Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gulf Oil Update: Day 103

Time Teams With BP and Government in Concerted Effort to Disperse Concerns About Gulf Pollution

By: Jim White
Friday July 30, 2010 7:57 am

Yesterday, Time magazine published a disgusting screed telling us all to calm down about the hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil BP has released into the Gulf of Mexico and then even sent the author to push his drivel on Hardball. In starting the corporate media’s push-back against the level of damage arising from BP’s irresponsibility, Time has joined a team that previously consisted of BP, Thad Allen, EPA and NOAA.

Note that immediately after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig, BP started spraying massive quantities of the toxic dispersant Corexit. EPA made a half-hearted attempt to get BP to change its choice of dispersant to a less toxic one and/or to dramatically decrease the amount being released, but BP’s response was to game the terms of the EPA order and change absolutely nothing. EPA simply accepted BP’s decision and said nothing further about dispersants. On Countdown this week, Hugh Kaufman of EPA made the revelation that a political decision was made within the government to allow BP to take the lead on the use of dispersants, despite concerns on the part of EPA toxicologists.

The use of dispersants led to huge underwater plumes of small oil droplets. NOAA then jumped into the act to suppress as long as possible any admission that these plumes might be connected to the leak and the use of dispersants. Just last week, we finally got confirmation from the University of South Florida that the oil in the underwater plumes is indeed from the BP leak. Ironically, in the TV news piece out of Tampa (where USF is located) announcing the confirmation of the source of the oil plumes, that news is tacked briefly onto the beginning of an interview with Senator George LeMieux where LeMieux drones on about the need to continue drilling in the Gulf:

Also last week, a third of the area that had been closed to fishing was re-opened. Yesterday, some portions of Louisiana waters also were re-opened. These re-openings, while welcome news to the fishermen who have been idled by BP’s spill, come after extensive testing of the waters and the fish in those waters. However, the lingering question remains whether the tests that were carried out were properly designed. The problem is that crude oil has over 40,000 different chemicals in it. Let’s hope that the tests that were carried out chose wisely from among that huge number of compounds, because it is impossible to detect something for which no test is run.

Note also how Thad Allen has allowed BP to game the appearance of the leaks on the cap that is now blocking most of the flow from the well and from the "seeps" in the well area. Click on one of the pages showing the multiple feeds from the ROV’s in the well area, and you will see that BP is no longer allowing any feeds that convey information to be broadcast. We no longer get a view of the base of the blowout preventer where it rises from the floor of the Gulf, so we don’t know whether gas or oil is escaping around the outside of the well casing. We also aren’t seeing feeds from any of the seeps surrounding the well, so we don’t know if the flow from them is changing over time. Thad Allen is standing by idly and missing a chance at the collection of vital data while BP is hiding what they don’t want us to see.

One more shortcoming by Thad Allen is his refusal to force BP and the government to provide a more accurate flow rate on the leak when it was flowing. By allowing BP to continue to lowball the estimate, the fines BP eventually will pay will be lower, possibly by billions of dollars.

Heckuva job, Thaddie.


Massive Amounts of Underwater Oil Droplets Which Organisms Eat Does Not Equal Victory in the Gulf

By: David Dayen
Friday July 30, 2010 11:08 am

Michael Grunwald took a run at carrying forward this idea that the BP oil disaster is actually, you know, not so bad, a perspective contrasted by his own colleague at Time, Bryan Walsh:

I think it’s far too early to declare the oil spill a bust. It’s true that the coastlines don’t seem to have experienced the damage they might have—though as Mother Jones’s Mac McClelland points out, there’s definitely still oil in the waters and the beaches. (One of the challenges of covering this spill has been geography—as Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen has said, it’s like fighting hundreds or thousands of smaller spills, each of which can hit hundreds of miles of coastlines. It’s the fog of environmental war—just because one island hasn’t been hit by oil doesn’t mean another might not be, and vice versa.) [...]

But look beyond the coastline. The truth is we know very little about what the release of tens of millions of gallons of oil underwater will do to the marine ecosystems of the Gulf. Add in the application of some 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants, which have never been used—and were never meant to be used—in such vast quantities. We know that there are oil plumes under the water—but we don’t know what they might be doing to marine life. And there are great fears that the Gulf’s rich fisheries might take years to recover. The spill hit during the nursery season, and might have damaged oysters, shrimp and other species when they were young and vulnerable. 20 years after the Exxon Valdez spill, fisheries in Prince William Sound haven’t fully recovered, and nearly every fisherman you meet on the Gulf coast worries the same thing will happen to the waters they once plied.

Indeed, the real problem now might be that the oil, along with dispersants, have absorbed into the marine life. The whole PR strategy for BP has been to keep the oil off the shore, so people like Michael Grunwald would bail them out with articles about how the disaster isn’t all that bad. But just because we can’t see the insides of the organisms in the food chain, that doesn’t mean their intake of oil and other chemicals isn’t devastating for the ecosystem:

Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.

