Thursday, June 12, 2008

Garrisoning the Global Gas Station

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By Michael T. Klare

Challenging the Militarization of U.S. Energy Policy

American policymakers have long viewed the protection of overseas oil supplies as an essential matter of "national security," requiring the threat of -- and sometimes the use of -- military force. This is now an unquestioned part of American foreign policy.

On this basis, the first Bush administration fought a war against Iraq in 1990-1991 and the second Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003. With global oil prices soaring and oil reserves expected to dwindle in the years ahead, military force is sure to be seen by whatever new administration enters Washington in January 2009 as the ultimate guarantor of our well-being in the oil heartlands of the planet. But with the costs of militarized oil operations -- in both blood and dollars -- rising precipitously isn’t it time to challenge such "wisdom"? Isn’t it time to ask whether the U.S. military has anything reasonable to do with American energy security, and whether a reliance on military force, when it comes to energy policy, is practical, affordable, or justifiable?

How Energy Policy Got Militarized

The association between "energy security" (as it’s now termed) and "national security" was established long ago. President Franklin D. Roosevelt first forged this association way back in 1945, when he pledged to protect the Saudi Arabian royal family in return for privileged American access to Saudi oil. The relationship was given formal expression in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter told Congress that maintaining the uninterrupted flow of Persian Gulf oil was a "vital interest" of the United States, and attempts by hostile nations to cut that flow would be countered "by any means necessary, including military force."

To implement this "doctrine," Carter ordered the creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, specifically earmarked for combat operations in the Persian Gulf area. President Ronald Reagan later turned that force into a full-scale regional combat organization, the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM. Every president since Reagan has added to CENTCOM’s responsibilities, endowing it with additional bases, fleets, air squadrons, and other assets. As the country has, more recently, come to rely on oil from the Caspian Sea basin and Africa, U.S. military capabilities are being beefed up in those areas as well.

As a result, the U.S. military has come to serve as a global oil protection service, guarding pipelines, refineries, and loading facilities in the Middle East and elsewhere. According to one estimate, provided by the conservative National Defense Council Foundation, the "protection" of Persian Gulf oil alone costs the U.S. Treasury $138 billion per year -- up from $49 billion just before the invasion of Iraq.

For Democrats and Republicans alike, spending such sums to protect foreign oil supplies is now accepted as common wisdom, not worthy of serious discussion or debate. A typical example of this attitude can be found in an "Independent Task Force Report" on the "National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency" released by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in October 2006. Chaired by former Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger and former CIA Director John Deutch, the CFR report concluded that the U.S. military must continue to serve as a global oil protection service for the foreseeable future. "At least for the next two decades, the Persian Gulf will be vital to U.S. interests in reliable oil supplies," it noted. Accordingly, "the United States should expect and support a strong military posture that permits suitably rapid deployment to the region, if necessary." Similarly, the report adds, "U.S. naval protection of the sea-lanes that transport oil is of paramount importance."

The Pentagon as Insecurity Inc.

These views, widely shared, then and now, by senior figures in both major parties, dominate -- or, more accurately, blanket -- American strategic thinking. And yet the actual utility of military force as a means for ensuring energy security has yet to be demonstrated.

Keep in mind that, despite the deployment of up to 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Iraq is a country in chaos and the Department of Defense (DoD) has been notoriously unable to prevent the recurring sabotage of oil pipelines and refineries by various insurgent groups and militias, not to mention the systematic looting of government supplies by senior oil officials supposedly loyal to the U.S.-backed central government and often guarded (at great personal risk) by American soldiers. Five years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is only producing about 2.5 million barrels of oil per day -- about the same amount as in the worst days of Saddam Hussein back in 2001. Moreover, the New York Times reports, "at least one-third, and possibly much more, of the fuel from Iraq’s largest refinery… is [being] diverted to the black market, according to American military officials." Is this really conducive to American energy security?

The same disappointing results have been noted in other countries where U.S.-backed militaries have attempted to protect vulnerable oil facilities. In Nigeria, for example, increased efforts by American-equipped government forces to crush rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta region have merely inflamed the insurgency, while actually lowering national oil output. Meanwhile, the Nigerian military, like the Iraqi government (and assorted militias), has been accused of pilfering billions of dollars’ worth of crude oil and selling it on the black market.

In reality, the use of military force to protect foreign oil supplies is likely to create anything but "security." It can, in fact, trigger violent "blowback" against the United States. For example, the decision by the senior President Bush to maintain an enormous, permanent U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia following Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait is now widely viewed as a major source of virulent anti-Americanism in the Kingdom, and became a prime recruiting tool for Osama bin Laden in the months leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks. "For over seven years," bin Laden proclaimed in 1998, "the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight neighboring Muslim peoples." To repel this assault on the Muslin world, he thundered, it was "an individual duty for every Muslim" to "kill the Americans" and drive their armies "out of all the lands of Islam."

As if to confirm the veracity of bin Laden’s analysis of U.S. intentions, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld flew to Saudi Arabia on April 30, 2003 to announce that the American bases there would no longer be needed due to the successful invasion of Iraq, then barely one month old. "It is now a safer region because of the change of regime in Iraq," Rumsfeld declared. ’’The aircraft and those involved will now be able to leave.’’

Even as he was speaking in Riyadh, however, a dangerous new case of blowback had erupted in Iraq: Upon their entry into Baghdad, U.S. forces seized and guarded the Oil Ministry headquarters while allowing schools, hospitals, and museums to be looted with impunity. Most Iraqis have since come to regard this decision, which insured that the rest of the city would be looted, as the ultimate expression of the Bush administration’s main motive for invading their country. They have viewed repeated White House claims of a commitment to human rights and democracy there as mere fig leaves that barely covered the urge to plunder Iraq’s oil. Nothing American officials have done since has succeeded in erasing this powerful impression, which continues to drive calls for an American withdrawal.

And these are but a few examples of the losses to American national security produced by a thoroughly militarized approach to energy security. Yet the premises of such a global policy continue to go unquestioned, even as American policymakers persist in relying on military force as their ultimate response to threats to the safe production and transportation of oil. In a kind of energy "Catch-22," the continual militarizing of energy policy only multiplies the threats that call such militarization into being.

If anything, this spiral of militarized insecurity is worsening. Take the expanded U.S. military presence in Africa -- one of the few areas in the world expected to experience an increase in oil output in the years ahead.

This year, the Pentagon will activate the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), its first new overseas combat command since Reagan created CENTCOM a quarter century ago. Although Department of Defense officials are loathe to publicly acknowledge any direct relationship between AFRICOM’s formation and a growing U.S. reliance on that continent’s oil, they are less inhibited in private briefings. At a February 19th meeting at the National Defense University, for example, AFRICOM Deputy Commander Vice-Admiral Robert Moeller indicated that "oil disruption" in Nigeria and West Africa would constitute one of the primary challenges facing the new organization.

AFRICOM and similar extensions of the Carter Doctrine into new oil-producing regions are only likely to provoke fresh outbreaks of blowback, while bundling tens of billions of extra dollars every year into an already bloated Pentagon budget. Sooner or later, if U.S. policy doesn’t change, this price will be certain to include as well the loss of American lives, as more and more soldiers are exposed to hostile fire or explosives while protecting vulnerable oil installations in areas torn by ethnic, religious, and sectarian strife.

Why pay such a price? Given the all-but-unavoidable evidence of just how ineffective military force has been when it comes to protecting oil supplies, isn’t it time to rethink Washington’s reigning assumptions regarding the relationship between energy security and national security? After all, other than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who would claim that, more than five years after the invasion of Iraq, either the United States or its supply of oil is actually safer?

Creating Real Energy Security

The reality of America’s increasing reliance on foreign oil only strengthens the conviction in Washington that military force and energy security are inseparable twins. With nearly two-thirds of the country’s daily oil intake imported -- and that percentage still going up -- it’s hard not to notice that significant amounts of our oil now come from conflict-prone areas of the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa. So long as this is the case, U.S. policymakers will instinctively look to the military to ensure the safe delivery of crude oil. It evidently matters little that the use of military force, especially in the Middle East, has surely made the energy situation less stable and less dependable, while fueling anti-Americanism.

