Friday, November 30, 2007

Osama Bin Laden “Message to the Peoples of Europe” (transcript)

This message of mine is to the peoples of the states allied to America in the invasion of Afghanistan and I mention specifically Europe.

It isn't hidden from you that the Afghans have tasted the two bitterest things for two decades at the hands of the Russians and their Communist agents, but they persevered, fought, and were resolute and victorious, by the Grace of Allah. And before their wounds had healed and their grief had ended, they were invaded without right by your unjust governments, without stopping to think about or reflect on Bush's claim that this invasion was a response to the events of the 11th, although--as I mentioned previously--the events of Manhattan were a response to the American-Israeli coalition's murder of our people in Palestine and Lebanon.

And it was I who was responsible for 9/11, and I stress that all Afghans--both government and people--had no knowledge of those events and America knows that, because some of the Taliban's ministers fell into its hands as captives, and they were interrogated and that became known. And that's why the Taliban government requested America to produce the evidence for the truth of its claims prior to the invasion, but it didn't produce any evidence, and instead insisted on invading; and Europe marched behind it in that, and had no choice but to be its vassal. It suffices as evidence of this your entering of this war and your excusing of American soldiers from being held to account by the European courts.

For this reason, this address of mine is to you, not to your politicians, as it is no longer a secret that Blair, Brown, Berlusconi, Aznar, Sarkozy and those with him and their like love to shade themselves in the shade of the White House. And there isn't a major difference worth mentioning between them and many of the leaders of the Third World. So to summarize, in this war you have combined two injustices: the first is that this war was waged against the Afghans without right. You didn't have even one piece of evidence suitable for submission to a court. Additionally, you destroyed the camps of al-Qaida and killed some of its members, and you captured others, most of who were from Pakistan. So what is the sin of the Afghans due to which you are continuing this unjust war against them?

Their only sin is that they are Muslims, and this illustrates the extent of the Crusaders' hatred of Islam and its people. Second, in this war, you have not observed the ethics and protocol of warfare. Most of your victims--as a result of the bombing--are women and children, and intentionally so. You know that our women don't fight, yet you target them even on days of celebration, knowingly and adamantly, hoping by that to break the morale of the Mujahideen. This will not benefit you, however, for we are resolute and, by the grace of Allah, the Glorious and Great, continuing to take revenge on the unjust and expel the occupying invaders. I have personally witnessed incidents like these, and the matter continues on an almost daily basis, and the hospitals are full of innocent people.

You have no religion, morals, humanity or shame. And for your information, the Afghan people are a courageous, defiant, jealous, honorable, religious Muslim people who refuse humiliation and submission to invaders. And their history is rich in resolve and victories. They fought Britain in its glory days and defeated it by the grace of Allah, and fought the Russians in their glory days as well and defeated them by the grace of Allah. And today, they are fighting America and its agents under the leadership of the Commander of the Believers, Mullah Umar, may Allah protect him, and under the command of the Knight of the Field, Hajji Mansoor Dadullah. I ask Allah, the Most High to grant them victory and resolve.

In conclusion, I remind you that the American tide is ebbing, by the grace of Allah, and that they shall soon depart for their homeland beyond the Atlantic and leave the neighbors to settle their accounts with each other. So it is better for you to restrain your politicians who are thronging the steps of the White House and work diligently to remove oppression from the oppressed, for justice is right and injustice is torment, and returning to the truth is the hallmark of men of understanding. And peace be on those who follow the guidance.
-------
(NB: I am posting this transcript for the sole reason that I had a hard time locating it and that it seems that, yet again, the corporate media does not want people to make up their own mind about Bin-Laden, Al-Qaeda or anything else for that matter. I personally find the Wahabi/Salafi ideology at least as bad as US messianic imperialism , Likudnik racism or Neocon Fascism so please do not tell how bad OBL is - I already know. The Saker)

The One State Declaration

For decades, efforts to bring about a two-state solution in historic Palestine have failed to provide justice and peace for the Palestinian and Israeli Jewish peoples, or to offer a genuine process leading towards them.

The two-state solution ignores the physical and political realities on the ground, and presumes a false parity in power and moral claims between a colonized and occupied people on the one hand and a colonizing state and military occupier on the other. It is predicated on the unjust premise that peace can be achieved by granting limited national rights to Palestinians living in the areas occupied in 1967, while denying the rights of Palestinians inside the 1948 borders and in the Diaspora. Thus, the two-state solution condemns Palestinian citizens of Israel to permanent second-class status within their homeland, in a racist state that denies their rights by enacting laws that privilege Jews constitutionally, legally, politically, socially and culturally. Moreover, the two-state solution denies Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right of return.

The two-state solution entrenches and formalizes a policy of unequal separation on a land that has become ever more integrated territorially and economically. All the international efforts to implement a two-state solution cannot conceal the fact that a Palestinian state is not viable, and that Palestinian and Israeli Jewish independence in separate states cannot resolve fundamental injustices, the acknowledgment and redress of which are at the core of any just solution.

In light of these stark realities, we affirm our commitment to a democratic solution that will offer a just, and thus enduring, peace in a single state based on the following principles:

* The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status;

* Any system of government must be founded on the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens. Power must be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all people in the diversity of their identities;

* There must be just redress for the devastating effects of decades of Zionist colonization in the pre- and post-state period, including the abrogation of all laws, and ending all policies, practices and systems of military and civil control that oppress and discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion or national origin;

* The recognition of the diverse character of the society, encompassing distinct religious, linguistic and cultural traditions, and national experiences;

* The creation of a non-sectarian state that does not privilege the rights of one ethnic or religious group over another and that respects the separation of state from all organized religion;

* The implementation of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194 is a fundamental requirement for justice, and a benchmark of the respect for equality;

* The creation of a transparent and nondiscriminatory immigration policy;

* The recognition of the historic connections between the diverse communities inside the new, democratic state and their respective fellow communities outside;

* In articulating the specific contours of such a solution, those who have been historically excluded from decision-making -- especially the Palestinian Diaspora and its refugees, and Palestinians inside Israel -- must play a central role;

* The establishment of legal and institutional frameworks for justice and reconciliation.

The struggle for justice and liberation must be accompanied by a clear, compelling and moral vision of the destination - a solution in which all people who share a belief in equality can see a future for themselves and others. We call for the widest possible discussion, research and action to advance a unitary, democratic solution and bring it to fruition.

Madrid and London, 2007

Signed:

Ali Abunimah
Naseer Aruri
Omar Barghouti
Oren Ben-Dor
George Bisharat
Haim Bresheeth
Jonathan Cook
Ghazi Falah
Leila Farsakh
Islah Jad
Joseph Massad
Ilan Pappe
Carlos Prieto del Campo
Nadim Rouhana
The London One State Group

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Do Omert and Ahmadinejad actually agree on the future of Israel?

Check out what Ehud Olmert just declared (according to Ha'aretz):

If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished. The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents"

Yes, for once Olmert got it right. He even claims that he already said all these things four years ago and, in fact, he did. This really begs the question of why during all these years did Olmert, and all his predecessors, work so hard to make a two state solution simply impossible?

The answer is simple: the Israelis did indeed endeavor all these years to make *their version* two state solution possible, that version being a combination of the biggest open air prison on earth (Gaza) and a small number of isolated bantustans (West Bank) controlled by (US financed, armed and trained) Palestinian collaborationist forces lead by a small coterie of corrupt officials in Ramallah.


