don't show up on GPS navigation screens.

Poor people weren't the only ones who took out risky, high-interest loans during the housing boom. The sharp increase in housing costs - and the desire to live in brand-new, spacious houses with modern features - led many affluent buyers to take out loans they couldn't afford.

"People had in their head, 'I need a mud room, I need giant columns, I need a media room, and I'm going to do anything to get it,'" said Robert Lang, co-director of Virginia Tech's Metropolitan Institute, a research organization that focuses on real estate and development.

The crisis has hit especially hard here in Loudoun County, Virginia, where upscale developments have supplanted horse farms over the past fifteen years.

About an hour's drive from Washington, Loudoun is one of the nation's most affluent counties, with a median household income of $98,000, more than double the national figure.

The county has also ranked as one of the nation's fastest growing in recent years as developers built thousands of super-sized, amenity-laden houses to keep pace with the booming high-tech economy.

These houses are sometimes nicknamed "McMansions," disparaging both their extravagance and their look of mass production - like hamburgers from a McDonald's restaurant.

Between 1990 and 2005, the county's population tripled to 272,000. Many of those moving here relied on risky, high-interest loans to buy the house of their dreams.

"People pushed the limits to be able to buy. They couldn't afford to buy there otherwise," said Virginia Tech consumer-affairs professor Irene Leach.

High-interest loans accounted for 16 percent of the total during the height of the mortgage boom in 2005, less than other outer-ring suburban counties in the region but more than neighboring counties closer to Washington.

Now the bill has come due. One out of every 69 households in the county was in foreclosure in the last three months of 2008, well above the national average of one filing for every 555 households, according to RealtyTrac.

Most of these have been concentrated in the county's poorer neighborhoods, but local realtor Danilo Bogdanovic says he is increasingly seeing more foreclosures on properties worth more than $800,000 as affluent borrowers burn through savings in a vain attempt to stay in houses they can't afford.

"They've just prolonged the pain," Bogdanovic said. "I don't think they're immune to it."

At the end of 2007, 20 of the 25 houses for sale for more than $850,000 in Loudoun County appeared to be foreclosures, according to Tony Arko, his partner. Find more here

These can take years to sell, as they must compete with brand-new developments still coming online.

Housing prices in the county plummeted 8 percent in 2007, the sharpest drop in the region, according to the Washington Post. New home starts plummeted by 50 percent.

Bogdanovic and Arko have sold many foreclosed properties to investors looking to rent them out. But there's no market for a million-dollar rental property, they say.

In the Beacon Hill development, a golf course snakes among large houses and gazebos set on rolling hills. Residents keep their horses at an equestrian center.

A 7,300-square-foot mansion on Spectacular Bid Place features three chandeliers, a spiral staircase and a state-of-the-art kitchen. The owner offered it at $1.35 million in January 2006, before foreclosing in August 2007. The house found a buyer in January 2008 - for $963,000.

Several miles away, the million-dollar fixer-upper with the holes in the walls has been on the market since December. It is still unsold.

Iraqi Widows, Orphans Left Stranded

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By Kim Gamel and Bushra Juhi

Baghdad - The car exploded near a popular ice cream parlor, sending flames and shrapnel through the busy square and killing 17 people.

It was another deadly explosion quickly forgotten by the outside world. But Aug. 1, 2007, changed the life of 28-year-old Maysa Sharif. It was the day she became one of nearly a million Iraqi women who have lost husbands as the country has suffered through three wars and Saddam Hussein's murderous regime.

Such vast numbers of widows would tax any society, and all the more Iraq's. With virtually no safety net and few job opportunities, most widows have little choice but to move in with their extended families and depend on their largesse.

Sharif was five months pregnant and preparing breakfast for her children when the blast shook their house in central Baghdad. She ran to the scene where her 39-year-old husband, Hussein Abdul-Hassan, ran a cigarette kiosk, and saw him on the ground. "Shrapnel hit his body and his head was cracked open. His eyes and mouth also were open," she said.

"I wanted to close them," she said, but police dragged her away, fearing a second explosion.