This is, of course, not the definition of "energy security," but its opposite. A viable long-term approach to actual energy security would not favor one particular source of energy -- in this case, oil -- above all others, or regularly expose American soldiers to a heightened risk of harm and American taxpayers to a heightened risk of bankruptcy. Rather, an American energy policy that made sense would embrace a holistic approach to energy procurement, weighing the relative merits of all potential sources of energy.

It would naturally favor the development of domestic, renewable sources of energy that do not degrade the environment or imperil other national interests. At the same time, it would favor a thoroughgoing program of energy conservation of a sort notably absent these last two decades -- one that would help cut reliance on foreign energy sources in the near future and slow the atmospheric buildup of climate-altering greenhouse gases.

Petroleum would continue to play a significant role in any such approach. Oil retains considerable appeal as a source of transportation energy (especially for aircraft) and as a feedstock for many chemical products. But given the right investment and research policies -- and the will to apply something other than force to energy supply issues -- oil’s historic role as the world’s paramount fuel could relatively quickly draw to a close. It would be especially important that American policymakers not prolong this role artificially by, as has been the case for decades, subsidizing major U.S. oil firms or, more recently, spending $138 billion a year on the protection of foreign oil deliveries. These funds would instead be redirected to the promotion of energy efficiency and especially the development of domestic sources of energy.

Some policymakers who agree on the need to develop alternatives to imported energy insist that such an approach should begin with oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and other protected wilderness areas. Even while acknowledging that such drilling would not substantially reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, they nevertheless insist that it’s essential to make every conceivable effort to substitute domestic oil supplies for imports in the nation’s total energy supply. But this argument ignores the fact that oil’s day is drawing to a close, and that any effort to prolong its duration only complicates the inevitable transition to a post-petroleum economy.

A far more fruitful approach, better designed to promote American self-sufficiency and technological vigor in the intensely competitive world of the mid-21st century, would emphasize the use of domestic ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills to maximize the potential of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, geothermal, and wave power. The same skills should also be applied to developing methods for producing ethanol from non-food plant matter ("cellulosic ethanol"), for using coal without releasing carbon into the atmosphere (via "carbon capture and storage," or CCS), for miniaturizing hydrogen fuel cells, and for massively increasing the energy efficiency of vehicles, buildings, and industrial processes.

All of these energy systems show great promise, and so should be accorded the increased support and investment they will need to move from the marginal role they now play to a dominant role in American energy generation. At this point, it is not possible to determine precisely which of them (or which combination among them) will be best positioned to transition from small to large-scale commercial development. As a result, all of them should be initially given enough support to test their capacity to make this move.

In applying this general rule, however, priority clearly should be given to new forms of transportation fuel. It is here that oil has long been king, and here that oil’s decline will be most harshly felt. It is thanks to this that calls for military intervention to secure additional supplies of crude are only likely to grow. So emphasis should be given to the rapid development of biofuels, coal-to-liquid fuels (with the carbon extracted via CCS), hydrogen, or battery power, and other innovative means of fueling vehicles. At the same time, it’s obvious that putting some of our military budget into funding a massive increase in public transit would be the height of national sanity.

An approach of this sort would enhance American national security on multiple levels. It would increase the reliable supply of fuels, promote economic growth at home (rather than sending a veritable flood of dollars into the coffers of unreliable petro-regimes abroad), and diminish the risk of recurring U.S. involvement in foreign oil wars. No other approach -- certainly not the present traditional, unquestioned, unchallenged reliance on military force -- can make this claim. It’s well past time to stop garrisoning the global gas station.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of several books on energy politics, including Resource Wars (2001), Blood and Oil (2004), and, most recently, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy. A brief video of Klare discussing key subjects in his new book can be viewed by clicking here. A movie version of his book Blood and Oil is now available on DVD.

Obama must learn from Kucinich's election theft impeachment

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By Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush. Two of the articles deal with the fact that Bush was never elected, and in fact stole the election of 2004 in Ohio. They should serve as a cautionary notice to the Obama campaign that this year’s election could also be stolen.

Kucinich’s courage in introducing these articles is underscored by the fact that the Congress should have removed Bush from office years ago. From lying to the world to perpetrate the war in Iraq, to violating the Constitution on scores of basic civil rights and liberties issues, to fostering a regime based on unprecedented corruption and robbery, George W. Bush would be known as the worst president in the history of the United States if in fact he had been elected president.

But these articles of impeachment contain charges that come directly from the independent reportage on the stolen 2004 election that appeared first at and in other non-corporate and internet-based media throughout the United States. Ironically, though these facts have finally penetrated to a proposed Congressional indictment of the nation’s chief executive, they have yet to be reported in the "mainstream" corporate-owned media.

Kucinich’s Article 28 charges Bush with "tampering with free and fair elections," along with "corruption of the administration of justice." Article 29 charges him and his staff and political cronies and underlings with "conspiracy to violate the Civil Rights Act of 1965" (co-author Bob Fitrakis, attorney-at-law, helped draft these Articles 28 and 29 based in part on information that was first posted at

Many of the specific charges leveled in the bill of impeachment can be traced directly to conflict of interest charged raised in Ohio by grassroots election protection activists before, during and after the 2004 voting. Bush deserves impeachment, Kucinich writes, for "willfully allowing his agent, Ohio Secretary of State John Kenneth Blackwell, the Co-Chair of the Bush-Cheney Re-election Campaign, to ensure that uncounted and provisional ballots in Ohio’s 2004 presidential election would be disproportionately concentrated in urban African-American districts."

The impeachment document also notes that "in Ohio’s Lucas County, which includes Toledo, 3,122 or 41.13% of the provisional ballots went uncounted under the direction of George W. Bush’s agent, the Secretary of State of Ohio, John Kenneth Blackwell, Co-Chair of the Committee to Re-Elect Bush/Cheney in Ohio....In Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, 8,559 or 32.82% of the provisional ballots went uncounted....In Ohio’s Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, 3,529 or 24.23% of the provisional ballots went uncounted."

In our numerous conversations with Rep. Kucinich since the Ohio-centered theft of the 2004 election, he has made it clear that he fully understands the depth of planning and coordination that went into the hijacking of the presidency. Based on sophisticated coordination between Blackwell and White House consiglieri Karl Rove, the GOP launched a high-tech blitzkrieg on the electoral process. Their tactics ranged from removing more than 300,000 registered Ohio citizens from the voter rolls, to short-changing inner city precincts of needed voting machines, to rigging electronic vote counts, to calling a phony Homeland Security alert to several score other tactics, many of which continue to surface.

The tragedy of this impeachment is that it did not occur in 2004, when the independent media filled with the first revelations of what really happened in Ohio. Two new election protection documentaries, David Earnhardt’s UNCOUNTED and a new release coming from Emmy-award winner Dorothy Fadiman, make the experience even more indelible.

The Bush catastrophe is now winding down, having exceeded all expectations in its destruction of the fabric of American law, economy and ecology. But if Barack Obama allows history to repeat itself yet again in 2008, this nation will plunge even deeper into the depths. The only way to avoid that is to proceed with this impeachment in all its potential force. At very least, this Congress must thoroughly expose and act on what was done to our sacred democratic process in 2004. As we have since learned, the world cannot afford to have this happen again.

Full text of the resolution can be found at: Articles of Impeachment

Strike on Iran nuclear sites under discussion again

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By Dion Nissenbaum

JERUSALEM — Six months ago, after American intelligence agencies declared that Iran had shelved its nuclear-weapons program, the chances of a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran before President Bush left office seemed remote.

Now, thanks to persistent pressure from Israeli hawks and newly stated concerns by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the idea of a targeted strike meant to cripple Iran's nuclear program is getting a new hearing.

As Bush travels across Europe to gain support for possible new sanctions against Iran, Israeli leaders have been working to lay the psychological foundation for a possible military strike if diplomacy falters.

In public threats and private briefings with American decision-makers, Israeli officials have been making the case that a military strike may be the only way to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"Temperatures are rising," said Emily Landau, an Iran specialist at the Institute for National Security Studies, an independent Israeli research center.

Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have met twice in recent weeks for extended talks on Iran. America's intelligence chief, Mike McConnell, has traveled to Israel for private briefings, and Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz publicly declared that a military strike on Iran may be "unavoidable."

In Germany on Wednesday, Bush said that "all options are on the table" if Iran doesn't abandon its uranium enrichment programs.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greeted Bush's initiative by mocking the latest international efforts.

"They've tried by military threats ... and political pressure to stop you from your luminous path," Ahmadinejad reportedly told a rally in Iran on Wednesday. "But today they have seen that all their planning has failed.