The threat, as outlined by Olmert, is real. Israel is becoming a pariah apartheid state and American Jews are becoming more and more offended its policies. It is one thing to defend the mythical Eretz Israel of Leon Uris and quite another to have to defend the last openly racist regime on the planet and its systematic atrocities and violations of international law and human rights.

The old myth about 'Antisemitism' fulled by the 'us versus them' mentality is slowly crumbling and more and more American (and Israeli) Jewish organizations are spontaneously appearing which try to find an alternative to the AIPAC/ADL/ZOA/CPMAJO/JINSA Neocon cabal and its propaganda.

Regardless, the Neocons in the USA and Israel will continue make absolutely everything in their power to make a real two state solution impossible and I would argue that they have achieved their goal: a real two state solution is, by now, simply impossible. Which leaves only two alternativea: kill most, if not all, the Palestinians or settle for a one state solution.


Thus it ironically appears that Olmert agrees with Ahmadinejad:

Olmert: If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished (translation: unless we succeed into getting rid of most the Palestinians under our control Israel will not survive as "a Jewish state and as a state of all the Jewish people", to use the *official* Israeli formula)

Ahmadinejad (quoting Khomenei): "the regime occupying Jerusalem will vanish from the page of time" (translation: since the regime occupying Jerusalem is racist by its very nature, and since it will never succeeded in getting rid of most of the Palestinians under its control, Israel will not survive as "a Jewish state and as a state of all the Jewish people").

Sure looks to me that these two agree here. One, of course, dreads this moment while the other yearns for it. Still, this will happen eventually as no political system can expect to survive, much less so enjoy any peace, if it is built on racism and violence.

From now on, its just a race for time with one side desperately trying to delay the inevitable and the other trying to survive until it happens.

Amy Goodman interviews Naomi Wolf on Democracy Now

Today Amy Goodman interviewed Naomi Wolf on Democracy Now. During the interview Amy and Naomi discussed Naomi's latest book "The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot"


video

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Remarkable statement by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, Neturei Karta spokesman

For more information on Neturei Karta International please see: http://www.nkusa.org/


video

Why Annapolis is yet another colossal Neocon miscalculation

The great Annapolis Peace Conference has resulted in exactly nothing. This is not the opinion of Hamas, or Hezbollah, but the opinion of Ghaith al-Omari, legal adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who, according to CNN, declared:

The Israeli-Palestinian statement read by President Bush at the start of Tuesday's peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland, amounted to a "public relations gimmick". "The statement has a shelf life of two days," he said. "There's nothing new in it". Amazingly, he also added that "events will happen in the next two days that could change everything".

Really? Like what? Maybe the biggest Palestinian faction, Hamas, will be invited to join in the negotiation? Or maybe the USA will actually try to get Olmert to start respecting international law? Hardly.

Here is what Ismail Haniya, Prime Minister of Palestine and Hamas leader, had to say about this so-called "peace conference":

video

Clearly, the Palestinians have been totally betrayed (yet again) by the leaders of all the countries which showed up at this conference, including Syria, and the Palestinians now fully realize that there is only one country which cares about them and who will stand by them: Iran.

Iran, of course, is what this conference was really all about. Annapolis was little more than an Imperial get together to get everybody on the same tune, hence Syria's presence. There is no other possible explanation for the truly bizarre Syrian idea of sending diplomats to talk peace with Israel right after being bombed, however unsuccessfully and uselessly, by the Israeli Air Force. No - Syria showed up with the sole aim to be told by the Empire's representatives how they need to behave when the aggression against Iran takes place, and that the Syrians better listen, or else...

Sure - at the end of the conference some kind of grand statement will be made and everybody will declare it a historic first step. Still, besides an official Syrian sell-out there is very little that this conference will achieve. Except maybe one thing maybe:

Annapolis will be yet another colossal Neocon miscalculation. By 'squeezing' all the Imperial stooges of the Middle-East into one room for a photo op, the Neocons are literally pushing the Palestinians into the warm embrace of Tehran who now stands alone in defense of the basic right of the Palestinian people. At times one could be forgiven for wondering whether the Neocons are not paid agents of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence (just kidding).

The Neocons' short-sighted policies removed Iran's two worst enemies (Saddam and the Taliban) and essentially handed Iraq over to Iran. Likewise, in Afghanistan, the real power behind the Gucci-wearing "Mayor of Kabul", Karzai, are Iran's Tadjik, Uzbek and Hazara warlords (the other power behind them is Russia). In Lebanon, by forcing the Syrian's to withdraw and with the utterly insane war of 2006 the Neocons have made Hezbollah the most popular and powerful force in the country. Thanks to the GWOT (Global War on Terror) oil prices are through the roof, which greatly helps Iran (not to mention Russia and Venezuela). Now the Neocons are pushing the Sunni Hamas and the rest of the Palestinians who are not doing the bidding of Olmert straight into Iran's sphere of influence. It also makes Iran (and Hezbollah) look heroically noble in the eyes of "Muslim street' all over the Middle-East.

Right now it looks like the circle is closing in on Tehran, but after the Empire suffers yet another strategic defeat in its war against Iran (and that is inevitable as I explained in a previous article) it will become clear that the Annapolis Conference was just another strategic blunder of a clueless and increasingly hapless Empire.

Peace and its discontents: the Israeli takeover

Commentary taken from the blog "Lenin's tomb":

Israel and Palestinians commit to peace trumpets The Guardian, with a sick-making portrait of Bush, Olmert and Abbas holding hands. How's that commitment working so far? Well, let's not forget that having launched a 'civil war' against Hamas and used Dahlan's goons to foment war in Gaza on behalf of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas supports Israel's war on the Gaza strip. There is no 'peace' coming here. Abbas is turning Fatah into the armed wing of capitulation.

Previous peace efforts by Fatah, however limited and corrupted, were at least seriously attempting to get something out of Israel, a stretch of continuous land with Olive Trees on it and water running, the dismantling of settlements, demilitarization of the West Bank, something. Now, with settlements more in abundance than ever, with Israel's occupation expanding instead of contracting, with daily aggression against the Palestinian population, Abbas offers himself as Israel's agent. The talks now taking place are about talks that may take place in the future, that may at some point result in an idea, then a concept, then a series of hastily drawn diagrams, then a hint about a possible settlement. There is no prospect of even a remotely legitimate settlement emerging from this charade. Olmert is hasty with vague intimations about bold moves, but Israel's colonisation of the West Bank continues apace. The only promise from today that is genuine is the one from Abbas that he will take apart "terrorist" organisations, meaning rival political groups. So today, as part of Abbas' own 'war on terror', Palestinians in the West Bank who were demonstrating that they were not partial to this Annapolis hoax, were attacked with one killed, and a reporter trying to cover the demo was roughed up by Abbas' men.

This isn't exactly new, which is one of the reasons why Fatah lost the elections in early 2006. The absence of democratic credentials from these talks, led by an America president who prates ceaselessly of democracy, is striking. In fact, none of the three men meeting today has a popularity rating higher than 30%. No deal they negotiate, even if one were forthcoming, could carry the remotest popular mandate. However, that's hardly the point. The talks, aside from involving a temporary tilt toward Syria to isolate Iran, are continuing the coup process launched after Hamas' electoral victory. This is a takeover, not a makeover.

Monday, November 26, 2007

One more political prisoner in the Empire's Dungeons

From today's Democracy Now headlines:

Palestinian Professor Sentenced to 11 Years For Refusing to Testify:

In Chicago, a federal court has sentenced a Palestinian-American activist to more than 11 years in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury in 2003 about the activities of the Palestinian group Hamas. Abdelhaleem Ashqar defended his refusal to testify saying that he shouldn't have to give testimony that would aid the Israeli government.

