Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mosaic News - 4/28/08: World News from the Middle East

Taking back the debate over Israel

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By Gary Kamiya

Sick of right-wing Jews speaking in their name, progressive American Jews have launched J Street to change the way the game is played in Washington.

For years, liberal American Jews who have chafed under the taboo against criticizing Israel have dreamed of starting a political organization that would speak for them. Now, with the launch of J Street, that dream has become a reality.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s founder, says that the incident that drove him over the edge took place when he was working as policy director for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. Dean said the U.S. should take an "evenhanded" approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Ben-Ami recalled. He was immediately, and predictably, savaged as anti-Israeli and a coddler of terrorists. "All hell broke loose," Ben-Ami said. "And this from a man who’s married to a Jewish woman, who’s raising kids in the Jewish faith, and is extremely pro-Israel in everything he’d ever said and done. But to use that one word, and then to have that cascade into a torrent, was just amazing to me. And it’s certainly been repeated and magnified with the attacks on Obama and some of his aides, some of them crossing any line that any of us should have about civil discourse."

There are few political relationships more fraught than that between American Jews and Israel. As the national emblem of Jewish identity, Israel is seen by many Jews as sacrosanct. Some Jews passionately identify with Israel and its policies and angrily reject any criticism of it, often attacking critics as anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. But even those Jews who privately harbor misgivings about Israel’s policies often keep their opinions to themselves because the subject is simply too charged. Anyone, Jewish or not, who dares to say or write anything critical about Israel quickly learns that they have poked a hornet’s nest.

What makes the subject especially sensitive -- and keeps many people, including most journalists, from going anywhere near it -- is that, far more than any other issue, it splits the progressive and intellectual community. Speaking more plainly, it divides one’s friends and colleagues -- sometimes even one’s family. Jews have always played a prominent role in America’s progressive and intellectual circles. And if you have a connection to those circles and you criticize Israel, you are almost certain to deeply offend or anger someone whom you respect, like, and have many things in common with. Small wonder that, as former Israeli official Daniel Levy told me, most people, Jews and non-Jews alike, "decide to sit this one out. It’s more of a headache than it’s worth."

The taboo isn’t only enforced by such personal matters, of course. It’s also aggressively enforced by powerful Jewish lobbies like AIPAC, mainstream Jewish groups and leaders like Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who claim to speak on behalf of all Jews. Congress, intimidated by the moral authority (or moral blackmail) and political clout wielded by these organizations and afraid of offending Jewish donors who are a major force in Democratic fundraising, invariably falls into line. The fact that Congress has staked out a position on Israel to the right of the Bush administration’s pretty much says it all. The default right-wing position on Israel is holy writ in American politics, and explains why Hillary Clinton can pander to the right-wing pro-Israel lobby by casually threatening to "totally obliterate" Iran -- vaporize 70 million men, women and children who have nothing to do with their leaders’ anti-Israeli posturings -- without paying any political price for such irresponsible statements.

Nothing is more urgently needed in our political discourse than for the taboo against speaking forthrightly about Israel to be overthrown. After all, notwithstanding its profound connection to some American Jews and its (partly justified) status as a beloved icon with whom we have a "special relationship," Israel is not the 51st state -- it is a foreign country, and one smack-dab in the center of the Middle East, a region in which we have some considerable national interest. The enforced silence about Israel has prevented us from thinking clearly about the Middle East, and helped enable both the disastrous war we are now fighting in Iraq and a possible future one against Iran.

But because of the highly sensitive nature of the subject, American Jews must lead the way.

Which is why the birth of J Street, whose goal Ben-Ami says is "to redefine what it means to be pro-Israel," is cause for unalloyed celebration. "Over the course of a quarter century of doing American politics, I’ve seen the way in which the Israel issue plays out," Ben-Ami said in a phone interview from J Street’s Washington, D.C., office. "And it greatly disturbs me and it greatly disturbs a very large number of progressive American Jews, who believe very strongly in Israel but feel that the way in which the American Jewish community’s voice has been expressed on these issues doesn’t reflect our values or opinions. Only the voices of the far right have been heard. They’ve really hijacked the debate when it comes to Israel."

That debate has been skewed, Ben-Ami said, because most liberal American Jews have a broad range of interests and are not obsessed with Israel, whereas their hard-line counterparts tend to be focused on that single issue. This means that although the loudest voices on Israel come from the right, large numbers of American Jews hold much more moderate positions. "The policies we believe in -- a two-state solution with a broad-based land for peace agreement; pursuing diplomatic solutions with places like Iran before military ones -- are positions that are broadly held by large numbers of people, Jewish or not," Ben-Ami said. "I hesitate to quantify and say that a majority of American Jews would agree with our positions, but if it isn’t a majority, I think it’s a very large minority. And so at a minimum, what we can succeed in doing is busting the myth that people who think like this are all alone."

But J Street is doing more than providing cover for liberal American Jews: It’s bringing money to the table. J Street is an advocacy and educational group, but more important, it is a political action committee -- a PAC. This means that, unlike the existing (and admirable) liberal advocacy Jewish organizations like the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, J Street will be a true political player, able to provide financial support to members of Congress who dare to defy the right-wing Israel lobby and work to defeat others who support destructive Israeli policies. Equally important, it plans to educate politicians that many Jewish donors don’t expect unquestioning fealty to Israel in exchange for their contributions -- what Ben-Ami calls "connecting the dots."

J Street’s first-year budget is a modest $1.5 million, but the Internet revolution in politics has changed the rules of the game. Its founders hope to raise significant money online, following in the wildly successful footsteps of MoveOn and the Obama campaign.

M.J. Rosenberg, the policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, a liberal education and advocacy group that he says will work "in parallel" with J Street, said he thought the new organization had a good chance of succeeding.

"They’re primarily a PAC, so I think they can have success because they’re tapping into politics," Rosenberg said. "Politics is very attractive right now. They’re going to follow the Obama/MoveOn model, with a heavy Web presence, trying to create a mass movement. They’re really going to go after the young people, which is something the mainstream organizations don’t do."

J Street will release its first round of political endorsements in June. It will start out focusing on a few key, cherry-picked races, featuring progressive candidates running against vulnerable incumbents whom the new PAC deems irresponsibly hawkish on Israel. If its involvement makes a difference in even one race, it will send a powerful message to members of Congress that their positions on the Middle East will result in both carrots and sticks.

Rosenberg said J Street’s potential ability to raise funds could make a crucial difference in Congress. "Take the example of Congresswoman Betty McCollum, from Minnesota," Rosenberg said. "She came out strongly against an AIPAC bill blocking aid to the Palestinians, so AIPAC attacked her in her district and said she was an apologist for terrorists. In the end AIPAC couldn’t do anything. She prevailed. But now, the way it could work is, if she gets the word from some donor that ’you’re going to lose $25,000,’ she can pick up the phone and call J Street and say, ’I’m down $25,000 because I stuck my neck out on this issue.’ And they’ll say, ’We’ll make it up, and you’ll have $30,000.’ I mean, that never existed before. And it really can make a difference.

"The other thing is, even some of these people who take a really hard line on these issues, when you wave $2,000 checks in front of them, they might decide that they don’t really feel the necessity to say this crazy stuff," Rosenberg said. "There’s never been a downside to Palestine-bashing on the part of members of Congress. And now they’re going to be identified. It can only be good."

One of the things that frustrates progressive Jews, Rosenberg said, is that Jewish Democrats like Jerry Nadler or Barney Frank are liberal on every issue except Israel, I asked him if the existence of an organization like J Street might lead such politicians to moderate their hawkish line on Israel. "Oh, no doubt. I think they very rarely get challenged from the left," Rosenberg said. "They hear from the right-wing AIPAC crowd on this issue, but the people on the left talk to them about other issues. They don’t talk to them about this one. So I think all it takes is them hearing that this is what their constituents want, and I think that they will moderate their positions."

For his part, Ben-Ami said politicians on the Hill had reacted extremely positively to J Street’s launch. "It is remarkable, the level of enthusiasm that people have for the idea that somebody’s going to step in here and stop the madness," he said. "Look, America is Israel’s friend. It’s pretty locked up. About the only thing that we can do to drive America away from Israel is to press our luck too far, keep on saying ’Is it pro-Israel enough?,’ keep demanding that we have 32 preamble clauses that say how bad the Palestinians are." Ben-Ami said the politicians he spoke to wanted to make sure that the U.S.-Israel relationship was not damaged by such overkill, and were grateful that a new organization would "give them a little bit of relief from this constant pressure."

J Street’s founders boast strong ties to Israel -- essential to deflect attacks from the hawkish pro-Israel right. Executive director Ben-Ami, who in addition to working for Dean was President Bill Clinton’s deputy domestic policy adviser, has deep ties to the Jewish state: His grandparents were among the founders of Tel Aviv, his parents were Israelis, his family suffered in the Holocaust, and he has lived in Israel, where he was almost blown up in a Jerusalem terror attack. Daniel Levy, who also played a key role in J Street’s creation, is a former high-ranking Israeli official who took part in the 2001 Taba negotiations with the Palestinians and was the lead Israeli drafter of the groundbreaking Geneva Initiative. J Street also boasts the endorsement of some heavy hitters from the Israeli political, military and security establishment, including a former senior member of Mossad, a former foreign minister and the former chief of staff of the Israeli army.