"Today the Iranian nation is standing on the nuclear height."

Intelligence analysts disagree over the likelihood of a military strike on Iran before Bush leaves office. But there's little disagreement about the possible repercussions, which could include missile strikes on Israel, an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, renewed attacks on Israel from Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon, a resurgence of Shiite Muslim resistance to U.S. forces in Iraq or an attack on oil shipping in the Persian Gulf, which could send crude oil prices well above $200 a barrel.

Some analysts view the latest Israeli threats as an attempt to put pressure on Iran to capitulate to Western demands. Other analysts see the Israeli campaign as intended to press the Bush administration to take the lead if the two nations decide to launch a military strike on Iran.

"The most likely scenario is that the Israelis will train and prepare as if they are very serious — and that's part of the bluff to get the U.S. engaged," said John McCreary, a retired intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense.

The key factor in any decision to launch a military strike is likely to be solid intelligence that Iran is rapidly advancing on its nuclear ambitions.

"I don't think there is that smoking gun that we can hold up and say that everyone should stand behind this," said Landau, who recently wrote an analysis titled "The Elusive Smoking Gun" for her think tank.

But Landau said the international debate had shifted in the weeks since the IAEA expressed "serious concerns" about Iran's nuclear ambitions and demanded more answers.

Israel already has demonstrated an ability to persuade reluctant Bush administration officials of the need to stage a pre-emptive strike. Before launching an airstrike on Syria last September, Israel provided the United States with intelligence suggesting that its Middle East neighbor was building a nuclear plant.

In April, the CIA publicly unveiled detailed images of the Syrian target and said that it was a nuclear reactor built with help from North Korea. Syria has denied the allegation. International inspectors are expected to visit the site for the first time later this month.

Considering Ahmadinejad's refusal so far to accept the international incentives, some analysts see support growing in Israel and the United States for a military strike.

"I think more and more people are looking to the military option as possibly the only thing that will work, and people are more and more feeling that negotiations won't work," said Meir Javendanfar, a co-author of "The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran."

Hard-liners in the U.S. and Israel also dismiss the notion that U.S. or Israeli nuclear weapons would deter Iran from using such weapons itself if it succeeded in obtaining them.

The very fact that a military strike is percolating back into mainstream debate is a significant shift in the political discourse.

Most analysts dismissed the military option last December after U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Iran had shelved its nuclear weapons work in 2003 and was unlikely to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 or 2015.

Though Bush and Olmert challenged the assessment at the time, the analysis made it more difficult to make a case for swift military action.

Since then, Israel has shared more of its intelligence with the Bush administration.

Last week, Olmert traveled to Washington for extended talks with Bush that focused primarily on Iran.

"Every passing day the world acts, under the leadership of the United States, to achieve that goal that will prevent Iran's armament," Olmert said after meeting Bush.

On Wednesday, Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said that Iran must understand that it must give up its nuclear ambitions in order to receive international incentives.

"Only if they understand that there is a clear and stark choice, that there isn't wiggle room, only then can diplomacy succeed," Regev said. "I think in dealing with the Iranians it's important to have both carrots and sticks."

Interrogation for Profit

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Congress is finally moving to ban one of the Bush administration’s most blatant evasions of accountability in Iraq — the outsourcing of war detainees’ interrogation to mercenary private contractors.

Operating free of the restraints of military rule and ethics, some of these corporate thugs turned up in the torture scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison and walked away with impunity. Others are now believed to be in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency at secret prisons that remain outside the rule of law, exempted even from the weak 2006 rules on interrogating prisoners.

Civilian interrogators are part of the broader pool of hired guns that the administration has deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other spots around the world. Their actions regularly enrage Iraqis, most notably last September, when a phalanx of trigger-happy contractors assigned to protect American diplomats sprayed a crowd and killed 17 civilians.

These depredations continue to undermine the United States in the eyes of both citizens of war zones and the watching world. Their use as interrogators are a symptom of the administration’s ducking accountability under international law by concocting ersatz redefinitions of civilized behavior and undermining legitimate intelligence operations.

In the current military budget debate, both houses are proposing an outright ban on the use of contractors as prisoner interrogators. They also would order the Pentagon to finally rein in its use of tens of thousands of contract guards as laissez-faire warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon would have to write rules specifying which security operations are military missions that cannot be outsourced.

Abuses by mercenaries operating beyond the reach of criminal and military law have been an outgrowth of the administration’s failure to adequately staff its military invasion force. The most notorious of the favored war contractors has been Blackwater Worldwide. But numerous other bidders have been awarded plums to amass “private security” stealth forces estimated to total near 50,000 fighters.

The White House, of course, is threatening a veto, citing its all-purpose plaint that the interrogator ban would hobble the nation’s “ability to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack.” In leading the House to passage of the ban, Representative David Price, Democrat of North Carolina, laid bare the folly of using for-profit gunslingers to undertake the highly sensitive task of handling and questioning detainees.

Anyone interested in protecting America, Mr. Price pointed out, must see the wisdom of using interrogators “who are well trained, who fall within a clear chain of command and who have a sworn loyalty to the United States” — not to some corporate bottom line.

Congress should stand up to the veto threats and go even further: approve measures to make war-zone contractors liable for criminal behavior and to assign the Federal Bureau of Investigation to on-the-scene inquiries into contractor crimes. The way out of the Iraq fiasco must include an end to the outsourced shadow armies.

Bush forced to rethink plan to keep Iraq bases

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By Leonard Doyle

President offers concessions after furious reaction in Baghdad to American 'colonialism'

Faced with Iraqi anger over a US plan to enable Washington to keep military forces in the country indefinitely, George Bush is offering concessions to the government of Nouri al-Maliki in an effort to salvage an agreement, it emerged yesterday.

The proposed terms of the impending deal, which were first revealed in The Independent, have had a predictably explosive political effect inside Iraq. Negotiations between Washington and Baghdad grew fraught, with Iraqi politicians denouncing US demands to maintain a permanent grip on the country through the establishment of permanent military bases.

Officials complained that the plan which allows US troops to occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, would turn Iraq into a colony of the US, and create the conditions for unending conflict both in Iraq and the Middle East.

With Washington's Iraqi allies rising up in revolt against the plans, Mr Bush ordered a negotiating shift this weekend after speaking to Mr Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister. "Now the American position is much more positive and more flexible than before," a leading Iraqi negotiator in the talks was quoted as saying.

Senior Iraqi officials want a major reduction of the US military footprint in Iraq as soon as the UN Security Council mandate approving their presence expires at the end of the year. Iraqi officials also want US forces confined to barracks unless the Iraqis ask for their assistance. Emboldened by recent successes by Iraqi security forces, many officials want the US troops to leave altogether.

President Bush, who is on a farewell tour of Europe, wants a new agreement sealed by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory in Iraq and say his 2003 invasion has been vindicated before he leaves office.

But any long-term settlement to maintain US forces in Iraq would cut the ground from under the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, who has promised to withdraw US troops if he is elected in November.

The Bush administration says a new agreement is needed to ensure stability in Iraq, as without one or an extended UN mandate, there would be no legal basis for US forces to remain.

The growing Iraqi anger with the proposal was front-page news in the US yesterday. Sami al-Askari, a senior Shia politician close to Mr Maliki told The Washington Post: "The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonisation of Iraq ... If we can't reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, 'Goodbye, US troops. We don't need you here any more.'"

The Democrat-controlled Congress is also uneasy about President Bush's attempt to impose a colonial-style mandate on Iraq. Both Democrats and Republicans have questioned Mr Bush's assertion that he does not require congressional approval for the proposed agreement.

The argument is focused on negotiations on a status of forces agreement defining the legal rights and responsibilities of US forces. As framed, it gives the US military free reign to operate in the country. There is also proposed "security framework" covering the relationship between the US and Iraq.

Momentum is also growing within the Maliki administration for the US to leave altogether. Mr Maliki was in Iran this week where the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told him not to sign up to any long-term security deals with Washington.

The agreement is being negotiated by David Satterfield, the US State Department's top adviser on Iraq, who still maintains it can be initialled by a July deadline which Mr Bush set last year last year. "It's doable," he told reporters in Baghdad. "We think it's an achievable goal."

At a news conference, Mr Satterfield kept repeating that the US wants only to create a more independent Iraq. "We want to see Iraqi sovereignty strengthened, not weakened," he said.