Ashqar told the court:

"The only option was to become a traitor or collaborator, and that is something that I can't do and will never do as long as I live." Ashqar is a former associate professor of business at Howard University in Washington. Earlier this year a jury acquitted Ashqar of being a leading member of Hamas and conspiring to support terrorism from the United States.


While Amy Goodman did report this story on Democracy Now, the corporate media did not, or when it did, it did so on page 25, in small print, without any comments.

I mean, how cares, right? Yet another Palestinian academic is getting jailed for refusing to be a snitch. It's not even the first case. Remember Sami Al-Arian, who is now serving time in jail for refusing to testify against former associates?

In both cases the government lost at trial and failed to provide any proof that these academics were linked to terrorism. But that's no big deal, Uncle Sam will jail them for refusing to snitch on their friends.

The most amazing thing is the deafening silence in which all this is taking place. The US academia is silent about this, presumably freedom-loving democrats (small 'd') are saying nothing, probably assuming that, hey, this is not a good time to speak up for an 'AYErab'.

All those who now look away would do well to remember the following words:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Monday, November 19, 2007

When is the use of the "F" word appropriate?

A friend of mine recently commented that using the "F" words was inappropriate when referring to the regimes in Washington or Ankara. He wrote "I think you overdo the "fascist" label (next US Prez and Turkey will not/isn't anywhere near a fascist regime) too much too, but that would be good to have as a debate on your newly-directed blog I suppose". I think that this is a crucial issue which I want to address here. I will give you my take on it but please feel free to join what I hope will be a lively discussion, ok?

In a piece I wrote last May entitled "Rudi Guiliani - the face of American Fascism" I outlined the reasons for my belief that barring a highly unlikely miracle an openly Fascist president will be occupying the White House in 2008 (I really urge you to read this original piece which will, I hope, provide a contextual and analytical framework for our current discussion).

What did I mean by "Fascist"?

What I do not envision is hordes of Brownshirts goose-stepping down Pennsylvania avenue carrying swastikas and smashing Jewish storefronts. But none of that is really what Fascism is all about. Neither am I using the word "Fascist" rhetorically, as an insult. Let me repeat here the definitions which I used in my original piece:

Here is the wikipedia definition:

Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and other societal interests inferior to the needs of the state, and seeks to forge a type of national unity, usually based on ethnic, cultural, or racial attributes. Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, corporatism, collectivism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, and opposition to economic and political liberalism

Without entering into the endless debates about the nature of the various historical versions of Fascism, I think that any non-controversial wikipedia definition reflects the current usage of the word, and that this definition should be therefore accepted (some definition of Fascism by Benito Mussolini can be found here). To this definition I would like add another one which says that "Fascism is a system in which costs are socialized and benefits are privatized".

I submit that there have been numerous Fascist regimes in the 20th century including, besides Mussolini's Italy, the Petain Vichy regime, Croatia under General Ante Pavelic, Stroessner's Paraguay, Chun Doo-hwan's Korea, Pinochet's Chile, Chiang Kai-shek's Taiwan, Franco's Spain and many others (including, I would argue, Turkey under various Kemalist rulers, Israel and Apartheid-era South Africa). These various regimes are very different from each other in many ways, and their degree of Fascism is very unequal. In this sense

Fascism is more of a political syndrome than a unitary political theory or system.

It could also be argued that Fascism is a psychological predisposition held by some substantial segment of the population. This case has been interestingly made by Robert Altemeyer in his book "The Authoritarians" (which you can download for free here). Though Altemeyer's methodological criteria really limit his conclusions to the USA and, maybe, Canada, his thesis that authoritarianism is a psychological trait is, I think, very interesting, in particular when he states that there is an inverse correlation between the level of education and the propensity to be a follower of an authoritarian ruler.

Whether look at from a socio-political, economical or psychological point of view, I believe that the USA is turning into a typical Fascist society right before our eyes. Since I already outlines the reasons why I believed that almost all 2008 Presidential Candidates (with the exception of Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel) as typical Fascists in my previous article I shall not repeat them here. I would only add that in my personal observations I see that the US population is gradually being brainwashed into accepting Fascism as a cultural norm: the mass media is filled with endless reports and shows glorifying the police, the military, the state's use of force while simultaneously vilifying or ridiculing dissenters. The USA is still awash in (-: Chinese made :-) flags and even used cars are covered in US flags. Militarism, nationalism and the glorification of those using force in the name of the state is constant.

If Altemeyer is correct and education is inversely correlated to Fascist tendencies then Fascism in the USA has nothing to fear as the vast majority of Americans are ignorant of the world outside the USA and of world history to a truly amazing degree. Sure - the Ivy League educated elites are better off, and there are plenty of self-educated "dissidents" in the USA, but the general population's level of culture and education can best be symbolized by a Big Mac or maybe Miss Teen USA 2007 whose hilarious words made her famous all over the Internet. What most people failed to notice or, rather, preferred not to say, is that her answer is fairly typical of what one might hear from most US teenagers. In my 12 years of live in the USA I have heard many such absolutely baffling comments, even on US college campuses. Looking at this hilarious and truly sad video I could easily imagine what Miss Teen USA 2007's boyfriend would look like: probably some Marine "jarhead" in Iraq shooting the "hadjis" to "bring democracy and prevent another 911".

The USA today is a ripe fruit for a form of Fascism at least as overt and typical as any other Fascist regime of the 20th century. Worse, the regime in Washington has already adopted all the typical policies which aspiring Fascist rulers typically and systematically implement to overthrow a democracy.

Naomi Wolf has recently published an absolutely brilliant analysis of the policies adopted by all Fascist rulers in her article "Fascist America in 10 easy steps" written for the Guardian. This article is just a short summary and I really urge you to listen to Naomi Wolf's lecture on this issue which I have uploaded to a server and which you can download (in mp3 format) from here (if the Mediafire server is having problems, please try a little later).

Let's look at the global picture now.

All the candidates with a chance of winning the 2008 elections are, I submit, typical Fascists, the US corporate media is constantly promoting Fascist values to a population which has been dumbed down and made ignorant, the US government is already systematically implementing all the steps to overthrow a democracy and turn it into a Fascist state. So I ask the question now - is is really inappropriate or premature to speak about Fascism in the USA?

Should a regime which kidnaps people worldwide, which systematically tortures, which has the highest incarceration rate (per capita) in the world, which is totally at the service of the corporate world, which engages in imperial wars, which basically rejects the very concept of international law, which fully backs the only overtly racist regime on the planet (Israel), which supports terrorist groups in many countries (Iran, Cuba, Venezuela), which has plenty of political prisoners (Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Miami Five, Peltier, etc.) which implemented such laws as the Patriot Act and the Military Commission Act and which even abolished habeas rights, should a regime like that be called Fascist?

What do you think?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Putin's legacy and the new Russia

Following Putin's investiture as Russia's next President after Boris Eltsin Russia underwent a dramatic transformation proving wrong those who had assumed that since Putin 'had been picked by Eltsin' the country would continue on its previous course. It is now obvious that the drunken Eltsin had not 'picked' anyone, but that powerful forces had imposed Putin as the successor to Elstin who was forced to announce his resignation on live TV on December 31, 1999.

