Saturday, July 28, 2007

Accustomed to Their Own Atrocities in Iraq, U.S. Soldiers Have Become Murderers

by Chris Hedges - July 29, 2007

After four years of war, American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing.

Editor's note: That, of course, is the goal of the military, to strip the soldier of his basic human instincts and make him or now even her a trained killer. That so many are unable to function in civilian society if and when they return home is not a consideration of those who are responsible for the training. Their techniques have, not surprisingly, improved since the Vietnam war. -- Jeff Blankfort]

All troops, when they occupy and battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in "atrocity producing situations."

In this environment, surrounded by a hostile population, simple acts such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke means you can be killed. This constant fear and stress pushes troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. This hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find.

The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed over time to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing -- the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm -- to murder -- the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you. The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing.

After four years of war, American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The American killing project is not described in these terms to a distant public. The politicians still speak in the abstract terms of glory, honor, and heroism, in the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a virtue. The campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed with this rhetoric, as if once all terrorists are destroyed evil itself will vanish.

The reality behind the myth, however, is very different. The reality and the ideal clash when soldiers and Marines return home, alienating these combat veterans from the world around them, a world that still dines out on the myth of war and the virtues of the nation. But slowly returning veterans are giving us a new narrative of the war -- one that exposes the vast enterprise of industrial slaughter unleashed in Iraq for a lie and sustained because of wounded national pride and willful ignorance. "This unit sets up this traffic control point and this 18 year old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50 caliber machine gun," remembered Geoffrey Millard who served in Tikrit with the 42nd Infantry Division. "And this car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split second decision that that's a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts 200 rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father and two kids. The boy was aged four and the daughter was aged three."

"And they briefed this to the general," Millard said, "and they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, 'if these fucking Hadjis learned to drive, this shit wouldn't happen.'"

Those who come back from war, like Millard and tens of thousands of other veterans, suffer not only delayed reactions to stress, but a crisis of faith. The God they knew, or thought they knew, failed them. The church or the synagogue or the mosque, which promised redemption by serving God and country, did not prepare them for the betrayal of this civic religion, for the capacity we all have for human atrocity, for the lies and myths used to mask the reality of war. War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians. This bitter knowledge of betrayal has seeped into the ranks of American troops.

It has unleashed a new wave of embittered veterans not seen since the Vietnam War. It has made it possible for us to begin, again, to see war's death mask.

"And then, you know, my sort of sentiment of what the fuck are we doing, that I felt that way in Iraq," said Sergeant Ben Flanders, who estimated that he ran hundreds of convoys in Iraq. "It's the sort of insanity of it and the fact that it reduces it. Well, I think war does anyway, but I felt like there was this enormous reduction in my compassion for people, the only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with. And everybody else be damned, whether you are an Iraqi, I'm sorry, I'm sorry you live here, I'm sorry this is a terrible situation, and I'm sorry that you have to deal with all of, you know, army vehicles running around and shooting, and these insurgents and all this stuff.

"The first briefing you get when you get off the plane in Kuwait, and you get off the plane and you're holding a duffle bag in each hand," Millard remembered. "You've got your weapon slung. You've got a web sack on your back. You're dying of heat. You're tired. You're jet-lagged. Your mind is just full of goop. And then, you're scared on top of that, because, you know, you're in Kuwait, you're not in the States anymore … so fear sets in, too. And they sit you into this little briefing room and you get this briefing about how, you know, you can't trust any of these fucking Hadjis, because all these fucking Hadjis are going to kill you. And Hadji is always used as a term of disrespect and usually, with the 'f' word in front of it."

War is also the pornography of violence. It has a dark beauty, filled with the monstrous and the grotesque. The Bible calls it "the lust of the eye" and warns believers against it. War allows us to engage in lusts and passions we keep hidden in the deepest, most private interiors of our fantasy life. It allows us to destroy not only things but human beings. In that moment of wholesale destruction, we wield the power to the divine, the power to revoke another person's charter to live on this earth. The frenzy of this destruction -- and when unit discipline breaks down, or there was no unit discipline to begin with, frenzy is the right word -- sees armed bands crazed by the poisonous elixir our power to bring about the obliteration of others delivers. All things, including human beings, become objects -- objects to either gratify or destroy or both. Almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.

Human beings are machine gunned and bombed from the air, automatic grenade launchers pepper hovels and neighbors with high-powered explosive devices and convoys race through Iraq like freight trains of death. These soldiers and Marines have at their fingertips the heady ability to call in air strikes and firepower that obliterate landscapes and villages in fiery infernos. They can instantly give or deprive human life, and with this power they became sick and demented. The moral universe is turned upside down. All human beings are used as objects. And no one walks away uninfected. War thrusts us into a vortex of pain and fleeting ecstasy. It thrusts us into a world where law is of little consequence, human life is cheap and the gratification of the moment becomes the overriding desire that must be satiated, even at the cost of another's dignity or life.

"A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want," said Josh Middleton, who served in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. "And you know, when 20 year old kids are yelled at back and forth at Bragg and we're picking up cigarette butts and getting yelled at every day to find a dirty weapon. But over here, it's like life and death. And 40-year-old Iraqi men look at us with fear and we can -- do you know what I mean? -- we have this power that you can't have. That's really liberating. Life is just knocked down to this primal level of, you know, you worry about where the next food's going to come from, the next sleep or the next patrol and to stay alive."

"It's like you feel like, I don't know, if you're a caveman," he added. "Do you know what I mean? Just, you know, I mean, this is how life is supposed to be. Life and death, essentially. No TV. None of that bullshit."

It takes little in wartime to turn ordinary men into killers. Most give themselves willingly to the seduction of unlimited power to destroy, and all feel the peer pressure to conform. Few, once in battle, find the strength to resist. Physical courage is common on a battlefield. Moral courage is not.

Military machines and state bureaucracies, who seek to make us obey, seek also to silence those who return from war to speak the truth, to hide from a public eager for stories of war that fit the mythic narrative the essence of war which is death.

Camilo Mejia, who eventually applied while still on active duty to become a conscientious objector, said the ugly side of American racism and chauvinism appeared the moment his unit arrived in the Middle East. Fellow soldiers instantly ridiculed Arab-style toilets because they would be "shitting like dogs." The troops around him treated Iraqis, whose language they did not speak and whose culture was alien, little better than animals. The word "Hadji" swiftly became a slur to refer to Iraqis, in much the same way "gook" was used to debase the Vietnamese or "rag head" is used to belittle those in Afghanistan.

Soon those around him ridiculed "Hadji food," "Hadji homes," and "Hadji music." Bewildered prisoners, who were rounded up in useless and indiscriminate raids, were stripped naked, and left to stand terrified and bewildered for hours in the baking sun. They were subjected to a steady torrent of verbal and physical abuse. "I experienced horrible confusion," Mejia remembers, "not knowing whether I was more afraid for the detainees or for what would happen to me if I did anything to help them."

These scenes of abuse, which began immediately after the American invasion, were little more than collective acts of sadism. Mejia watched, not daring to intervene, yet increasingly disgusted at the treatment of Iraqi civilians. He saw how the callous and unchecked abuse of power first led to alienation among Iraqis and spawned a raw hatred of the occupation forces. When army units raided homes, the soldiers burst in on frightened families, forced them to huddle in the corners at gun point, and helped themselves to food and items in the house.

"After we arrested drivers," he recalled, "we would choose whichever vehicles we liked, fuel them from confiscated jerry cans, and conduct undercover presence patrols in the impounded cars.

"But to this day I cannot find a single good answer as to why I stood by idly during the abuse of those prisoners except, of course, my own cowardice," he also notes.

Iraqi families were routinely fired upon for getting too close to check points, including an incident where an unarmed father driving a car was decapitated by a 50-caliber machine gun in front of his small son, although by then, Mejia notes, "this sort of killing of civilians had long ceased to arouse much interest or even comment." Soldiers shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold alongside the road and then tossed incendiary grenades into the pools to set them ablaze. "It's fun to shoot shit up," a soldier said. Some open fire on small children throwing rocks. And when improvised explosive devices go off the troops fire wildly into densely populated neighborhoods, leaving behind innocent victims who become, in the callous language of war, "collateral damage."

"We would drive on the wrong side of the highway to reduce the risk of being hit by an IED," Mejia said of the deadly roadside bombs. "This forced oncoming vehicles to move to one side of the road, and considerably slowed down the flow of traffic. In order to avoid being held up in traffic jams, where someone could roll a grenade under our trucks, we would simply drive up on sidewalks, running over garbage cans and even hitting civilian vehicles to push them out of the way. Many of the soldiers would laugh and shriek at these tactics."

At one point the unit was surrounded by an angry crowd protesting the occupation. Mejia and his squad opened fire on an Iraqi holding a grenade, riddling the man's body with bullets. Mejia checked his clip afterwards and determined that he fired 11 rounds into the young man. Units, he said, nonchalantly opened fire in crowded neighborhoods with heavy M-240 Bravo machine guns, AT-4 launchers and Mark 19s, a machine gun that spits out grenades.

"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us," Mejia writes, "led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them."

He watched soldiers from his unit abuse the corpses of Iraqi dead. Mejia related how, in one incident, soldiers laughed as an Iraqi corpse fell from the back of a truck.

"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," one of the soldiers who had been in Mejia's squad in third platoon said, putting his arm around the corpse.

The shroud fell away from the body revealing a young man wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they!?" the soldier laughed.