And her nightmare continued. Her 7-year-old son Saif had gone to work with his dad, and she couldn't find him. Only as her husband was being taken to the holy city of Najaf to be buried did she learn her son had died in the hospital.

"The funeral convoy turned around and put Saif's body in the same coffin," she said. "They refused to let me see my son or go to Najaf because I was pregnant. I could not believe that he was dead until I saw the death certificate."

Sharif has three other children - 10-year-old Ali, 2-year-old Tabarak and infant Abdullah, whose name was chosen by his father the night before he was killed. They now live in one room set aside for them in her brother-in-law's compound in central Baghdad.

With the government's attention focused on political crises and the U.S.-led war now entering its sixth year, advocates say the plight of women like Sharif is being ignored.

Women's Affairs Minister Nirmeen Othman warns it could boil up into a peacetime "social crisis."

A family health survey provided by lawmaker Samira al-Moussawi, who champions the widows, counted 738,240 widows ranging in age from 15 to 80 as of January 2007, and dating back to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. The figure included those whose husbands died of natural causes and a further breakdown was not available.

Othman estimated the number at closer to 1.3 million.

The problem also threatens the next generation.

A whole new primary school for 640 orphans has opened in Baghdad's Sadr City district, but headmistress Asma Karim says many pupils are failing for lack of support at home.

"Those who are left to care for these children are normally concerned about their survival more than their education," she said.

Al-Moussawi, a geologist-turned-politician, says she has been overwhelmed by petitions for help, including 448 recently delivered to her office in a plastic bag from the predominantly Shiite southern city of Diwaniyah.

"There isn't any strategy, any clear strategy to deal with this social issue - not for women, not for children," she said.

She has proposed legislation to budget $1 million - a tiny fraction of the oil-rich country's $48 billion budget - for educating widows, teaching them skills and raising their tiny pensions. But the Cabinet has rejected the measure.

Umm Hiba, a 38-year-old mother of two in northern Baghdad, blames herself for her husband's death because she sent him to a Baghdad market to buy yogurt for the dinner she was cooking. A mortar attack killed him on Jan. 27, 2007.

"It was all my fault. If I did not send him, he would be alive now with his children," she said, crying as she held her 2-year-old son.

Now she lives with her 7-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son in a room in the back of the house she and her husband shared with her blind brother-in-law and his family. She has built a makeshift bathroom and kitchen.

Neighbors and relatives collected money for her husband's funeral, but she was forced to sell her furniture to buy a sheep to slaughter on the first anniversary of his death, according to Islamic tradition. The sheep cost more than her monthly $62 pension.

Umm Hiba, who would only give her nickname, which means "mother of Hiba," says she applied unsuccessfully for several jobs but was rejected. She could have sought work as a cleaner in a school, but refused. "I have a high-school degree so it would be shameful for me to take such a job," she said.

The pension, she said, can't keep up with soaring food and clothes prices. "In Iraq, everything is costly, except human beings who are very cheap," she said.

By comparison, war widows under Saddam received plots of land, the cost of the funeral and sufficient pensions.

Jalila Hassan's husband, Kadhum Mohammed was 29 when he was killed in 1984 while fighting in the Iran-Iraq war. She was 17 at the time and said she was given a pension and even offered a choice between a car or the equivalent price. She chose the cash.

"Back then, widows were taken care of better than they are now. We were not left in destitution," she said.

Hassan, who lives with her mother and brothers in Sadr City, still gets a slightly higher pension of $80 a month but its value has fallen sharply.

Afifa Hussein's husband, 58-year-old Uraibi Hamid, was snatched by masked gunmen and shot to death July 14 in the insurgent stronghold of Samarra.

Hussein, in her 40s with eight children, found herself struggling to care for two disabled sons and an ailing daughter. To earn extra money for the family, her 19-year-old son drove a cab, a dangerous occupation in Iraq these days.

Her teenage daughter quit school, unable to cope, and a traumatized son moved out of the house for a month to stay with relatives.