Some of the changes which have occured are definitely due to the price of oil which, courtesy of the policies of the US Neocons, climbed dramatically since December 1999. Russia, now awash with cash, could not only start re-building much of what had been destroyed in the catastrophic nineties, but it could also start throwing around some of its newly aquired financial and political weight.

A number of factors have contributed to the new face of Putin's Russia:

Powerful intelligence and security agencies

First and foremost, Putin's accession to power was a major victory for what remained of the crippled the intelligence and security services of the former Soviet Union. All of them, with one very important exception, had been crippled by the so-called 'reforms' of the Eltsin era. Now, under Putin, this period of chaos and collapse has come to an end. There are still tensions between the various security agencies, but by and large the three "big ones" (SVR, foreign intelligence, FSB, internal security, GRU, military intelligence) have recovered much of their former capabilities and are not acting in a coordinated manner.

Putin, himself a former officier of the KGB's external intelligence directorate (PGU) has apparently even succeeded in getting powerful GRU to fully support him. For example, he has built new high-tech luxury headquarters for the GRU (see photo) which can only be described as lavish and he personally came to inaugurate them.

This event was particularly remarkable for two reasons: not only had the GRU always been the arch-rival of the KGB (the two organizations purged each other in the past) but, unlike the KGB, it used to be a super-secret organization whose existence was never mentioned publicly (most Soviets did not even know its name). For the ex-PGU KGB officer Putin to come and inaugurate these new headwuarters in the presence of all the main Russian TV channels (see video here) was something quite extraordinary. Even more amazing is the fact that these new headquarters were far superior to anything the SVR foreign intelligence service had (in fact, these are probably the most luxurious and advanced headquarters for any military intelligence agency anywhere in the world).

At the inauguration, Putin made a very interesting speech (full text here) in which he praised the GRU for its excellent past performance and in which he stressed its importance, alongside all the other security and intelligence agencies, for the future security of Russia. His speech was a public commitment for an unwavering support of the GRU the future. The old enmity between the KGB and the GRU certainly seem over at last.

One might get the idea that the quasi total collapse of the Russian armed forces in the nineties should have equally affected the GRU, but that would be very mistaken: due to its secretive nature, the GRU was the only former Soviet intelligence/security agency which suffered very little during this period. While it lost some of its agents abroad and while some of its combat forces did go through difficulties (lack of funds, officers leaving to join organized crime, the war in Chechnia), its core capabilities were generally preserved and, in some ways, expanded.

The war in Chechnia proved particularly crucial for the GRU under whose control the Spetsnaz forces have remained and who proved invaluable in successfully suppressing the Chechen insurgency (note: there have been many (and often silly) things written about the many and various so-called 'Spetsnaz forces' existing in Russia today; I am only referring here to the ones under GRU control). In fact, Putin and his administration have fully realized that the conflict in Chechnia is far more likely to be a blueprint for future security challenges for Russia that a 'World War III' -type of scenario with large armored formations fighting or nuclear strikes exchanged. Consequently, while maintaining a minimal deterrent capability for such a major conflict, Russia has clearly defined intelligence and special operations has the top military security priority.

Simultaneously, the SVR has been directed to focus on political and economic intelligence, in particular throught its extensive penetration of and, to a certain degree, by the new Russian business elite and organized crime.

Lastly, the FSB has gradually been re-built into an effective internal security force thanks for far better funding and a restored public image.

Government, business and organized crime

It now is simply impossible to say where the legitimate Russian business community ends and where Russian organized crime begins. Furthermore, considering the mutual interpenetration of government, business and organized crime, Russia could be fairly be described as a "thugocracy". While this has arguably reached previously unheard of proportions, this is hardly something really new.

Since before the 1917 Revoltuion, Bolshevik Party was composed of two main elements: the ideologues (who openly advocated terror as a key political instrument) and regular criminals. These two groups, united in a common hatred of the traditional Russian culture, joined forces in overthrowing the corrupt and totally incompetent Provisional Government of Kerensky. Under Lenin, these two elements coexisted to a certain degree, but the top echelons of the Party where firmly in the ideologues' hands. After Lenin's death, the common thugs, lead by Stalin, gradually eliminated the ideologues in a series of bloody purges and secured their grip on power. The regular thugs remained in power until the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

One illustration of this phenomenon can be found in the little-known fact that even the presumably omnipotent KGB was barred from even investigating members of the Central Committee (in contrast, under Lenin, the ChK (ancestor of the KGB) could investigate anyone it wanted, including top Party official). This situation was extremely conducive to large scale corruption and crime which always flourished in the former Soviet Union.

After 1991, a large section of the former Party elites simply plundered the country from all its resources and wealth and the size and power of the Russian mob simply exploded. Billions of dollars were taken out of the country. Eventually, most of the original 'oligarchs', mobsters and assorted 'New Russian businessmen' either emigrated, retired, were jailed or were killed by competitors. Those who remained, arguably the toughest and smartest, fused into the new power elite which now rules Russia.

The Russian intelligence community has made good use of this new situation and instead of relying mainly on diplomats, TASS correspondents or trade representatives as in the past, it now can conduct its operations thorough a vast and diverse array of Russians abroad which now also includes tourists, business people, NGO members, emigres, etc. As a result, Russian intelligence collection capabilities have been vastly improved.

Not so new ideologies revived to achieve popular support

The old communist ideology is not quite dead yet and some, mostly elderly, people still believe in it, but its political relevance is close to zero, in particular among the younger generation. Realizing that there was a need to fill this ideological vacuum, the new rulers of Russia have resurrected an old Stalinist favorite, the ideology of 'national-Bolshevism', and they adapted it to the new realities. The regime was greatly aided in this by the other Soviet era institution (besides the GRU) which had undergone no significant reform whatsoever: the Moscow Patriarchate, an old ally of the Soviet regime.

Immediately after Putin's arrival in the Kremlin the SVR foreign intelligence agency directed the Moscow Patriarchate to embark on a major campaign to attempt to lure the previously anti-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (sometimes called the "White Church") back into Moscow's fold. Aided by some sympathizers among the bishops of the emigre Church, this operation fully succeeded and, in May of 2007, the two previously hostile branches of the Russian Orthodox Church signed a union declaration which turned the former "White Church" into little more than a foreign branch of the Moscow Patriarchate. More importantly, Putin could now claim that the 'civil war was over' and that 'the entire Russian Orthodox Church supports the government'.

The dominant ideology of the new Russia is a strange mix of several 'shells' with very little substance to them: the appearance of democracy, mixed with an appearance of patriotism, mixed with an appearance of Orthodox Christianity - all packaged with a bizarre combination of pre-1917, old Soviet and "new Russian' symbols. An example of that is the 'new' Russian national anthem which kept the music of the old Soviet one, but which now features new lyrics.

In reality, of course, this new ideology is just a parody of the real thing, and the rulers of Russia are neither democratic, nor patriotic nor Orthodox: they are only about power. At the core, they are still simply thugs.

Still, traditional Russian flags are seen alongside red Soviet-style banners, ex-KGB officers are shown on TV attending church services, and 'patriotic values' are exalted in the official media. As a result, this more palatable ideological mixture, combined with improved government services, an objectively stronger Russian economy and vivid memories of the horrors on the nineties, provide a new propaganda machine (modeled on the US corporate media) with all the ingredients to make Vladimir Putin and his regime popular with many Russians.

Authoritarianism with a 'human face'?

