Monday, August 4, 2008

We lie and bluster about our nukes - and then wag our fingers at Iran

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By George Monbiot

By failing to disarm and breaking the rules when it suits, nuclear states are driving proliferation as much as Ahmadinejad

What is the Iranian government up to? For once the imperial coalition, overstretched in Iraq and unpopular at home, is proposing jaw, not war. The UN security council's offer was a good one: if Iran suspended its uranium enrichment programme, it would be entitled to legally guaranteed supplies of fuel for nuclear power, assistance in building a light water reactor, foreign aid, technology transfer and the beginning of the end of economic sanctions. The US seems prepared, for the first time since the revolution, to open a diplomatic office in Tehran. But in Geneva, 10 days ago, the Iranians filibustered until the negotiations ended. On Saturday President Ahmadinejad announced that Iran has now doubled the number of centrifuges it uses to enrich uranium. A fourth round of sanctions looks inevitable.

The unequivocal statements Barack Obama and Gordon Brown made in Israel last week about Iran's nuclear weapons programme cannot yet be justified. Nor can the unequivocal statements by some anti-war campaigners that Iran does not intend to build the bomb. Why would a country with such reserves of natural gas and so great a potential for solar power suffer sanctions and the threat of bombing to make fuel it could buy from other states, if it accepted the UN's terms?

Those who maintain that Iran's purposes are peaceful clutch at the National Intelligence Estimate published by the US government in November. While it judged that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, it saw the country's civilian uranium programme as a means of developing "technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so". The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency notes that no fissile material has been diverted from Iran's stocks, but raises grave questions about some of the documents it has found, which suggest research into bomb-making (Iran says the papers are forgeries). Those of us who oppose an attack on Iran are under no obligation to accept Ahmadinejad's claims of peaceful intent.

Nor do we have to accept the fictions of our own representatives. The security council's offer to Iran claimed that resolving this enrichment issue would help to bring about a "Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction". But like every other such document, it made no mention of the principal owner of weapons in the region: Israel. According to a leaked briefing by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Israel possesses between 60 and 80 nuclear bombs. But none of the countries demanding that Iran scraps the weapons it doesn't yet possess are demanding that Israel destroys the weapons it does possess.

This subject is the great political taboo. Neither Brown nor Obama mentioned it last week. The US intelligence agencies provide a biannual report to Congress on the weapons of mass destruction developed by foreign states, which covers Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan and others, but not Israel. During a parliamentary debate in March the British defence minister Bob Ainsworth was asked whether he thought that Israel's nuclear weapons are "a destabilising factor" in the Middle East. "My understanding," he replied, "is that Israel does not acknowledge that it has nuclear weapons." Does Mr Ainsworth really buy this nonsense? If so, can we have a new minister? If Iran builds a bomb, it will do so for one reason: that there is already a nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, by which it feels threatened.

But we make the rules and we break them. The non-proliferation treaty (NPT) obliges the five official nuclear states, of which the UK is one, to work towards "general and complete disarmament". On Friday, the Guardian published the notes for a speech made last year by a senior civil servant, which suggested that the decision to replace the UK's nuclear missiles had already been made, in secret and without parliamentary scrutiny. Since then defence ministers have told the Commons on five occasions that the decision has not yet been made. They appear to have misled the House.

At the Geneva conference on disarmament in February, one delegate pointed out that the "chances of eliminating nuclear weapons will be enhanced immeasurably" if non-nuclear states can see "planning, commitment and action toward multilateral nuclear disarmament by nuclear weapon states" like the UK. If the nuclear states "are failing to fulfil their disarmament obligations", other nations would use this as an excuse for maintaining their weapons. Who was this firebrand? Des Browne, the secretary of state for defence. A man of the same name is failing to fulfil our disarmament obligations.