Badriyah Hamid, a 45-year-old Shiite cleaning woman with 10 children, was working late at a school in the predominantly Sunni village of Rashidiyah on May 23, 2007, when she learned her 55-year-old husband, Fadhil Jafar, had been shot to death and dumped on the street.

"I ran to the site and all my children came too, throwing themselves on his body. He was shot six times in his back and head," she said.

The killing left one of her sons with a form of amnesia and no longer able to read or write, causing him to fail in school.

But Hamid, a strong-willed Kurdish woman, is struggling to manage on her own.

She moved in with her husband's family but became worried they would try to force her daughters to marry their sons. So with rent money donated by a neighbor, she moved into a two-room house with all her children.

She finds occasional work as a cleaner but still has to scavenge for scraps of food at a nearby market. She worries that without a father, her children will fall victim to drug traffickers or other bad influences.

"My husband was everything in my life. Without him, life is extremely difficult because no one can help us and no one can fill the gap he left," she said. "But besides the financial burdens on my shoulders, I have to care about the morality of my children and protect them from the evils of society."

9/11 Contradictions: Bush in the Classroom

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By Dr. David Ray Griffin

The official story of 9/11 is riddled with internal contradictions. One of these contradictions involves the question of how long President Bush remained in classroom in Sarasota, Florida, on the morning of 9/11.

Bush was there to publicize his education policy by being photographed listening to students read. He arrived at the school at 8:55 AM, at which time he reportedly first learned that a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. Dismissing the crash as an accident, Bush said that they would go ahead and “do the reading thing anyway.”

Bush entered the second-grade classroom of teacher Sandra Kay Daniels at about 9:03. At about 9:06, the president’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, came in and whispered in Bush’s ear, telling him, Card later reported, “A second plane hit the second Tower. America is under attack.”

What Happened Next

Thanks to Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11, which came out in 2004, the world knows what happened next: Bush remained sitting there minute after minute after minute.

Journalists, however, had reported Bush’s strange behavior much earlier. On September 1, 2002, for example, Jennifer Barrs had reported in the Tampa Tribune that, after Card whispered in Bush’s ear, the president picked up his book and read with the children “for eight or nine minutes.” In his 2002 book Fighting Back, Bill Sammon, the White House correspondent for the Washington Times, said that even after the reading lesson was over, Bush continued to linger, leading Sammon to dub him “the dawdler in chief.”

The White House’s First Anniversary Account

On the first anniversary of 9/11, however, the White House, with Andrew Card taking the lead, started giving a radically different account. On September 9, 2002, Card told Brian Williams on NBC News: "I pulled away from the president, and not that many seconds later, the president excused himself from the classroom, and we gathered in the holding room and talked about the situation." In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 11, Card said that, after he had informed Bush about the second attack, the president “looked up---it was only a matter of seconds, but it seemed like minutes. . . . And he just excused himself very politely to the teacher and to the students and he left.”

That same day, Karl Rove told Campbell Brown of NBC News:

Andy Card walked in to tell the President, and you can remember the famous photograph of him whispering in the President’s ear. And the President was a little---you know, he didn’t want to alarm the children. He knew the drill was coming to a close. So he waited for a few moments just to---literally---not very long at all before he came to the close, and he came into the staff room.

Also that same day, Card and Rove got ABC News, during another program that aired on the first anniversary of 9/11, to endorse their revisionist account. This program contained the following segment:

Andrew Card: I think there was a, a moment of shock and he did stare off maybe for just a second.

Charles Gibson: The President stays calm and lets the students finish.

Karl Rove: The President thought for a second or two about getting up and walking out of the room. But the drill was coming to a close and he didn’t want to alarm the children.

Gibson: Instead Bush pauses, thanks the children. . . and heads for the empty classroom next door.

Help from Mrs. Daniels

Besides putting out this revisionist account, the Bush-Cheney White House also evidently enlisted support from Sandra Kay Daniels, the teacher of the second grade class at the Sarasota school. In a Los Angeles Times story published on September 11, 2002, she said:

I knew something was up when President Bush didn’t pick up the book and participate in the lesson.... He said, ‘Mrs. Daniels, I have to leave now. I am going to leave Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan here to do the speech for me.’ Looking at his face, you knew something was wrong. I said a little prayer for him. He shook my hand and left.