I asked Ben-Ami if he really thought his organization could change a political reality that has endured for decades and seems locked in stone. "I am deeply optimistic," Ben-Ami said. In addition to the fact that many Jews agreed with J Street’s policies, he pointed out that the "very visible" right- wing Jewish support for the Iraq war and for a possible future war against Iran was a powerful motivation for liberal American Jews to speak out.

"Some of the loudest voices that are beating the war drums are those of either neocons who happen to be Jewish, or established Jewish community leaders who happen to be neocons. This is very disturbing," Ben-Ami said. "And it applies not only to Israel but to the whole Middle East -- whether it’s American policy towards Iran, or maybe it had some role in the leadup to the war in Iraq. And I think this has made people say, ’Wait a minute, I may never have been interested in Israel, I may never have been interested in the Jewish community, but these folks are speaking in my name and driving us towards wars and policies that I don’t want to be responsible for.’"

Daniel Levy, the former Israeli negotiator, said J Street would also try to make hay off of mainstream Jewish organizations’ cynical embrace of far-right Christian bigots like Rev. John Hagee. "John Hagee will be a bit of a poster boy for us, a very useful stick to beat the bastards with," Levy said. "There’s a Jewish constituency out there that’s extremely uncomfortable about making common cause with people like Hagee. He’s a total bigot, anti-gay, anti-women’s rights, anti-Catholic, and suddenly he’s the best friend of the Jews? It’s not like Israel and the Jews are some kind of hunted group, and but for Hagee America would be bombing Israel and cutting off aid. It’s a disgrace, it’s dangerous to make common cause with those people. They’re not your real allies. The fact that John Hagee and Christians United for Israel, which has Gary Bauer and all the worst people in the world on their board, unite to ’honor Israel’ around the country, should have the Jewish community up in arms."

Of course, the reason some American Jews have embraced the likes of Hagee -- or George W. Bush, for that matter -- is that they regard Israel’s security as paramount, and feel that any criticism from the United States endangers it. Ben-Ami said he understood and sympathized with this attitude, but that it led to policies that were both unjust and ultimately bad for Israel. "Look, I lost my grandmother in the Holocaust, I’ve lost whole branches of my family. I understand that people come out of an experience that was searing. Literally. And that’s something that would shape your mind-set as a community -- the desire for safety and a place where we would be free from that. But we’re not doing a very good job at creating a secure home by conducting ourselves in this manner towards another people that are a minority, and that are powerless, and treating them in a way that forces them essentially to become terrorists, and leads to us being again in danger."

Another key reason that J Street is urgently needed, Ben-Ami said, is to heal a dangerous and growing schism in the Jewish community. "There’s a real generational issue here," he said. "Look at the young people. The Jewish community is a fairly progressive community and always has been. If you look at the environmental community today, if you look at the people working on Darfur, on Tibet, a large percentage of them are Jews. So the question is what’s going to happen to these people. If we say that in order to be tied to the established Jewish community, either through federations or synagogues or any institutional entity, you have to go through a litmus test of ’do you stand with Israel right or wrong on everything’ before we’ll let you feel comfortable in our institutions, we’re going to drive all these people away. We’re going to lose an entire generation."

With its small war chest and staff of four, J Street faces long odds. Its founders say that many American Jews, especially in New York and Los Angeles, have offered them support, but acknowledge that they’re going more on a hunch that their time has come than anything else. The fledgling organization is challenging not only the vast institutional and financial muscle of lobbies like AIPAC, but a daunting array of psychological and emotional hurdles within the Jewish community. But if it succeeds, it could make an significant, perhaps even a decisive, difference in American Mideast policy. It could heal a growing rift within the American Jewish community. And it could help save Israel from itself. Stay tuned.

The Jeremiah Wright You Won't Hear on FOX News

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By Mike Whitney

Jeremiah Wright is 5’ 10 ’’ of tightly-packed explosives. He may be the best public speaker since Martin Luther King. He is bright, passionate, insightful and erudite. When he speaks; the sparks fly and the ground shakes. Yesterday, when Wright took the podium at the National Press Club, he knew he’d be taken to task no matter what he said. He knew that every word he uttered would be twisted by the media to make him look like a hate-monger, or worse, a racist. But Wright faced his critics with dignity and delivered another barnburner. By the end of the speech, everyone in attendance was on their feet applauding wildly for the man the corporate media has chosen to destroy.

Reverend Wright:

"Our congregation has sent dozens of boys and girls to fight in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and the present two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My goddaughter’s unit just arrived in Iraq this week, while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service, while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls of every race to die over a lie." (Standing ovation)

Right on. Wright doesn’t mince his words. He knows what’s he wants to say and says it with gusto. Like Nietzsche opined, "If you want to be philosopher, bring a hammer". Wright brought his hammer yesterday, only it turned out to be a sledgehammer.

Reverend Wright:

"Our congregation took a stand against apartheid when the government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the African government in South Africa.
Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries.

Our congregation sent 35 men and women through accredited seminaries to earn their master of divinity degrees, with an additional 40 currently being enrolled in seminary, while building two senior citizen housing complexes and running two child care programs for the poor, the unemployed, the low-income parents on the south side of Chicago for the past 30 years.

Our congregation feeds over 5,000 homeless and needy families every year, while our government cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq." (second standing ovation)

The prophetic theology of the black church, which Wright preaches, is a theology of liberation and transformation. This isn’t the Jesus who provides fatter paychecks and vacation homes in the Barbados. This is Jesus the radical who came to deliver his people from bondage; to end segregation and Jim Crow, and to bring positive, meaningful and permanent change to "a social order that has gone sour."

Rev. Wright:

"God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society."

Right again. Wright’s message is uncontroversial. So who put the bull’s-eye on his back and decided to make him out to be a clownish caricature of a raging black radical spewing vitriol? It wasn’t a black man, that’s for sure. Was it someone who had a stake in the upcoming election and knew the best way to destroy Obama was to create a straw-man who would embody the very characteristics that make white people "uncomfortable"?

Who decided that their would be no Obama campaign; just Jeremiah Wright front-n-center 24-7 on every news channel and every front page? Who decided that Wright would have a larger media entourage than candidate Obama? Who decided that Iraq, the economy, and health care would all vanish from the national debate and voters would have to cast their ballots according to whether they liked Jeremiah Wright or not?

Obama’s supporters say that Obama wants to "transcend" race; that he wants to span the racial divide and move forward. Great, but how? Obama doesn’t pick what issues the media focuses on. Neither does Wright. Nor did Wright choose to make himself the center of attention; that decision was made at the highest level of the corporate establishment where the ruling body deploys journalists in a way that best promotes their own narrow interests. In this case, the media was tasked to sort through 15 years of backlogged sermons so they could extract a few choice tidbits that could be used to shock whites. The flap over Jeremiah Wright, who no one even heard before, is completely fabricated with the intention of derailing Obama’s candidacy. Everybody knows that.

The media is omniscient; they remain invisible behind the camera lens. But there’s no doubt about their objectives or that they’ve become a big player in the electoral process. The media sees itself as a "kingmaker"; their job is to shape public opinion using the tools at their disposal. This particular incident brings back the infamous "Dean scream", which was replayed on commercial TV over 900 times during a 48 hour period, with a background narrative which suggested that Dean was mentally unstable. It worked, too. Dean’s approval ratings plummeted after the onslaught and the threat of an antiwar candidate appearing in the general election disappeared. Another triumph for the blue suits.

Jeremiah Wright is being used the same way. As Max Blumenthal said, Wright is being used "to mobilize resentment against Barack Obama....He is presented as the quintessential angry black man that the right wing loves to incite hatred against.”

This is the classic Swift-boating technique; choose a divisive issue (Race, abortion, immigration) and then find someone who can be used to embody the controversy. Wright is just the unlucky fellow who drew the short straw. If it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else. After all, the real target is Obama; he’s the real trophy. The prospect of a black man ---however articulate and capable---occupying the Oval Office still sends shutters down the spines of America’s WASPish oligarchs. That’s "bonesman" territory, and they mean to keep it that way.

The media’s job is to make it look like Obama and Wright are joined at the hip; whatever comes out of Wright’s mouth gets pinned on Obama. It’s guilt by association and it appears to be working. Obama’s approval ratings are slipping and his supporters are are frustrated. The public is wondering, "Why are black people so angry; and why is that Reverend Wright saying such mean things about America? Maybe I was wrong about that Obama fellow after all."

But Wright is no fool. He’s aware of the media’s cynical agenda and he’s facing it head-on. He doesn’t vacillate or turn to putty like Pelosi and the other moral vagabonds in the Democratic congress. Wright is tempered steel; 100 percent Marine. No surrender. He knows that the gains in race relations have never come at the ballot box, but in the streets and in the churches and in the prisons. That where the where the real change comes; "transformational" change.

Rev. Wright:

"The prophetic theology of the black church, during the days of chattel slavery, was a theology of liberation. It was preached to set free those who were held in bondage spiritually, psychologically, and sometimes physically. And it was practiced to set the slaveholders free from the notion that they could define other human beings or confine a soul set free by the power of the gospel."