The scene, Mejia noted, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins. Senior officers, protected in heavily fortified compounds, rarely saw combat. They sent their troops on futile missions in the quest to be awarded Combat Infantry Badges. This recognition, Mejia notes, "was essential to their further progress up the officer ranks." This pattern meant that "very few high-ranking officers actually got out into the action, and lower-ranking officers were afraid to contradict them when they were wrong." When the badges, bearing an emblem of a musket with the hammer dropped, resting on top of an oak wreath, were finally awarded, the commanders immediately brought in Iraqi tailors to sew the badges on the left breast pockets of their desert combat uniforms.

"This was one occasion when our leaders led from the front," Mejia noted bitterly. "They were among the first to visit the tailors to get their little patches of glory sewn next to their hearts."

The war breeds gratuitous and constant acts of violence.

"I mean, if someone has a fan, they're a white collar family," said Phillip Chrystal, who carried out raids on Iraqi homes in Kirkuk. "So we get started on this day, this one, in particular. And it starts with the psy ops [psychological operations] vehicles out there, you know, with the big speakers playing a message in Arabic or Farsi or Kurdish or whatever they happen to be saying, basically, saying put your weapons, if you have them, next to the front door in your house. Please come outside, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we had Apaches flying over for security, if they're needed, and it's also a good show of force. And we were running around, and we'd done a few houses by this point, and I was with my platoon leader, my squad leader and maybe a couple other people, but I don't really remember.

"And we were approaching this one house, and this farming area, they're, like, built up into little courtyards," he said. "So they have like the main house, common area. They have like a kitchen and then, they have like a storage shed-type deal. And we were approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, because it was doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. And he didn't -- mother fucker -- he shot it and it went in the jaw and exited out. So I see this dog -- and I'm a huge animal lover. I love animals -- and this dog has like these eyes on it and he's running around spraying blood all over the place. And like, you know, the family is sitting right there with three little children and a mom and a dad horrified. And I'm at a loss for words. And so, I yell at him. I'm like what the fuck are you doing.

"And so, the dog's yelping. It's crying out without a jaw. And I'm looking at the family, and they're just scared. And so, I told them I was like fucking shoot it, you know. At least, kill it, because that can't be fixed. It's suffering. And I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but -- and I had tears then, too, -- and I'm looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and, you know, I get my wallet out and I gave them 20 bucks, because that's what I had. And, you know, I had him give it to them and told them that I'm so sorry that asshole did that. Which was very common. I don't know if it's rednecks or what, but they feel that shooting dogs is something that adds to one's manliness traits. I don't know. I had a big problem with that.

"Was a report ever filed about it?" he asked. "Was anything ever done? Any punishment ever dished out? No, absolutely not. He was a sycophant down to the T."

We make our heroes out of clay. We laud their gallant deeds and give them uniforms with colored ribbons on their chest for the acts of violence they committed or endured. They are our false repositories of glory and honor, of power, of self-righteousness, of patriotism and self-worship, all that we want to believe about ourselves. They are our plaster saints of war, the icons we cheer to defend us and make us and our nation great. They are the props of our civic religion, our love of power and force, our belief in our right as a chosen nation to wield this force against the weak and rule. This is our nation's idolatry of itself. And this idolatry has corrupted religious institutions, not only here but in most nations, making it impossible for us to separate the will of God from the will of the state.

Prophets are not those who speak of piety and duty from pulpits -- few people in pulpits have much worth listening to -- but it is the battered wrecks of men and women who return from Iraq and speak the halting words we do not want to hear, words that we must listen to and heed to know ourselves. They tell us war is a soulless void. They have seen and tasted how war plunges us to barbarity, perversion, pain and an unchecked orgy of death. And it is their testimonies alone that have the redemptive power to save us from ourselves.

Bush's real agenda in Palestine

by Ramzy Baroud - July 28, 2007

While Bush may be calling for peace conferences, the US policy of unequivocal bias towards Israel and attacking all that defend Arab and Palestinian rights is as firm as ever

The Hamas government crackdown on Mohamed Dahlan's corrupt security forces and affiliated gangs in the Gaza Strip in June appears to mark a turning point in the Bush administration's foreign policy regarding Palestine and Israel. The supposed shift, however, is nothing but a continuation of Washington's efforts to stifle Palestinian democracy, to widen the chasm separating Hamas and Fatah, and to ensure the success of the Israeli project, which is focussed on colonising and annexing what remains of Palestinian land.

It's vital that we keep this seemingly obvious reality at the forefront of any political discussion dealing with the conflict: the occupied Palestinian territories represent a mere 22 per cent of historic Palestine. Currently, Israel is on a quest to reduce this even further by officially conquering the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Gaza is only relevant to this issue insofar as it represents a golden opportunity to divide Palestinians further, to confuse their national project and to present a grim picture of them as an unruly people who cannot be trusted as peace partners to the far more civilised and democratic Israelis.

By prolonging Gazan strife, thus the Palestinian split, Israel will acquire the time required to consolidate its colonial project, and to further rationalise its unilateral policies vis-à-vis matters that should, naturally, be negotiated with the Palestinians.

Moreover, one must not lose sight of the regional context. The Israeli lobby and its neo- conservative allies in the US administration and in the media are eager for a military showdown with Iran, which would weaken Syria's political standing in any future negotiation with Israel in regards to the occupied Golan Heights, and which would obliterate the military strength of Hizbullah, proven to be the toughest enemy Israel has ever faced in its decades-long conflict with the Arabs.

Thus, its was of paramount importance for Hamas's "rise" to be linked directly to its relations with Iran; such ties, although greatly exaggerated, are now readily used as a rationale to explain Bush's seemingly historic move from backing Israel from a discreet distance (so as not to appear too involved) to initiating an international peace conference aimed solely at isolating Hamas, which would further weaken the Iranian camp in the Middle East.

It also explains the abundant support offered by autocratic Arab regimes to Abbas, and Arab leaders' warnings about the rise of an Iranian menace. On the one hand, eliminating Hamas would send an unambiguous message to their own political Islamists; on the other, it's a message to Iran to back off from a conflict that has long been seen as exclusively Arab-Israeli. The irony is that to ensure the relevance of the Arab role in the conflict, some Arabs are making historic moves to normalise with Israel, and in return for nothing.

Similarly, to ensure its own relevance, Abbas's Fatah is actively coordinating with Israel to destroy its formidable opponent, which represents the great majority of Palestinians in the occupied territories and arguably abroad. For this, assistance is required: money to ensure the loyalty of his followers, weapons to oppress his opponents, political validation to legitimise himself as a world leader, and new laws to de-legitimise the legal, democratic process that produced the Hamas victory of January 2006. In a conflict that is known for its agonisingly slow movement, nothing short of a miracle can explain how Abbas received all of these perks at an astronomical speed.

The moment Abbas declared his arguably unconstitutional emergency government, the suffocating sanctions were lifted -- or more accurately, on the West Bank only. To ensure that no aid reaches anyone who defies his regime, Abbas's office revoked the licences of all NGOs operating in Palestine, making it necessary for them to submit new applications. Those loyal to Abbas are in. The rest are out.

Weapons and military training have also arrived in abundance. Palestinians who have been denied the right to defend themselves, and for decades described as "terrorist", are suddenly the recipients of many caches of weapons coming from all directions. Israel announced a clemency to Fatah militants; the freedom fighters turned gangsters will no longer defend their people against Israeli brutality, but will be used as a militant arm ready to take on Hamas when the time comes.

As for regional and international legitimacy, the Bush administration "decided" to change its policy to one of direct engagement, calling for an international Middle East peace conference. The conference will be about peace in name only, for it will not deal with any of the major grievances of the Palestinians that have fuelled the conflict for years, such as the problem of refugees, Jerusalem and the drawing of borders. Israel is of course willing to "concede" if these efforts will reframe the conflict as exclusively Palestinian, and as long as there is no objection to its illegal annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The reality is that there has been no change in American foreign policy regarding Palestine. The US, Israel and a few Arab regimes are pursuing the same old policy, which is merely being adjusted to fit the new political context.

While Abbas and his men might bask in the many bonuses they are receiving in exchange for their role in destroying the Palestinian national project, the future will prove that Israel's "goodwill gestures", the support of the Israeli lobby in Washington, and the latter's generosity will not last. Abbas could as easily find himself a prisoner in the basement of his own presidential compound, just like his predecessor, if he dares assert the legitimate rights of his people, by far the ultimate losers in this shameless battle.

The writer is author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle and editor-in-chief of

Peace games

The limited chances for Arabs to get Israel to negotiate peace

by Dina Ezzat - July 28, 2007

When Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers meet Arab League secretary-general and the other 20 foreign ministers of the Arab organisation next Monday, it is highly unlikely that they will have any breakthroughs to report from the diplomatic mission that took them to Israel yesterday. Judging by the limited expectations and the slow pace of news coming out of Israel yesterday of the outcome of the talks of the two Arab foreign ministers, the 30 July Arab foreign ministers' meeting in the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League will no doubt confirm what we long have known: Israel is not ready to meet Arab countries half-way on their Arab Peace Initiative.

During a three-way press conference that the visiting Arab foreign ministers held with their Israeli counterpart, there was no sign of Israel's willingness to reciprocate the firm Arab commitment to reach a fair and lasting settlement for the Arab- Israeli struggle. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who affirmed that her government is not interested in a continuous state of stagnation of the peace process was clear in saying that, "it is not right to look at your watch" and expect objectives should be achieved by such and such a date. Her two guests politely disagreed.