Marine biologists started finding orange blobs under the translucent shells of crab larvae in May, and have continued to find them “in almost all” of the larvae they collect, all the way from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Fla. — more than 300 miles of coastline — said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

And now, a team of researchers from Tulane University using infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the blobs has detected the signature for Corexit, the dispersant BP used so widely in the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Toxic droplets that can affect the ocean life in the Gulf for generations – that’s not my idea of a dodged bullet. So the idea that BP can “scale back” their operations now is outrageous. They can scale back the dumping of toxic chemicals into the Gulf, to be sure, but it’s way too early to take the cleanup crews out of the water. The situation is still bleak.


Where things stand
The Gulf Oil Blog
By Samantha Joye, University of Georgia, Professor of Marine Sciences
| Published: June 20, 2010 9:54pm

The gulfblog is back. Sorry it took me so long to do this update. The past couple of weeks have been the busiest and most demanding of my career. Everyone in the lab has been working feverishly to complete the analyses of samples collected on the Pelican and Walton Smith cruises. Those data sets are almost complete and I am now working to complete two manuscripts that I hope will be submitted by the end of June.

Below I answer some of the questions that came in to the blog over the past two weeks. At the end, I talk about what our next research steps will be.

Questions posed to the Gulfblog

(1) Could you briefly define both, or distinguish between, DOM and CDOM?

Colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) is a fraction of dissolved organic matter (DOM) that is “optically active” or “optically measurable”. Put simply, CDOM absorbs light. Oil is a type of CDOM. The light CDOM absorbs ranges from blue to ultraviolet so CDOM makes water appear greenish to yellow-green to brown (the color changes with increasing CDOM concentration).

(2) If you could gather dispersant concentration data from multiple water samples in the gulf, what question(s) would you try to answer with that information.

I can easily envision several ways to use dispersant concentration data. First, it would be useful to know how widespread – and at what concentration – the dispersants are present. Some forms of COREXIT contain dangerous components (e.g. 2-Butoxyethanol) and COREXIT is more toxic to some organisms than crude oil. COREXIT can be long-lived in the environment so we need to know the concentrations present around the Gulf – not just in the areas where it was applied; it will move around with the ocean currents.

I have added the material safety data sheets (MSDS) for COREXIT 9500 and 9527 to the resources page of the blog. Read these for yourself to learn more about these products.

Other questions—how do these dispersants impact microbial populations and microbial activity; are dispersants bioaccumulated, in other words, are they passed up to higher trophic levels?; are the dispersants toxic to key Gulf fishery species (shrimp, blue crap, tuna) and if so are some phases (larval, juvenile or adult) more sensitive than others. MORE...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Israel’s Insane War on Iran Must Be Prevented

Editor' NOTE:

This article is extremely long but excellent. I encourage everyone to read the whole piece even if in more than one sitting.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Global Research,
July 26, 2010

Israel’s attack on a humanitarian aid ship headed for Gaza may prove to be the greatest strategic error the government has ever made. Like the Soweto riots in South Africa in 1976, or Bloody Sunday – the American civil rights march on March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, where police opened fire and killed civilians – the Mavi Marmora affair crossed a red line. It has triggered an international wave of condemnation, expressing a shift in attitude toward Israel. The hope is that this international outrage, flanked by growing anti-government dissent inside the country, will provoke an identity crisis among the elite and people of Israel, shake up the political kaleidoscope and allow for a viable pro-peace force to emerge. Unless this occurs, new Israeli aggression, including against Iran, will remain high on their immediate agenda.

The details of the May 31 events are well known, documented by passengers on the Mavi Marmora headed for Gaza. Among the most dramatic was the eye-witness account of Ken O’Keefe on BBC’s Hard Talk show, who effectively dismantled attempts by his interviewer to legitimize the Israeli position (that the passengers were armed terrorists etc.), and established that the Israeli military opened fire immediately after boarding the ship, killing 9 in cold blood.(1) German doctor Matthias Jochheim, a member of the IPPNW on board, has delivered his own low-key, sober version, confirming the same facts.(2)

Israel’s violent action was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back; even the wobbly-kneed German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had to denounce it and lend his voice to an international chorus demanding that the illegal three-year Gaza blockade be lifted. Those actions which did follow, like Egypt’s reopening the Rafah border crossing and Israel’s cosmetic redefinition of what could or could not enter Gaza, led to at least a formal, partial relaxation of the blockade, albeit at the cost of nine innocent lives.