But Iraqis say that US demands for long-term military bases in the country even if the numbers are reduced, give the lie to that assertion.

US negotiatiors are also determined to maintain policies that allow them to arrest Iraqis without the approval of Iraqi courts, maintaining immunity for US troops and contractors from Iraqi prosecution and carrying out military operations without the Iraqi government's knowledge or approval.

Washington also wants to retain control over Iraqi airspace and the right to refuel planes in the air, which has raised concerns that President Bush wants to have the option of using Iraq as a base to attack Iran.

"Biometrics for Identification and Screening to Enhance National Security"

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By Michel Chossudovsky

The latest Big Brother police state measure emanating from the Bush administration, with virtually no press coverage, is NSPD 59 (HSPD 24) entitled Biometrics for Identification and Screening to Enhance National Security [Complete text of NSPD 59 (HSPD 24) in Annex below]

NSPD is directed against US citizens.

It is adopted without public debate or Congressional approval. Its relevant procedures have far-reaching implications.

NSPD 59 goes far beyond the issue of biometric identification, it recommends the collection and storage of "associated biographic" information, meaning information on the private lives of US citizens, in minute detail, all of which will be "accomplished within the law":

"The contextual data that accompanies biometric data includes information on date and place of birth, citizenship, current address and address history, current employment and employment history, current phone numbers and phone number history, use of government services and tax filings. Other contextual data may include bank account and credit card histories, plus criminal database records on a local, state and federal level. The database also could include legal judgments or other public records documenting involvement in legal disputes, child custody records and marriage or divorce records."(See Jerome Corsi, June 2008)

The directive uses 9/11 as an all encompassing justification to wage a witch hunt against dissenting citizens, establishing at the same time an atmosphere of fear and intimidation across the land.

It also calls for the integration of various data banks as well as inter-agency cooperation in the sharing of information, with a view to eventually centralizing the information on American citizens.

In a carefully worded text, NSPD 59 "establishes a framework" to enable the Federal government and its various police and intelligence agencies to: "use mutually compatible methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information of individuals in a lawful and appropriate manner, while respecting their information privacy and other legal rights under United States law."

The Directive recommends: "actions and associated timelines for enhancing the existing terrorist-oriented identification and screening processes by expanding the use of biometrics".

"Other Categories of Individuals"

The stated intent of NSPD 59 is to protect America from terrorists, but in fact the terms of reference include any person who is deemed to pose a threat to the Homeland. The government requires the ability:

"to positively identify those individuals who may do harm to Americans and the Nation... Since September 11, 2001, agencies have made considerable progress in securing the Nation through the integration, maintenance, and sharing of information used to identify persons who may pose a threat to national security.

The Directive is not limited to KSTs, which in Homeland Security jargon stands for "Known and Suspected Terrorists":

"The executive branch has developed an integrated screening capability to protect the Nation against "known and suspected terrorists" (KSTs). The executive branch shall build upon this success, in accordance with this directive, by enhancing its capability to collect, store, use, analyze, and share biometrics to identify and screen KSTs and other persons who may pose a threat to national security.

The executive branch recognizes the need for a layered approach to identification and screening of individuals, as no single mechanism is sufficient. For example, while existing name-based screening procedures are beneficial, application of biometric technologies, where appropriate, improve the executive branch’s ability to identify and screen for persons who may pose a national security threat. To be most effective, national security identification and screening systems will require timely access to the most accurate and most complete biometric, biographic, and related data that are, or can be, made available throughout the executive branch."

NSPD 59 calls for extending the definition of terrorists to include other categories of individuals "who may pose a threat to national security".

In this regard, it is worth noting that in the 2005 TOPOFF (Top officials) anti-terror drills, two other categories of individuals were identified as potential threats: "Radical groups" and "disgruntled employees", suggesting than any form of dissent directed against Big Brother will be categorized as a threat to America.

In a previous 2004 report of the Homeland Security Council entitled Planning Scenarios, the enemy was referred to as the Universal Adversary (UA).

The Universal Adversary was identified in the scenarios as an abstract entity used for the purposes of simulation. Yet upon more careful examination, this Universal Adversary was by no means illusory. It included the following categories of potential "conspirators":

"foreign [Islamic] terrorists" ,

"domestic radical groups", [antiwar and civil rights groups]

"state sponsored adversaries" ["rogue states", "unstable nations"]

"disgruntled employees" [labor and union activists].

According to the DHS Planning Scenarios Report :

"Because the attacks could be caused by foreign terrorists; domestic radical groups; state sponsored adversaries; or in some cases, disgruntled employees, the perpetrator has been named, the Universal Adversary (UA). The focus of the scenarios is on response capabilities and needs, not threat-based prevention activities." (See Planning Scenarios )

Under NSPD 59, biometrics and associated biographical information will be used to control all forms of social dissent.

Domestic radical groups and labor activists envisaged in various counter terrorism exercises, constitute in the eyes of the Bush administration, a threat to the established economic and political order.

In the text of NSPD 59, these other categories of people have been conveniently lumped together with the KSTs ("known and suspected terrorists"), confirming that the so-called anti-terror laws together with the Big Brother law enforcement apparatus and its associated data banks of biometric and biographic information on US citizens are intended to be used against all potential domestic "adversaries" including those who oppose the US led war in the Middle East and the derogation of the Rule of Law in America.

It is worth noting that NSPD 59 was issued on June 5, 2008, 4 days prior to the publication of Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s Articles of Impeachment of President George W. Bush by the House of Representatives. Article XXIII of the Articles Impeachment underscore how in derogation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents the military from intervening in civilian law enforcement, President Bush:

"a) has used military forces for law enforcement purposes on U.S. border patrol;

b) has established a program to use military personnel for surveillance and information on criminal activities;

c) is using military espionage equipment to collect intelligence information for law enforcement use on civilians within the United States"

In Article XXIV the president is accused on Spying on American Ctizens without a court-Ordered Warrant , In Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment.


Biometrics for Identification and Screening to Enhance National Security [Complete text of NSPD 59 (HSPD 24) in Annex below]

National Security Presidential Directive and Homeland Security Presidential Directive


SUBJECT: Biometrics for Identification and Screening to Enhance National Security


This directive establishes a framework to ensure that Federal executive departments and agencies (agencies) use mutually compatible methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information of individuals in a lawful and appropriate manner, while respecting their information privacy and other legal rights under United States law.


(1) The executive branch has developed an integrated screening capability to protect the Nation against "known and suspected terrorists" (KSTs). The executive branch shall build upon this success, in accordance with this directive, by enhancing its capability to collect, store, use, analyze, and share biometrics to identify and screen KSTs and other persons who may pose a threat to national security.

(2) Existing law determines under what circumstances an individual’s biometric and biographic information can be collected. This directive requires agencies to use, in a more coordinated and efficient manner, all biometric information associated with persons who may pose a threat to national security, consistent with applicable law, including those laws relating to privacy and confidentiality of personal data.

(3) This directive provides a Federal framework for applying existing and emerging biometric technologies to the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of data in identification and screening processes employed by agencies to enhance national security, consistent with applicable law, including information privacy and other legal rights under United States law.

(4) The executive branch recognizes the need for a layered approach to identification and screening of individuals, as no single mechanism is sufficient. For example, while existing name-based screening procedures are beneficial, application of biometric technologies, where appropriate, improve the executive branch’s ability to identify and screen for persons who may pose a national security threat. To be most effective, national security identification and screening systems will require timely access to the most accurate and most complete biometric, biographic, and related data that are, or can be, made available throughout the executive branch.

(5) This directive does not impose requirements on State, local, or tribal authorities or on the private sector. It does not provide new authority to agencies for collection, retention, or dissemination of information or for identification and screening activities.


(6) In this directive:

(a) "Biometrics” refers to the measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) and behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition; examples include fingerprint, face, and iris recognition; and

(b) "Interoperability" refers to the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.


(7) The ability to positively identify those individuals who may do harm to Americans and the Nation is crucial to protecting the Nation. Since September 11, 2001, agencies have made considerable progress in securing the Nation through the integration, maintenance, and sharing of information used to identify persons who may pose a threat to national security.

(8) Many agencies already collect biographic and biometric information in their identification and screening processes. With improvements in biometric technologies, and in light of its demonstrated value as a tool to protect national security, it is important to ensure agencies use compatible
methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric information.