God’s desire is for positive change; real change, not cosmetic change; radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God’s desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world."

Amen, Reverend. Give ’em hell.

Here’s the video: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19836.htm

The Iraq War Morphs Into The Iranian War

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By Paul Craig Roberts

It is 1939 all over again. The world waits helplessly for the next act of naked aggression by rogue states. Only this time the rogue states are not the Third Reich and Fascist Italy. They are the United States and Israel.

The targeted victims are not Poland and France, but Iran, Syria, the remains of the Palestinian West Bank and southern Lebanon.

The American mass media is overjoyed. War coverage attracts viewers and sells advertising.

The neoconservatives are ecstatic. Hegemony uber alles is back on track.

The US Air Force can’t wait “to show what it can do.”

Defense contractors see no end of the profits.

Under cover of the mayhem and propaganda, Israel can grab the remains of the West Bank and have another go at grabbing the water resources of southern Lebanon.

Unlike the US and Israel, Iran is neither occupying any other country’s territory nor threatening to invade another country. Nevertheless, propaganda against Iran is spouting from US and Israeli mouths at an increasing rate. Lie after lie rolls off the tongues of leaders of the “two great democracies.”

On April 27 Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, blamed Iran for “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. Has Admiral Mullen forgot that it is the US, not Iran, that is responsible for as many as one million dead Iraqis and four million displaced Iraqis, the “collateral damage” of a “cakewalk war” now into its sixth year?

On April 26 the Washington Post reported that “the Pentagon is planning for potential military courses of action” against Iran.

The Bush Regime’s national security advisor says Iran is a threat in Iraq, an accusation echoed endlessly by secretary of defense Robert Gates, secretary of state Rice, vice president Cheney, and president Bush. The US, which has 150,000 troops in Iraq, is not a threat. The US troops are protecting Iraq from Iran, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Just ask Fox “News.”

Doing its part to egg on war with Iran, the US TV news program, “60 MInutes,” gave air time to the commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Eliezer Shkedi, who declared in a special interview that Iranian president Ahmadinejad was the new Hitler and that we must not again make the mistake of disbelieving a Hitler.

There are better candidates for the role than Ahmadinejad.

Gen. Shkedi himself sounds like Hitler blaming Poland for the outbreak of the second world war. Ahmadinejad has attacked no country, whereas Israel repeatedly invades its neighbors and continues 40-year occupations of Syrian and Palestinian territory.

As Noam Chomsky has written, the US government thinks that it owns the world (Chomsky could have added that Israel thinks it owns the Middle East and America). Americans can wallow in indignation over China’s occupation of Tibet, but be perfectly content with America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel can wax eloquently about “Palestinian terrorism” while its military and Zionist settlers terrorize Palestinians.

Americans see no hypocrisy in “their” government’s damning of Russia for opposing the incorporation of former Russian satellites and constituent parts in a US military alliance.

Americans see manifest destiny, not US aggression, when “their” government drops bombs on Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan. Americans do not think it is aggression for them to develop war plans to attack Iran or China or N. Korea or whomever, or to maintain hundreds of military bases all over the globe. The same Americans work themselves into hysterical frenzies over “Iranian influence in Iraq” and “al Qaeda plans to bring the war to America.”

As Chomsky says, we own the world. No one else counts.

Except Israel.

Israel counts so much that every presidential candidate has declared his and her willingness to expend whatever American blood and treasure are necessary “to protect Israel.” There are no limits on the promise “to defend Israel,” no matter what Israel does, no matter if Israel initiates (yet again) war with its neighbors, no matter if it continues to force Palestinians out of their homes and villages in order to “create living room” for Israelis.

With this sort of promise, why should Israel ever settle for anything less than “greater Israel”?

Just as the US government launched its illegal invasion of Iraq on the back of lies about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, the US government claims it must attack Iran or Iran will build a nuclear weapon. The Bush Regime has learned never to discard a lie as long as it works.

The lie works for the US Congress, the US media and much of the US public, but it is breaking down abroad. On April 27 the British newspaper, the Independent, responded to the recent US government claim that the Syrian facility attacked last September by Israel in an act of naked aggression was a nuclear reactor built by N. Korea:

“There is no independent way to verify any of this, especially since the installation has now been destroyed. We must rely on the integrity of the Israeli and US intelligence. That is where we hit a problem. The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented similar evidence to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 showing what we were told was strong evidence of Iraqi storage of weapons of mass destruction. As we all know, that intelligence turned out to be bogus.”

A needless war, a country destroyed, all for bogus intelligence. Why must we repeat our crime in Iran?

Why do we persist in our crime in Iraq? On April 27 McClatchy Newspapers reported that 50 Iraqi political leaders representing numerous political groups including Sunnis went to Sadr City to protest the siege by the US military. Why is al Sadr under seige? He called for a halt to bloodshed between Iraqis, for a “liberation of ourselves and our lands from the occupier,” for “a real government and real sovereignty.” However, for the Bush Regime, rhetoric about “freedom and democracy” is but a mask behind which to impose a US puppet government. Real Iraqi leaders like al Sadr are “terrorists” who must be eliminated.

Why do the American people and “their” representatives in Congress continue to tolerate a criminal Bush Regime that uses lies and propaganda to mask its acts of naked aggression, war crimes under the Nuremberg standard?

Why does the rest of the world continue to receive political representatives from a war criminal government?

What if the rest of the world told the US to close its bases, its embassies, its CIA operations and to go home?

Self-righteous Americans would regard such demands as effrontery! We own the world.

Halliburton Bribe Case Haunts Cheney

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By Jason Leopold

Dick Cheney’s tenure at Halliburton ended eight years ago, but a federal investigation of alleged bribes from a company subsidiary to Nigerian officials lingers from the Cheney era, raising questions about what the Vice President knew or should have known.

In its quarterly filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 25, Halliburton said the Justice Department was widening its probe to determine whether Kellogg Brown & Root paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to win a $5 billion construction contract for the Bonny Island natural gas liquefaction plant.

Halliburton also said the Justice Department is investigating whether bribes were paid to Nigerian officials relating to KBR’s construction of an offshore platform. The bribes allegedly went to the notoriously corrupt Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and some of his subordinates.

The Justice Department "has evidence of payments to Nigerian officials by another agent in connection with a separate KBR-managed project in Nigeria called the Shell EA project," according to a footnote in Halliburton’s SEC filing.

The footnote’s reference to Shell was the first time the petroleum giant was linked to the bribery suspicions. Representatives from Shell and Halliburton did not return repeated calls or e-mails for comment.

KBR, which also has handled lucrative U.S. government support contracts for U.S. troops in Iraq and elsewhere, was spun off from Halliburton last year into a separate company.

In its quarterly filing last October, Halliburton said it was subpoenaed by the Justice Department and SEC over the use – by a KBR-led consortium known as TSKJ – “of an immigration services provider, apparently managed by a Nigerian immigration official, to which approximately $1.8 million in payments in excess of costs of visas were allegedly made between approximately 1997 and the termination of the provider in December 2004 and our 2007 reporting of this matter to the government.”

Halliburton also noted that federal investigators had “expressed concern regarding the level of our cooperation,” wording that suggests suspicion of a cover-up or at least foot-dragging.

Halliburton’s April 25 filing marked the first time that specific evidence was cited to support claims that Halliburton bribed Nigerian officials in violation of the U.S. Corrupt Foreign Practices Act while Cheney was the company’s chief executive officer.

The SEC, which regulates companies that sell stock on public markets as Halliburton does, also has been investigating the case. Halliburton said it had agreed to extend the statute of limitations related to the investigation.

According to previous published accounts of the bribery scandal, the cash allegedly was laundered through UK lawyer Jeffrey Tesler, who served as a consultant to KBR after it was formed in a 1998 merger that Cheney engineered between Halliburton and Dresser Industries.

French Disclosures

The bribery investigation was launched in 2003 when Georges Krammer, a former executive French company Technip, a member of the consortium for the Bonny Island project, informed French magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke that the contracts his group obtained came as a result of payments Tesler made to Nigerian officials from a slush fund the lawyer allegedly managed.

For more than a year, the magistrate poured over evidence to determine whether Cheney may have been responsible under French law for at least one of four bribery payments to the Nigerian officials.

Under French law, “the head of a company can be charged with ‘misuse of corporate assets’ for bribes paid by any employee – even if the executive didn’t know about the improper payments.” Authorities in the UK and Switzerland also have been investigating the matter.

Legal observers say it is highly unlikely that the U.S. Justice Department will further implicate Cheney in the scandal even if alleged bribery did take place on his watch. To date, there has been no direct evidence indicating that Cheney played a direct role in the bribes.

However, during Cheney’s tenure, Halliburton did expand operations in Nigeria despite human rights abuses by Gen. Abacha’s regime and environmental damage to the Niger Delta caused by international oil companies, Shell and Chevron, both of which signed contracts with Halliburton subsidiaries.

In April 2000, Brown & Root Energy Services, a business unit of Halliburton, was selected by Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria to work on the development of an offshore oil and gas facility, the first of its kind for Shell.