Israel’s immediate reactions are most clinically interesting. First, the Mossad sent films around the world via Internet purportedly showing passengers assaulting those Israeli troops who had descended onto the ship in international waters (to conduct a passport check, perhaps?). Then came the announcement that the list of permitted goods into Gaza would be replaced by a list of forbidden items. (President Shimon Peres was quick to add cement to the ban.) No sooner had the Israeli government committed a diplomatic faux pas by refusing entry into Gaza to German Development Aid Minister Dirk Niebel than Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman magnanimously invited several European colleagues to visit the Strip.(3) After rejecting numerous calls for an independent international investigation, Israel declared it would set up its own probe, but then Yaakov Tirkel, appointed head of the inquiry, threatened to resign unless he were granted more powers to subpoena witnesses. This gesture may very well have been a piece of cheap theatre; but, no matter: the point is that the Israeli leadership stood exposed as confused, stumbling, and in total disarray, one day engaging in clinical denial, and the next, tossing tidbits of concessions in hopes of placating its critics.

With its deadly act of piracy, Israel lost the mandate from heaven that its establishment, and many international actors, formerly believed it to hold. Although Israeli troops were not shooting their own people, the act was comparable to Soweto and Bloody Sunday for its political impact. The Israeli elite miscalculated utterly, and no mad scramble to control the damage will undo the deed or erase its consequences. Like the South African apartheid regime of the time, and segregation in the U.S., Israel’s 60-plus-year-old policy of discrimination, oppression, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is finally being acknowledged worldwide as a moral obscenity that can no longer be tolerated. Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N., Gabriela Shalev lamented the fact that her country’s standing in the world has sunk to new depths. “Our situation in recent months,” she told Army Radio on July 11, “can be compared to the 1970s, when Zionism was being called racism.”(4) Indeed.

Bull’s-Eye: Iran

Contrary to the mantra repeated in the international press, Israel’s assault on the Mavi Marmora was not aimed against Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted as much himself, when he declared he would “not allow the establishment of an Iranian port in Gaza.”

This is nothing new. Whenever Israel has moved militarily against Lebanon, as in 2006, or Gaza, as at the end of 2008, it was neither Hezbollah nor Hamas which were the actual targets. In both cases, Israel was mounting preparations for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and proceeded to knock out -- or at least attempt to knock out -- those forces who could be counted on to lead a political and military retaliatory response. (5) Here, too, the Mavi Marmora massacre had less to do with any Palestinian radicals in Gaza or Shi’ites in Lebanon, than with Tehran. And it is not out of a desire to “stem Iran’s growing influence” that Israel went into action, but because of its strategic commitment to eliminate the Islamic Republic as a regional power.

One should never forget what sort of political animal Netanyahu is. He first came to power in 1996 with a political platform known as “Clean Break,” a program to break with the Oslo Accords, and revert to a policy of confrontation, settlement expansion, land annexation, and continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population.(6) This scenario, articulated in detail in Netanyahu’s Clean Break policy, was to unfold against a backdrop of systematic regime changes in the region. All those governments perceived to be hostile to Israel were slated for replacement. In point of fact, since then we have had the second Iraq war, and the changes in Lebanon and Syria pursuant to the 2005 Hariri assassination. What remains on the original hit list is Iran.

Thus, it is not coincidental that the Mavi Marmora affair erupted smack in the middle of renewed international “debate” on Iran’s nuclear program. Israel’s contribution to the debate has come in the form of outright threats of military aggression and offers to the White House it could not refuse: either you stop Iran or we will. At the end of April, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in the U.S. for talks, warned against giving Iran too much time, because if it were to acquire a nuclear weapons capability that would “change the landscape” of the region and the world (7). Arguing that Iran has not complied with U.N. dictates (to suspend its uranium production, for example), the U.N. Security Council voted up sanctions on June 9, followed on June 17 by the European Union. The U.S. hastened to up the ante with its own unilateral sanctions on July 2.

Whether or not the new round of punitive sanctions will undermine Iran’s economy and social stability, they will decidedly not lead to a voluntary relinquishment of the nuclear program, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, among others, has declared.(8) The more interesting question is another: do those who are imposing sanctions actually believe that they will produce the desired effect? CIA Director Leon Panetta, when discussing the new American measures, stated, “Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not.”(9) Well, then, does the sanctions lobby perhaps understand the measures as a means to keep the “mad god” Israel at bay, i.e., are they punishing Iran in hopes of convincing Israel that it should renounce its intended military attack, while paying lip service to military action as a fallback option? That might cohere with what reportedly transpired in the July 6 meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Barack Obama at the White House. Bibi told Fox News following the talks that he had thanked the President for the new sanctions. He then quickly added that only the U.S. commitment to “keep the military option on the table” would get the Iranians’ attention. In tandem, U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain assured their Israeli audience in Jerusalem that that option was prominently placed at the center of the table. Lieberman was quoted by JTA Jewish & Israeli News on July 8, saying, “We will use every means that we have to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, through economic and diplomatic sanctions if we possibly can and through military action if we must.” Former Senator Charles Robb and former general Charles Wald co-authored an OpEd on July 9, “Sanctions alone won’t work on Iran,” explicitly threatening “an effective, targeted [U.S.] strike on Tehran’s nuclear and supporting military facilities.”(10)

Now comes the most relevant sequitur: Are the sanctions, then, merely the non-bellicose means to further weaken Iran, economically, politically, and militarily, as a preparation for a major operation? The example of the prelude to two wars against Iraq is germane. None of the sanctions that crippled Iraq’s economy aimed at forcing a policy change. They served only to set up Iraq for the kill.