(9) Building upon existing investments in fingerprint recognition and other biometric modalities, agencies are currently strengthening their biometric collection, storage, and matching capabilities as technologies advance and offer new opportunities to meet evolving threats to further enhance national security.

(10) This directive is designed to (a) help ensure a common recognition of the value of using biometrics in identification and screening programs and (b) help achieve objectives described in the following: Executive Order 12881 (Establishment of the National Science and Technology Council); Homeland Security Presidential Directive‑6 (HSPD‑6) (Integration and Use of Screening Information to Protect Against Terrorism); Executive Order 13354 (National Counterterrorism Center); Homeland Security Presidential Directive‑11 (HSPD‑11) (Comprehensive Terrorist Related Screening Procedures); Executive Order 13388 (Further Strengthening the Sharing of Terrorism Information to Protect Americans); National Security Presidential Directive‑46/Homeland Security Presidential Directive‑15 (NSPD-46/HSPD-15) (U.S. Policy and Strategy in the War on Terror); 2005 Information Sharing Guidelines; 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism; 2006 National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel; 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security; 2007 National Strategy for Information Sharing; and 2008 United States Intelligence Community Information Sharing Strategy.


(11) Through integrated processes and interoperable systems, agencies shall, to the fullest extent permitted by law, make available to other agencies all biometric and associated biographic and contextual information associated with persons for whom there is an articulable and reasonable basis for suspicion that they pose a threat to national security.

(12) All agencies shall execute this directive in a lawful and appropriate manner, respecting the information privacy and other legal rights of individuals under United States law, maintaining data integrity and security, and protecting intelligence sources, methods, activities, and sensitive law enforcement information.

Policy Coordination

(13) The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, in coordination with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, shall be responsible for interagency policy coordination on all aspects of this directive.

Roles and Responsibilities

(14) Agencies shall undertake the roles and responsibilities herein to the fullest extent permitted by law, consistent with the policy of this directive, including appropriate safeguards for information privacy and other legal rights, and in consultation with State, local, and tribal authorities, where appropriate.

(15) The Attorney General shall:

(a) Provide legal policy guidance, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), regarding the lawful collection, use, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information to enhance national security; and

(b) In coordination with the DNI, ensure that policies and procedures for the consolidated terrorist watchlist maximize the use of all biometric identifiers.

(16) Each of the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the DNI, and the heads of other appropriate agencies, shall:

(a) Develop and implement mutually compatible guidelines for each respective agency for the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information, to the fullest extent practicable, lawful, and necessary to protect national security;

(b) Maintain and enhance interoperability among agency biometric and associated biographic systems, by utilizing common information technology and data standards, protocols, and interfaces;

(c) Ensure compliance with laws, policies, and procedures respecting information privacy, other legal rights, and information security;

(d) Establish objectives, priorities, and guidance to ensure timely and effective tasking, collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information among authorized agencies;

(e) Program for and budget sufficient resources to support the development, operation, maintenance, and upgrade of biometric capabilities consistent with this directive and with such instructions as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget may provide; and

(f) Ensure that biometric and associated biographic and contextual information on KSTs is provided to the National Counterterrorism Center and, as appropriate, to the Terrorist Screening Center.

(17) The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the DNI, shall coordinate the sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information with foreign partners in accordance with applicable law, including international obligations undertaken by the United States.

(18) The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), shall coordinate executive branch biometric science and technology policy, including biometric standards and necessary research, development, and conformance testing programs. Recommended executive branch biometric standards are contained in the Registry of United States Government

Recommended Biometric Standards and shall be updated via the NSTC Subcommittee on Biometrics and Identity Management.


(19) Within 90 days of the date of this directive, the Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the DNI, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, shall, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, submit for the President’s approval an action plan to implement this directive. The action plan shall do the following:

(a) Recommend actions and associated timelines for enhancing the existing terrorist-oriented identification and screening processes by expanding the use of biometrics;

(b) Consistent with applicable law, (i) recommend categories of individuals in addition to KSTs who may pose a threat to national security, and (ii) set forth cost-effective actions and associated timelines for expanding the collection and use of biometrics to identify and screen for such individuals; and

(c) Identify business processes, technological capabilities, legal authorities, and research and development efforts needed to implement this directive.

(20) Within 1 year of the date of this directive, the Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the DNI, and the heads of other appropriate agencies, shall submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, a report on the implementation of this directive and the associated action plan, proposing any necessary additional steps for carrying out the policy of this directive. Agencies shall provide support for, and promptly respond to, requests made by the Attorney General in furtherance of this report. The Attorney General will thereafter report to the President on the implementation of this directive as the Attorney General deems necessary or when directed by the President.

General Provisions

(21) This directive:

(a) shall be implemented consistent with applicable law, including international obligations undertaken by the United States, and the authorities of agencies, or heads of such agencies, vested by law;

(b) shall not be construed to alter, amend, or revoke any other NSPD or HSPD in effect on the effective date of this directive;

(c) is not intended to, and does not, create any rights or benefits, substantive or procedural, enforceable by law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Fuel protests sweep across Europe

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By Carlos Alejandro and Paul Mitchell

Spain is the latest country to be hit as a wave of protests against high fuel prices has spread to France and Portugal.

The price of diesel has risen to €1.30 a litre, up from €0.95 a litre a year ago, and in other European countries prices are as high as €1.50 a litre—equivalent to US$9 a gallon. In recent days, oil prices topped a record US$139 per barrel, and investment bankers Goldman Sachs say the price could rise to US$200 over the next year.

On Monday, the Spanish National Federation of Transport Associations (Fenadismer), which represents 70,000 truck drivers, began an indefinite strike joining a second group, the Platform for the Defence of the Transport Sector, whose members stopped work last week. The larger Spanish Confederation of Merchandise Transporters, CETM, has not joined the strike. Most drivers in Spain are self-employed or work for small and medium-sized haulage companies.

Truckers’ leaders warned that the strike could bring the country to a standstill if the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government failed to set a minimum price for transport services, adjust contracts to reflect fuel price increases and lower taxation on fuel.

“We are the ones who move the goods that this country needs to keep working,” said Fenadismer president Julio Villascusa, “If we stop because we haven’t got the money to buy fuel, then the country will stop.”

Villascusa accused the government of proposing measures “already in existence for years” at talks that broke down on Monday. Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had offered truckers emergency loans, more flexible contracts and cash payments to encourage older lorry drivers to retire. Zapatero said that the government is “clearly sensitive” to the problems brought about by fuel price rises, but “they were, as was their obligation, prepared to face the consequences of the strike action.”

A posting on the Internet from a British driver who works for a small Spanish haulier said, “Whilst many in Europe may disagree with our actions they must understand that we simply cannot continue unless something changes dramatically. Fuel costs have increased by more than 20 percent this year, but the rates paid have not increased. The company I work for runs just three trucks internationally and to fill them up now costs just under 2,000 euros—a year ago it cost about 1,470 euros.

“We continually hear from the government in Madrid and the [European Union] in Brussels that they are trying to resolve the problem. The problem is we are running out of time whilst they sit on their fat behinds on six figure salaries telling us what we can and cannot do.”

The truckers’ protest led to traffic jams several miles long at the main border crossings between Spain and France, and brought chaos to many cities including Madrid and Barcelona. Huge queues have formed at petrol stations, and many are running out of fuel. Antonio Onieva, president of Madrid’s station owners’ organisation, says that by early evening on Monday, 15 percent of the capital’s outlets had sold out and Catalonia’s owners’ federation president Manuel Amado said 40 percent of its 1,714 stations had been forced to close. The strike is also beginning to affect food supplies as truckers blockade access to wholesale markets including Mercamadrid, the main food market supplying the capital.

Spain has been particularly hard hit as soaring fuel prices coincide with the sharpest economic downturn in nearly two decades, particularly in the residential construction sector on which it relied during the boom years. The most recent International Monetary Fund forecast suggests economic growth will fall from 3.8 percent last year to 1.8 percent this year—one of the biggest drops among developed nations—and that inflation will rise to 4 percent. The European Economic Forecast reports, “Record levels of corporate and household debt.... And with ample, cheap credit no longer available, a severe correction is likely.”