According to one informed Egyptian diplomat, "at this stage and maybe for some years to come Israel is only willing to talk about ways to administer its occupation of the Palestinian territories and not about potential political solutions to terminate this occupation." Speaking on conditions of anonymity, he added that the two Arab foreign ministers were basically going to Israel with a message for Israeli public opinion and the US administration rather than on a mission almost-impossible to commit the Israeli government to start final status talks on the Palestinian track.

"The Israeli government has been very clear in explaining that it is not ready yet to discuss a final status solution. Not even one that would be agreed on now and implemented on a short and medium term basis in accordance with a set, or even flexible, time frame," he said.

In Israel, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit and his Jordanian counterpart Abdel-Ilah Al-Khatib were scheduled to meet not just senior Israeli officials but also MPs and potential successors to the current Israeli prime minister, including Likud's Benyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak of the Labour Party. "We are going to Israel to show the Arab determination to extend their hand in peace with Israel in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative", said Abul-Gheit.

The 2002 Beirut Arab Summit Peace Initiative, re-launched during the Arab summit in Riyadh last March, basically offers Israel full normal relations with all Arab countries in return for an end of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories annexed by force during the 1967 War with a possible limited swap of lands between the Israelis and Palestinians, a fair settlement to the plight of Palestinian refugees and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

So far, Israel has shown interest only in pursuing the normalisation part without wanting to commit itself to final status talks. Furthermore, Israel distorts the visit of Abul-Gheit and Al-Khatib, calling it "a delegation of the Arab League", which it is not. Israel even asked the US to pressure other Arab capitals that conduct trade relations with Tel Aviv including Doha, Rabat and Manama, to include their foreign ministers in the delegation. True, Rabat's Foreign Minister Mohamed Bin Issa held a surprise meeting with his Israeli counterpart Livni a few weeks ago, but Israel's ruse was thwarted by overwhelming Arab rejection especially from Riyadh that did not want to be perceived as giving away the shop for nothing in return.

Arab diplomats told Al-Ahram Weekly that issues restricting official Arab-Israeli talks to Egypt and Jordan will be key topics at the Arab foreign ministers' meeting.

Judging by statements made this week by Israeli officials, new Quartet Envoy Tony Blair and visiting British Secretary of State Kim Howells, the current Israeli government is not planning to move on final status talks with the Palestinians, not to mention talks with Syria, any time soon.

Arab diplomats considered yet another inconclusive diplomatic move: the proposal of the US president to hold a conference on the peace process later this year in an unidentified place with an unspecified list of participants to discuss an undecided agenda. Arab officials agree that despite the limited or zero expectations of the American proposal it cannot however be simply pushed aside.

"We know very well what [US President George] Bush is trying to do. He is trying to divert attention from his miserable failure in Iraq by projecting a semblance of movement on the peace process front," commented a senior Arab diplomat. Arabs understand that this is a lame-duck US administration. "But we have to try. We have no other alternative. If we only manage to secure a firmer international support to start the final status talks then that is something."

During a meeting with President Bush, King Abdullah was expected to call for more active US engagement. A similar message will be conveyed during talks in Sharm El-Sheikh between visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the six Gulf Arab states.

"Now the Americans want to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to completely isolate Hamas. For this they might be willing to pressure Israel to demonstrate some political commitment if only to create a sustainable political momentum," said one Arab official. He added that the durability of such momentum depends a great deal on the "highly unpredictable" developments characteristic of both the Palestinian and Israeli fronts.

Marriage wall pains new Israelis

Citizenship's a snap for Jewish immigrants, but Orthodoxy's strict qualification standards won't let many wed.

By Vita Bekker, Special to The Times - July 26, 2007

LOD, ISRAEL — Two years ago, Diana Mirtsin and Alexander Skudalov met on the Internet, and soon their romance turned serious.

She was a 29-year-old pharmacy worker from Ukraine. He was a 32-year-old train technician from Uzbekistan. Both had come to Israel as part of the emigration wave from the former Soviet Union. Four months after they started dating, she became pregnant.

But in the face of Israel's formidable Orthodox religious establishment, their hopes of marrying in the country that gave them citizenship are nearly futile.

Mirtsin is considered Jewish by the Orthodox rabbinate, but Skudalov is not. Like about 300,000 other Israelis — mostly Soviet immigrants — they bump into a closed door on issues of personal status, including marriage and divorce.

Their predicament reflects one of the Jewish state's most intractable divisions: between the powerful Orthodox minority and the more liberal Jewish streams and secular community.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party has promised a law to help those unable to wed because of Jewish religious rules. Israel Our Home, a party in Olmert's coalition that largely represents Soviet immigrants, has proposed a solution resembling a civil marriage, which does not exist in the country.

But the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, also part of the coalition, stands in the way of altering the status quo. Such laws "would hurt the Jewish image of the only Jewish country in the world," party spokesman Roei Lachmanovich said.

Jews account for more than three-quarters of Israel's population, with Muslims, Christians and Druze making up most of the rest. Each religious authority has exclusive control over marriages within its community.

Those without religious classification, or those who wish to marry outside their religion, cannot wed within the country. Israel recognizes marriages conducted abroad for such couples, however, and Cyprus, less than an hour away by plane, is a popular destination for civil wedding ceremonies.

When Mirtsin became pregnant, the couple sought to marry abroad. Already the single mom of a 7-year-old daughter, she didn't want unfavorable attention for having another child out of wedlock.

But the couple's travel plans were put on hold after Mirtsin's high blood pressure complicated her pregnancy.

Now, a year after their daughter's birth, she remains frustrated by the couple's inability to wed in their country.

"Like many women, I want to be registered as married," she said bitterly, seated in their apartment in Lod, a city 10 miles southeast of Tel Aviv that is home to many Russian-speaking immigrants.

She pointed out that Skudalov, whose father was Jewish but mother wasn't, had completed compulsory army service and remained a member of the reserves.

"If there is a war tomorrow, he'll be Jewish enough to fight for Israel," she said. "But he's not Jewish enough to marry here."

Israel's Law of Return allows spouses, children and grandchildren of Jews to immigrate and claim citizenship.

Under that law, about 1 million people have arrived from the former Soviet Union since 1989.

But the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate holds a legal monopoly on marriages and most other matters of personal status among Israeli Jews. It insists on a strict interpretation of traditional Jewish law, defining as a Jew only a person whose mother was Jewish or who has been through an Orthodox conversion.

Among Soviet immigrants, about one-third are caught between Israel's standards and those of the rabbinate — Jewish for purposes of citizenship but not marriage.

The Orthodox regard their monopoly as necessary to preserve the Jewish people. Marriages between those considered Jewish according to religious law and those who aren't could lead to divisions among Jews, they say.

But many non-Orthodox Jews, who make up about three-quarters of the Jewish population here, complain of religious coercion.

Citizen groups have criticized Israel as being the only democratic country in the Western world to so heavily restrict its people when it comes to freedom of choice in marriage.

Even for those who say they have Orthodox Jewish credentials, proving it can be daunting.

Valeria Glitsina, 25, a radio producer who emigrated from Ukraine, and Oleg Yankov, a 30-year-old from Russia who works at the Defense Ministry, met three years ago and have a 1-year-old son. They say they have Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers. To prove that, they handed the rabbinate their parents' and grandparents' birth certificates, old family photos showing Jewish holiday celebrations and other documents.

But that wasn't enough. Glitsina was asked to authenticate her documents by sending them to the archives of her childhood city, Odessa, at a cost of $750. The pair dropped their marriage plans because they couldn't bear the financial burden.

"It was a real blow," said Glitsina. "My whole life I suffered in the Ukraine because I was Jewish. But here, I'm not allowed to do things other Jews could do."

Other couples have not let the rabbinate get in the way of celebrating their union.

Alexander Nakaryakov, who came to Israel from Ukraine, and Evgenia Kozlova, who emigrated from Russia, met six years ago at a pub where he worked as a security guard and she as a waitress. Kozlova says family documents proving that her mother is Jewish were lost after World War II. When she and Nakaryakov decided last year to marry, she began an Orthodox conversion but dropped out after a few months when it became grueling.

The pair opted against a civil ceremony abroad because they didn't have enough money.

Finally, they decided to forgo official marital status. Instead, they threw a big party with a ceremony conducted by a so-called secular rabbi, part of a nonreligious movement that strives to bring secular Jews closer to Jewish culture.

"At first, we were ashamed we weren't going to have an Orthodox wedding," Nakaryakov, a biology student, acknowledged. "But at the end, we were happy to have a ceremony that better suited the kind of people we are."

Iran and Beyond: Total War is Still on the Horizon

BAR executive editor Glen Ford - July 28, 2007

An invasion of Iran is imminent, because that is the only solution the Bush gang and the corporate mafia it serves can conjure to rally the American people behind their quest for global dominance. The Democratic Party is one with the Republicans in the mission to subjugate Tehran. Although the Iraq war failed to establish a New American Century, the century ain't over, and the imperial ambition remains. Barack Obama stands in the wings with a proposal to add 100,000 new troops to the military - reinforcements for a depleted and overspent machine that has been ground to a halt by Iraqi nationalists. When the ruling class demands unity of the people, they call for war....

The mindset that launched the invasion of Iraq remains embedded in the mentality of the ruling circles of the United States - and compels them to lash out at Iran. Actually, Iran was supposed to have been vanquished, already, rolled up in the euphoria of America-Love that the delusional architects of the Iraq operation imagined existed among the people of the Middle East and the rest of the world. It didn't turn out that way, because it could not. Americans are not loved, because they are not lovable. They kill, big time.