The Fraud of the Nuclear Debate

That there is no serious interest on the part of the Western members of the Permanent 5 (France, Britain, U.S., Russia, and China) in solving the nuclear issue diplomatically is evident in their response to the brilliant initiative signed by Brazil, Turkey, and Iran on May 17 in Tehran, and delivered to the U.N., IAEA, et al. The proposal is simple and eminently workable. It asserts the right to peaceful nuclear energy under NPT rules, then moves to the issue of nuclear fuel exchange. Iran agrees to send 1200 kg of LEU to Turkey, under IAEA observers, and to notify the IAEA. Once the IAEA, Russia, France, and the U.S. respond positively, a detailed written agreement will be drafted for the 120 kg of fuel to be delivered to Tehran. Iran would deliver its uranium within one month and expect delivery of fuel within one year. Finally, Turkey and Brazil welcome Iran’s readiness to pursue talks with the 5+1 anywhere, including on their soil.

Before they could possibly have had the time to study the proposal, consult others, and weigh its merits, France and Russia responded with skepticism, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just said no. Asserting it was no “accident” that the declaration came “as we were preparing to move [for sanctions] in New York” and that “we had Russia on board, we had China on board,” Clinton stated she was “seriously concerned” by omissions in the document. The main omission was reference to Iran’s continued enrichment program. Another concern was “the amorphous timeline” for Iran’s delivery of its uranium – although the document is precise on this.(11) The series of sanctions followed shortly thereafter. Significantly, both Turkey and Brazil opposed them at the U.N., an act which certainly earned the two governments further contempt. (Some have pointed to the fact that of all the ships in the Gaza flotilla, it was the Turkish one that came under attack. Could this have something to do with the Turkish-Brazilian initiative?)

Build-Up for War

Most ominous in the broader picture are military activities in the region that would cohere with preparations for aggression against Iran. Egypt reportedly allowed one Israeli and eleven U.S. ships to pass through the Suez Canal on their way to the Red Sea, an apparent signal to Iran. The ships, together with a German vessel, moved into the Arabian Sea after “conducting secret exercises off the shore of south-western Israel,” according to the June 26 Jordan Times. Citing an Israeli report, the paper said the exercises included “interception of incoming Iranian, Syrian and Hizbollah missiles and rockets against USA and Israeli targets in the Middle East.” The exercises featured fighter bombers carrying out simulated bombing missions, and Israeli and U.S. fighter jets practicing long-range bombing missions. Some facts of the naval deployment appeared also in Global Research.(12) The same Jordan Times cited a Jerusalem Post article week earlier about Israeli military plans for a new assault on Gaza preparatory to a military campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Such reports should be taken deadly seriously. Again, the precedent of the military build-up prior to the Iraq wars is instructive. A further disturbing symptom is the behavior of two important Arab Gulf states. On June 12, regional press outlets reported that the Saudis had granted Israel the right to fly over its airspace, to which the Saudis immediately issued a perfunctory denial. But one should not forget the perfidious role played by the Saudis vis-à-vis Iraq. More alarming was the statement of the U.A.E. Ambassador to the U.S. on July 6 endorsing a military attack on Iran. Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba was quoted by the Washington Times: “I think it’s a cost-benefit analysis,” referring to the benefits of war on Iran. “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.” His conclusion: “If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?’ my answer is still the same: ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.’ I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the U.A.E.” He added that “talk of containment and deterrence really concerns me and makes me very nervous,” because he does not believe either would work.(13) Neocons attending the ambassador’s session with the Atlantic magazine, at Aspen, expressed surprise at hearing an Arab diplomat endorse military action publicly, although many in the region have uttered similar thoughts in private. It is no secret that most Arab Gulf states fear a nuclear Iran and would sit on the sidelines during US-Israeli aggression.