The truckers’ protest in Spain is one of many across Europe over the last few weeks. On May 28, there were fuel protests in Bulgaria when 150 truck and bus drivers converged in a convoy on the outskirts of Sofia. At the beginning of June, Italian and Spanish fishermen went on strike and French fishermen blockaded the port of Cherbourg, preventing ships and yachts from leaving.

French truckers have also become involved in the protests. Some 200 trucks converged on the four main motorways leading into Bordeaux on Monday morning, causing 30 kilometres of queues. Union official Jean-Claude Ferrand told reporters, “We have no more solutions. We can’t afford diesel any more. It’s as simple as that.”

“We are demanding immediate measures” to counteract the impact of high fuel prices, said Jean-Pierre Morlin, president of the European trucking organisation for the Aquitaine region.

Drivers in Spain’s neighbour, Portugal, have blocked the entrances to several factories and threatened to “paralyse” the country. According to industry figures, some 40,000 truckers serve an estimated 5,000 firms in Portugal. In Italy, Conftrasporto, the umbrella group for most of the seven Italian truck drivers’ unions, said it is considering more stoppages. Last December, Italian truckers almost brought Italy to a standstill after a three-day nationwide strike that left most petrol stations dry and hit production at Italy’s largest manufacturer, Fiat.

The UK has also experienced a series of protests against rising fuel prices over the last few weeks. There have been “go-slow” demonstrations by truckers in London. Manchester came to a halt on June 5 when 500 bikers took to the streets, and drivers protested in Scotland this week calling for £1 billion “windfall” tax on North Sea oil to bring down the cost of fuel at the pumps. David McCutcheon, managing director of transportation firm Bullet Express, who organised the protest, said it could be repeated on a weekly basis with a full-scale strike a possibility.

He added, “The rising fuel prices are having a really heavy, sore impact on a whole range of businesses and on people’s livelihoods.... If we do down tools, Scotland would grind to a halt in a day.”

There have also been up to 150 protesters outside Shell’s Stanlow oil refinery, where the fuel protests started in 2000 when oil was $34 a barrel. During that dispute, petrol stations ran dry and supermarket shelves emptied. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair assumed emergency powers, put army tankers on standby and placed hospitals on a special red alert.

An Internet campaign has been launched calling for a national day of protest on June 22 against further fuel price rises and an increase in fuel duty planned for the autumn.

The transport strike in Spain comes as a strike by the country’s fishermen enters a second week, with reports that smaller boats have joined the action. With marine diesel prices going up by 320 percent in the past five years and 30 percent since January, many fishermen can no longer afford to take their boats out and say they face bankruptcy.

Fishermen in Italy and France have also been on strike and have threatened to walk out again if the EU does not resolve their problems soon.

Last week, close to 5,000 fishermen from Spain, France and Scotland demonstrated outside the Ministry of Agriculture in Madrid waving banners reading, “Cheap Fish, Expensive Diesel: No More Speculation.” The protest followed an earlier demonstration in Brussels, which saw windows smashed and cars overturned.

“Compliance is total. The entire Spanish coast is at a halt,” said Jose Caparros, a spokesman for the fishing industry in Barcelona. Now, there are plans to blockade harbours and stop imports. “From Monday we are going to control the entry of refrigerated containers and everything inside them,” said David Lomba, a 27-year-old fisherman. When asked by a reporter how the fishermen would do that, Lomba said, “By every means possible. They shall not pass.”

The Spanish Fisheries Confederation (SFC), which represents 1,400 fishing companies employing 20,000 people, is seeking talks with the government. SFC Secretary General Javier Gavat said, “This is the worst crisis in the industry in 100 years. We are demanding a workable plan with short, medium and long-term measures,” including government action to bring down fuel prices, tax breaks and increased subsidies.

Gavat said the strike could see markets empty of fresh and frozen fish by June 16, adding, “People can’t take any more.... I expect that the European fleet will be tied up for the next 15-20 days.”

The Spanish fishing industry has undergone radical restructuring, which has seen many families that have fished for generations give up the business. Nevertheless, it remains the largest fishing fleet in Europe and many of Spain’s poorer regions are heavily dependent on the industry, especially Galicia (which accounts for 47 percent of Spain’s fishing), Andalusia, the Basque Country and the Canary Islands.

With fuel prices being driven to record levels primarily by speculation, the Europe-wide policy of levelling high fuel taxes is making things even worse. Higher taxes were part of a general policy of financing tax cuts on business and high earners towards indirect taxation on the sale of goods and services, which falls heavily on working people. In the case of fuel, it now threatens sections of industry, and haulage in particular, with bankruptcy.

EU heads of state and government, slated to meet in Brussels on June 19 and 20, are expected to discuss several policy options, including tax cuts. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has openly called for tax cuts to safeguard the French and European economy. He told a press conference that “the situation on the oil market” meant that the European and global economies face “a shock of unprecedented force.” “My concept of Europe is that Europe must protect,” he added and called on the EU to reduce value-added tax in an effort to counter prices.

Sarkozy, however, found little support from other EU leaders, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel stating obliquely, “I think conditions in every country are very specific.” Other government ministers and officials said fiscal measures would “send the wrong signals.” “Any subsidies or tax-cuts would simply divert even more money to oil-exporting countries,” EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said.

The European Commission has also refused pleas from the governments hit by the fishing disputes to provide temporary aid and insisted that fishing quotas should be cut by more than 25 percent for species or zones particularly at risk of overfishing. EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said that further fuel subsidies (currently up to €30,000 [US$7,000]) would only “increase overcapacity in the face of dwindling stocks.

Financial speculation’s latest victims: US community college students

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By Charles Bogle

Some of the major banks in the US have decided to either completely cease or cut back their loans to community college students as well as some attending less prestigious four-year colleges.

This reduction in student lending has been based on profit considerations rather than the needs of the 46 percent of all US undergraduates who attend community colleges. It takes place amidst increasing economic distress and calls for community colleges to play a greater role in preparing young people and laid off workers for the job market, underscoring the fact that everything, even education, is fair game for financial speculation.

The credit crisis has made raising money more difficult for lenders. In order to maintain profit margins, Citibank—which has stopped making loans to students at all California community colleges—JP Morgan, Chase, PNC, and SunTrust have begun either dropping loans to community college students altogether or selectively dropping loans at certain colleges. Meanwhile, these same banks continue to provide federally backed loans to students at the nation’s leading universities.

The banks are making no attempt to disguise the motives behind their actions. In a June 2 New York Times article, entitled “Student Loans Start to Bypass 2-Year Colleges,” Mark C. Rogers, a spokesman for Citibank, said the bank “temporarily suspended lending at schools which tend to have loans with lower balances and shorter periods over which we earn interest.” According to the article, banks say, “their decisions are based on an analysis of which colleges have higher default rates, low numbers of borrowers and small loan amounts that make the business less profitable.”

On the other hand, banks are continuing to loan money to students at the more elite universities, saying these loans are bigger, more profitable and less risky because graduates can be expected to earn more.

Tuition and loans are indeed lower at community colleges, because their original mission was to provide wide access to higher education, including those who do not have the money to begin their studies at four-year colleges and universities. The actions by the big banks will further undermine the community college system and throw more obstacles in the path of working class youth seeking a college education.

The decision to cut off or reduce lending could not have come at a more inopportune time. The existence of recession or near-recession conditions throughout the US has decreased tax revenues to state governments, resulting in a severe tightening of state funding to colleges and universities. Lacking the sizeable endowments and federal research grants of four-year schools, community colleges have resorted to currying the favor of businesses and other private sources for facilities and other big-ticket items, which often results in renting out buildings for office space and conferences and making curriculum decisions driven by the needs of local businesses.

Privatization of student services, e.g., food, security, and day care, has also become common. For the majority of community college students these changes often mean higher meal prices (which can mean skipping meals all together), security services that treat them as if they were potential criminals, and more expensive and less user-friendly day care (17 percent of community college students are, according to the American Association of Community Colleges, single parents). This factor alone can determine whether or not someone can attend college.

President Bush and both of the presumptive nominees for the 2008 presidential elections have called for greater access to higher education, and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has proposed that all Michigan students earn at least an Associates Degree (the highest degree awarded by community colleges). Such proposals, however, are little more than rhetoric since financing an education is becoming out of reach for more and more working class students.

In addition to the increasing number of “traditional” students age 21 and under attending community colleges due to skyrocketing tuition rates at four-year institutions, community colleges are attracting older students. Fifty-eight percent of the community college student population is 22 years old or older, including those seeking job retraining or to meet terms of buyout agreements with auto manufacturers.