The part of the old KGB which dealt with political dissent (the 5th Main Directorate) was rapidly disbanded after the end of the Soviet Union. It could never have dreamed of achieving what a Western-style propaganda machine did for Putin since 2000. Not only is Putin genuinely popular in Russia, but even the old KGB is seen by many as not nearly as bad as some would think. According to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author of the seminal "Gulag Archipelago", the Bolshevik terror in Russia killed an estimated 70'000'000 people. Still, Putin had no difficulties whatsoever when he created the official holiday of the "day of the workers of the security services of the Russian Federation" (день работников органов безопасности РФ), otherwise known as the "day of the Chekist", celebrated on the 20th of December each year, the date in which the ancestor of the KGB, the Cheka, was created by Vladimir Lenin immediately after the Bolshevik 'October Revolution'. In comparison with the chaos, terror and plunder of Russia under the 'democratic' Eltsin regime, the very real, if harsh, order most Soviets enjoyed under the watchful eye of the KGB seems preferable to most Russians. And just as in the United States, most Russians prefer the safety of a police state to, for example, the kind of horrors Chechen terrorists have perpetrated against innocent civilians.

A quiet but dangerous foe for the USA

The contrast between Eltsin and Putin external policies could not have been greater. Where Eltsin, and his pathetic foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, did everything and anything demanded from them by their bosses and protectors in Washington, Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Ivanov (another ex-KGB officer) quietly re-oriented Russia's foreign policy towards a much more independent course.

With drunken Party bureaucrats and subservient lackeys finally gone, Russia's foreign policy immediately, if discreetly, distanced itself from Washington's imperial adventures. While the old, and admittedly often silly, anti-Western propaganda was not revived, Russia has gone to great pains to distance itself from the increasingly reviled Bush administration.

By its insistence that a 'multi-polar' international system needed to resist the 'hegemonic tendencies of some countries' (the nice way of referring to US imperial policies) Russia allied itself to many other countries which shared similar concerns including, most importantly China. Initially Russia had explored the possibility of a 'strategic partnership' with the USA but the crudely anti-Russian policies of the Neocons in the White House, in particularly in the Russian "near abroad" (the former Soviet republics) served to totally alienate Moscow from any such illusions. Now, instead of seeing the USA as a possible partner, Russia sees it as the "main adversary" just as it had in the Soviet era. The blame for this disastrous evolution, at least for the USA, can only be laid on the Bush administration whose Neocons probably hate anything Russian even more than they hate anything Islamic.

Unlike the old USSR, Putin's Russia will not engage in useless rhetorical attacks against the West and we will not see Putin banging his shoe at the UN anytime soon, but the new Russia will oppose the Empire far more effectively by becoming an invisible foe which will quietly act behind the scenes to weaken it in every possible way.

Russian elites are fully aware of the fact that all the main threats to Russia's national interests are directly linked to Washington's systematic support of anything anti-Russian. No matter how undemocratic, corrupt, cruel and otherwise abhorrent a despot is - if he is anti-Russian the US will provide him with aid and support.

The Russian also realize that they cannot overtly oppose Washington and that there is no need for them to do so: the self-defeating policies of the Neocon White House are already weakening the USA more than anything Moscow could do. Russia will thus quietly further develop its capabilities and wait for the USA to further corner itself into an impossible situation (which it is already doing in many places). All Russia needs to do now is avoid getting sucked in in the inevitable decline of the US Empire.

Russia and the coming US aggression against Iran

It has been suggested by some ill-informed commentators that Russia might actually use its military to defend Iran against a US attack. This is utter nonsense. Russia would have absolutely nothing to gain, and everything to loose, in getting militarily involved in a US-Iranian conflict. Considering that there is no way the USA can win a conflict with Iran (see my analysis of Iranian asymmetrical responses in my previous article on this issue) one could make the case that Russia actually has a lot to gain from a US attack on Iran (beginning with yet another dramatic rise in the price of oil). Furthermore, it is my belief that Russia has fundamentally given up the use of military force in any scenario besides self-defense. Whether by choice or as a result of a pragmatic analysis of its capabilities, the new Russian leaders have made no efforts whatsoever to maintain much of an offensive military capability against the USA. It appears that Russia will be quite content to remain a 'only' Eurasian military power and will just maintain enough of a strategic deterrent to prevent the USA from directly attacking it.

Conclusion

One does not need to be an admirer of Vladimir Putin (which I am most definitely not) to recognize his tremendous achievements in a relatively short period of time and under the most difficult of circumstances: the Russian economy is booming, Chechnia is firmly under the control of a pro-Moscow thug, the regime is undeniably popular, Russia is back on the international scene and does not take orders from Washington anymore, government services are gradually becoming functional again and the succession of Putin by his protege Ivanov seems a done deal. While there are still plenty of unresolved problems to deal with (poverty for the old and weak, corruption, legal reforms, the long delayed restructuring of the regular armed forces, social issues such as crime and substance abuse, etc.) none of them represent a major threat to the Russian thugocracy.

It has taken the ex-KGB men less than a decade to bring their version of Russia back on the world stage. This is truly a remarkable achievement.

Summary of the latest IAEA report on Iran

F. Summary (emphasis added)

39. The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material, and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. Iran concluded a Facility Attachment for FEP. However, it should be noted that, since early 2006, the Agency has not received the type of information that Iran had previously been providing, pursuant to the Additional Protocol and as a transparency measure. As a result, the Agency’s knowledge about Iran’s current nuclear programme is diminishing.

40. Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP and FEP. Iran has also continued the construction of the IR-40 and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant. 41. There are two remaining major issues relevant to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme: Iran’s past and current centrifuge enrichment programme and the alleged studies. The Agency has been able to conclude that answers provided on the declared past P-1 and P-2 centrifuge programmes are consistent with its findings. The Agency will, however, continue to seek corroboration and is continuing to verify the completeness of Iran’s declarations. The Agency intends in the next few weeks to focus on the contamination issue as well as the alleged studies and other activities that could have military applications.

42. Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner to questions and provided clarifications and amplifications on issues raised in the context of the work plan. However, its cooperation has been reactive rather than proactive. As previously stated, Iran’s active cooperation and full transparency are indispensable for full and prompt implementation of the work plan.

43. In addition, Iran needs to continue to build confidence about the scope and nature of its present programme. Confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme requires that the Agency be able to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material, but, equally importantly, regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. Although the Agency has no concrete information, other than that addressed through the work plan, about possible current undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, the Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran without full implementation of the Additional Protocol. This is especially important in the light of Iran’s undeclared activities for almost two decades and the need to restore confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. Therefore, the Director General again urges Iran to implement the Additional Protocol at the earliest possible date. The Director General also urges Iran to implement all the confidence building measures required by the Security Council, including the suspension of all enrichment related activities.

44. The Director General will continue to report as appropriate.
------

The picture is simple:

1) Iran has proven that its nuclear program is fully accounted for and thereby that it is purely civilian in nature
2) Iran refuses to stop enriching uranium, which it is fully entitled to do as a member of the NPT, even though the UNSC (illegally, in violation of NTP obligations) demands that Iran stops all enrichment

Iran is thus no 'threat' to anyone. The 'illegal Iranian nuclear weapons program' canard is dead.

Full text of the report (in PDF format) available here

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The upcoming Annapolis conference: more of the same, only worse

The Israeli elites have for a while already been struggling with a major crisis which really could represent an 'existential threat' to the state of Israel. No, not Ahmadinejad's never spoken words about 'wiping Israel off the map' or the non-existing Iranian nuclear weapons program (no member of the IAEA has ever succeeded in developing nuclear weapons), but the demographic time bomb which has been ticking with increased speed since many years already. This problem has become so acute now as to now make a two-state solution both impossible and irrelevant.