This account by Daniels was radically different from what she had said for the aforementioned article by Jennifer Barrs, which had appeared only ten days earlier. After saying that “Bush, obviously lost in thought, forgot about the book in his lap,” Barrs quoted Daniels as saying: “I couldn’t gently kick him. . . . I couldn’t say, ‘OK, Mr. President. Pick up your book, sir. The whole world is watching.’”

Given the fact that Mrs. Daniels had given this account just ten days earlier, her revisionist account cannot be explained in terms of a bad memory. The only possible explanation appears to be that the White House had convinced her to help spread its revisionist account. What would have been the White House’s motive for spreading a false account and even convincing Mrs. Daniels to help?

The Likely Motive

On the one hand, the Secret Service, which has the responsibility for protecting the president from any possible threat to his life, should have assumed, once it was clear that terrorists were going after high-value targets, that the president might have been one of those targets. As one article put it, “Bush’s presence made . . . the planned reading event a perceived target,” because “the well-publicized event at the school assured Bush’s location that day was no secret.” On the other hand, people observed that the Secret Service had not acted accordingly. The day after 9/11, Canada’s Globe and Mail commented: “For some reason, Secret Service agents did not bustle [Bush] away.”

The background for this comment was explained by Philip Melanson, the author of a book about the Secret Service. "With an unfolding terrorist attack,” Melanson said, “the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible.” That this indeed would have been standard operating procedure is illustrated by the fact that, as soon as the second strike on the World Trade Center was seen on television, one agent said to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill: “We’re out of here. Can you get everybody ready?”

But this agent’s decision was obviously overridden by some higher-level Secret Service agent, as Bush was allowed not only to remain in the classroom for seven or more minutes, but also to remain at the school for another twenty minutes. He was even allowed to deliver a television address to the nation, thereby letting everyone know that he was still at the school.

This behavior seemed especially reckless in light of reports, issued at the time, that as many as eleven planes had been hijacked. The Secret Service should have feared that one of those planes was bearing down on the school at that very moment. The Secret Service’s behavior, however, suggested that it had no fear that the school would be attacked.

This behavior by the Secret Service contrasted strongly with the response, two months earlier, to a report that Islamic terrorists might crash an airliner into the summit of industrialized nations in Genoa, Italy, in an effort to kill President Bush. The Italian government closed the airspace above Genoa and installed anti-aircraft missiles at the airport (David Sanger, New York Times, September 25, 2001). Even with all this protection, Bush stayed overnight on an aircraft carrier, instead of staying, like the other leaders, on a luxury ship (CNN, July 18, 2001). Why so much concern about merely possible terrorist airplane attacks in Genoa in July but no such concern in Sarasota in September, when such attacks were actually in progress?

The Secret Service’s failure to hustle Bush away seemed even stranger in light of the reports that Vice President Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and several congressional leaders were quickly taken to safe locations. Should not protecting President Bush have been an even higher priority? As Susan Taylor Martin of the St. Petersburg Times put it on July 4, 2004: “One of the many unanswered questions about that day is why the Secret Service did not immediately hustle Bush to a secure location, as it apparently did with Vice President Dick Cheney.”

The fact that this question was raised immediately after 9/11, then continued to be raised, could well have been perceived by the White House as dangerous. This question did, in fact, have dangerous implications, because it could---and in some circles did---lead to the inference that Bush was not evacuated from the school because the Secret Service knew that he would not be targeted. The desire to stop this kind of speculation was likely behind the White House’s attempts at getting a revisionist account of Bush’s behavior instilled into the public consciousness.