Browne claims that Britain must maintain its arsenal because of proliferation elsewhere, just as those proliferating elsewhere say that they must develop their arsenals because the official nuclear nations aren't disarming. With the exception of France, none of the other European states feels the need to deploy nukes. But the UK keeps preparing for the last war. Of course, no one is refusing to disarm; it's just that the task keeps getting pushed into the indefinite future. Opponents of British nuclear weapons maintain that a new generation of warheads would survive until 2055.

The permanent members of the UN security council draw a distinction between their "responsible" ownership of nuclear weapons and that of the aspirant powers. But over the past six years, the UK, US, France and Russia have all announced that they are prepared to use their nukes pre-emptively against a presumed threat, even from states that do not possess nuclear weapons. In some ways the current nuclear stand-off is more dangerous than the tetchy detente of the cold war.

The danger has been heightened by the US government's current offensive. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, is demanding that other countries accept her plans to destroy the last remaining incentive for states to abide by the NPT. The treaty grants countries which conform to it materials for nuclear power on favourable terms. It's a flawed incentive - as the spread of civil nuclear programmes makes the proliferation of military material more likely - but an incentive nonetheless. Now Rice insists that India should have special access to US nuclear materials despite the fact that it has not signed the NPT and has illegally developed nuclear weapons.

If she is successful, this effort - and the concomitant US demand that India is recognised as an official nuclear power - will blow the NPT to kingdom come. The treaty which survived the cold war, and which remains the most important of the wilting guarantees against global annihilation, is being nuked for the sake of a few billion dollars of export orders.

Here's where it gets really depressing. The Bush administration's proposal has been supported by both John McCain and Barack Obama. The contrast between Obama's position on India and his statements on Iran could not be greater, or more destructive of the inflated hopes now vested in him.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's insistence that Iran enriches its own fissile material, and the guessing game he is playing with Israel, the atomic energy agency and the UN security council is irresponsible and staggeringly dangerous. But if I were in his position I might be tempted to do the same.

Bush must be stopped before starting war with Iran

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The Bush administration, in rhetoric that is eerily similar to that used to build the case for a war against Iraq, asserts that the Iranian Quds Force is arming anti-U.S. groups in Iraq and providing them with high-tech roadside bombs and sophisticated rockets.

It dismisses the National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program.

The White House has not provided evidence to back up its claims. I suspect it never will. And when Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz tells the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth an attack on Iran is "unavoidable" if Tehran does not halt its alleged nuclear weapons program, what he is really telling us is we should prepare for war.

An attack on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel and the ensuing regional war will propel us into the Armageddon-type scenario in the Middle East relished by the lunatic fringes of the radical Christian right. And so, we barrel mindlessly toward a Dr. Strangelove self-immolation. No one will be able to say we did not go out with a spectacular show of firepower, gore and death. Our European and Middle Eastern allies, who are numb with consternation over our death spiral, are frantically trying to reach out to Tehran diplomatically.

The instant we attack Iran, oil prices will double, perhaps triple. This price increase will devastate the U.S. economy. The ensuing retaliatory strikes by Iran on Israel, as well as on U.S. military installations in Iraq, will leave hundreds, maybe thousands, dead. The Shiites in the region, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, will see an attack on Iran as a war against Shiism. They will turn with rage and violence on us and our allies. Hezbollah will renew attacks on northern Israel, while Hamas increases its attacks in southern Israel. And the localized war in Iraq will become a long, messy and protracted regional war that, by the time it is done, will most likely end the American empire and leave in its wake mounds of corpses and smoldering ruins.

The Israeli leadership, like the Bush White House, is increasingly bellicose and threatening. The Israeli prime minister, after a recent 90-minute meeting with Bush in the White House, said the two leaders were of one mind. "We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat," Ehud Olmert said. "I left with a lot less questions marks (than) I had entered with regarding the means, the timetable restrictions and American resoluteness to deal with the problem. George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it and intends to act on the matter before the end of his term in the White House."