The deal, valued at $300 million, has been questioned by activists who have tried to hold Shell accountable for the pollution and the human rights abuses that have harmed Nigerian indigenous groups in a part of the Niger Delta known as Ogoniland.

In its four-plus decades of oil exploration in Nigeria, Shell has been responsible for repeated environmental calamities, involving oil spills, noxious gas flares, cleared forests, despoiled farmland and pipeline blowouts.

Gen. Abacha’s appreciation for the money that Shell’s operations put into his coffers made him an eager ally when the oil industry faced popular protests, which were crushed by the dictator’s army and security forces.

In 1995, the year Cheney joined Halliburton, renowned writer and environmental advocate Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his colleagues were hanged by the Abacha government for their efforts to prevent Shell from continuing to poison the environment of the Niger Delta.

It is estimated that more than 2,000 people have been murdered for their involvement in protests against Shell’s activities in the Delta. Most of those murdered were Ogoni who had rallied behind Saro-Wiwa in the early 1990s.

In 1998, Gen. Abacha died of an apparent heart attack.

Aggressive Accounting Practices

Though Cheney’s five-year tenure at the helm of Halliburton made him a rich man, controversies surrounding the Houston-based company have continued to dog him since he became George W. Bush’s Vice President.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, the company agreed to a $7.5 million settlement with the SEC over suspect accounting practices that took place during Cheney’s affiliation with the company.

The SEC said Halliburton changed the way it accounted for construction revenues in 1998 and did not report that change to investors for more than a year, a violation of securities rules.

The accounting sleight-of-hand by Halliburton caused the company’s public statements regarding its income in 1998 and 1999 to be materially misleading, boosting Halliburton’s paper profits by $120 million.

"In the absence of any disclosure, the investing public was deprived of a full opportunity to assess Halliburton’s reported income more particularly, the precise nature of that income, and its comparability to Halliburton’s income in prior periods," the SEC said.

The changes to the company’s accounting practices led to a "significant difference in their respective effects on Halliburton’s financial presentation: the new practice reduced losses on several large construction projects" and allowed the company to report a higher profit, the SEC said.

The accounting practices, which gave Wall Street the false impression that the oil-field services company was profitable between 1998 and 1999, boosted the value of Halliburton’s stock and helped Cheney earn more than $35 million when he sold his shares in 2000.

The New York Times quoted two former Dresser Industries executives in a May 22, 2002, story as saying that after Cheney guided the merger of Dresser with Halliburton in 1998, Halliburton "instituted aggressive accounting practices to obscure its losses."

The accounting change altered the way Halliburton booked revenues from cost overruns on construction projects. Previously, the company waited until a figure was agreed upon with a client. After 1998, however, Halliburton booked revenues that it assumed a customer would pay even though the agreed-upon number might turn out to be lower.

Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said at the time that Cheney "was aware we accrued revenue on unapproved claims in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles."

The gimmick, signed off on by the now-defunct accounting firm Arthur Andersen, allowed Halliburton to add $89 million in revenues to its books in 1998, helping the company beat its earnings target by 2 cents a share for the year and boosting its stock value.

If the accounting change hadn’t been employed, said Wall Street analysts, the company would have missed its earnings target by 11 cents a share, which would surely have depressed the stock price.

During Cheney’s tenure, accounting irregularities at the company exceeded $234 million, according to documents obtained by the watchdog group Center for Public Integrity.

Halliburton also faced allegations that it over-billed for work at Fort Ord in California under Cheney’s watch, a complaint similar to more recent charges that Halliburton padded its military contract work in Iraq.

Following revelations that Cheney made $35 million from his sales of Halliburton stock before the company’s share price fell on the announcement in 2000 that the company was being investigated, the Washington Post on July 16, 2002, summed up Cheney’s tenure at Halliburton this way:

"The developments at Halliburton since Cheney’s departure leave two possibilities: Either the vice president did not know of the magnitude of problems at the oilfield services company he ran for five years, or he sold his shares in August 2000 knowing the company was likely headed for a fall."

As Halliburton’s CEO, Cheney was responsible for Halliburton’s books. He also went out of his way to praise the work done for Halliburton by Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm that unraveled in 2002 after it was found guilty of obstruction of justice for destroying documents for another energy-related client, Enron.

In a 1996 promotional video for Arthur Andersen, Cheney praised the firm for its business advice.

"One of the things I like that they do for us is that, in effect, I get good advice, if you will, from their people based upon how we’re doing business and how we’re operating, over and above the, just sort of the normal by-the-books audit arrangement," he said.

The SEC questioned Cheney during its two-year-long probe of Halliburton’s accounting irregularities and concluded that he should not be held responsible for what went on behind the scenes at Halliburton.

Cheney Lawyer Claims Congress Has No Authority Over Vice President

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By Elana Schor

The lawyer for US vice-president Dick Cheney claimed today that the Congress lacks any authority to examine his behaviour on the job.

The exception claimed by Cheney's counsel came in response to requests from congressional Democrats that David Addington, the vice-president's chief of staff, testify about his involvement in the approval of interrogation tactics used at Guantanamo Bay.

Ruling out voluntary cooperation by Addington, Cheney lawyer Kathryn Wheelbarger said Cheney's conduct is "not within the [congressional] committee's power of inquiry".

"Congress lacks the constitutional power to regulate by law what a vice-president communicates in the performance of the vice president's official duties, or what a vice president recommends that a president communicate," Wheelbarger wrote to senior aides on Capitol Hill.

The exception claimed by Cheney's office recalls his attempt last year to evade rules for classified documents by deeming the vice-president's office a hybrid branch of government - both executive and legislative.

The Democratic congressman who is investigating the legal framework for the violent interrogation of terrorist suspects, John Conyers, has asked Addington and several other top Bush administration lawyers to testify. Thus far all have claimed their deliberations are privileged.

However, Philippe Sands QC, law professor at University College, London, has agreed to appear in Washington and discuss the revelations in Torture Team, his new book on the consequences of the brutal tactics used at Guantanamo.

Excerpts from Torture Team were previewed exclusively by the Guardian earlier this month.

Two witnesses sought by Conyers, former US attorney general John Ashcroft and former US justice department lawyer John Yoo, claimed that their involvement in civil lawsuits related to harsh interrogations allows them to avoid appearing before Congress.

In letters to attorneys representing Ashcroft and Yoo, Conyers shot down their arguments and indicated he would pursue subpoenas if their clients did not testify at his May 6 hearing.

"I am aware of no basis for the remarkable claim that pending civil litigation somehow immunises an individual from testifying before Congress," Conyers wrote.

Conyers, who chairs the House of Representatives judiciary committee, also questioned the reasoning of Cheney's lawyer in a letter to Addington.

"It is hard to know what aspect of the invitation [to you] has given rise to concern that the committee might seek to regulate the vice president's recommendations to the president," Conyers wrote.

"Especially since far more obvious potential subjects of legislation are plentiful," he added, mentioning several: US laws on the use of torture on terrorist suspects, the 15-year-old War Crimes Act, and the rules that allowed the Bush White House to receive legal advice from a specialised office within the justice department.

A Litany of Horrors

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By Chalmers Johnson

America's University of Imperialism

This essay is a review of Soldiers of Reason: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire by Alex Abella (Harcourt, 400 pp., $27)

The RAND Corporation of Santa Monica, California, was set up immediately after World War II by the U.S. Army Air Corps (soon to become the U.S. Air Force). The Air Force generals who had the idea were trying to perpetuate the wartime relationship that had developed between the scientific and intellectual communities and the American military, as exemplified by the Manhattan Project to develop and build the atomic bomb.

Soon enough, however, RAND became a key institutional building block of the Cold War American empire. As the premier think tank for the U.S.’s role as hegemon of the Western world, RAND was instrumental in giving that empire the militaristic cast it retains to this day and in hugely enlarging official demands for atomic bombs, nuclear submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers. Without RAND, our military-industrial complex, as well as our democracy, would look quite different.

Alex Abella, the author of Soldiers of Reason, is a Cuban-American living in Los Angeles who has written several well-received action and adventure novels set in Cuba and a less successful nonfiction account of attempted Nazi sabotage within the United States during World War II. The publisher of his latest book claims that it is "the first history of the shadowy think tank that reshaped the modern world." Such a history is long overdue. Unfortunately, this book does not exhaust the demand. We still need a less hagiographic, more critical, more penetrating analysis of RAND’s peculiar contributions to the modern world.

Abella has nonetheless made a valiant, often revealing and original effort to uncover RAND’s internal struggles -- not least of which involved the decision of analyst Daniel Ellsberg, in 1971, to leak the Department of Defense’s top secret history of the Vietnam War, known as The Pentagon Papers to Congress and the press. But Abella’s book is profoundly schizophrenic. On the one hand, the author is breathlessly captivated by RAND’s fast-talking economists, mathematicians, and thinkers-about-the-unthinkable; on the other hand, he agrees with Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis’s assessment in his book, The Cold War: A New History, that, in promoting the interests of the Air Force, RAND concocted an "unnecessary Cold War" that gave the dying Soviet empire an extra 30 years of life.