The 9/11 Commission’s Treatment of the Issue

The strange behavior of Bush and his Secret Service in Sarasota was of great concern to families of the 9/11 victims. One of the central questions raised by the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission was: “Why was President Bush permitted by the Secret Service to remain in the Sarasota elementary school where he was reading to children?” (That this question was asked was admitted by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the chair and vice-chair of the Commission, in their 2006 book, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, p. 54.) The 9/11 Commission, however, provided no answer. Its only response was to say: “The Secret Service told us they were anxious to move the President to a safer location, but did not think it imperative for him to run out the door” (The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39). That response, however, implied that the Secret Service had only two options: (a) running the president out the door or (b) allowing him to remain at the school for another half hour. But there was a third option: The Secret Service could have simply walked the president out the door, put him in the presidential limo, and whisked him away.

The Treatment by Press

A Wall Street Journal story in March 2004, “Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies,” was one of the few stories in the mainstream press to report on contradictions in the official story of 9/11. When the Journal asked the White House about the contradictions about the Sarasota event in particular, spokesman Dan Bartlett, not trying to defend the White House’s revisionist version, confirmed that Bush had remained in the classroom for at least seven minutes after receiving the report of the second crash. Bush did not leave immediately, Bartlett said, because his "instinct was not to frighten the children by rushing out of the room."

However, even if Bartlett’s statement were an acceptable explanation of why Bush did not do what Card and Rove had claimed he did, the real question, which the WSJ article did not address, was why the White House, through Card, Rove, and Mrs. Daniels, had given a false account. Surely this is a question that the press in general should have explored. Especially ABC News, NBC News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times, which had been used to spread the White House’s false account, should have demanded that the White House explain why it put out a completely false account. These papers and networks owed their readers and viewers a correction and an attempt to find out why the White House had used them to spread a lie.

While discovering why the White House lied, the press should also, of course, seek to discover the answer to the original question: why the Secret Service did not immediately rush Bush to a safe location.

This essay is an abbreviated version of Chapter 1 of David Ray Griffin, 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press (Northampton: Olive Branch, March, 2008.

The Myth of U.S. Cultural, Religious, Political, and Social Superiority

Go to Original
By Kristina M. Gronquist

Manifest Destiny - 21st Century Style

The concept of Manifest Destiny describes the 19th century conviction that God intended the continent of North America to be under the control of Christian, European Americans. The ideology of Manifest Destiny was the backbone of U.S. government efforts to colonize land inhabited by indigenous people in North America and expand the United States into Mexican territory.

Believers in Manifest Destiny asserted that U.S. rulers were predestined to spread their proclaimed superior values near and far. Propaganda, armed interventions, occupations, and terror were used in various insidious combinations. Indigenous people whose country we reside in can best attest to the results of Manifest Destiny policy, as they survived centuries of unspeakable injustices and lost millions, but courageously, have survived.

Ulysses S. Grant, that era’s most prominent military man, and himself a participant in the Mexican-American War, wrote in his memoirs, “I do not think there ever was a more wicked war than that waged by the United States in Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign.”

Although the shameful concept of Manifest Destiny should be confined to history books, it has reared its ugly head, as reflected in our government’s 21st century mission to reshape the Middle East. Of course, the psychology of Manifest Destiny – the projection of Anglo-Saxon supremacy - never really went away, it has always been used to justify America’s expansionist adventures. Losing the Vietnam War drove it toward covert action, i.e., U.S. attempts in the 1980’s to undo the Nicaraguan revolution and support for death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala. But U.S. foreign policy has consistently been based on an arrogant and racist view that “America knows best.”

For most Americans, the myth of U.S. cultural, religious, political, and social superiority has been so strongly reinforced over the years that it is taken a given, it is assumed. In the language of political science, this is called “reification,” when myths become accepted as reality. Public debate is often vacuous, because we are unable to question 1) whether or not the U.S. system of governance is desired by non-Americans, or 2) whether or not the “one size fits all” U.S. model will offer people in other lands true solutions. Without such debate, the reification process becomes frightening: If it is a given that our system and values are superior, it follows that remaking others in our image will always be the worthy “end.” Any means can be used to reach the agreed-upon (but unquestioned) worthy end.