This time around, unlike the war with Iraq, the Washington bureaucracy, loathed by the Bush White House, did not remain silent and complicit. The NIE on Iran's nuclear program released Dec. 3 distinguished Iran's enrichment of uranium at Natanz and Arak from its formal nuclear weapons program, which it said had halted in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Adm. Fallon, who put his country and his integrity before his career, spoke out against a war with Iran, tried to stop it, and lost his job as the head of Central Command. He has been replaced with Gen. David Petraeus, whose devotion to his career admits no such moral impediments.

The American people must act to stop this madness. We must raise our voices in protest. We must demand that Congress exercise its constitutional authority and block a war on Iran. We cannot allow the Bush neocons to act out their final bloody fantasy and destroy all hopes for peace in the Middle East.

Mounting questions over US anthrax probe and scientist’s alleged suicide

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By Patrick Martin

One week after an Army germ warfare scientist apparently committed suicide, there are mounting questions over the government’s handling of the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks and expressions of skepticism regarding the sensationalized media coverage of the past four days.

Colleagues and friends of Dr. Bruce Ivins, who died Tuesday from an overdose of prescription Tylenol he had taken two days earlier, have cast doubt on the claims by the FBI and Justice Department that Ivins perpetrated the anthrax attacks. They have also debunked many of the claims made in initial news reports about Ivins’ death.

Ivins’ lawyer, Paul Kemp, sent an email to news organizations Saturday denouncing reports that his client was considering a plea bargain to avoid a death sentence for the anthrax mailings, calling such reports “entirely spurious.” Kemp had been contacted by federal investigators—the FBI interviewed Ivins several times over the past year as well as searching his home—but there was no discussion of a possible plea.

Initial press accounts suggested that Ivins had committed suicide because he faced imminent indictment on five capital murder charges, with prosecutors determined to seek the death penalty. National Public Radio reported Sunday, however, that government investigators said they “still were several major legal steps away from indicting” Ivins, and that the Department of Justice leadership had not yet approved bringing charges. The process of obtaining executive approval, presenting the case to the grand jury and obtaining an indictment “could have taken weeks.”

There were conflicting reports about whether Ivins had the skills necessary to create the finely ground powder form of anthrax used in the 2001 mailings. Some germ warfare experts said that the job was not that difficult from a technical standpoint. But Dr. Alan P. Zelicoff, a physician formerly consulted by the FBI investigation, told the New York Times, “I don’t think a vaccine specialist could do it. This is aerosol physics, not biology. There are very few people who have their feet in both camps.”

Several current and former officials at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), where Ivins worked, said they would not believe the charges against Ivins without convincing evidence that the FBI has yet to produce. Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, former director of the bacteriology division at USAMRIID, told the Washington Post, “I really don’t think he’s the guy. I say to the FBI, ‘Show me your evidence’.” He added, referring to the intense investigative pressure on Ivins, “A lot of the tactics they used were designed to isolate him from his support. The FBI just continued to push his buttons.”

Many of Ivins’ co-workers blamed his evident psychological disintegration on the constant harassment by the FBI, and said his suicide should not be viewed as an admission of guilt. Local police have refused to reveal whether Ivins left a suicide note.

The official statement issued by USAMRIID said the agency “mourns the loss of Dr. Bruce Ivins, who served the institute for more than 35 years as a civilian microbiologist.” Time magazine commented: “That seems like an unusual thing to say if you believe one of your employees had something to do with an anthrax attack.”

The magazine continued, “It now remains incumbent on the FBI to reveal what information it had linking Ivins to the attacks. Given the federal government’s record on the anthrax investigation, and the national security interests involved, Ivins’ death should not be used as an excuse for the case to be closed without a full, public airing.”

The Los Angeles Times reported similar sentiments expressed by the lawyer for the family of Bob Stevens, the photo editor for the Sun tabloid who died in the first anthrax mailing. “The family definitely wants to be able to see the evidence that the FBI has accumulated, that they’re not just trying to make this guy a scapegoat,” Schuler said.