We need a study that really lives up to Abella’s subtitle and takes a more jaundiced view of RAND’s geniuses, Nobel prize winners, egghead gourmands and wine connoisseurs, Laurel Canyon swimming pool parties, and self-professed saviors of the Western world. It is likely that, after the American empire has gone the way of all previous empires, the RAND Corporation will be more accurately seen as a handmaiden of the government that was always super-cautious about speaking truth to power. Meanwhile, Soldiers of Reason is a serviceable, if often overwrought, guide to how strategy has been formulated in the post-World War II American empire.

The Air Force Creates a Think Tank

RAND was the brainchild of General H. H. "Hap" Arnold, chief of staff of the Army Air Corps from 1941 until it became the Air Force in 1947, and his chief wartime scientific adviser, the aeronautical engineer Theodore von Kármán. In the beginning, RAND was a free-standing division within the Douglas Aircraft Company which, after 1967, merged with McDonnell Aviation to form the McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft Corporation and, after 1997, was absorbed by Boeing. Its first head was Franklin R. Collbohm, a Douglas engineer and test pilot.

In May 1948, RAND was incorporated as a not-for-profit entity independent of Douglas, but it continued to receive the bulk of its funding from the Air Force. The think tank did, however, begin to accept extensive support from the Ford Foundation, marking it as a quintessential member of the American establishment.

Collbohm stayed on as chief executive officer until 1966, when he was forced out in the disputes then raging within the Pentagon between the Air Force and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. McNamara’s "whiz kids" were Defense intellectuals, many of whom had worked at RAND and were determined to restructure the armed forces to cut costs and curb interservice rivalries. Always loyal to the Air Force and hostile to the whiz kids, Collbohm was replaced by Henry S. Rowan, an MIT-educated engineer turned economist and strategist who was himself forced to resign during the Ellsberg-Pentagon Papers scandal.

Collbohm and other pioneer managers at Douglas gave RAND its commitment to interdisciplinary work and limited its product to written reports, avoiding applied or laboratory research, or actual manufacturing. RAND’s golden age of creativity lasted from approximately 1950 to 1970. During that period its theorists worked diligently on such new analytical techniques and inventions as systems analysis, game theory, reconnaissance satellites, the Internet, advanced computers, digital communications, missile defense, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. During the 1970s, RAND began to turn to projects in the civilian world, such as health financing systems, insurance, and urban governance.

Much of RAND’s work was always ideological, designed to support the American values of individualism and personal gratification as well as to counter Marxism, but its ideological bent was disguised in statistics and equations, which allegedly made its analyses "rational" and "scientific." Abella writes:

"If a subject could not be measured, ranged, or classified, it was of little consequence in systems analysis, for it was not rational. Numbers were all -- the human factor was a mere adjunct to the empirical."

In my opinion, Abella here confuses numerical with empirical. Most RAND analyses were formal, deductive, and mathematical but rarely based on concrete research into actually functioning societies. RAND never devoted itself to the ethnographic and linguistic knowledge necessary to do truly empirical research on societies that its administrators and researchers, in any case, thought they already understood.

For example, RAND’s research conclusions on the Third World, limited war, and counterinsurgency during the Vietnam War were notably wrong-headed. It argued that the United States should support "military modernization" in underdeveloped countries, that military takeovers and military rule were good things, that we could work with military officers in other countries, where democracy was best honored in the breach. The result was that virtually every government in East Asia during the 1960s and 1970s was a U.S.-backed military dictatorship, including South Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

It is also important to note that RAND’s analytical errors were not just those of commission -- excessive mathematical reductionism -- but also of omission. As Abella notes, "In spite of the collective brilliance of RAND there would be one area of science that would forever elude it, one whose absence would time and again expose the organization to peril: the knowledge of the human psyche."

Following the axioms of mathematical economics, RAND researchers tended to lump all human motives under what the Canadian political scientist C. B. Macpherson called "possessive individualism" and not to analyze them further. Therefore, they often misunderstood mass political movements, failing to appreciate the strength of organizations like the Vietcong and its resistance to the RAND-conceived Vietnam War strategy of "escalated" bombing of military and civilian targets.

Similarly, RAND researchers saw Soviet motives in the blackest, most unnuanced terms, leading them to oppose the détente that President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger sought and, in the 1980s, vastly to overestimate the Soviet threat. Abella observes, "For a place where thinking the unthinkable was supposed to be the common coin, strangely enough there was virtually no internal RAND debate on the nature of the Soviet Union or on the validity of existing American policies to contain it. RANDites took their cues from the military’s top echelons." A typical RAND product of those years was Nathan Leites’s The Operational Code of the Politburo (1951), a fairly mechanistic study of Soviet military strategy and doctrine and the organization and operation of the Soviet economy.

Collbohm and his colleagues recruited a truly glittering array of intellectuals for RAND, even if skewed toward mathematical economists rather than people with historical knowledge or extensive experience in other countries. Among the notables who worked for the think tank were the economists and mathematicians Kenneth Arrow, a pioneer of game theory; John Forbes Nash, Jr., later the subject of the Hollywood film A Beautiful Mind (2001); Herbert Simon, an authority on bureaucratic organization; Paul Samuelson, author of Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947); and Edmund Phelps, a specialist on economic growth. Each one became a Nobel Laureate in economics.

Other major figures were Bruno Augenstein who, according to Abella, made what is "arguably RAND’s greatest known -- which is to say declassified -- contribution to American national security: . . .the development of the ICBM as a weapon of war" (he invented the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle, or MIRV); Paul Baran who, in studying communications systems that could survive a nuclear attack, made major contributions to the development of the Internet and digital circuits; and Charles Hitch, head of RAND’s Economics Division from 1948 to 1961 and president of the University of California from 1967 to 1975.

Among more ordinary mortals, workers in the vineyard, and hangers-on at RAND were Donald Rumsfeld, a trustee of the Rand Corporation from 1977 to 2001; Condoleezza Rice, a trustee from 1991 to 1997; Francis Fukuyama, a RAND researcher from 1979 to 1980 and again from 1983 to 1989, as well as the author of the thesis that history ended when the United States outlasted the Soviet Union; Zalmay Khalilzad, the second President Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations; and Samuel Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb (although the French military perfected its tactical use).

Thinking the Unthinkable

The most notorious of RAND’s writers and theorists were the nuclear war strategists, all of whom were often quoted in newspapers and some of whom were caricatured in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (One of them, Herman Kahn, demanded royalties from Kubrick, to which Kubrick responded, "That’s not the way it works Herman.") RAND’S group of nuclear war strategists was dominated by Bernard Brodie, one of the earliest analysts of nuclear deterrence and author of Strategy in the Missile Age (1959); Thomas Schelling, a pioneer in the study of strategic bargaining, Nobel Laureate in economics, and author of The Strategy of Conflict (1960); James Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense from 1973 to 1975, who was fired by President Ford for insubordination; Kahn, author of On Thermonuclear War (1960); and last but not least, Albert Wohlstetter, easily the best known of all RAND researchers.

Abella calls Wohlstetter "the leading intellectual figure at RAND," and describes him as "self-assured to the point of arrogance." Wohlstetter, he adds, "personified the imperial ethos of the mandarins who made America the center of power and culture in the postwar Western world."

While Abella does an excellent job ferreting out details of Wohlstetter’s background, his treatment comes across as a virtual paean to the man, including Wohlstetter’s late-in-life turn to the political right and his support for the neoconservatives. Abella believes that Wohlstetter’s "basing study," which made both RAND and him famous (and which I discuss below), "changed history."

Starting in 1967, I was, for a few years -- my records are imprecise on this point -- a consultant for RAND (although it did not consult me often) and became personally acquainted with Albert Wohlstetter. In 1967, he and I attended a meeting in New Delhi of the Institute of Strategic Studies to help promote the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which was being opened for signature in 1968, and would be in force from 1970. There, Wohlstetter gave a display of his well-known arrogance by announcing to the delegates that he did not believe India, as a civilization, "deserved an atom bomb." As I looked at the smoldering faces of Indian scientists and strategists around the room, I knew right then and there that India would join the nuclear club, which it did in 1974. (India remains one of four major nations that have not signed the NPT. The others are North Korea, which ratified the treaty but subsequently withdrew, Israel, and Pakistan. Some 189 nations have signed and ratified it.) My last contact with Wohlstetter was late in his life -- he died in 1997 at the age of 83 -- when he telephoned me to complain that I was too "soft" on the threats of communism and the former Soviet Union.

Albert Wohlstetter was born and raised in Manhattan and studied mathematics at the City College of New York and Columbia University. Like many others of that generation, he was very much on the left and, according to research by Abella, was briefly a member of a communist splinter group, the League for a Revolutionary Workers Party. He avoided being ruined in later years by Senator Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI because, as Daniel Ellsberg told Abella, the evidence had disappeared. In 1934, the leader of the group was moving the Party’s records to new offices and had rented a horse-drawn cart to do so. At a Manhattan intersection, the horse died, and the leader promptly fled the scene, leaving all the records to be picked up and disposed of by the New York City sanitation department.