How will these students, especially the older students who have either never attended college or have been away from the college environment for a long period of time, perform without the support services necessary for their success? How long will they be able to attend college, or even attempt college at all, without the necessary funds?

For example, federal Pell Grants—need-based, direct grants—are capped at $4,050 and are only awarded to 34 percent of low-income students attending community colleges. Further, the money doesn’t generally reach students until some time after the semester starts. One Michigan community college administrator told this reporter that this delay results in prospective students not being able to sign up for classes on time and creates a further barrier to those already intimidated by the idea of college.

An ominous warning that the rapid rise in oil prices has only just begun

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By Danny Fortson

The chief executive of the world's largest energy company has issued the most dire warning yet about the soaring the price of oil, predicting that it will hit $250 per barrel "in the foreseeable future".

The forecast from Alexey Miller, the head of the Kremlin-owned gas giant Gazprom, would herald the arrival of £2-per-litre petrol and send shockwaves through the economy. His comments were the most stark to be expressed by an industry executive and come just days after the oil price registered its largest-ever single-day spike, hitting $139.12 per barrel last week amid fears that the world's faltering supply will be unable to keep up with demand.

Mr Miller's prediction is well beyond even the most heady market forecasts, the most extreme of which fall between $150 and $200 per barrel, and was explained only by vague references to demand from the developing world. It nonetheless stoked an already febrile atmosphere of growing public anger across Europe over a soaring fuel cost that is wreaking havoc at nearly every level of the economy.

The British Government was urging motorists yesterday not to panic-buy petrol in anticipation of a strike on Friday by lorry drivers who deliver petrol to forecourts for Royal Dutch Shell, assuring motorists that contingency plans would ensure sufficient supplies.

In Spain, the regional government of Catalonia enacted an emergency action plan to bring in fresh food and fuel supplies after nearly half of its forecourts ran dry and supermarkets shelves were left bare. The situation was the result of the second day of an "indefinite" nationwide strike staged by lorry drivers in Spain seeking their government's help to contain the effects of expensive petrol. Scattered protests by drivers and fisherman in France and Portugal also continued yesterday.

In a speech to the European Business Congress in Deauville, France, Mr Miller offered little prospect of relief. He warned that the world was experiencing a fundamental shift in energy prices that will end at a "radically new level. We expect that the oil price will approach $250 per barrel in the foreseeable future".

Philip Shaw, an economist at Investec Securities, warned that oil at that level would exert an extraordinary drag on the economy at a time when it is already decelerating at a rapid rate. "The word is ouch," he said. "Forecasts are forecasts though, and I think it should be treated with some level of scepticism."

The most visible result of $250 oil would be at the petrol pump, which is already at a record 116.9 pence per litre for unleaded. Because more than half of that price, about 68p, is due to duty and taxes, the general rule of thumb is that each $2 increase for oil means a 1p increase of petrol at the pump. Oil at $250 a barrel would mean an increase of almost 60p in petrol prices, even before VAT.

The price of everything from food to energy would see significant price rises. Household electricity and gas bills are particularly vulnerable. Power companies have begun warning of a second round of major tariff increases for household bills this year that they say they will need to push through just to break even.

Mr Miller placed some of the blame on financial speculators for oil's price rise – it has more than doubled in the past year – but said that the primary reason is simple supply and demand, driven by the rapidly expanding countries of the developing world, principally China and India.

It is a view shared by the International Energy Agency. In its monthly oil report, the developed world's energy watchdog said yesterday that the "abnormally high prices [for oil] are largely explained by fundamentals". But whether the price of oil will reach $250 is uncertain at best. Most expect it to reach a breaking point before that figure. The IEA said that the high price would eventually "choke off" demand and a balance between supply and demand would return.

What is certain is that for Europe, Mr Miller's role will become increasingly important as head of the continent's single biggest gas supplier. He also warned against "protectionist tendencies" in Europe, where worries have grown that the company is being used as a blunt negotiating tool of the Kremlin. "The relationship between Gazprom and Europeans is one of mutual dependence. We rely as much on European consumers as they depend on us," he said.

"In all frankness, I am concerned about certain protectionist tendencies resurfacing in the EU ... How wise it is that the European Commission invents an 'anti-Gazprom clause' to keep investments which are so needed for more efficient satisfaction of raising demand."

Jail Time for Tenet?

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By Ray McGovern

President George W. Bush used to complain that being president was “hard work,” but he has gotten over that. Now he says it “has been a fabulous experience.”

Why fabulous? Well, a good part of it has to do with his past.

When Bush screwed up royally – whether in his personal or business affairs – he had to suffer the humiliation of asking his father or his father’s friends (sometimes Arab friends) to bail him out.

But now? Wow! As president, young George has found he can escape accountability altogether.

Now when he screws up royally, he need not call Dad; George W. Bush is himself in control of all the levers he needs to pull in order to bail himself out. Is this a great country or what?

An invertebrate Congress has been a big help. But his greatest asset limiting his liability has been the kind of folk he has gotten to work for him. The kind like Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, whom he has no problem asking to lie for him, when required.

For Bush’s powers are formidable – as he showed when Libby, convicted perjurer and obstructer of justice, was about to go off to prison. The president commuted Libby’s sentence, sending a message to others who might be called on to lie for him to hang tough and count on commutation or pardon.

A president’s unlimited power to pardon serves as the ultimate trump card to keep friends and associates out of jail.

Even so, one key aide, former CIA Director and Medal of Freedom winner, George Tenet, can be forgiven for being somewhat apprehensive these days. For he has lied under oath regarding what Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks and how early Bush knew it.

Concealing pre-9/11 warnings that Bush received might have seemed like the smart play during the president’s first term when his popularity was high and few in Washington dared to stand up to him.

However, if the American voters choose to send vertebrates to the next Congress – or if the Justice Department starts taking seriously its duty to require honest testimony from senior government officials – Tenet may be looking at some jail time.

With the possibility of large changes in the political landscape early next year, all bets might be off.

Tenuous Tenet

As for Tenet’s potential legal jeopardy, let’s leave aside for now the obviously heinous – like running George W. Bush’s global Gestapo complete with secret prisons and torture chambers, a criminal enterprise that Tenet carved out of the operations directorate of the CIA.

Let’s pick a case of simpler, more familiar white-collar crimes – Libby-style perjury and obstruction of justice.

Credit to Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whose 35 Articles of Impeachment against Bush – specifically Articles 33 and 34 relating to the catastrophe of 9/11 – have freshened memories, stirred additional research and demonstrate why Tenet may be looking at some prison time.


The text contains a devastating run-down of the many times President Bush was warned that an attack was coming and did nothing.

George Tenet did sound the alarm often and loudly. But as a retroactive glance at August 2001 shows, the president, literally, could not be bothered.

Tenet’s own performance was hardly blameless. The 9/11 Commission found numerous screw-ups within the CIA, and Tenet’s discharge of his statutory duty to coordinate the work of the entire intelligence community was abysmal.

It was his responsibility to ensure that the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies were sharing information freely on this priority issue. Sadly, Tenet preferred backslapping to holding the intelligence community to professional standards of work and conduct.

Article 33 of Impeachment shows that President Bush’s inaction in the face of myriad warnings prior to 9/11 constitutes utter failure with respect to his Constitutional duties to take proper steps to protect the nation.

Those who remember Watergate and other misadventures will be aware, too, that the cover-up of wrongdoing constitutes an additional – and often more provable – crime, especially when it involves perjury and obstruction of justice.

That’s where George Tenet comes in. Until now, Bush has managed to escape blame for his outrageous inactivity before 9/11 because his subordinates – first and foremost, Tenet – have covered up for him.

This is what is dealt with in Article 34 of Impeachment: OBSTRUCTION OF INVESTIGATION INTO THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001.

A Faustian Bargain

What did the president know, and when did he know it?

This double question, with Watergate antecedents, is the one that Bush and Cheney had to guard most carefully against.

By all appearances, they had little trouble enlisting a malleable-cum-guilty-conscience George Tenet in this effort at denial and obfuscation. And this helps to explain some of the more bizarre episodes of that time.

Faustian bargain? Call it mutual blackmail, if you prefer the vernacular.

Yes, Tenet gave the president enough warning to warrant, to compel some sort of action on his part. But Tenet’s lackadaisical management of the CIA and intelligence community was at least as important a factor in the success of the attacks of 9/11.