Several press accounts cited FBI officials and government scientists who could not be quoted by name, claiming that Ivins was identified as the anthrax mailer through the use of sophisticated new DNA testing techniques that were not available at the time of the attacks, which killed five people and sickened 17 more between late September and early November 2001.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that DNA testing had conclusively linked the strain of anthrax used in the mailing to the biological weapons laboratory at Fort Detrick, near Frederick, Maryland, where Ivins worked, and to his work area within the lab. “It had to do with the very specific characteristics in the DNA of the letters and what was in Bruce’s labs,” an unidentified scientist told AP. “They were cultures he was personally responsible for.”

The AP report noted, however: “Dozens of other researchers in Ivins’ lab also had access to the type of Ames strain used in the attacks, the scientist said, meaning the DNA alone is not enough to prove his guilt.”

FBI and Justice Department officials have so far refused to release any evidence that would conclusively link Ivins to the anthrax mailings, citing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings. The next step could be an official decision to shut down the investigation and dissolve the grand jury, on the supposition that Ivins was a lone attacker and cannot now be prosecuted.

The downside to such an action—from the standpoint of these agencies—is that they could then be compelled to release the files of the case, either through congressional hearings or Freedom of Information Act suits brought by the press or the families of the victims.

It is not possible to determine at this point, given the lack of evidence, whether Dr. Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks. What can be said with certainty, however, is that the FBI, the Justice Department and the Bush White House are all proceeding as though they have something to hide.

The Bush administration has refused all congressional requests for information on the investigation for nearly seven years. Even the two Democratic officials whose offices were targets of the anthrax mailings, Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader, and Patrick Leahy, still the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have been denied any significant briefing on the progress of the case.

Daschle, who was defeated for reelection in 2004 and is now a top adviser to the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama, issued a statement saying that “the FBI owes it to the country to provide some accounting of their investigation and their expectations for a successful conclusion.” But most of Daschle’s former Senate and House colleagues have been remarkably silent on what must be considered the attempted assassination of the Democratic Senate leadership.

One of the few criticisms of the FBI’s handling of the anthrax case came from a Republican, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who declared, “It’s been frustrating that the FBI has essentially shut out Congress throughout its seven-year investigation. Now seems to be the opportune time for the bureau to brief Congress about whether the case is to be closed and justice will be served ... In the meantime, we should remember that a rush to judgment can be dangerous and expensive for everyone. The last person the FBI had in its sights in this case suffered for six years and just collected a $6 million settlement.”

This was a reference to the FBI pursuit of Steven Hatfill, a former bioweapons scientist at Fort Detrick who was publicly named a “person of interest” in the anthrax case by then-Attorney-General John Ashcroft in 2002. The Justice Department agreed in June to pay Hatfill $5.8 million to drop his civil suit against government harassment.

The American media has consistently downplayed the evident right-wing political motivation of the anthrax attacks. One incident, reported by the Brad Blog web site, captures this deliberate political censorship. When the site contacted Tom Ivins, brother of the deceased scientist, and asked him what Bruce Ivins’s political views were, “He was surprised by the question, and although he said he’d been speaking with reporters all day ... none of the other reporters, not one of them, had asked him about his brother’s political affiliations, leanings, or beliefs.”

What these views are remains unclear, beyond his professed support to the most socially conservative tenets of Roman Catholicism. But the indifference to the question shows the determination, on the part of the media and political elite, to attribute terrorism exclusively to Islamic fundamentalists while ignoring the violent activities of the ultra-right.

PsyOp: Is Washington Intent on Sabotaging the Beijing Olympics?

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By Michel Chossudovsky

In the weeks leading up to the Beijing Olympics, an atmosphere of fear and insecurity is unfolding.

China has not only been targeted for its human rights violations, a China based Islamic terrorist organization has announced that it is planning to "create havoc" at the outset of the Olympics.