Clearly, Israel will not make good on its threats without a nod from Washington. And that is not there yet, at least not officially. After talks with Barak and Israel’s military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in Jerusalem, Sen. McCain indicated the time had not yet come. “I don’t believe we are at the point of making that kind of decision, nor is the Israeli government,” he said, “given the state that Iran is in now as far as the development of their nuclear weapons is concerned.” When asked by Fox News whether he had discussed the military option with Obama, Netanyahu danced around the issue, but reiterated his conviction that Iran must be made to fear such an option. And Obama? He coined a most curious formulation, Israel’s “unique security requirements,” and pledged “unwavering … commitment to Israel’s security.” When interviewed July 8 for the first time on Israeli television, Obama indicated the two governments would consult with one another, not act unilaterally. “I think the relationship between Israel and the U.S.,” he said, “is sufficiently strong that neither of us try to surprise each other.”(14)

But, one could just as well read this statement as indicating Obama and Netanyahu did discuss the military option, and from an operational standpoint. A number of studies and articles support this hypothesis. First, back in December, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution ran a simulated war game involving an Israeli hit on Iran. The study, written up in the New York Times on March 26, apparently caught the attention of institutions and officials in the U.S. and abroad. That scenario foresees an independent Israeli attack, which angers Washington. The U.S. tells Israel to desist, and deploys anti-missile batteries and cruisers, warning Iran against retaliation. Iran responds with missiles lobbed into Israel as well as Saudi Arabia, but avoids any direct attack on the U.S. Hamas and Hizbollah also fire rockets. The Israel population panics, and many flee, while the economy crashes. The U.S. finally okays an Israeli war against Hizbollah, whereupon Iran attacks Saudi oil installations and mines the Straits of Hormuz. The U.S. sends massive reinforcements into the region, and, 8 days following the first attack, the war game comes to an end.(15)

One need not wait for advice from Fidel Castro to realize that the report smacks of wishful thinking. Iran’s top military and political elite have made no secret of their intention -- and ability -- to respond to any attack with total counterforce, and against all possible targets. But the war games story put the option back onto the front pages of major media.

Then, on July 19, Andrew Shapiro, Clinton’s assistant secretary for political-military affairs, addressing the same Saban Center, boasted that the Obama administration had raised the level of military cooperation with Israel to its highest point ever. Shapiro toed the line that current U.S. policy preferred sanctions to war, but he refused to comment on whether or not there had been discussion of giving Israel a green light to go after Iran.

The Wall Street Journal followed up a day later with an article by Bret Stephens, “Why Hasn’t Israel Bombed Iran (Yet)?” the gist of which is that, after the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report had placed the military option on the back burner, Obama’s “engagement” policy, coupled with the post-electoral chaos in Iran, redefined options.(16) Four possible reasons offered for why Israel has not moved yet are: that they didn’t think an attack would be successful; that they preferred to improve their own capabilities first; that some top Israeli political leaders would oppose it; and, that they feared a “Suez reaction” on the part of the U.S.

A most telling leak came that same week in a TIME piece by Joe Klein, “An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table.”(17) Citing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had ruled out any war in 2008 but was now telling Fox News that a nuclear Iran could not be “contained” (a formulation popping up all over the place), Klein writes that some U.S. military are claiming Iran left them little choice after rejecting a “generous” U.S. diplomatic option. Klein adds: “Other intelligence sources say that the U.S. Army’s Central Command … has made some real progress in planning targeted air strikes – aided, in large part, by the vastly improved human-intelligence operations in the region.” An Israeli military source told him, “’There really wasn’t a military option a year ago. But they’ve gotten serious about the planning, and the option is real now.’” Klein says that he has been told that “Israel has been brought into the planning process … because U.S. officials are frightened by the possibility that the right-wing Netanyahu government might go rogue and try to whack the Iranians on its own” (emphasis added).

House Republicans Call For Israeli War

This makes all too much sense. Israel is on a war-footing and the U.S. is poised to at least let it happen. If the White House has not yet officially issued an okay, the House on July 23 introduced a resolution, signed by a third of the members, explicitly endorsing war. H. Res. 1553 begins, “Expressing support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel….” Asserting categorically that “the national security of the United States, Israel, and allies in the Middle East face a clear and present danger from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran seeking nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile capability to deliver them,” and quoting Obama that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable,” the Resolution proceeds to tick off statements attributed to Ahmadinejad and alleged Iranian violations of IAEA norms. It “condemns” Iran for its threats, pledges cooperation with Israel “to ensure” that it “continues to receive critical economic and military assistance, including missile defense capabilities, needed to address the threat of Iran,” and “expresses support for Israel’s right to use all means necessary confront and eliminate nuclear threats by Iran … including the use of military force… etc.”

It would be foolhardy to think these are only a bunch of arch-conservative Republicans trying to boost re-election perspectives by courting the Zionist faction among U.S. voters. The resolution is a declaration of intent toward war. Neocon John Bolton had defined the role Congress could and should play in igniting conflict. In the July 13 Wall Street Journal, Bolton wrote that Congress must support Israeli “pre-emptive attacks” and justify them on grounds of self-defense. He explained that “having visible congressional support in place at the outset will reassure the Israeli government, which is legitimately concerned about Mr. Obama’s likely negative reaction to such an attack.”(18)

Is it possible to stop the rush towards war?