More than half a million deaths later, the same Americans imagine that they can resurrect the cemetery they have created, and make the corpses march under the Red, White, and Blue banner. But that is not possible. There are millions of grieving family members who know who the murderers are: the Americans. These sins will never be forgiven, and they are wounds to the entire Arab family. That's a lot of folks....

The Bush gang's game plan remains the same: to somehow move beyond Iraq into Iran and Central Asia, to secure the geo-resource space that was the original goal of the Iraqi invasion - to change the world balance of power by military force. The Project for the New American Century was their blueprint for world conquest. It would have carried U.S. forces deep into places in Central Asia that most Americans had never heard of. The Americans planned to plant the flag among happy natives trodding atop vast oil and gas fields, and to effectively partition vast stretches of the planet from the Russians, Chinese, Indians, Europeans and anybody else. That was the plan. It failed, and they have no other plan. So they go forward with the old plan...Attack Iran.

In this demonic endeavor, the Bush men have many allies. Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and everybody else among the Democratic candidates but Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, act like Dracula when the word Iran comes up. Nuke it! Bomb it! Invade it! Punish it!

By doing so, they give a clear sign to the Bush regime that it's alright to launch another war. Indeed, the Republicans cannot possibly win the 2008 election unless there is another war - something the "American people" can coalesce around. The Iraq war is lost. Let's start another one. Time for a New American Century.

In the corporate media, we hear the same nonsense that we were forced to imbibe in 2003, at the time of the invasion. The same craziness that is rooted in American Manifest Destiny, which maintains that the U.S. is God's gift to the world. God's gift can do no wrong, by definition. America is a good force on the Earth. If half a million people die, that's just collateral damage. On to Tehran.

A larger war is looming. This one will be bigger than the current conflict, and might ultimately consume us. The captains of capital - caught in multiple contradictions of their own making - don't know what to do; they are in a box, with no rational way out. The Great Offensive of 2003, of which the conquest of Baghdad was to have been only phase one, was designed to irrevocably alter the global chess board to establish permanent U.S. hegemony over the earth's most vital resources. China, India and Russia would be reduced to supplicants, begging for entrée to the oil and gas spigots. With the world's actual capital - energy resources - under U.S. control, the artificially inflated dollar would be re-established as the uncontested global currency - monopoly money for the monopoly capitalist class that rules in Washington. No more threat from the euro.

Iraqi nationalists stopped the juggernaut in its tracks, and have broken the back of U.S. ground forces. The Iraq invasion was a wakeup call to the world, a warning that the Americans were determined to enslave...everybody. The warning has been duly noted in every world capital. The elites of Indonesia, Malaysia, Latin America and Europe were shocked and awed into an understanding that the U.S. was out to subjugate them. Since 2003, the Americans have been unwelcome at the table of business, excluded from regional conferences and uninvited from development planning events. Nobody wants the bully in the room. Not even the Europeans.

America has been redlined by the global community. Many American corporations understand that, to their horror. Firms that must cultivate goodwill to do business in foreign lands increasingly view the current regime in Washington as an albatross around their necks, poisoning every prospective deal and soiling the company name. But these companies are not at the heart of the ruling cabal, which is centered on finance and military-industrial capital. These non-productive sectors profit by manipulating markets to create unfair advantage - while creating nothing. They are parasites, retarding global development and standing like George Wallace in the door to prevent solution of the manifold crises that pose imminent threats to humanity.

Ultimately, the parasitic class can only maintain its rule by force. Manufacturing nothing, creating no value except on paper, they must finally call upon the Armed Forces to impose their unearned advantage on the planet. Such was the logic of March, 2003. The Great Offensive failed, but the contradictions that compelled the captains of finance capital to order their political servants to wage war, remain - and are in fact more acute than four years ago. They must wage war, again, to fight their way out of the box. And so it is on to Tehran, by sea and by air. It does not matter that the attack may ignite an apocalypse; the ruling parasites cannot envision a world in which they are not supreme...

African Americans have no stake in this coming war, but our misleadership has failed to warn us of its imminence. Stuck in Jim Crow politics, we applaud Senator Barack Obama, a pure imperialist who wants to add 100,000 more troops to the Armed Forces to bolster U.S. capability to shape the world's economies to the advantage of his campaign contributors. Although Black Americans are reflexively suspicious of U.S. motives in the world and have opposed every military adventure since the media decided we were worth polling, we are blind-sided by narrow interests of racial pride.

The crisis of capital is coming to a head. It will be very bloody, not because the people of the world want it so - indeed, everyone wants to avoid it - but because the imperatives of a parasitic class require it. They have unfinished business, and war is their only answer.

July 28, 2007 BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Posted on:

Dangers of a Cornered George Bush

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity & Dr. Justin Frank - July 27, 2007

The “new” strategy of surging troops in Baghdad has simply wasted more lives and bought some time for the president. His strategy boils down to keeping as many of our soldiers engaged as possible, in order to stave off definitive defeat in Iraq before January 2009.

Bush is commander in chief, but Congress must approve funding for the war, and its patience is running out. The war – and the polls – are going so badly that it is no longer a sure thing that the administration will be able to fund continuance of the war.

There is an outside chance Congress will succeed in forcing a pullout starting in the next several months. What would the president likely do in reaction to that slap in the face?

What would he do if the Resistance succeeded in mounting a large attack on U.S. facilities in the Green Zone or elsewhere in Iraq? How would he react if Israel mounted a preemptive attack on the nuclear-related facilities in Iran and wider war ensued?

Applied Psychoanalysis

The answers to such questions depend on a host of factors for which intelligence analysts use a variety of tools. One such tool involves applying the principles of psychoanalysis to acquire insights into the minds of key leaders, with an eye to facilitating predictions as to how they might react in certain circumstances.

For U.S. intelligence, this common-law marriage of psychoanalysis and intelligence work dates back to the early 1940s, when CIA’s forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services commissioned two studies of Adolf Hitler.

We call such assessments “at-a-distance leader personality assessments.” Many were quite useful. VIPS found the 2004 book Bush on the Couch, by Washington psychiatrist Justin Frank, MD, a very helpful assessment in this genre. We now have two more years of experience of observing Bush closely.

As we watched the pressure build on President Bush, looked toward the additional challenges we expect him to face over the next 18 months, and pondered his tendency to disregard the law and the Constitution, we felt very much in need of professional help in trying to estimate what kinds of decisions he is likely to make.

Dr. Frank, it turned out, had been thinking along the same lines, when we asked to meet with him just three weeks ago. What follows is a collaborative Frank-VIPS effort, with the psychological insights volunteered by Dr. Frank, who shares the imperative we feel to draw on all disciplines to assess what courses of action President George W. Bush is likely to decide upon in reacting to reverse after reverse in the coming months.

Parental discretion advised. The outlook is not only somber but potentially violent—and includes all manner of threats born of George W. Bush’s mental state (as well as the unusual relationship he has with his vice president).

Things are going to hell in a hand basket for this administration, and Bush/Cheney have shown a willingness to act in extra-Constitutional ways, as they see fit.

While Bush and his advisers make a fetish of it, he is nonetheless commander in chief of the armed forces and the question becomes how he might feel justified in using them and is there still any restraining force—any checks on the increasing power of the executive in our three-branch government.

We have a president whose psychological makeup inclines him to do as he pleases. Because Congress has been cowed, and the judiciary stacked with loyalists, he has gotten away with it—so far.

But the polls show growing discontent among the people, especially over the war in Iraq. Congress, too, is starting to challenge the executive, as it should—but slowly, slower than it should. The way things are moving, there is infinite opportunity to diddle and dodge—in effect conducting business pretty much as usual over the next 18 months.

Could Start Another War...

Meanwhile, the president may well feel free to start another war, with little reference to the Congress or the UN, against Iran.

The commander of CENTO forces, Admiral William Fallon is quoted as having said we “will not go to war with Iran on my watch.” Tough words; but should the president order an attack on Iran, chances are Fallon and others will do what they are accustomed to doing, salute smartly and carry out orders, UNLESS they show more regard for the U.S. Constitution than the president does.

There is an orderly remedy written into the Constitution aimed at preventing a president from usurping the power of the people and acting like a king; the process, of course, is impeachment.

The usual focus on impeachment is on abuses of the past, and a compelling case can surely be made. We believe an equally compelling incentive can be seen in looking toward the next 18 months.

In this paper, we are primarily concerned about what future misadventures are likely if this administration is not somehow held to account; that is, if Bush and Cheney are not removed from office.

Unless Checked

If the constitutional process of impeachment is under way when President Bush orders our military to begin a war against Iran, there is a good chance that, rather than salute like automatons and start World War III, our senior military would find a way to prevent more carnage until such time as the representatives of the people in the House have spoken.

This administration’s capacity for mischief would not end until conviction in the Senate. But initiating the impeachment process appears to be the only way to launch a shot across the bow of this particular ship of state. For it is captained by a president with a psychological makeup likely to lead to new misadventures likely to end in a ship wreck unless the Constitution is brought alongside and a new pilot boarded.

We are grateful that Dr. Frank agreed to collaborate with us and to issue under VIPS auspices the psychological assessment that follows.

Discussion of the three scenarios after his profiling of President Bush was very much a collaborative exercise aimed at applying Frank’s insights to contingencies our president may have to address before he leaves office. Our conclusions are, of necessity, speculative—and, sorry, scary.

The Assessment of Dr. Frank:

If a patient came into my consulting room missing an arm, the first question I would ask is, “What happened to your arm?” The same would be true for a patient who has no guilt, no conscience. I would want to know what happened to it.