Besides a higher birth rate for Palestinians, several additional factors have contributed to the current crisis including the occupation of the Occupied Territories, the creation of numerous Jewish settlements inside these territories, the gradual dismemberment of the territorial continuity of the West Bank by means of colonies, 'Jews only' highways, the 'separation wall', the many checkpoints, military bases - all these factors have contributed to a de facto annexation and incorporation of the West Bank into Israel proper.

Decades of strategic miscalculations for the sake of petty political and ideological interests by all the successive Israeli governments have made the separation of the West Bank from Israel simply impossible (check out
this high resolution map by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem to fully appreciate the situation as it was in 2002).

Late in the game, having finally decided to act on this threat, the Israelis withdrew from Gaza and turned it into an open-air prison under their total control. This 'solution' resulted in the rapid takeover of Gaza by Hamas and a systematic campaign of rocket attacks from Gaza against nearby Israeli villages. Whatever the merits (or lack thereof) of this approach, it simply cannot be repeated with the far larger, richer and strategically important West Bank. But even assuming some kind of 'magical' Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank - nothing would be solved by it. At best, it would give more time to the Israeli Jews to decide what to do with the 1/5th of the Israeli population inside Israel proper which is Palestinian.

The Israeli elites have begun to open address this issue by contemplating some rather minor land swaps between Israel and the future Palestinian state as shown in this Al-Jazeera report:

video

Still, this is clearly a case of way too little and way too late. More importantly, the real threat to Israel is not demographic but moral.


Modern Israel was mainly created by secular, left-leaning Jewish intellectuals who wanted it to be democratic, egalitarian and politically progressive. While they were definitely willing to terrorize their Arab neighbors and make land grabs at every opportunity, they did not want their country to turn into the kind of neo-Fascist society which, often, they had fled from.

Over the years, however, the influx of very different kind of Jewish immigrants and the constant wars with their Arab neighbors hardened the nationalist and outright racist tendencies of the Israelis and the idea that "Arabs only understand force" became tacitly accepted mainstream public opinion. As the violence reached new heights, even more violence was seen as the only possible way to deal with the Arabs. There is, however, only so much violence any nation can inflict outside before it starts using the same methods inside its borders.


Broadly speaking Israel stands now at a crossroads of two fundamentally different and mutually exclusive development models:


1. Israel can choose to remain a 'Jewish state' at all costs. In this case it will either have to reign down even more violence and terror on all the Palestinians living inside its real (as opposed to legal) borders, or it will have to find a way to expel them. In this scenario Gaza will have to be turned into a Gulag, the West bank into an assortment of 'mini-Gazas' completely surrounded by Jewish settlements and IDF posts, and the Israeli Arabs living inside Israel proper will have to live under an Apartheid-like regime. Inevitably, this policy will only result in more violence and more bloodshed, the Israeli society will gradually turn into South African -type of system in which democratic rights are limited to one ethnic group and the rest of the society will live in constant violence, terror and repression.

2. Israel can choose to remain a democratic state at all costs. In this case it will have to openly recognize that a separation into two sovereign entities is simply not feasible and that Jews and Arabs will have to live together not only in the Middle-East, but inside Israel also. In this scenario, Israeli Jews will have to make the same fundamental decision which the White South Africans did: to give up their race-based privileges for the sake of a democracy enjoyed by all its citizens regardless or ethnicity or religion. Conversely, like South Africa's ANC, the Arabs and Palestinians will have to come up with some project which can be acceptable to Israeli Jews.

Two truly seminal books have been published last year which discuss this crucial issue: Jonathan Cook's Blood and Religion which looks at the current situation and which proves that contrary to Jimmy Carter's claims, Apartheid also very much exists inside Israel, and Ali Abunimah's One Country which offers a fascinating blueprint of how a 'one state' solution could be achieved and why it would address the needs and hopes of both Arabs and Jews.

These two short books are an absolutely essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the fundamental reasons behind the choice Israel begins to tackle with. Together they prove beyond possible doubt that any 'two state' solution is already stillborn. They also show that Ahmadinejad was factually and logically correct when he, quoting Ayatollah Khomenei, said Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad ("The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time").

No state, including Israel, can hope to achieve piece if it is based on racial discrimination and a systematic use of violence. Fully realizing this, a group of intellectuals (including Palestinians and Israelis) published the following declaration: (original text and list of signatories here)

For decades, efforts to create a just peace for Palestinians and Israeli Jews have failed. The current crisis has further set back hopes for a political solution to the conflict. In this context, a group of scholars, journalists and activists met in Madrid, at the invitation of Universidad Complutense de Madrid, for five days of intensive discussion on alternatives to this ongoing impasse, framed by their belief that a democratic state in all of historic Palestine provides the only moral and practical basis for a just, sustainable peace.

Presentations were informed by the understanding that the attempt to partition historic Palestine, regarded by the major powers as a solution to the conflict, has failed to bring about justice and peace or to offer a genuine process leading towards them. It was argued that the two-state approach encourages separation where equality and coexistence are imperative.

Participants presented the two-state approach as failing to take into account physical and political realities on the ground and presuming false parity in power and moral claims between the two peoples.
Discussions ranged through many other issues including the forms of domination Israel exercises over the Palestinians and the racist practices this entails, such as ethnic cleansing, forms of apartheid, a legal system in Israel built on ethnic discrimination, and the denial of the Palestinian right of return, as well as how to define the rights of Israeli Jews. The discussions considered ways of reframing the question in terms of a struggle for equality and justice, equal citizenship for all the people in the land, and decolonization. Participants debated interpretations of international law, the nature of the conflict, Zionism, the role of religion, and re-imagining national identities.

Many issues for further discussion, action and research emerged, including forms of internal and international solidarity with Palestinians (such as boycott, divestment and sanctions), the lessons from other similarly structured conflicts including South Africa and Northern Ireland, rethinking the relationship between state and citizen, and how to organize a post-conflict society so that it provides a secure and dignified life to Palestinians and Israeli Jews. The participants shared a commitment to engaging deeply with these issues, in the context of their commitment to a democratic solution that will offer an enduring and just peace in a single state, and invite the widest possible participation in this quest.

In contrast, the vast majority of politicians and commentators, as well as the corporate media, are totally ignoring this issue and are persisting in upholding the delusion that a two state solution is still feasible. This is why only fully pliable and obedient Palestinians are invited to any talks and why the upcoming Annapolis Conference will pretend to seek the outline of a possible 'solution to the Palestinian problem' without ever addressing the real issues underlying the conflict. This is also why we can only expect one thing from this conference: more of the same, only worse.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New directions for my blog and key issues to be analyzed - RFC

Dear friends,

After taking some time off to think things over I have tentatively come up with a general plan for this blog and I now want to share it with you.

The main difference with the previous orientation of this blog is that I want to switch from what was mainly a clearinghouse for information taken elsewhere interspersed with occasional original analyses to a more balanced mix of original analysis and highly relevant articles taken from outside the Imperial Homeland (after all, why duplicate the mostly excellent efforts of Counterpunch, Antiwar, Informationclearinghouse and many others?)

Originally, my aim had been to raise the alarm and show that all indicators and warnings were pointing to an upcoming "dawn of darkness" (aggression on Iran, Fascism in the USA, Neocon wars all over the Middle-East, etc.). I will now simply assume that my readers already understand this and instead of "preaching to the choir" I instead directly focus on the main aspects of the events unfolding before our eyes.