There are two powers that can stop it. One is the U.S. If, as his July 6 tete-a-tete with Bibi suggests, Obama has signed on to an Israeli “rogue” operation, containing the option of “plausible denial” after the fact, , then the sane elements in the U.S. military and intelligence establishment must move into high gear. The new NIE is long overdue, perhaps due to factional strife regarding its contents. If an intelligence assessment were to appear soon, reinforcing the findings of the 2007 NIE to the effect that Iran does not constitute a nuclear threat, that could defuse the arguments in favor of an attack. U.S. military professionals, who know better than to start a new war now, have plenty of ways of convincing a sitting President that such folly would lead to doom.

The other force that could prevent war is Israel itself. This entails nothing short of a revolution in thinking and/or a political coup. The war party must be disarmed and discredited, allowing for a new combination of political factors to define an alternative policy.

The Backlash

This is not unthinkable. Since the Gaza war launched in December 2008, world public opinion has turned against Israel. On March 25, the UN Human Rights Council, which had endorsed the Goldstone Report in October 2009 and forwarded it to the Security Council, voted up a resolution (29 to 6 with 11 abstentions) demanding Israel pay reparations to Palestinians for losses and damages in that war. Two months later the UNHRC voted for a committee to monitor investigations that the Palestinians and Israelis were ordered to undertake. On March 10, the European Parliament had voted (335-267-43) to endorse the report and call for its implementation. For the first time, it acknowledged Israeli violations of international law.

Although from the start Israel refused to cooperate with the commission of inquiry led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, and rejected its findings out of hand as “biased,” the military’s own investigations confirmed parts of the U.N. report. On July 8, the Los Angeles Times reported that in seven cases, the Israeli military had established that a sniper “deliberately targeted” civilians; that Palestinians, including youth, were used as human shields; and “commanders authorized at least three separate bomb attacks that killed and injured several dozen civilians who were taking refuge in a family home, a U.N. compound and a mosque.”(19) Compared to the magnitude of the damage wrought in the Gaza campaign, such admissions are paltry, but the fact that Israel’s military had to impose token disciplinary actions on its own reflects the power of Goldstone’s findings.

More cynical was the report posted on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s website and delivered to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 19. It pledged that the Israel army, having duly conducted its assessment of the Gaza war, would reduce civilian casualties in future wars!(20) “The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) has … implemented operational changes in its orders and combat doctrine designed to further minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian property in the future,” as Reuters reported. In addition to providing “protection of civilians,” it would restrict the use of white phosphorous bombs in urban settings.

Cynical? Outright grotesque? Yes, to be sure. But it is also clinically significant. None of this would have emerged without the Goldstone Report.(21)

Turning Point: Flotilla Attack

The attack on the Mavi Marmora went too far. NATO Secretary General Rasmussen demanded an inquiry, as well as Israel’s release of the ship and its passengers. In a special session in Brussels on May 31 the 27 EU ambassadors called for an immediate, complete, and impartial investigation, access to the passengers, and the opening of border crossings to Gaza. Rage swept through the Arab world. Amr Musa, Secretary General of the Arab League, said the event proved one could not make peace with Israel, which he labeled a rogue state. Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri spoke of a “dangerous and insane step,” while citizens took to the streets in Beirut and Amman. Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Chalifa al Thani characterized it as piracy and demanded an end to the blockade.

Two weeks later, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued an unprecedented statement saying that the blockade per se violated international law. “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility,” it read. “The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.” (22)

Just what stands behind Israel’s blockade policy was the subject of a laudable analysis published in Le Monde diplomatique on July 9. Authors Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman examine two new developments in the Israel-Palestine conflict: the increasing politicization of humanitarian aid and Israel’s “redefinition” of international law as a threat to its existence. The article cites Israeli officials on the aims of the blockade: Dov Weinglass, an advisor to Ehud Olmert, spoke in mid-2007 of putting the Palestinians on a “diet,” which, however strict, would not allow them to starve. Israel’s highest court ruled in early 2008 in favor of guaranteeing those in the “enemy area” a “humanitarian minimum standard,” and nothing more. Details of the “Red Lines” set for this diet appeared in Haaretz: according to a government document, caloric intake for the Gaza population was to be set at a level just above the hunger line defined by the UN food experts. If this is the policy behind the blockade, clearly any humanitarian aid effort aiming to provide food, etc. comes under the rubric of a “provocation,” as deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon put it, since there “is no humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. As a corollary, Israel has lifted tax exemptions for NGOs supported by outside forces, and banned all groups who call for putting Israeli leaders on trial.

The other development concerns Israel’s attempts to rewrite international law, construed as undermining its right to self-defense. This is the meaning, according to Keenan and Weizman, of Israel’s violent rejection of the Goldstone Report. Netanyahu delivered a speech in November 2009, in which he listed three threats to Israel: a nuclear Iran, rocket attacks by Hamas and Hizbollah, and the attempt to deny its right to self-defense. That, Bibi declared, was the “intention” of the Goldstone Report. He added that he hoped statesmen and jurists would answer Goldstone’s approach by redrafting the laws of warfare.