This is why the U.S. invaded and devastated Iraq, and why our leaders and a majority of Americans can ignore 100,000 Iraqi civilian casualties. If it is a given that a Western-style, capitalist Iraq is the proper end, then the means by which that is achieved can be illegal, ruthless, bloody, inhumane, or whatever. The means are open-ended. We see that glazed, slightly out-of-reality look constantly in this administration’s eyes as they talk about “democracy” in Iraq. Their fixed eyes look up towards the ends, but they are never cast seriously downward to look over and evaluate the terrible means by which they are trying to reach those ends.

Of course, this “remaking Iraq” project isn’t genuinely guided by the true lofty goal of implementing democracy. Instead, its focus is synchronizing Middle Eastern social and cultural values with Western capitalist values, because that will better facilitate a global world order that revolves around the U.S. economic interests of elites.

We all recall and recoil when we remember the days shortly after the invading troops reached Baghdad, when widespread looting destroyed Iraq’s museums and libraries. The U.S. troops stood idly by as Iraq’s cultural history was being erased. There are Iraqis who now say that this was deliberate, an attempt to erase the records of Iraq’s cultural and historical achievements, to wipe the slate clean, so that Western values could be more easily imposed.

Hundreds of Iraqi youth recently came out into the streets to protest a new government order that makes Saturday an official holiday in Iraq, officially aligning Iraq’s weekend with the Western weekend. The holy day for Muslims is Friday, and most Muslim countries take off Thursday and Friday or just Friday. At Baghdad’s University of Mustansariyah, a statement read, “We declare a general strike in the University of Mustansariyah to reject this decision and any decision aimed at depriving Iraqis of their identity.”

Since the invasion, there have been scores of such changes. The CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) under L. Paul Bremer, and the interim government that followed, both gutted and reworked Iraqi legislation in many areas. The CPA’s meddling with Iraq law violates the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, governing the treatment of the inhabitants of militarily occupied territories. Occupiers are prohibited from making major alterations to the character of the occupied society.

The press hasn’t covered the extent of the many changes. We only hear about them occasionally, as in this (2/27/05) Associated Press article that pokes fun at the protesters, portraying the Iraq students as silly for not wanting Saturday off. This patronizing and condescending tone is prevalent throughout U.S. reporting on Iraq society. The Western press resurrects and reinforces the colonialist idea that dark-skinned people in foreign lands are unable to do anything right. Their customs, religion, and culture are not properly “modern” or advanced enough, like ours, and, by God, they have to get with the program!

But many Muslims in the Middle East don’t want to get with “the program” because they have been subject to this colonial program before. Like indigenous people, who also reject attempts to assimilate them and dismantle their identity, Muslims in the Middle East don’t want to be shoved on to reservations either, left to watch the rich cities of their countries gleam and hum with U.S. oil money. Fast food joints on every corner, hotel chains, and big box stores offering lousy wages and products may be the American dream, but they are many a Muslim’s nightmare.

On February 25, a Qatar-hosted conference called for disseminating the culture of peaceful resistance to aggressive policies adopted by world powers towards Muslim countries. It was attended by a cohort of senior Muslim scientists, intellectuals, and dignitaries. Dr. Abdael Rahman al-Nuaimi, the chairman of the Arab Center for Studies and Research, said that Muslims are facing fierce campaigns from world parties attempting to impose their hegemony over Muslim people and destroy their social systems. He told the opening session of the three-day conference that the goal of such campaigns is to tarnish the image of Islam and mock Islamic values. “In response to such aggressive campaigns, the conference calls for the adoption of all peaceful means as well as the economic, media, and legal tools, to stand up to these aggressions.”

There were scant, if any, reports of this conference in the Western press. Why? Because it calls into question the “end” of making other people adapt to the assumed perfect U.S. model of governance, and it speaks to the failed psychology of Manifest Destiny that still guides U.S. thinking - that the U.S. government has a right to spread its values by any means. We cannot hear news that Muslim people en masse reject and plan to resist Western values, which are part and parcel of a specific economic system. That reality (gosh, they don’t want to be like us?) uncomfortably clashes with the reified language of Manifest Destiny, which U.S. leaders again spit forth, to convince citizens that their self-serving violent Middle East policies are worthy.