According to media reports, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) has claimed responsibility for several pre-Olympic terror attacks including the July 21 bombing of three buses in Kunming, capital of Yunnan , which killed two and left 13 injured, as well as a similar Shanghai bus bombing in May. The TIP also claimed responsibility for an attack in Wenzhou on July 17 using an explosives-laden tractor and the bombing of a Guangzhou plastics factory on July 17 (Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July 2008).

The leader of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) Commander Seyfullah in a mysterious video broadcast warned both athletes and spectators that it is planning to carry out simultaneous attacks in several highly populated urban areas, with a view to ultimately sabotaging the Olympic games:

"Through this blessed jihad in Yunnan this time, the Turkestan Islamic Party warns China one more time. Our aim is to target the most critical points related to the Olympics.

We will try to attack Chinese central cities severely using the tactics that have never been employed. We warn China and the international community for the last time that those spectators, athletes, particularly the Muslims, who are planning to attend the Olympics, please change your intention from going to China. Please do not stand together with the faithless people. The Turkistan Islamic Party volunteers will conduct violent military actions against individuals, departments, venues, and activities that are related to the Olympics in China." (Transcript of alleged Statement of Commander Seyfullah, released to the media by IntelCenter, Washington, 23 July 2008

To view the TIP VIDEO (YouTube) click here
Still photo of the TIP Video

The authenticity of the video is dubious, the timing of its release following the Kunming bombings barely two weeks prior to the Olympics is suspicious. The mystery video was made available to the Western and Chinese media by IntelCenter, a private Washington based Intel company on contract to US intelligence and the Pentagon. How, from whom and when it was obtained has not been revealed.

The video contains a carefully crafted narrative. It sends a clear-cut message with evocative images. Keep away from the Olympic games. It starts with the Beijing’s Olympic logo going up in flames as a rocket hits an Olympic venue. (See Toronto Star, August 1, 2008)

To view the TIP VIDEO click here

Who is behind the Turkestan Islamic Party?

According to Stratfor, a US based think tank on intelligence issues, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) which claimed responsibility for the pre-Olympic terror attacks belongs to the broader East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), based in the Xinjiang-Uygur autonomous region.

The ETIM is known to be covertly supported by Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), acting in close coordination with the CIA. The role of Pakistan’s ISI in supporting the Islamist Uygur insurgencies goes back to the mid-1990s. According to Yossef Bodansky in a 2000 Defense & Foreign Affairs’ Strategic Policy report:

"The Pakistani terrorism-sponsoring activities along the Silk Road were the primary instrument of Islamabad’s regional strategy. The ISI -sponsored insurgency and terrorism along the western gateways to the PRC were strategic developments with grave ramifications."

The historical relationship between Pakistan’s military intelligence (ISI) and the CIA is amply documented. In the course of the 1980s, the Covert Action Division of the ISI was used by the CIA to recruit and train the Mujahideen, who were sent to Afghanistan to fight Soviet troops.

In the post Cold war era, this CIA-ISI relationship remained largely intact. The ISI continued to be used by Washington to channel covert support to various Islamic fundamentalist movements, including Al Qaeda, involved in false flag terror attacks. (Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism, Global Research, Montreal, 2005). The ISI as an intelligence body has played a key covert role in America’s "war on terrorism", by sustaining an abetting these terrorist organizations and by sustaining the illusion of an outside enemy.

In China, covert support to the Uygur insurgency largely served the purpose of creating political instability. In Xinjiang-Uigur, Pakistani intelligence (ISI), acting in liaison with the CIA, supports several Islamist organizations including the Islamic Reformist Party, the East Turkestan National Unity Alliance, the Uigur Liberation Organization and the Central Asian Uigur Jihad Party. Several of these Islamic organizations have received support and training from Al Qaeda, which is a US sponsored intelligence asset. The declared objective of these Chinese-based Islamic organizations is the "establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the region" (Michel Chossudovsky, op cit, Chapter 2).