The Coming Implosion in Israel

The same Le Monde diplomatique cites a statement by Gidi Grinstein of the Reut Institute, expressing alarm at the constraints placed on Israel in reaction to its anti-Palestinian policies. He wrote: “… our politicians and military personnel are threatened with lawsuits and arrests when they travel abroad, campaigns to boycott our products gain traction, and our very existence is challenged in academic institutions and intellectual circles. The country is increasingly isolated.” And, unfortunately, “Israel has failed to recognize these trends for the strategically significant, potentially existential, threat they constitute” (emphasis added). (23)

Grinstein’s commentary is entitled: “Israel delegitimizers threaten its existence: Israel’s enemies are scheming to bring about its implosion by turning it into a pariah state.” Granted, it is a hysterical outburst, but nonetheless it contains valuable insights if read from a clinical standpoint. The author laments Israel’s military failures in 2006 and 2008, and especially the “offensive on Israel’s legitimacy” following these wars. His view is that Israel’s enemies “would aim to bring about its implosion, as with South Africa or the Soviet Union, by attacking its political and economic values …. Turning Israel into a pariah state is central to its adversaries’ efforts,” he warns. “Israel is a geopolitical island. Its survival and prosperity depend on its relations with the world in trade, science, arts and culture – all of which rely on its legitimacy. When the latter is compromised, the former may be severed, with harsh political, social and economic consequences.”

Grinstein’s piece was published on January 1 of this year, long before the flotilla attack. Since then, the trends towards isolating Israel and awarding it pariah status have only multiplied. And, increasingly, it is Israelis and Jewish intellectuals who are fuelling the trend. Henry Siegman, a former director of the American Jewish Congress, published an article, “Israel’s Greatest Loss: Its Moral Imagination,” in Haaretz on June 11.(24) Right after the Mavi Marmora confrontation, Siegman phoned a friend in Israel, to hear what the mood was. He was shocked to hear his friend say that the worldwide censure of Israel reminded him of the Nazi era. Siegman’s analysis is worth quoting at length: “When I managed to get over the shock of that exchange, it struck me that the invocation of the Hitler era was actually a frighteningly apt and searing analogy, although not the one my friend intended. A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Their jailors, incredibly, are survivors of the holocaust, or their descendants. Of course, the inmates of Gaza are not destined for gas chambers, as the Jews were, but they have been reduced to a debased and hopeless existence.”

Siegman backs up his assertions with facts about nutrition in Gaza and childhood morbidity, an “obscenity” which is “the consequence of a deliberate and carefully calculated Israeli policy aimed at de-developing Gaza by destroying not only its economy but its physical and social infrastructure while sealing it hermetically from the outside world.” He notes that jokes about the Palestinian “diet” are also reminiscent of the Nazi period. Though rejecting any one-on-one comparison, Siegman recognizes that “the essential moral issues are the same.”

His conclusions: “So, yes, there is reason for Israelis, and for Jews generally, to think long and hard about the dark Hitler era at this particular time. For the significance of the Gaza Flotilla incident lies not in the questions raised about violations of international law on the high seas, or even about ‘who assaulted who’ first on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmora, but in the larger questions raised about our common human condition by Israel’s occupation policies and its devastation of Gaza’s civilian population” (emphasis added).

“If a people who so recently experienced on its own flesh such unspeakable inhumanities cannot muster the moral imagination to understand the injustice and suffering its territorial ambitions—and even its legitimate security concerns—are inflicting on another people, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

Another authoritative Jewish intellectual warning of impending catastrophe for Israel is Daniel Barenboim, the Argentine-Israeli pianist and conductor, founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings together young Israeli and Arab musicians. In a full-page interview in Die Zeit on June 10, Barenboim characterized the flotilla attack as “dumb.” Echoing Siegman’s idea of Israel’s loss of “moral imagination,” Barenboim raised the question, what has become of the famous “Jewish intelligence?” – a phrase, he explains, used by both anti-semites and philosemites. Among Israelis there are many intelligent people with whom one can rationally discuss Beethoven, Shakespeare, or Marx, “but when you come to the subject of Palestinians, they are totally blind. It is not explicable.”

With respect to the political situation, Barenboim is categorical: the problem is the occupation and decades of injustice against the Palestinians, not the “widespread Israeli interpretation” that it all has to do with the Nazis and the Holocaust. “If a Palestinian, whose family has owned a house in Jaffa or Nazareth since the 11th century, now no longer has the right to reside there, and this man then hates the Israelis – that has nothing to do with Adolf Hitler.” As for Hamas, Barenboim’s view is that “If one wants to make peace, one has to talk to all the factions of the enemy,” and adds: “What the world has forgotten by the way: Hamas was a creature of Israel, to weaken Arafat.” His conclusion is unambiguous: “If things continue as they are, Israel’s days are numbered. The demographic development shows us that the Jews will not remain in the majority. What is occurring is apartheid, which is untenable. And what really makes me angry is that many Israeli governments, not only the current one, are convinced that they have the right to kill people, because they do not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. That cannot be.”