I have identified a number of key areas which, in my opinion, deserve a special scrutiny:

Internal US political developments: barring a highly unlikely miracle, an openly Fascist president will succeed Bush the Lesser in 2008 (see my article on this issue here). When it becomes clear to most Americans that their country is ruled by a Soviet style Nomenklatura composed as much of Democrats as of Republicans a period of civil unrests will begin which will be brutally crushed by the huge internal security/police/prison complex which has been built over the past decades and basic civil rights will be abolished under the pretext of some emergency.

External US policies: the Neocons will further strengthen their control over US policies in general, and foreign policy in particular. Even self-evident US national interests will be totally subordinated to the Likud's view of Israeli national interests. As a result, the US foreign policy will be highly aggressive in the entire Middle-East resulting in more violent conflicts. The USA will also follow a radically anti-Russian stance in all aspects of its foreign policy, even when that places US national interests at risk.

Developments in Europe: the new "Imperial" agenda of the USA will be made far worse by the gradual takeover by crypto-Neocon politicians in Europe. If Dubya lost a 'poodle' with Blair's departure he is now getting an entire kennel of poodles with the likes of Sarkozy, Brown, Merkel, etc. The European public opinion will be outraged by this and massive civil disturbances will result.

Israel's crucial choice: Israel is facing an absolutely crucial, truly existential, choice. It has to choose between persisting in being a "Jewish state" or it can decided to become a real democracy. The fact is that due to a long series of huge miscalculations on the part of the Israeli elites a two state solution is now impossible. Jimmy Carter is quite correct when he says that the alternatives are peace or Apartheid, his mistake is that he limits his analysis to the Occupied Territories whereas this choice is exactly the same for Israel proper. As long as Israel persists in being an "ethnic state" there will be no democracy and no peace and the only way to finally end this conflict is to have a one man one vote multi-ethnic and multi-religious state of Israel. Since the vast majority of Israelis, terrified of their Arab and Palestinian neighbors, are not willing to even discuss such a solution, the bloodshed can only become much worse in the years to come.

The real 'axis of evil': four countries will play a particularly dangerous and outright 'evil' role in the Middle-East: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan and, of course, Israel (the latter running the show). While Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are breeding grounds for Wahabi/Salafi extremism, Turkey and Israel are Fascist (regional) superpowers which will, with full US backing, attempt to use the former two in their struggle against Shias all over the Middle-east.

Wars in the Middle-East: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will continue and will be "enhanced" with the inevitable Imperial aggression against Iran. There is also a strong possibility of a US/Israeli fueled civil war in Lebanon. The war in Iraq will draw in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The war Iran will be the Empire's "Stalingrad" in a sense that it will mark the "beginning of the end" for the Empire, albeit at a huge cost for the entire Middle-East. Initially, the Empire, aided by its faithful corporate propaganda machine, will appear highly successful and the Iranian response will appear weak but within less than 60 days following the beginning of the attack the collapse of the US policy in the Middle-East will become evident. It will take many years for the Empire to fully collapse, but from the day of the attack on Iran its decline will be inexorable.

A collapsing US economy: the costs of the Imperial wars, the fall of the dollar, the rise in the price of oil, the inevitable consequences of US economic deregulation, the breakdown of the social infrastructure inside the US will all contribute to a general collapse of the US economy resulting in even more violence abroad and in the Imperial Homeland.

A clueless American peace movement: with a few notable exceptions the US peace movement is clueless and lacks a unifying vision to seriously challenge the US Nomenklatura. The fact is that most Americans have now been thoroughly brainwashed by the corporate media and while they are able to generally oppose the Neocon policies they cannot identify, or meaningfully challenge, the forces and mechanisms which make them possible in the first place. Their is, of course, an intellectual elite in the antiwar movement, mainly on the left, which has a far better grasp of the nature of the beast, so to speak, but it is small, divided and out of touch with the prevailing 'redneck' culture which has been carefully nurtured by the US elites.

A resurgent Russia: under the leadership of Vladimir Putin and his likely successor, Sergei Ivanov, Russia will regain a lot of its former power. The state apparatus in general, and the armed forces and intelligence agencies (SVR, GRU, FSB) in particular, will jointly work to reduce US influence in the so-called "near abroad" (the countries for the former Soviet Union bordering Russia) where US Imperial stooges will run into trouble economically, politically and socially. The Empire will be too busy elsewhere to make much of a difference in this process. The new Russian power will also be felt in Eastern and even, to a lesser degree, in Western Europe. Russia, in partnership with China, will gradually seek to diminish US influence in the international scene.

The collapse of the Monroe doctrine: lead by the example of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, Latin American countries will free themselves from the capitalist economic model, will assert their economic and political autonomy from the Empire and will gradually isolate US stooges, such as Colombia, in Latin America. As in the former Soviet Union, the USA will be too busy handling other crises to successfully oppose this process.

These are, in my opinion, the key areas upon which I want to concentrate in the future.

I would very much like to hear your reactions to this analysis and to my new plans for this blog.

One of my hope would be that the readers of this blog would offer most suggestions, questions, comments and criticisms which, in turn, would result in more interesting discussions. This blog should become as much as forum as an information source.

Please drop me an email, or post here, to let me know what you think, ok?

Kind regards,

The Saker

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Blog to remain, mailing list created, emails sought

Dear friends,

While I have not taken any final decisions about the course of this blog,
one thing I can already say now: your kind letters of support have made me decide that this blog will not close so please keep an eye on it: subscribe to it, come and check it out from time to time, or send me your email address and I will include you on my "Saker's friends" mailing list. Please understand that I need a break and I need some time to decide on a new direction so stay tuned, ok?


The Saker

Friday, November 2, 2007

Reflections on the Antiwar.com debacle

How did that all ever happen? The ultimate irony

It is, of course, bizarre to witness how a presumably anti-government ("libertarian" in US parlance) and anti-corporatist website would make use of a government law passed by the big business monopolies (the DMCA) to ask a corporation (in this case, Google) to enforce their interpretation of the "fair use" clause on a small one-man blog. Truly, "bizarro world" as Justin Raimondo likes to say, and it happened to me this week.

How did I ever get into this crazy situation?

In the beginning

When I began my blog I decided to completely ignore copyright issues. I figured that the big corporate guys (CS Monitor, AP, etc.) would not give a damn about a small-time personal blog, and that the smaller people would appreciate having their stuff picked up elsewhere. I did identify the author of the articles posted here by name and I embedded a link to the original articles in the author's name, thus anyone clicking on the name would find the source and could follow-up the "trail". I really did not do that for any legal consideration, but only to give credit where it was due. Besides, since I did not always agree with the articles I posted here (I often posted interesting, or provocative stuff, I did not agree with), it only made sense to make sure that nobody mistook somebody else's opinion for mine.

I often emailed the original site with a link their articles re-posted on my blog just to let them know that I appreciated their stuff. In the six month since I began my blog, I never had a bad response, only thanks. And then, for the first time, I got this email from a guy I had never heard of telling me that I could only post 3 paragraphs and a link to the original Raimondo article about the PKK. It was signed "Eric Garris, Webmaster, Antiwar.com".

I figured - "big deal, some webgeek is being anal about copyrights, surely the thinking guys at antiwar know nothing about this nonsense". I was wrong. Turns out that what I assumed was a HTML-breathing intern was no less than the "Antiwar.com founder and managing director", a man with an interesting pedigree which included a stint as a New Left activist and in the Peace and Freedom Party, before becoming a libertarian. Little did I know that I was having my first interaction with a "Neoliberal" who had once written these irenic words:

In the Internet we see our greatest hope for freedom and for the continual progress of humanity. In the Internet we see the anachronistic and obsolete institutions of society being pushed aside for a new dawn of better things. In the Internet we see the key to diminishing the power and status of the state and liberating ourselves from its oppression and deception.