After World War II, Wohlstetter moved to Southern California, and his wife Roberta began work on her pathbreaking RAND study, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (1962), exploring why the U.S. had missed all the signs that a Japanese "surprise attack" was imminent. In 1951, he was recruited by Charles Hitch for RAND’s Mathematics Division, where he worked on methodological studies in mathematical logic until Hitch posed a question to him: "How should you base the Strategic Air Command?"

Wohlstetter then became intrigued by the many issues involved in providing airbases for Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombers, the country’s primary retaliatory force in case of nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. What he came up with was a comprehensive and theoretically sophisticated basing study. It ran directly counter to the ideas of General Curtis LeMay, then the head of SAC, who, in 1945, had encouraged the creation of RAND and was often spoken of as its "Godfather."

In 1951, there were a total of 32 SAC bases in Europe and Asia, all located close to the borders of the Soviet Union. Wohlstetter’s team discovered that they were, for all intents and purposes, undefended -- the bombers parked out in the open, without fortified hangars -- and that SAC’s radar defenses could easily be circumvented by low-flying Soviet bombers. RAND calculated that the USSR would need "only" 120 tactical nuclear bombs of 40 kilotons each to destroy up to 85% of SAC’s European-based fleet. LeMay, who had long favored a preemptive attack on the Soviet Union, claimed he did not care. He reasoned that the loss of his bombers would only mean that -- even in the wake of a devastating nuclear attack -- they could be replaced with newer, more modern aircraft. He also believed that the appropriate retaliatory strategy for the United States involved what he called a "Sunday punch," massive retaliation using all available American nuclear weapons. According to Abella, SAC planners proposed annihilating three-quarters of the population in each of 188 Russian cities. Total casualties would be in excess of 77 million people in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe alone.

Wohlstetter’s answer to this holocaust was to start thinking about how a country might actually wage a nuclear war. He is credited with coming up with a number of concepts, all now accepted U.S. military doctrine. One is "second-strike capability," meaning a capacity to retaliate even after a nuclear attack, which is considered the ultimate deterrent against an enemy nation launching a first-strike. Another is "fail-safe procedures," or the ability to recall nuclear bombers after they have been dispatched on their missions, thereby providing some protection against accidental war. Wohlstetter also championed the idea that all retaliatory bombers should be based in the continental United States and able to carry out their missions via aerial refueling, although he did not advocate closing overseas military bases or shrinking the perimeters of the American empire. To do so, he contended, would be to abandon territory and countries to Soviet expansionism.

Wohlstetter’s ideas put an end to the strategy of terror attacks on Soviet cities in favor of a "counter-force strategy" that targeted Soviet military installations. He also promoted the dispersal and "hardening" of SAC bases to make them less susceptible to preemptive attacks and strongly supported using high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft such as the U-2 and orbiting satellites to acquire accurate intelligence on Soviet bomber and missile strength.

In selling these ideas Wohlstetter had to do an end-run around SAC’s LeMay and go directly to the Air Force chief of staff. In late 1952 and 1953, he and his team gave some 92 briefings to high-ranking Air Force officers in Washington DC. By October 1953, the Air Force had accepted most of Wohlstetter’s recommendations.

Abella believes that most of us are alive today because of Wohlstetter’s intellectually and politically difficult project to prevent a possible nuclear first strike by the Soviet Union. He writes:

"Wohlstetter’s triumphs with the basing study and fail-safe not only earned him the respect and admiration of fellow analysts at RAND but also gained him entry to the top strata of government that very few military analysts enjoyed. His work had pointed out a fatal deficiency in the nation’s war plans, and he had saved the Air Force several billion dollars in potential losses."

A few years later, Wohlstetter wrote an updated version of the basing study and personally briefed Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson on it, with General Thomas D. White, the Air Force chief of staff, and General Nathan Twining, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in attendance.

Despite these achievements in toning down the official Air Force doctrine of "mutually assured destruction" (MAD), few at RAND were pleased by Wohlstetter’s eminence. Bernard Brodie had always resented his influence and was forever plotting to bring him down. Still, Wohlstetter was popular compared to Herman Kahn. All the nuclear strategists were irritated by Kahn who, ultimately, left RAND and created his own think tank, the Hudson Institute, with a million-dollar grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

RAND chief Frank Collbohm opposed Wohlstetter because his ideas ran counter to those of the Air Force, not to speak of the fact that he had backed John F. Kennedy instead of Richard Nixon for president in 1960 and then compounded his sin by backing Robert McNamara for secretary of defense over the objections of the high command. Worse yet, Wohlstetter had criticized the stultifying environment that had begun to envelop RAND.

In 1963, in a fit of pique and resentment fueled by Bernard Brodie, Collbohm called in Wohlstetter and asked for his resignation. When Wohlstetter refused, Collbohm fired him.

Wohlstetter went on to accept an appointment as a tenured professor of political science at the University of Chicago. From this secure position, he launched vitriolic campaigns against whatever administration was in office "for its obsession with Vietnam at the expense of the current Soviet threat." He, in turn, continued to vastly overstate the threat of Soviet power and enthusiastically backed every movement that came along calling for stepped up war preparations against the USSR -- from members of the Committee on the Present Danger between 1972 to 1981 to the neoconservatives in the 1990s and 2000s.

Naturally, he supported the creation of "Team B" when George H. W. Bush was head of the CIA in 1976. Team B consisted of a group of anti-Soviet professors and polemicists who were convinced that the CIA was "far too forgiving of the Soviet Union." With that in mind, they were authorized to review all the intelligence that lay behind the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimates on Soviet military strength. Actually, Team B and similar right-wing ad hoc policy committees had their evidence exactly backwards: By the late 1970s and 1980s, the fatal sclerosis of the Soviet economy was well underway. But Team B set the stage for the Reagan administration to do what it most wanted to do, expend massive sums on arms; in return, Ronald Reagan bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Wohlstetter in November 1985.

Imperial U.

Wohlstetter’s activism on behalf of American imperialism and militarism lasted well into the 1990s. According to Abella, the rise to prominence of Ahmed Chalabi -- the Iraqi exile and endless source of false intelligence to the Pentagon -- "in Washington circles came about at the instigation of Albert Wohlstetter, who met Chalabi in Paul Wolfowitz’s office." (In the incestuous world of the neocons, Wolfowitz had been Wohlstetter’s student at the University of Chicago.) In short, it is not accidental that the American Enterprise Institute, the current chief institutional manifestation of neoconservative thought in Washington, named its auditorium the "Wohlstetter Conference Center." Albert Wohlstetter’s legacy is, to say the least, ambiguous.

Needless to say, there is much more to RAND’s work than the strategic thought of Albert Wohlstetter, and Abella’s book is an introduction to the broad range of ideas RAND has espoused -- from "rational choice theory" (explaining all human behavior in terms of self-interest) to the systematic execution of Vietnamese in the CIA’s Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. As an institution, the RAND Corporation remains one of the most potent and complex purveyors of American imperialism. A full assessment of its influence, both positive and sinister, must await the elimination of the secrecy surrounding its activities and further historical and biographical analysis of the many people who worked there.

The RAND Corporation is surely one of the world’s most unusual, Cold War-bred private organizations in the field of international relations. While it has attracted and supported some of the most distinguished analysts of war and weaponry, it has not stood for the highest standards of intellectual inquiry and debate. While RAND has an unparalleled record of providing unbiased, unblinking analyses of technical and carefully limited problems involved in waging contemporary war, its record of advice on cardinal policies involving war and peace, the protection of civilians in wartime, arms races, and decisions to resort to armed force has been abysmal.

For example, Abella credits RAND with "creating the discipline of terrorist studies," but its analysts seem never to have noticed the phenomenon of state terrorism as it was practiced in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America by American-backed military dictatorships. Similarly, admirers of Albert Wohlstetter’s reformulations of nuclear war ignore the fact that these led to a "constant escalation of the nuclear arms race." By 1967, the U.S. possessed a stockpile of 32,500 atomic and hydrogen bombs.

In Vietnam, RAND invented the theories that led two administrations to military escalation against North Vietnam -- and even after the think tank’s strategy had obviously failed and the secretary of defense had disowned it, RAND never publicly acknowledged that it had been wrong. Abella comments, "RAND found itself bound by the power of the purse wielded by its patron, whether it be the Air Force or the Office of the Secretary of Defense." And it has always relied on classifying its research to protect itself, even when no military secrets were involved.

In my opinion, these issues come to a head over one of RAND’s most unusual initiatives -- its creation of an in-house, fully accredited graduate school of public policy that offers Ph.D. degrees to American and foreign students. Founded in 1970 as the RAND Graduate Institute and today known as the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School (PRGS), it had, by January 2006, awarded over 180 Ph.D.s in microeconomics, statistics, and econometrics, social and behavioral sciences, and operations research. Its faculty numbers 54 professors drawn principally from the staffs of RAND’s research units, and it has an annual student body of approximately 900. In addition to coursework, qualifying examinations, and a dissertation, PRGS students are required to spend 400 days working on RAND projects. How RAND and the Air Force can classify the research projects of foreign and American interns is unclear; nor does it seem appropriate for an open university to allow dissertation research, which will ultimately be available to the general public, to be done in the hothouse atmosphere of a secret strategic institute.