The "caliphate project" which is supported covertly by US-Pakistani intelligence encroaches upon Chinese territorial sovereignty. Supported by various Wahabi "foundations" from the Gulf States, secessionism on China’s Western frontier is consistent with U.S. strategic interests in Central Asia.

By tacitly promoting the secession of the Xinjiang-Uigur region (using Pakistan’s ISI as a "go-between"), Washington is attempting to trigger a broader process of political destabilization and fracturing of the People’s Republic of China.

"China reportedly said that East Turkestan (Uyghur) Islamic terrorists [are] operating on Pakistan’s soil and trained in special camps in its territory. This is the first time Beijing administration charged Pakistan for harboring anti-China elements in its soil. The revelation came in a court document in the trial of jailed Canadian [Celil] in which it was mentioned that Celil joined the East Turkistan Liberation Organisation (ETLO) way back in 1997 and acted as a senior instructor in Kyrgyzstan. As per the document, Celil allegedly recruited people and sent them to various training camps on the Pamir Plateau in Pakistan territory. ETLO’s prime objective is to carve an independent East Turkestan by uniting parts of China and Kyrgyzstan." (B. Raman, US & Terrorism in Xinjiang, South Asian Analysis, 2002 )

Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Pamir Plateau on the Pakistan-China border

The TIP which has claimed responsibility for several pre-Olympic terror attacks belongs to the broader ETIM which is supported covertly by Pakistan’s ISI.

The role of Pakistan’s ISI in Xinjiang-Uygur is known to Chinese intelligence. According to a 2002 report, Beijing accused Islamabad of training East Turkestan Islamic operatives on the Pamir plateau inside Pakistan, bordering on the Southern tip of Xinjiang-Uygur region (see map).

For political reasons, however, the issue of ISI-CIA involvement has been carefully avoided. In the weeks leading up to the Olympics, the Chinese authorities are anxious to avoid controversy. The issue of foreign support to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement is unmentionable.

Sabotage or Disruption of the Olympics?

Both the Western and Chinese media in chorus, quoting the mystery video, are asserting that Muslim terrorists will attack the Olympics.

The message in the videotape released by IntelCenter is unequivocal: Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) Commander Seyfullah, "warned athletes and spectators ’particularly the Muslims’ to stay away from the Olympics." (quoted by Associated Press, August 1, 2008)

An atmosphere of fear and insecurity has been created, quite deliberately, which could potentially undermine the Olympic Games.

Are these terror warnings and attacks, not to mention to the mysterious video, part of a US sponsored PsyOp which is being applied to discredit the Chinese leadership and/or sabotage the Olympics?

How reliable is the videotape? What is the credibility of IntelCenter? Neither the Western nor the Chinese media have investigated the matter.

IntelCenter, the private Intel company on contract to US intelligence happens to be the same Washington outfit which released, also in a timely fashion, several mysterious Al Qaeda related videotapes including the 11 September 2007 video of Osama bin Laden as well as an April 2006 video featuring Al Qaeda’s Number Two Man Ayman al-Zawahiri.

IntelCenter describes "the collection, exploitation, analysis and dissemination of terrorist and rebel group video materials" as one of its "core competencies". InteCenter’ "primary client base is comprised of military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the US and other allied countries around the world." (

How IntelCenter actually obtained these various videotapes including the latest pre-Olympic Seyfullah Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) video, remains to be established.

At an August 1st press briefing, Sen. Colonel Tian Yixiang of the Olympics security command told reporters that the biggest threat to security comes from "the East Turkestan terrorist organization" meaning the ETIM based in the Xinjiang-Uygur autonomous region.

What the Chinese official failed to mention is that there is evidence that these terrorist organizations have over the years been covertly supported by Pakistani intelligence, operating on behalf of Washington.