No Conscience

George W. Bush is without conscience, and it would require a lengthy series of clinical sessions to find out what happened to it. By identifying himself as all good and on the side of right, he has been able to vanquish any guilt, any sense of doing wrong.

In Bush on the Couch I gave examples illustrating that remarkable lack of conscience. From his youthful days blowing up frogs with firecrackers to his unapologetic public endorsement of torture, there has been no change.

Observers are gradually becoming aware of this fundamental deficit. For example, after watching the president’s press conference on July 12, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote, “He doesn't seem to be suffering, which is jarring. Presidents in great enterprises that are going badly suffer: Lincoln, LBJ with his head in his hands. Why doesn't Mr. Bush?”

No Shame

George W. Bush seems also to be without shame. He expresses no regret or embarrassment about his failure to help Katrina victims, or to tell the truth. He says whatever he thinks people want to hear, whether it be “stay the course” or “I’ve never been about ‘stay the course.’” He does whatever he wants.

He lies—not just to us, but to himself as well. What makes lying so easy for Bush is his contempt—for language, for law, and for anybody who dares question him.

That he could say so baldly that he’d never been about “stay the course” is bone chilling. So his words mean nothing. That is very important for people to understand.

Fear of Humiliation

Despite having no shame, Bush has a profound fear of failure and humiliation. He defends himself from this by any means at his disposal—most frequently with indifference or contempt.

He will flinch only if directly confronted about being a failure or a liar. Otherwise world events are enough removed from him that he can spin them into his intact defense system.

This deep fear helps to explain his relentlessly escalating attacks on others, his bullying, and his use of nicknames to put people down. There is fear of being found out not to be as big in every way as his father.

What a burden to have to face his many inadequacies—now held up to the light of day—whether it is his difficulty in speaking, thinking, reading, managing anxiety, or making good decisions. He will not change, because for him change means humiliating collapse. He is very fearful of public exposure of his many inadequacies.

Contempt for Truth?

Contempt itself is a defense, a form of self-protection, which helps Bush appear at ease and relaxed—at least to big fans like New York Times columnist David Brooks.

The president’s contempt defense protects his belief system, a system he clings to as if his beliefs were well-researched facts. His pathology is a patchwork of false beliefs and incomplete information woven into what he asserts is the whole truth.

What gets lost in this process is growth—the George W. Bush of 2007 is exactly the same as the one of 2001. Helen Thomas has said that of all the presidents she has covered over the years, Bush is the least changed by his job, by his experience. This is why there is no possibility of dialogue or reasoning with him.


His certitude that he is right gives him carte blanche for destructive behavior. He has always had a sadistic streak: from blowing up frogs, to shooting his siblings with a b-b-gun, to branding fraternity pledges with white-hot coat hangers.

His comfort with cruelty is one reason he can be so jocular with reporters when talking about American casualties in Iraq. Instead of seeing a president in anguish, we watch him publicly joking about the absence of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, in the vain search for which so many young Americans died.

Break It!

Bush likes to break things, needs to break things. And this is most shockingly seen in how he is systematically destroying our armed forces.

In the early days of the Iraq invasion he refused to approve the large number of troop the generals said were needed in order to try to invade and pacify Iraq and acquiesced in the firing of any general who disagreed.

He turned a blind eye to giving the troops proper equipment and cut funding for needed health care. Health care and other social programs have one thing in common: they are paid for by public funds.

It may well be that, unconsciously, the government represents his neglectful parents, and those helped by the government represent the siblings he resents. If George W. Bush wanted to destroy his own family, he could scarcely have done better. Thanks to him, no Bush is likely to be elected to high office for generations to come.

Where Does This Leave Us?

It leaves us with a regressed president who needs to protect himself more than ever from diminishment, humiliation, and collapse. He is so busy trying to manage his own anxiety that he has little capacity left to attend to national and world problems.

And so, we are left with a president who cannot actually govern, because he is incapable of reasoned thought in coping with events outside his control, like those in the Middle East.

This makes it a monumental challenge—as urgent as it is difficult—not only to get him to stop the carnage in the Middle East, but also to prevent him from undertaking a new, perhaps even more disastrous adventure—like going to war with Iran, in order to embellish the image he so proudly created for himself after 9/11 as the commander in chief of “the first war of the 21st century.”

Iran would make number three—all the compelling reasons against it notwithstanding

* * *


We will now attempt to put flesh on the discussion by positing and examining scenarios that would force Bush to react, and applying the observations above and other data to forecast what form that reaction might take.

Outlined below are three illustrative contingencies, each of which would pose a neuralgic threat to George W. Bush’s shaky self-esteem, his over-determined efforts to stave off humiliation, and his unending need for self-protection.

These are not seat-of-the-pants scenarios. Each of them is possible—arguably, even probable. The importance of coming up with educated guesses regarding Bush’s response BEFORE they occur is, we hope, clear.

Scenario A: Destructive Attack on the Green Zone

The U.S. military is out in front of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other policymakers in Washington in seeing the hand of Iran’s government behind “the enemy” in Iraq.

On July 26, the operational commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, blamed the recent “significant improvement” in the accuracy of mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone on “training conducted inside Iran.” Odierno also repeated that roadside bombs are being smuggled into Iraq from Iran.

Last week, Gen. David Petraeus warned that insurgents intend to “pull off a variety of sensational attacks and grab the headlines to create a ‘mini-Tet.’” (Tet refers to the surprise country-wide offensive mounted by the Vietnamese Communists in early 1968, which indicated to most Americans that the war was lost.)

Attacks on the Green Zone have doubled in recent months. Despite this, the senior military appear to be in denial with respect to the vulnerability of the Green Zone—oblivious even to the reality that mortar rounds and rocket fire have little respect for walled enclaves.

Anyone with a mortar and access to maps and images on Google can calibrate fire to devastating effect—with or without training in Iran. It is just a matter of time before mortar round or rocket takes out part of the spanking new $600-million U.S. embassy together with people working there or nearby.

And/or, the insurgents could conceivably mount a multi-point assault on the zone and gain control of a couple of buildings and take hostages—perhaps including senior diplomats and military officers.

Given what we think we know of George Bush, if there were an embarrassing attack on U.S. installations in the Green Zone or some other major U.S. facility, he would immediately order a retaliatory series of air strikes, and let the bombs and missiles fall where they may.

The reaction would come from deep within and would warn, in effect: This is what you get if you try to make me look bad.

Scenario B: Israeli Attack on Nuclear Targets in Iran.

This would be madness and would elicit counterattacks from an Iran with many viable options for significant retaliation. Nevertheless, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D, Conn) and his namesake Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, are openly calling for such strikes, which would have to be on much more massive a scale than Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981.

For that attack in 1981, Cheney, a great fan of preemptive strikes, congratulated the Israelis, even though the U.S. joined other UN Security Council members in unanimously condemning the Israeli attack.

Five years ago, on Aug. 26, 2002, Cheney became the first U.S. official publicly to refer approvingly to the bombing of Osirak. And in an interview two and a half years ago, on Inauguration Day 2005, Cheney referred nonchalantly to the possibility that “the Israelis might well decide to act first [to eliminate Iran’s nuclear capabilities] and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.”

One thing Cheney says is indisputably—if myopically—true: Bush has been Israel’s best friend. In his speeches, he has fostered the false impression that the U.S. is treaty-bound to defend Israel, should it come under attack—as would be likely, were Israel to attack Iran.

With the U.S. Congress firmly in the Israeli camp, Cheney might see little disincentive to giving a green-light wink to Israel and then let the president “worry about cleaning up.”

Reporting from Seymour Hersh’s administration sources serve to strengthen the impression shining through Bush’s speeches that he is eager to strike Iran. But how to justify it?

Curiously, a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear capability, a study scheduled for completion early this year, has been sent back several times—probably because its predictions are not as alarmist as the warnings that Cheney and the Israelis are whispering into the president’s ear.

Senior U.S. military officers have warned against the folly of attacking Iran, but Cheney has shown himself, time and time again, able to overrule the military.

But What if Impeachment Begins?

Is there nothing to rein in Bush and Cheney? It seems likely that only if impeachment proceedings were under way would senior officers like CENTCOM commander, Admiral William Fallon, be likely to parry an unlawful order to start yet another war without the approval of Congress and the UN.

With impeachment under way, such senior officers might be reminded that all officers and national security officials swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States—NOT to protect and defend the president.

It was a highly revealing moment when on July 11, former White House political director Sara Taylor solemnly reminded the Senate Judiciary Committee, that as a commissioned officer, “I took an oath and I take that oath to the president very seriously.”

Committee chair Patrick Leahy had to remind Taylor: “We understand your personal loyalty to President Bush. I appreciate you correcting that your oath was not to the president, but to the Constitution.”

The most senior officers, military included, can get their loyalties mixed up. And this is of transcendent importance in a context described by Seymour Hersh: “These guys are scary as can’t use the word ‘delusional,’ for it’s actually a medical term. Wacky. That’s a fair word.”

One does not need psychoanalytic training to see that Bush and Cheney do not care about facts, treaties (or the lack thereof), or other legal niceties, unless it suits their purpose. This gives an even more ominous ring to what Hersh is hearing from his sources.

If Israel attacks Iran, President Bush is likely to spring to Israel’s defense, regardless of whether he was inside or outside the loop before the attack; and the world will see a dangerously widened war in the Middle East.

Psychologically, Bush would almost certainly need to join the attack, mainly to sustain his illusion of safety and masculinity. And Cheney, knowing that, would be pushing him hard on U.S. energy and other perceived strategic interests.