Perhaps the greatest act of political and moral courage involving RAND was Daniel Ellsberg’s release to the public of the secret record of lying by every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Lyndon Johnson about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. However, RAND itself was and remains adamantly hostile to what Ellsberg did.

Abella reports that Charles Wolf, Jr., the chairman of RAND’s Economics Department from 1967 to 1982 and the first dean of the RAND Graduate School from 1970 to 1997, "dripped venom when interviewed about the [Ellsberg] incident more than thirty years after the fact." Such behavior suggests that secrecy and toeing the line are far more important at RAND than independent intellectual inquiry and that the products of its research should be viewed with great skepticism and care.

Chalmers Johnson’s latest book is Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, now available in a Holt Paperback. It is the third volume of his Blowback Trilogy. To view a short video of Johnson discussing military Keynesianism and imperial bankruptcy, click here.

Getting Married for Health Insurance

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By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

Seven percent of Americans say they or someone in their household decided to tie the knot in the last year so they could receive healthcare benefits, a poll finds.

Washington - Some people marry for love, some for companionship, and others for status or money. Now comes another reason to get hitched: health insurance.

In a poll released today, 7% of Americans said they or someone in their household decided to marry in the last year so they could get healthcare benefits via their spouse.

"It's a small number but a powerful result, because it shows how paying for healthcare is reflected not only in family budgets but in life decisions," said Drew E. Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which commissioned the survey as part of its regular polling on healthcare.

On a broader scale, the survey found that healthcare costs outranked housing costs, rising food prices and credit card bills as a source of concern. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said they had experienced serious problems because of the cost of healthcare, compared with 29% who had problems getting a good job or a raise. Gasoline prices were the top economic worry, with 44% saying they had serious problems keeping up with increases at the pump.

A companion poll also detected an important shift among voters: Independents in particular say they are more concerned about reducing medical costs than about increasing the number of Americans with health insurance.

A Kaiser poll from February found that 37% of independents wanted the presidential candidates to address costs first, while 32% cited the problem of getting coverage for the 47 million uninsured.

But in the latest poll, 46% of independents said the candidates should deal with costs, and 25% said expanding coverage should come first.

"The general election is going to be a contest for independent voters," Altman said. "To appeal to independent voters, the candidates are increasingly going to have to frame healthcare as an economic issue."

Among the three presidential candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona has emphasized reducing costs ahead of expanding coverage. Of the two Democrats, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has stressed coverage for all as the main goal, and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has talked about gradually expanding coverage while trying to better control costs.

Healthcare inflation has been rising at about twice the rate of economic growth, and it's unclear how much of a difference better prevention, computerized medical records and other ideas for containing costs might prove to be.

But with employer-based health insurance averaging $12,000 for family coverage and $4,500 for individuals, the public concern with costs is understandable. Nearly a fourth of Americans said they had decided to keep or change jobs in the last year because of health insurance.

What surprised researchers was that such costs had become a factor in marriage decisions. "We should have asked about divorce," said Altman, joking.

Those who cited health insurance as a factor in deciding to marry tended to have modest incomes. About 6 in 10 were in households making less than $50,000 a year, said Mollyann Brodie, who directs Kaiser's opinion research. They also were younger, with 4 in 10 between 18 and 34.

"We don't know a lot more about them," Brodie said. "Just that they answered that of all the reasons for getting married, [health insurance] was also a reason, was surprising."

Most employers do not offer health insurance to unmarried domestic partners of employees.

The Kaiser polling, conducted April 3-13, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,003 adults, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Foreclosures Spike 112 Percent - No End in Sight

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By Les Christie

More than 155,000 families have lost their homes to foreclosure this year; one out of every 194 US households received a foreclosure filing.

New York - Foreclosure filings in the first three months of 2008 rose more than 112% over last year, according to a study released Tuesday.

Real estate information firm RealtyTrac reported that nearly 650,000 foreclosure filings - which include notices of default, auction sales and bank repossessions - were issued in the first quarter. That represents 1 of every 194 households and marks a 23% increase from the last quarter of 2007.

So far this year 156,463 families have lost their homes to repossessions.

"Foreclosure activity hasn’t slowed down yet," said Rick Sharga, spokesman for RealtyTrac. "But I was a little surprised that foreclosure filings more than doubled since last year."

Foreclosures increased in 46 states and in 90 of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. Some regions that had been only marginally hurt by the mortgage meltdown recorded large increases in filings. In Connecticut, for instance, filings tripled compared with the first three months of 2007. Massachusetts recorded a 260% increase.

Nevada: Hardest Hit

The worst hit states are still clustered in the Southwest; Nevada, California and Arizona lead the nation in foreclosure filings. Prices ran up rapidly in these areas during the bubble years as speculators snapped up single-family homes and condos as investments.

In the first quarter, 1 of every 54 homes in Nevada received some type of foreclosure filing - more than any other state. Its largest city, Las Vegas, had 1 out of every 44 homes go into foreclosure.

Stockton, Calif., had the highest foreclosure rate out of any U.S. metro area, with 1 out of every 30 homes receiving a notice - nearly seven times higher than the national average. The Riverside/San Bernardino region had the second highest rate in the quarter, with one of every 38 homes in default.

Only two metro areas in the ranks of the 20 hardest hit were outside the Sunbelt - Detroit, which ranked sixth in the nation with 1 in every 68 households in default, and Cleveland which saw 1 in every 105 homes go into foreclosure.

The news comes despite increased foreclosure prevention efforts by lenders and community organizations. Hope Now, the coalition of mortgage lenders, servicers investors and community groups, announced Monday that it helped over a half a million home owners avoid foreclosure during the first three months of the year.

And some local governments have stepped up their programs to help borrowers, according to RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio.

"For example, in late March Philadelphia issued a temporary moratorium on all foreclosure auctions for April," he said. "The city has since adopted a program that will delay foreclosure proceedings on owner-occupied properties until the owners have met face-to-face with lenders to attempt to create a loan workout plan that would prevent foreclosure."

More Trouble Ahead

Additionally, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are at work on several plans that would deliver foreclosure relief to distressed borrowers.

All of these foreclosure prevention efforts may not be able to stand up to the tsunami of foreclosures on the way. Sharga says that a record number of hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) - worth $362 billion - will reset in 2008.

These so-called "exploding ARMs" usually have low introductory interest rates that reset much higher after two or three years, and then re-adjust as often as every six months after that. Unless these loans can be reworked, many will fail.

"We expect to see another foreclosure peak in the late third or fourth quarter of the year," said Sharga, "because of the record number of resets coming."

UN Taskforce to Tackle Global Food Crisis

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By Allegra Stratton

The UN secretary general today said he would head a special taskforce to address food shortages and price rises around the world.

Ban Ki-moon said the move was an attempt to avert "social unrest on an unprecedented scale."

Convening a crisis meeting of world leaders in June, he also appeared to criticise the international community's response to the crisis.

He said people had not heeded warnings from the UN's food and agriculture organisation (FAO), amongst other bodies.

"The first and immediate priority, that we all agree, is that we must feed the hungry," Ban added as he outlined his taskforce plans.

He said the World Food Programme estimated that it needed a further $775m (£382m). A total of $475m (£240m) has already been pledged.

The FAO estimated that world price for foods such as cereals, dairy, produce, meat, sugar and oils was 57% higher last month than in March.

"Without full funding of these emergency requirements, we risk again the spectre of widespread hunger, malnutrition and social unrest on an unprecedented scale," Ban said.

The secretary general was speaking in Switzerland, where he and the heads of 27 other international agencies were holding talks.

Robert Zoellick, the head of the World Bank, and Pascal Lamy, the head of the World Trade Organisation, also attended the discussions.

Acknowledging that farmers needed assistance in planting and producing more crops in the face of rising energy and fertiliser costs, Ban said the FAO had developed a $1.7bn plan to aid agriculture in the world's poorest countries.

Many farmers had committed to selling their harvests at rates fixed before the recent dramatic increase in wheat, corn, rice, dairy, and oils prices.

Economists linked the rises to factors including drought, the use of crops for biofuels and speculation by commodity traders and hedge funds.

"We must make every effort to support those farmers so that, in the coming year, we do not see even more severe food shortages," Ban said.

Presenting research compiled by the World Bank, Zoellick said people "are not planting more because they are fearful that they face very high input costs".

He added that 100 million people were estimated to have been pushed into poverty over the past two years.

"This is not a natural disaster," he said. "This crisis isn't over once the emergency needs are met.

"The world can afford this. I think we've now got the attention of the world community."

Lamy said it was unrealistic to expect that farmers would immediately benefit from the increase in food staple prices.

Increasing food production and matching crops with the goods in highest demand would take more time and depend on fair and clear international trade rules, he added.

The WTO said it had been working for seven years to conclude a new deal to slash tariffs and subsidies skewing the global prices of agricultural goods, making it hard for poor country farmers to sell their crops abroad.