(Eric Garris, The Internet vs. The State)

Still, I wrote back to him pointing him to the fair use notice I had put on my blog (bottom left) and telling him that I would henceforth add "for antiwar.com" right next to Raimondo's name each time.

I was so sure that this would take care of that that I even posed another Raimondo piece (with the "enhanced" name credit) and I was prepared to go to bed happy that this silly nonsense was taken care of. Boy was I wrong!

I got back an angry email saying: "Your intention is clearly not "fair use," it is attempted theft, without acknowledgement. Today, I filed the proper forms notifying Blogspot over copyright infringement, and I will follow up with one each time you do this". Theft?! Had the guy missed the "by Justin Raimondo" at the top? Surely that loony would not actually try to sue me over this nonsense?

I sent the guy a reply telling him that 1) I did not make any money from my blog 2) that I could not claim any fame either (the blog being obvioulsy anonymous) 3) that there was a public good imperative which fully justified "fair use" (as is done by commondreams.org or informationclearinghouse, from which I had originally taken my "fair use" notice) and that 4) my intention was not "theft", but to "stand up to the those who want to take away our freedoms and wage endless imperial wars". I added,

"You can, of course, choose not to believe me and keep on believing that I am trying to "steal" something from you. I will say this - this is not my world, not how I function, not what I believe in, not how I live"

And then I went to bed naively hoping that my (presumed) fellow peacenick would come back to his senses. I was wrong again.

Barbarians at the gate

The next morning Blogspot informed me that a DMCA compaint had been filed against my blog. That was bad, but worse (for me) was the way Blogspot deal with such complaints. Basically, to cover themselves from legal action, Blogspot assumes that the complaint is valid and removes the "offending" post unless the accused blogger files a counter-claim. Since filing such a counter-claim requires the accused blogger to make a statement under penalty of perjury and since it would be folly to make any such statements without hiring a lawyer Blogspot's policy was essentially "guilty until proven otherwise".

Garris had written to me "the "fair use" opinion is a legal one that a court MAY apply, but it is not the default". Now, with the full support of the fascist DMCA act and Blogspot's "better safe than sorry" behind Garris, I either had the option to hire a lawyer to try to prove that the common practice of the Internet (again, commondreams or informationclearinghouse are good examples) and plain common sense suggest that antiwar.com was in no way damaged by my posting, or to have Blogspot or remove the articles in question myself.

Since I do not want to do any SOB the favor of doing his dirty work for him, and even though I had resolved by then to stop the blog anyway, I decided to let Garris do the removal "himself" (via Blogspot, of course).

In Dollars with Trust

Still, the situation had an unreal feel to it. Here was a prominent ex-Leftie acting like some MPAA executive while the rest of the "libertarian" crowd at antiwar.com watched in silence. Not only that, but it turns out that Blogspot's "better safe than sorry" policy also included a "shoot them all" clause for repeat offenders which meant that enough complaints would result in my blog being killed once and for all. By then, knowing the psychological makeup of the type, I had no illusions whatsoever that Garris was willing to file complaints all day long if needed to protect Antiwar's rights.

The thing is, the folks at Antiwar are not, unlike yours truly, volunteers. They are paid a salary for their work, and some, including Raimondo, get a full-time salary to write for them (I learned that from Garris' emails who were all centered on the money issue). That, of course, put the entire issue in a totally different context: while I was a naive volunteer peacenik, the folks are Antiwar "professional revolutionaries" (to use Lenin's expression) who made a living writing about peace and freedom. Nothing wrong with that, for sure, but not something I had encountered in past.

Antiwar had used hard-raised dollars to pay Raimondo for his work and I was "making use" of it (doesn't matter for which purpose or cause) without paying a dime. Worse, some other websites might think that Raimondo was working for me. As the song Money says "I'm all right jack keep your hands off of my stack". Now the "theft" accusation made some sense, at least in the context of professional freedom fighting.

A clash of civilizations? The guerrilla way

Ever since I "dropped out" from the imperial service after realizing the Big Lie that it was I had dealt only with idealists. European Linux hackers, pot-smoking squatters, anarchists (the real thing, not the "capitalist" substitute found, where else, in the USA), peaceniks, communists, anti-imperialist activists - in other words people who always donated their sweat, and sometimes their blood, without ever asking for anything for themselves. True believers, idealists, naive do-gooders - call them what you want, but these people only wanted one thing: to get the message out, to speak out about injustice, violence, abuses, exploitation and the propaganda which always protects evil.

One of my friends wrote to me in response to the Antiwar complaint:

Regarding money vs. principles . . . I'm an anti-capitalist. I also know that there are a lot of people who do without everything. Some because this is the situation the status quo has forced on them and others (like the guerrillas) because it's a choice that is made to achieve something better. I follow the path of the guerrillas.

Since I had given up a very lucrative career, with plenty of recognition and power attached to it, in order not to lie, not to bow my head to Mammon and his minions in this world, I have always had a natural empathy for guerrillas, even when my own political blindness still made me think of them as my enemies. I suppose that even when I thought of them as adversaries I, in a way, felt like I was very much like them and that their idealism and example was at least partially responsible for my eventual refusal to serve my (now former) masters anymore.

Can their be a dialog between the guerrilla and the businessman? Sure - but only with an AK doing the talking, I suppose. I had no AK in this case, and Garris had the "corporate contractors" on his side. And we all know that might makes right, don't we?

Lessons learned

First lesson: never assume you are dealing with a sane, honorable, principled or otherwise decent person. Second lesson: in any concept which includes the word "capitalist" (such as anarcho-capitalism) this word totally outweighs any other word attached to it. Third: never underestimate the vindictiveness of a person who feels that his money is somehow being stolen from him. Fourth: you can only see who your true friends are when they are willing to stand up for you.

In regards to this last one, the past couple of days have been an eye opener for me. While bitterly disappointed in some, I have been deeply touched by the kind words of others. To the former I will say that I hope they can live with themselves. To the latter I will say this:

I still do not know what I will do with this blog, but I am leaning towards restarting it in some other form. One thing is for sure, I will not post any articles taken from American websites, no matter how noble and dedicated their names might sound. I am leaning towards a mix of external articles from the Middle-East (or any other region of the world were US imperialism goes on its usual rampage) and original contents: my own interviews and analyses. I will post no more articles from sources based in the USA. There is simply no way I want to go through another "Antiwar.com episode" again - let them Yankees keep their copyrighted materials and let me keep my peace.

While I initially leaned against it, your emails have convinced me to remove the "offending" articles myself. I can thereby preserve the title and the comments. Besides, the blank space and notice below will, in a way, be more informative than the original article anyway.

I will end this long explanation which I felt I owed you all with a request: please email me your "want" and "do not want" ideas for the future of this blog. Let there come some good from all this and help me make this a better blog. I promise to answer each and every email sent to me.

Kind regards, best wishes and my most sincere thanks to all of you,

The Saker

PS: FYI - also check out "Ignorance, Exceptionalism, Hyprocrisy" by Mizgin in which she outlines her take on this uninspiring story.

PPS: You want to find out for yourself whether Justin Raimondo or Mizgin is right about Washington's position towards the PKK? Check out this BBC report.