Scenario C: Congress Cuts War Funding This Fall

We posit that Congress finally grows weary of the increasingly obvious bait-and-switch, the “we-need-more-time” tactic, and cuts off all funding except for that needed to bring the troops home.

The talk now is about getting a “meaningful” progress report in November, because September is said to be too soon. The Iraqi parliament is behaving much like its American counterpart by taking August off. But our soldiers do not get a month-long hiatus from constant danger.

It is clear even to the press that the surge has simply brought more American deaths and an upsurge of insurgent attacks. What is less clear is why Bush remains so positive. It is probably not just an act, but an idée fixe he needs to hold onto tightly.

Since doubt is dangerous, we see a compensatory smile fixe on the face of the president and other senior officials, dismissing any trace of uncertainty or doubt.

If Congress cut off funding for war in Iraq, Bush might well cast about for a casus belli to “justify” an attack on Iran.

Would the senior military again go along with orders for an unprovoked, unconstitutional war on a country posing no threat to the U.S.? Hard to say.

In this context, an ongoing impeachment process could provide welcome evidence that influential members of Congress, like many senior military officers, see through Bush’s need to strike out elsewhere. Military commanders might think twice before saluting smartly and executing an illegal order.

In such circumstances, Dick “it-won’t stop-us” Cheney, could be expected to try to pull out all the stops. But if he, too, were in danger of being impeached, uniformed military officers could conceivably block administration plans.

There is only a remote chance that Defense Secretary Gates would be a tempering voice in all this. Far more likely, he would smell in any restrictive legislation traces of the Boland amendment, which he assisted in circumventing during the Iran-Contra misadventure.

Petraeus ex Machina

With “David” or “General Petraeus” punctuating the president’s every other sentence at recent press conferences, the script for September seems clear. This is one four-star general with exquisite PR and political acumen—pedigree and discipline the president can count on.

And with his nine rows of ribbons, he calls to mind the U.S. commander in Saigon, Gen. William Westmoreland at a similar juncture in Vietnam (after the Tet offensive when popular support dropped off rapidly).

It is virtually certain that Petraeus will press hard for more time and more troops. Potemkin-style improvements will be used by Bush to justify continuing the “new” surge strategy, with the calculation that enough Democrats might be overcome by the fear of being charged with “losing Iraq.”

In the past Bush seems to have bought Cheney’s “analysis” that increased enemy attacks were signs of desperation. Hard as it is to believe that Bush has not learned from that repeated experience, it is at the same town possible to “misunderestimate” one’s capacity for wooden-headedness, particularly with respect to someone with the psychological makeup of our president.

He is extraordinarily adept at finding only rose-colored glasses to help him see.

With Cheney egging him on from the wings of the “unitary executive,” but Congress no longer bowing to that novel interpretation of the Constitution, Bush will be sorely tempted to lash out in some violent way, if further funding for the war is denied.

To do that effectively, he will need senior generals and admirals as co-conspirators. It will be up to them to choose between career and Constitution. All too often, in such circumstances, the tendency has been to choose career.

Impeachment hearings, though, could encourage senior officers like Admiral Fallon to pause long enough to remember that their oath is to defend the Constitution, and that they are not required to follow orders to start another war in order to stave off political and personal disaster for the president and vice president.

Justin Frank, M.D.


David MacMichael
Tom Maertens
Ray McGovern
Coleen Rowley

Steering Group
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

A Destination, Not a Road Map

By Daoud Kuttab - July 23, 2007

I vividly remember the weeks leading up to the first international conference for Middle East peace. U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who had shuttled frantically to resolve the issue of Palestinian representation, kept the 1992 conference's location under wraps. Once he declared Madrid the site, many of us Palestinians felt a sense of jubilation at the looming discussions.

I thought of this after President Bush's call last Monday for an international parley on the Middle East to be chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I and many other Palestinians are much more skeptical now. Attending the Madrid conference felt essential, but the importance of summits has diminished as such forums have failed to produce results.

Palestinians have been more hurt than helped by the false trappings of a state that were provided as part of the Oslo peace process and the famous White House handshake of 1993. Palestinians got an elected president and a government whose ministers and legislators are not guaranteed passage between Gaza and the West Bank; passports whose numbers must be entered into Israeli computers; a postage system and lightly armed police -- but no real sovereignty over the land or contiguity between our communities in Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinians have been made to endure hundreds of checkpoints in the West Bank, an eight-foot wall deep in our territories and tight Israeli control over borders. In return, Israel was relieved of the need to guard populated Palestinian areas and was no longer obliged to pay public servants or support the occupied population economically as stipulated by international law.

Israeli, Palestinian and other world leaders promised that these imbalances would eventually be rectified and that Palestinian sovereignty would be solidified. But that has not happened, thanks to Israel's backtracking on its obligations, its settlement activities and the disruptive actions of Islamists who had little interest in the Oslo process or even the idea of a two-state solution.

In the absence of an effective plan leading to independence from Israeli occupation and the ability to govern a sovereign, contiguous state, dissent has been on the rise among Palestinians. Some, seeing so many Jewish settlements dotting the West Bank, want to scrap the two-state solution and focus on a single bi-national state.

Forty years after the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, Palestinians have yet to find the formula for liberation. They have attempted cross-border violence (late 1960s), Arab and international diplomacy (1970s and '80s), the first intifada (1987), secret talks in Oslo (1993), suicide attacks (throughout the 1990s and culminating in the second intifada), cross-border rocket attacks (2006 and this year), regional Arab initiatives (2000 and this year), international initiatives and peace envoys (since 1967) -- but nothing has succeeded.

The transcripts of conferences, peace initiatives, lofty speeches and U.N. agreements aimed at resolving the conflict could fill rooms. The reality is that, in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which states that it is inadmissible to occupy land by force, Palestinian territories are still under foreign military occupation.

Skeptics of U.S. motives have good reason for concern. To overcome mistrust based on past failures, President Bush will need to spend substantial political capital. In the early days of the Bush administration, the idea of using the cachet of the office of the president was anathema because of Bill Clinton's failed attempts to broker a peace agreement. But such high-level influence is critical today.

Bush sent an early positive sign, beginning his speech last Monday by saying that "Iraq is not the only pivotal matter in the Middle East." He appeared to have accepted the advice of Rice and the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Bush and other Westerners must understand that winning the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims cannot be accomplished by creating an Arabic satellite station or congratulating Muslims on the month of Ramadan. It requires a just solution to the Palestinian conflict.

We can no longer afford a step-by-step approach like the process begun in Madrid. In the past, plans employing incremental improvements have been targets for extremists seeking dates and locations to use to derail the peace process. Consider what a radical Israeli citizen did to Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. And Palestinian extremists have carried out suicide bombings and other horrific acts on the eve of Israeli elections and important redeployments, virtually guaranteeing the abandonment of Israeli withdrawal plans.

What we need, as suggested in the Arab peace initiative and a number of Palestinian-Israeli peace initiatives, is an agreed-upon final status -- something like the 1967 borders -- and the process to implement terms that will be agreed to by all parties. Otherwise, future summits will continue to fail.

The writer directs the Institute of Modern Media at al-Quds University in Ramallah and founded the Arab world's first Internet radio station, Ammannet. His e-mail address is

Armageddon – Bring It On

Last week the Christians United For Israel organization held its annual show-of-force in our Nation’s Capital and Max Blumenthal recorded for posterity – if, God Willing, there is to be one – this most "politically extreme, outrageous" spectacle.

"Founded by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee, CUFI has added the grassroots muscle of the Christian right to the already potent Israel lobby. Hagee and his minions have forged close ties with the Bush White House and members of Congress from Sen. Joseph Lieberman to Sen. John McCain.

"In its call for a unilateral military attack on Iran and the expansion of Israeli territory, CUFI has found unwavering encouragement from traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC [America-Israel Public Affairs Committee] and elements of the Israeli government.

"But CUFI has an ulterior agenda: its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil. In the end, all the non-believers – Jews, Muslims, Hindus, mainline Christians, etc. – must convert or suffer the torture of eternal damnation."

According to the Jewish Blumenthal, the typical CUFI member apparently believes "God" wants Bush to do what Lieberman and the Likudniks are urging him to do – nuke Tehran – to trigger an all-out nuke war to bring on Armageddon – the final climatic battle, waged here on the planet Earth, between God and Satan.

But the Russians and the Chinese evidently did not consider Bush’s premeditated war of aggression against Iraq to even be necessarily inimical to their national interests, much less a cause to wage all-out war with nukes.

And they were right. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq has done immense damage to America’s image, vis a vis theirs.

Nor does it appear the Russians – and perhaps even the Chinese – consider Bush’s upcoming war of aggression against Iran to be necessarily inimical to their national interests, even if Bush is crazy enough to nuke Tehran.

It seems likely, at present, that the Russians – and perhaps even the Chinese – would not object to Bush doing further incalculable damage to America’s image, to say nothing of America’s ability to influence – diplomatically and militarily – world events, especially in the Western Pacific.

Stranger still, it does not appear that even the Iranians consider Bush’s upcoming war against Iran to be necessarily inimical to their national interests. Even if he uses – or threatens to use – a few nukes.

And no one who knows anything about the effects of nuclear weapons – who has read Herman Kahn’s authoritative treatises On Thermonuclear War – could expect that even an all-out nuke war between Hagee and Russia/China, involving thousands of high-yield nukes, could result in the deaths of even half the world’s almost seven-billion inhabitants.

Of course, the percentage of deaths resulting from Hagee’s War would be higher in the United States than in Russia or China or in the Islamic World, because a higher percentage [75%] of Americans live in urbanized areas, prime H-Bomb targets.