BBC documentary reveals government reckless in drive for nuclear weapons

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By Trevor Johnson

In a recently aired documentary, “Windscale: Britain’s Biggest Nuclear Disaster,” the BBC investigated the history of the first British nuclear power station and its role in the development of nuclear weapons. It presented strong evidence that the Windscale fire of 1957—the first fire in any nuclear facility—was caused by the flagrant abandonment of safety measures. This took place because of pressure from the British government to produce bomb-making material. The programme explained how the 1957 fire brought Windscale to the brink of a major nuclear disaster, in which many of the people working there could have been killed and a wide area around the site left contaminated for decades.

There were interviews with key scientists and operators from the time, such as Tom Tuohy (Windscale deputy general manager), Terence Price (reactor physicist) and John Harris (scientific officer). Previously undisclosed material was used, including taped interviews conducted directly after the fire.

There was a “heady” mood when the Windscale project was in its infancy in the late 1940s. The nearby village of Seascale suddenly became “the brainiest place in Britain.” Most of the newcomers were young graduates and postgraduates, hailed in the media as “atom men” who would bring in a new age of scientific and technological achievement in which people would have better lives. In contrast to the image created for Windscale by the media, the programme showed that its real purpose was “to make bombs.”

After the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US at the end of the Second World War, Winston Churchill was determined to establish a “special relationship” between the “British Commonwealth and Empire” and the United States. He believed this was justified by the role of British scientists in the development of the atom bomb at Los Alamos, but the US government did not agree. “You helped, but we did it,” said a US nuclear historian. In 1946, the US passed a law making it a capital offence to pass nuclear secrets to any other nation, even to former allies.

This threw the post-war Labour government, led by Clement Attlee, into a crisis. Labour ministers Stafford Cripps, Hugh Dalton and others advised Attlee that Britain could not compete with the US and had nothing to gain by trying. However, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevan was determined to preserve Britain’s imperial might. “We have got to have this thing whatever it costs and we have got to have the bloody Union Jack flying on top of it,” he declared.

Labour’s aim was to shore up Britain’s position on the world stage by the development and use of high-technology weaponry so as to persuade America that Britain was its natural nuclear ally.

To do so, the UK had to repeat—“at enormous cost”—the experiments already done in US. Three men were appointed to drive the work forward: John Cockroft, to lead the team at the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Centre; Christopher Hinton, to build a nuclear reactor at Windscale; and William Penney (who had played a key role at Los Alamos), to build the bomb at Aldermaston.

The Soviet Union was expected to have developed an atomic bomb by 1952. In view of this, the British government imposed 1952 as the deadline for the Windscale project. This meant overriding the timescale set by Hinton, who was mindful of the project’s experimental nature and wanted to ensure that the reactor would be safe. Thus, building work began at Windscale before the research work at Harwell had been completed.

A nuclear reactor requires constant cooling to avoid the danger of fire, because of the quantity of heat produced by nuclear fission. To be kept cool, the uranium has to be placed inside aluminium rods, housed in hundreds of channels drilled through a graphite core. The US used a constant stream of water to keep the rods cool. However, if the water supply failed, it could lead to an uncontrollable chain reaction, similar to an atomic bomb. In the US, the reactor was built in an uninhabited desert region with a 30-mile long escape road and it was considered an acceptable risk.

No such isolated site existed in Britain. Instead a cooling system was devised that used huge fans to drive air up through the reactor and out through an enormous chimney. Using this design, it was considered acceptable to build the reactor near the village of Seascale on the Cumbrian coast in the northwest of England. Work began there on Britain’s largest engineering project.

A year into the design and construction of the plant, Terence Price (working at Harwell) asked the crucial question, “What would happen if a uranium rod set on fire?” The BBC programme explained that a burning fuel rod could fill the air with radioactive particles, which the powerful cooling system would discharge through its 400-foot chimney. Price proposed the installation of filters to reduce this danger. This was initially rejected, and Price was told, “Don’t be silly lad! Two tons of material is going to go up through the chimney every hour, how can you filter that?”

However, his arguments were taken up by Cockroft, and massive concrete filters were built and positioned on top of tower. Until the time of the fire, they were known as “Cockcroft’s follies.”

In 1951, after five years of work, the Windscale project was completed just 10 days behind schedule. It was now a big producer of plutonium, but not enough for an atomic bomb. The only way to increase production was to allow the uranium to become even hotter by clipping off all the fins from the aluminium rods. John Harris, a scientist employed at Windscale, explained that while some scientists thought it “great that we were getting enough plutonium” for “Queen and country,” there was a substantial group who considered it an unacceptable risk. Nevertheless, the entire half million fins were clipped off.

In August 1952, the first plutonium left Windscale for Aldermaston, and later that year, the first British atomic bomb was tested in the Montebello Islands, off the northwest coast of Australia. The political elite declared it to be a “triumph of British engineering.” But within weeks, the US had tested a new and even more deadly weapon—the hydrogen bomb (H-bomb)—with 10 times the destructive capacity of the British bomb. The trump card had been trumped. Worse still, the US was refusing to share the technology. Within two years, Churchill, who had become the head of a Conservative government the previous year, gave the order to make a British H-bomb—thereby setting Windscale on the path to a major fire.

The plant was now faced with producing tritium (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen) by further modifying the fuel rods in a now ageing reactor that had only been designed to produce plutonium. Despite the risks, magnesium/lithium isotope cartridges were added to the fuel rods.

For some time, the reactor core had been behaving unpredictably. The rods had been producing unexpected bursts of energy, leading to sudden heating and the danger of fire. The scientists and engineers on site were carrying out controlled releases of the stored energy known as “Wigner releases.” This involved allowing the core to heat up for a limited period, in the expectation that the energy accumulating in the rods would convert to heat that could be released in a controlled way.

New problems occurred when some of the rods became fused into the back of the reactor, so that the operators had to dislodge them using scaffolding rods. Later, men had to use shovels to remove the radioactive material and were exposed to dangerous levels of radioactivity in the process.

On October 17, 1956, Calder Hall nuclear power station opened just a few yards from Windscale. It was hailed as the first nuclear power station in the world, which would produce electricity that was “too cheap to meter.” What the public was not told was that Calder Hall was secretly helping Windscale to produce more of the material needed to meet the demands of the H-bomb programme.

Around this time, Frank Lesley, a research scientist at Windscale, recorded high levels of radioactivity around the village of Seascale. The government was informed, but issued an order that it was to be kept secret, even from those making decisions about the reactor’s future.

In 1957, an international conference in Geneva proposed that 1958 should be the deadline for a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. What followed was a scramble by the British government to speed up the drive for the H-bomb, so that it could be tested before the treaty came into force.

Britain’s first H-bomb test was a failure.

To buy time, the new Tory prime minister, Harold Macmillan, decided to produce a much bigger version of an atom bomb called “Orange Herald” that would have almost as much destructive power as an H-bomb. The new bomb required massive amounts of plutonium and tritium, so the demand on Windscale was increased by 500 percent. To achieve this, aluminium was removed from the cartridges, making them even more likely to overheat.

Hinton, the chief scientist at Windscale, resigned within weeks of the Orange Herald test. The government then ordered Penney to carry out a second H-bomb test.

On October 10, 1957, Macmillan wrote to US President Dwight Eisenhower urging him to accept Britain as America’s nuclear ally. On the same day, a serious fire broke out at Windscale.

Three days earlier, workers monitoring the temperature gauges had noticed that the reactor core was heating up, so they ordered a Wigner release to try and cool it down. The release did not have the expected result. A second Wigner release was ordered (a course of action that had been used before) and the air-cooling increased to take away the released heat. But the core heated up again unexpectedly, and high levels of radioactivity were detected. The view of the operators was that it was a badly burst fuel cartridge. In reality, one of the cartridges had caught fire.

The increased airflow following the Wigner release caused this fire to spread to many of the other fuel rods. A huge fire enveloped the reactor, “like setting a match to a piece of paper.” It had become a “blazing inferno,” with radioactive material being pumped out into the air.

There was no emergency plan for dealing with a fire situation. “Mankind had not faced a situation like this; we had to play it by ear,” one interviewee said. The residents of Seascale village were completely unaware of what was going on, since no official warning was issued.

Knowing that any wrong move could precipitate a nuclear explosion, a number of approaches to putting out the fire were tried. All of them failed. The area around the reactor was cleared and water pumped in. When that also failed, as a last resort, the airflow used to cool the fuel rods was shut off. Within minutes the fire subsided and the temperature began to fall. Due to the actions taken by the scientists and operators, the danger of a major nuclear disaster had been averted.

The local inhabitants were assured that there was no danger of nuclear contamination because the wind was blowing it out to sea. One of the scientists interviewed questioned whether this was true. Nevertheless, all the cow’s milk produced was poured away in an area of 200 square miles.

Immediately after the fire, the press hailed the Windscale men as heroes. However, only a few months later, the operators were being blamed for the fire occurring, as Macmillan tried to shift the blame away from the government and preserve the possibility of being accepted as a nuclear ally of the US. Even an official report, drawn up by Penney under Macmillan’s direction, was considered too close to the truth, in attributing the cause of the fire to modifications made to produce tritium for the H-bomb. The report was suppressed, and instead, a government White Paper was issued that blamed the fire on the operators’ “error of judgement” in carrying out the second Wigner release. On the day the White Paper was published, Britain’s first successful H-bomb test was carried out in the South Pacific.