The raison d’etre of the CIA had been to prevent another Pearl Harbor. Yet, 9/11 took more lives than the Japanese attack in 1941.

As before Pearl Harbor, significant pieces of intelligence lay around but analysts failed to put them all together.

It was long since clear to many in Washington that, had George Tenet stayed home long enough to tend to his knitting – his management responsibilities – instead of eternally hobnobbing abroad with kings and other potentates, 9/11 might well have been avoided, even with an indolent president.

Of course, Tenet should have been fired after 9/11. But President Bush needed Tenet, or at least Tenet’s silence, as much as Tenet needed Bush, or at least Bush's forgiveness.

What developed might be described as a case of mutual blackmail disguised as bonhomie. Bush was keenly aware that Tenet had the wherewithal to let the world know how many warnings he had given the president – reducing Bush to a criminally negligent, blundering fool.

Were that to happen, Bush would have to kiss goodbye the role of cheerleader/war president – and so much else. Thus, Tenet had become critical to Bush's political survival.

And Tenet? All he needed was not to be blamed – not to be fired. The bargain: I, George Bush, will keep you on and even praise your performance; you, George Tenet, will keep your mouth shut about all the warnings you gave me during the spring and summer of 2001. Tenet, it seems clear, agreed.

The bargain was no secret to insiders. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, still very much of the Washington scene, commented publicly that Tenet was so grateful that the president let him stay on as CIA director, that he would do anything for him.

Events proved Gingrich right. And there was even a Medal of Freedom in it for Tenet – but, alas, eventual criminal liability as well.

Anatomy of a Deal

On Sept. 26, 2001, the president motored out to CIA headquarters, puts his arm around Tenet and told the cameras, “We’ve got the best intelligence we can possibly have thanks to the men and women of the CIA.”

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, as was so often the case, had not been clued in.

On Sept. 23, Powell had promised a “White Paper” that would make a “persuasive case” that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. His announcement met immediate resistance from the White House, however, and, less than two weeks later, Powell actually apologized for his “unfortunate choice of words.”

There would be no White Paper, he said; rather, the American people would have to rely on “information coming out in the press and other ways.”

It became gradually clear why Powell reneged. The evidence against bin Laden could not be disclosed because there was simply too much of it available for the reading well before 9/11.

To reveal this would bring extreme political embarrassment and vitiate the Faustian bargain with Tenet.

Small wonder that the White House preferred a whitewash to a White Paper.

And this has been a constant since the fall of 2001. Administration obstructionism and intransigence has succeeded in hindering all subsequent investigations into what Bush and Cheney had been told prior to 9/11. Until now, at least.

Perjury, Obstruction of Justice

In his sworn testimony of April 14, 2004, before the 9/11 Commission, Tenet outdid himself trying to honor his bargain with Bush. The commissioners were interested in what the president had been told during the critical month of August 2001.

Answering a question from Commissioner Timothy Roemer, Tenet referred to the president’s long vacation (July 29-Aug. 30) in Crawford and insisted that he did not see the president at all in August.

“You never talked with him?” Roemer asked.

“No,” Tenet replied, explaining that for much of August he, too, was “on leave.”

That same evening, a CIA spokesman called reporters to say that Tenet had misspoken, and that he had briefed Bush on Aug. 17 and 31, 2001. The spokesman played down the Aug. 17 briefing as uneventful and indicated that the second briefing took place after Bush had returned to Washington.

Funny how Tenet could have forgotten his first visit to Crawford, whereas in his memoir, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet waxed eloquent about the “president graciously driving me around the spread in his pickup and me trying to make small talk about the flora and the fauna.”

But the visit was not limited to small talk.

In his book Tenet writes: “A few weeks after the August 6 PDB was delivered, I followed it to Crawford to make sure the president stayed current on events.”

The Aug. 6, 2001 President’s Daily Brief contained the article “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US.” According to Ron Suskind’s The One-Percent Doctrine, the president reacted by telling the CIA briefer, “All right, you’ve covered your ass now.”

Clearly, Tenet needed to follow up on that.

Was Tenet again in Crawford just one week later? According to a White House press release, President Bush on Aug. 25 told visitors to Crawford, “George Tenet and I” drove up the canyon “yesterday.”

Flora and Fawner?

If, as Tenet says in his memoir, it was the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB that prompted his visit on Aug. 17, what might have brought him back on Aug. 24?

I believe the answer is to be found in court documents released at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the fledgling pilot in Minnesota interested in learning to steer a plane but indifferent as to how to land it.

Those documents show that on Aug. 23, 2001, Tenet was given an alarming briefing, focusing on Moussaoui, titled “Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly.” Tenet was told that Moussaoui was training to fly a 747 and, among other suspicion-arousing data, had paid for the training in cash.

The FBI arrested him on Aug. 16 on grounds he had overstayed his 90-day visa and the CIA was working on the case with the FBI. This might well have been what led Tenet to go back to Crawford on the 24th.

There is no indication that the president or Tenet ever followed up with senior FBI officials. Then-Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard has testified that he did not learn of it until the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001.

Things proceeded more quickly at the working level, at least for this discrete part of the problem. Tenet’s analysts had learned about Moussaoui in a back-door message from the FBI Field Office in Minneapolis enlisting CIA’s help in obtaining information on Moussaoui from French intelligence.

The Minneapolis case agent had already telephoned the FBI legal attaché office in Paris, which contacted the French government on Aug. 16 or 17.

With unusual speed, on Aug. 22 and 27, the French provided information that made a connection between Moussaoui and a rebel leader in Chechnya, Ibn al Khattab, and indicated that Khattab had a connection with Osama bin Laden.

Court documents from the Moussaoui case also show that on Aug. 30, 2001, CIA analysts were able to confirm to Tenet that Moussaoui had ties with radical fundamentalist groups and Osama bin Laden. This would have been good grist for Tenet’s briefing of the president on Aug. 31 in Washington.

Nevertheless, in Tenet’s sworn testimony before the 9/11 Commission on April 14, 2004, he said he had not mentioned Moussaoui to the president during August 2001. Tenet further testified that he did not report on Moussaoui at the cabinet-level meeting convened on Sept. 4 to discuss terrorism.

On May 6, 2007, when Tim Russert asked Tenet what the president knew and when he knew it, Tenet replied that “everything went silent” in August 2001.

Russert asked Tenet why he did not go directly to the president in July 2001 after he had warned then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice of the possibility of “spectacular, multiple, simultaneous attacks against US targets with little or no warning” and gotten the brush-off.

Tenet replied lamely “the president is not the action officer.”

Tenet not only was, by statute, the president’s principal foreign intelligence adviser but – by all accounts – enjoyed a backslapping rapport with him. Tenet also briefed the president six mornings a week.

It strains credulity to suggest that Tenet was afraid to go directly to George Bush for fear of appearing to be making some sort of end-run around his national security adviser on a terrorist threat about which Tenet’s hair was said to be “on fire?”

Tenet at Breakfast on 9/11

No one wants to believe that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, could have been prevented, but we do a disservice to our country, and to one another, if we stay in denial.

No one wants to believe that President Bush had considerably more forewarning than he acknowledges, but it is very clear that he did. It is equally clear that George Tenet has been a prime mover in hiding the amount of intelligence available to Bush to act on.

Reviewing the evidence on May 26, 2002, Michael Getler, then-ombudsman for the Washington Post, alluded to one very telling sign leaping out of a conversation between George Tenet and former Sen. David Boren over breakfast on 9/11.

When an aide rushed up to tell Tenet of the attacks, Tenet’s immediate reaction was “This has bin Laden all over it…I wonder if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.”

Getler notes for his readers that the reference is to Zacarias Moussaoui.

A few months after 9/11, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI did not tell the White House about Moussaoui until after Sept. 11. That may be true, particularly if, as noted above, then-Acting Director Thomas Pickard did not learn about Moussaoui until 9/11.

But the evidence is very strong that Tenet told Bush chapter and verse.

The extraordinary lengths to which Tenet has gone to disguise that has the former CIA director skating very close to perjury – if not over the line.

Plus, if Tenet is held accountable after Bush leaves town to go back to Texas for good, there may be no one in the White House willing to pardon him.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington, DC. A CIA analyst for 27 years, he worked on the President’s Daily Brief under presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.