But, what the hell – if you’ll pardon the expression. All the survivors are going to have to convert to Hagee’s "Jesus," anyway, or "suffer the torture of eternal damnation." Better to have died during Armaggedon. Or just before, like Jerry Falwell.

Historian Barbara Tuchman, when asked why she wrote A Distant Mirror, replied she wanted to examine the societal consequences of what the aftermath of an all-out nuke war might be. So she chose the 14th Century in Europe, when The Black Death quickly killed up to two-thirds the population. To her immense surprise, she was unable to detect any evidence of societal consequences.

Of course, we don’t have to worry. The Cheney Cabal, the Likudniks and AIPAC consider CUFI members to be useful idiots, holding naïve and foolish religious beliefs, useful to their program to remake – militarily, if necessary – the Middle East to their liking, politically and economically.

Surely neither President Bush or any of his close associates hold such naïve and foolish religious beliefs. Right?

Well, Michael Gerson – now a Washington Post columnist and until last year chief speech writer for President Bush – wrote a column last week in which he concluded that the mess that the Cheney Cabal has wrought in Iraq would probably be made worse by an outright attack on Iran. So, Gerson proposed, instead, a bank-shot – the "use of force" against Syria "to disrupt the trail of suicide bombers" Gerson claims are "passing through Syria" on their way to "murder" Americans.

But Gary Leupp, a Professor of History at Tufts University and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, notes that Gerson was rated in 2005 by Time magazine to be one of the top 25 Christian evangelicals in America.

"As a member of the White House Iraq Group, tasked to disseminate frightening disinformation about Iraq preparatory to the attack on Iraq in March 2003, he proposed the "smoking gun turns into a mushroom cloud" metaphor used by Bush, Cheney and Rice in late 2002 to frighten the nation into war.

"Gerson wants to transform the Greater Middle East, that biblical prophecy might be fulfilled and Jesus comes back soon. According to the Book of Revelation, there must be a great war surrounding Israel before that happens, involving kings to the east of the Tigris and Euphrates. That implies war with Persia (Iran). So he wants the U.S. to provoke war with Iran, but if that's not doable just now, he wants an attack on Syria."

Now, Leupp does not charge that the fulfillment-of-biblical-prophecy convictions of speechwriter and propagandist Gerson are held by Bush, himself.

Of course not. The "God" Bush talks to every day – who tells him what to do, who assures him that he is doing the right thing in sending thousands of American servicemen to their deaths in Iraq, in collaterally ending the lives of many, many thousands of Muslims – is not Gerson’s "God." Is not Hagee’s "God."

Of course not.

Hillary Clinton and the Dangers of Hubris

Are the Democrats set to give us another imperial president?

Steve Chapman - July 26, 2007

During the Democratic debate in South Carolina, I heard something I never expected to hear: Hillary Clinton coming out against U.S. military intervention.

At least I think she was coming out against U.S. military intervention. Asked if U.S. troops should be sent to Darfur, the New York senator made a valiant effort to dodge the question by declaiming about sanctions, divestment and UN peacekeepers. But when pressed, "How about American troops on the ground?" she finally said, a bit awkwardly, "American ground troops I don't think belong in Darfur at this time."

But don't bet that she'll stick to that position if she's elected. It goes against type. Clinton favored intervention in Haiti in 1994. She favored intervention in Bosnia in 1995. She favored intervention in Kosovo in 1999. As first lady, Clinton said, "I am very pleased that this president and administration have made democracy one of the centerpieces of our foreign policy." Before the Kosovo war, she phoned Bill from Africa and, she recalled later, "I urged him to bomb."

Among her critics, Clinton is known for a mother-knows-best domestic policy that relies on overbearing interference from Washington to remake the landscape to her specifications. The flip side is a mother-knows-best foreign policy that relies on overbearing interference from Washington to remake the landscape to her specifications.

Democrats hope that when it comes to international affairs, Clinton would represent a big change from George W. Bush. Republicans harbor that fear. In truth, this is one realm where the two are more alike than different. It's no accident that she voted for the resolution authorizing the president to invade Iraq. And it's no mystery that she was slow to admit the war was failing.

She didn't support the war because she was hoodwinked by Bush. She didn't do it for strictly political reasons. She supported it because of her conception of America's proper role in the world—which combines a thirst for altruistic missions with a faith in the value of military force to get what you want. Those same impulses, of course, motivated the neoconservatives who urged Bush to go into Iraq.

On the morning after the South Carolina debate, the Clinton campaign trotted out former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to gush about the senator's declaration that she would not meet with various dictators "until we know better what the way forward would be." Said Albright, "She gave a very sophisticated answer that showed her understanding of the diplomatic process."

Being praised for your diplomatic sophistication by Madeleine Albright is like being complimented on your sense of humor by John Kerry. Albright is the renowned diplomat who helped the Clinton administration blunder its way into an 11-week aerial war in Kosovo. Albright was confident that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would cave at the first whiff of gunpowder, and was shocked when he didn't.

That misjudgment had disastrous consequences. The Serbs responded not by capitulating but by greatly escalating their war on Kosovo's ethnic Albanians. Some 10,000 of them died, and more than a million were forced from their homes. If the war was a success, it was a very mixed one. The same could be said about Bosnia and Haiti, where the results fell far short of our intentions.
Like Iraq, the Kosovo war demonstrated the folly of taking military action without preparing for the worst. Both also showed the dangers of unchecked hubris.

But those are not lessons Clinton has necessarily absorbed. When she ran for the Senate in 2000, she mocked Republicans (such as Caspar Weinberger and Colin Powell) who think "we should intervene with force only when we face splendid little wars that we surely can win, preferably by overwhelming force in a relatively short period of time." On the contrary, she said, we "should not ever shy away from the hard task if it is the right one."

As Michael Crowley of The New Republic has noted, she had another reason for supporting Bush on Iraq. "I'm a strong believer in executive authority," she said in 2003. "I wish that, when my husband was president, people in Congress had been more willing to recognize presidential authority."

There you have it. A Hillary Clinton presidency promises to unite Madeleine Albright's zeal for using bombs in pursuit of liberal ideals with Dick Cheney's vision of the president as emperor. Won't that be fun?


Friday, July 27, 2007

XXXtreme Danger: U.S. Wars for Zionist AIPAC

by Frank Weltner - July 27, 2007

AIPAC is behind the $2 trillion to be spent on the War in Iraq. Now it's pushing another disastrous War in Iran. 5 Aircraft Carriers are headed to the Gulf for Israel right now. The dollar has crashed, interest rates are going up, the world hates us, and Israel runs our nation. Does anyone have any questions?

If you do, this video should answer most of them:

Of Marx, Christ, and the Persecution of Radicals: How Will Humanity Survive the Capitalist Threat?

by Jason Miller - July 27, 2007

A few days ago, one of my closest friends hit me with a heavily loaded question.

“Are you a Communist?” she queried.

To which I replied:

I do not belong nor militate in any formal communist party in the U.S. Nor do I belong to any other political entity or party. Furthermore, I do not subscribe to a specific doctrine, ideology, or dogma. My allegiance is to my core principles and values, which are premised on honesty, justice, humanity, responsibility, critical thinking, open-mindedness, egalitarianism, compassion, a belief in a Higher Power of my understanding, and many of the teachings of Christ.

My personal beliefs aside, communism is an incredibly loaded word. Our infinitely mendacious educational, social, and media infrastructures begin inculcating reflexive rejection of “all things communist or socialist” into US Americans from the moment they draw their initial breath.

Why is the establishment so desperate to vaccinate us against the “disease” of communism?

Because at its hopelessly rotten core, capitalism, which is manifested most strongly in the United States, is about exploitation, hyper-competitiveness, “rugged individualism”, survival of the fittest, concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, profits above all, property over people, greed, and selfishness. Perhaps worst of all, this pyramid scheme masquerading as a “moral” economic system inevitably leads to wars fueled by its insatiable demands for new markets, more resources, and cheaper labor. Why else would 350 million out of 6.5 billion people spend a trillion dollars a year on a military that has the capacity to destroy our planet thousands of times over, dwarfs the combined firepower of the rest of the world, and plagues over 130 countries with its “benign” occupations? We in the United States maintain a carefully crafted façade as the “benevolent champions of democracy”, but will quickly install ruthless tyrants and commit mass murder (euphemistically labeling our victims as “collateral damage”) if sovereign nations dare to resist our economic rape and plunder.

And for those who have swallowed the specious argument that “true capitalism” doesn’t exist, you’re dreaming. Pinch yourself hard enough and you may awaken before it is too late. Capitalism is a cancer upon the sentient beings of the Earth and we are suffering through its advanced stages. Finance capital reigns supreme, massive oligopolies abound, wealth is increasingly accumulating in the hands of the few, imperial wars to expand markets and attain resources are increasing in frequency, and the insatiable greed driving this appalling perversion is raping and destroying the Earth.

Some opine that if we could just dismantle the “socialist” aspects of our socioeconomic system in the United States, restoring an unbridled free market, the world would be a much better place. Certainly our cynical plutocracy would welcome such a transition. However, it is hard to envision too many working people truly welcoming a return to ten year olds working twelve hour days, company towns, death and dismemberment on the job with no recourse against employers maintaining perilous work environments, miserly wages that would make today’s working poor look relatively affluent, blatantly monopolistic business practices, and wanton disregard for the environment.

History has clearly demonstrated that “free markets” are “free passes” for acquisitive sociopaths who thrive on bullying and exploiting a large percentage of the Earth’s sentient beings. And despite the ridiculously few and relatively minor restraints that social unrest has forced the opulent class to implement in the US, adept players in the deadly game of capitalism have refused to surrender their “inalienable right” to fuck the rest of the human race in their relentless charge to attain the power and wealth they so desperately crave to distract them from the existential agony of their spiritual emptiness.

[Note: If you don’t find a historical perspective convincing enough, consider the deadly machinations of the “free market” in China as it hurtles headlong into the very bowels of capitalist Hell:

Karl Marx predicted the inevitable implosion of capitalism and theorized that a much more humane, egalitarian, and democratic system would rise in its place. It is little wonder that the bourgeoisie in the United States have striven so tenaciously to inculcate the unwashed masses to despise, fear, and ridicule socialism, communism, and nearly all aspects of Marxist thought. Sound bites, emotionally evocative images, ahistorical presentations, fear mongering, jingoism, advertising, and numerous temptations of instant gratification comprise a vast array of highly refined and insidious propaganda that perpetually hammers our minds to create a potent and effective false consciousness, and an irrational fear of anything but capitalism.

Socialism and communism, the political manifestations of Marxist ideas, have been grossly distorted within the framework of this false consciousness. While it is true that the implementations of Marx’s philosophies have yielded mixed results (many of those outcomes are primarily due to the unwavering hostility of the older, well established capitalist powers in the second half of the 20th century, led of course by the U.S.), the chasm between reality and the mind fuck we have received since birth is wide enough to engulf Donald Trump’s ego, or most of it anyway. For evidence, one need look no further than our Cold War nemesis.

Consider the pernicious myth that the United States “defeated” fascism in Europe in WWII. This lie persists despite the fact that a number of our very own uber-Capitalists did business with the Nazi regime until the 1942 Trading with the Enemy Act finally forbade it. Ironically, Prescott Bush, GW’s grandfather, was amongst those profiting from Hitler’s rise to power. Further, our ruling elite refused to intervene on behalf of a democratically elected government in Spain against Franco, who ultimately rose to power as a fascist dictator. Perhaps most importantly, the US lost about 500,000 people (almost all of whom were military personnel) in “defeating” Germany. Russia, one of history’s most heavily vilified “communist” nations, sacrificed 20 million people to ensure Hitler’s defeat. Had it not been for those evil “communists”, we might be speaking German right now.

Shortages of consumer goods is another “communist failure” apologists for capitalism love to trot out as “proof” that their beloved license to plunder and conquer is inherently superior to a more just economic system. Yet time and again they suppress the real reasons these shortages occurred. Recognizing the existential threat that Marxist ideals posed to their Anglo, imperial, and patriarchal plutocracy, the United States ruling class and its allies circled the wagons and imposed crippling economic sanctions on nations attempting to implement communism (i.e. Russia and Cuba).

Domestically, communists and socialists endured harassment, financial ruin, and prison. Witness the Palmer Raids and the witch hunts of the McCarthy era. Thank God our opulent overlords nipped potential revolutionary action in the bud. It is a tremendous relief that such a small number of “richly deserving” individuals acted to ensure the perpetuation of their virtual monopoly on the wealth of our nation, particularly in light of the existence of over a million homeless US Americans. Heartwarming indeed.

Yet our intrepid profit-seekers weren’t content to stop there. Realizing that the Soviet Union had an economy that was roughly 1/8th the size of the United States and was still largely agrarian all the way up to the Russian Revolution, they decided to initiate a ruinous military escalation that eventually culminated in the criminal nuclear arms race. Enabling obscene profits for the military industrial complex (by way of raping the US American taxpayer) and smothering communism in its infancy, the vampiric bourgeoisie ensured the perpetuation of its abominable existence. Meanwhile, the Ruskies faced the staggering tasks of industrializing a technologically backward nation, rebuilding their devastated infrastructure, and meeting consumer demands. So of course they didn’t have a McDonalds on each corner or a new car dealer within a three mile radius of every home. They were too busy bringing their economy into the 20th Century, recovering from Hitler’s invasion, and matching the US warhead for warhead.

Now, do I think that any manifestation of a communist government to date is a utopia? No. I see their flaws. But remember, those who have tried to implement socialism or communism have faced a formidable adversary in the form of the rotten bastards who comprise both our “elected” and our de facto governments. Crushing those who dare to attempt alternatives to the sacred cow of capitalism and trumpeting our “monopoly” on virtue, we US Americans would benefit tremendously from some serious soul-searching about our participation in a morally bankrupt mode of being. What spiritual growth or substance could possibly flourish in a system premised on greed, selfishness, and self-absorption?

Are we, the beneficiaries of a relative degree of physical security and comfort (in exchange for our complicity in crony capitalism, Neoliberal exploitation, and imperial invasions), truly superior to the communists and socialists we have been taught to fear and revile? How many invasions have Fidel or Chavez EVER launched?

We the People are mere pawns of our multimillionaires in Congress, the 10% who own 90% of our nation’s wealth, massive corporations, and a group which includes in its ranks both GW and other abject criminals like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Abrams, Negroponte, and many others who have acted with impunity dating back to the Nixon era. There is a revolving door between our government (including both “elected” and appointed officials) and major corporations. Cheney and Halliburton represent exhibit A. Lobbyists and special interest groups pull our legislators’ strings and, in some instances, even write our laws, as was the case in the behind-closed-doors deal that Cheney cooked for the energy corporations. And look at our most likely Democratic Presidential nominee to be, Hillary Clinton, whose conservatism is one of the best kept secrets inside the Beltway. As a First Lady, she ostensibly fought aggressively for universal health care. She has now sold us out by accepting nearly a million dollars from the health care industry. Corruption, duplicity, mendacity, and egregious criminal conduct are not the exception. They are the rule in our vaunted capitalist system.

Our domestic politics, guided and determined by the demands of our predatory socioeconomic structure, are not alone in reeking of the fetid stench of profound moral decay. Consider our malevolent foreign policy, including myriad CIA covert operations, economic extortion, and outright imperial slaughter frequently employed to crush efforts by sovereign nations to defy the capitalist paradigm and implement socialism. For convincing evidence that we are NOT wearing white hats and making the world safe for democracy, do a little research on Chile and Salvador Allende, Cuba and Castro, Iran and Mossadeq, Franco and Spain, Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam (we “only” killed 3 million people there), Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

Here is a good starting point (the entire website is excellent, but the page linked below gives a condensed version of parts of our history the plutocracy doesn’t want the masses to know– the mainstream media and textbook writers have done a masterful job of shielding us from the truths displayed on this site):

While it wasn’t his intention at the time, David Starr Jordan (from Imperial Democracy, 1899, pp. 50-51 –cited in Monthly Review, September 2006, p. 53.) penned an apt characterization of the despicable foreign policy of the American Empire:

“First you push into territories where you have no business to be, and where you had promised not to go; secondly, your intrusion provokes resentment and, in these wild countries, resentment means resistance; thirdly, you instantly cry out that the people are rebellious and that their act is rebellion (this in spite of your own assurance that you have no intention of setting up a permanent sovereignty over them); fourthly, you send a force to stamp out the rebellion; and fifthly, having spread bloodshed, confusion and anarchy, you declare, with hands uplifted to the heavens, that moral reasons force you to stay, for if you were to leave, this territory would be left in a condition which no civilized power could contemplate with equanimity or with composure. These are the five stages in the Forward Rake’s progress.”

Having analyzed our vile and reprehensible economic paradigm from many angles, I find it virtually impossible to believe that a critical thinking, decent human being could support our institutionalized rapacity, at least not once they pierced the simulacrum so fastidiously maintained by the corporate media.

Fortunately, challenging life experiences spurred me to undertake a spiritual and intellectual journey that enabled me to break free of the prison of false consciousness. While I tend to look at the world through a very eclectic lens, I derive most of my principles, beliefs, and sociopolitical views from Marxism, the Friends of Bill W, Christ’s teachings, and Buddha.

Together with many dedicated and exceptional human beings, I am waging an intellectual/political struggle for social justice, a reasonable degree of peace in the world, a significant reduction in exploitation, a more equitable distribution of resources, an end to the rising epidemic of unnecessary suffering, the formation of a social structure based on our interdependence with nature and each other, the obliteration of the moronic, sociopathic American myth that individuality and personal rights supersede the well-being of the collective, true justice for criminals and their victims, the evisceration of corporate power, awakening people from their trance of self-absorption and apathy, and an end to the hedonistic narcissism manifested in obscene levels of consumerism. A number of factors indicate that we are in a pre-revolutionary stage in the United States. Premature revolutionary activity at this point would be suicidal folly, but meanwhile, we have plenty of opportunity to implement radical solutions at the personal level and to employ political education to win hearts and minds.

If you still tremble at the notion of “Godless communists, socialists or Marxists,” remember that though I am not a Christian, I am deeply spiritual and derive tremendous inspiration from Christ and members of the Liberation Theology Movement. Marxist thought is not antithetical to spirituality, morality, or Christianity. In fact, I examined its synthesis with these elements in some detail when I wrote “Jesus Wouldn’t Bomb Anyone: Why are we waging war on the poor and oppressed?” at:

No, I’m not the “communist bogeyman” that Ronald Reagan (who was a far better actor in the White House than he was in Hollywood) warned you about. How could I be? Communists, socialists, and Marxists are only potentially threatening to those amongst us who will waste eternity desperately attempting to squeeze camels through the eyes of needles.

Forget worrying about the “communist threat.” We need to turn the moneyed establishment’s idiocy on its head and focus our energies on answering a question that affects the 90% of us who aren’t obscenely affluent:

How will humanity survive the capitalist threat?