Israel On The Couch

The sub-text running through the views expressed by Siegman, Levy, Barenboim, and other Jewish intellectuals is that there is something fundamentally wrong in Israel, -- not merely that its policies are unjust and in violation of international law, but that there is something unhealthy, irrational in the Israeli mindset. A couple of articles circulated on the Internet in mid-June that made this point explicit. Signed by one Michael K. Smith, they “reported” on the suicides of two psychiatrists, one who had treated Netanyahu for nine years, and the other who had treated Barak (for “Security Addiction Disorder”-SAD). Both accounts, appearing on June 12 and 15, turned out to be spoofs, but they are symptomatic of the growing awareness that a clinical approach to the Israel problem makes sense.(25) Also, they remind us that humor is a powerful antidote in such cases.

Mosher Yatom, the fictional name given Netanyahu’s would-be psychiatrist, left a suicide note saying that he could no longer tolerate his patient’s contradictory behavior. “I can’t take it anymore. Robbery is redemption, apartheid is freedom, peace activists are terrorists, murder is self-defense, piracy is legality. Palestinians are Jordanians, annexation is liberation, there’s no end to his contradictions. Freud promised rationality would reign in the instinctual passions, but he never met Bibi Netanyahu. This guy would say Gandhi invented brass knuckles.” The psychiatrist reportedly suffered a series of strokes, each in reaction to outrageous statements by his patient, for example, that “Iran’s nuclear energy program was a ‘flying gas chamber.’” An expert in the field, Dr. Rafael Eilam, in commenting on “Massive Attack Disorder” (MAD), which is “rampant among Israeli leaders,” says this syndrome may account for the attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, “with both attacks having contributed substantially to Israel’s current pariah status.” The article ends with the news of a “Free Israel” initiative by psychiatrists worldwide, who want to send a flotilla with relief supplies for the Israeli doctors and their patients: “anti-depressants for the former and elephant tranquillizers for the latter.”

When the spoofs first appeared on the web, not a few readers took the opening paragraphs seriously, because there was such a ring of psychological truth to them.

Anyone who ignores the psychological factor in politics must have been in hibernation during the eight years of the Bush-Cheney pathology. When sane military professionals were testifying to the perils of new wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the neocon faction followed its insane instincts and the bombs began to fall. Dr. Justin A. Frank, an American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, authored a brilliant study entitled Bush on the Couch.(25) Relying solely on published speeches, statements, and interviews, Frank diagnosed the president as seriously mentally ill, actually a sociopath. Were Dr. Frank to examine statements on the public record by Netanyahu, Barak, Peres, Lieberman, Tzipi Livni among others, he might come to a similar conclusion. When, at a recent public speaking event in Germany, I asked the IPPNW member aboard the Mavi Marmora, how he, as a practicing psychiatrist, would evaluate the mental state of the Israeli leadership, he quipped that he was merely a psychotherapist, and did not deal with cases of grave psychosis.

The sooner the world – emphatically including Israel – recognizes that we are dealing not with politics as usual, but with clinically identifiable attitudes and policies, the better. The generation of “new historians” in Israel, researchers like Ilan Pappe, have done much to deconstruct the mythology of Israel’s founding, which is a precondition for defining a sane approach to overcoming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But this is not enough. The Israeli people and elite have to confront that past as well as the recent and current injustices inflicted on the Palestinians, and work through the psychological-moral implications. Continuing outside pressure in the form of U.N. or European investigative and disciplinary actions does have a palpable effect. Grinstein is correct in assessing the consequences of sanctions and boycotts, including those in intellectual circles, but he is wrong in thinking that this has come about because the “enemies” of Israel are “scheming to bring about its implosion by turning it into a pariah state.” It is Israel’s own anti-Palestinian policies which have isolated the country, making it, yes, a pariah. Grinstein’s reference to apartheid South Africa is also pertinent. What forced international firms to pull out of that country was the worldwide moral censure of apartheid. Not the economic impact of sanctions, but the moral thrust which occasioned them ultimately led to the downfall of the racist regime. Similarly, the civil rights movement in the U.S. was successful, not due to the economic damage done by its boycotts, but by virtue of the movement’s moral authority. The U.S., which was mired in an immoral war against Viet Nam while simultaneously depriving its own citizens of basic human rights, had become a pariah in the eyes of the world and its leadership had to willfully change.

These two cases demonstrate the potential for profound political upheaval when a people faces up to its moral responsibilities. They also pose the critical role of leadership. Does there exist in Israel today a leader with the pragmatic grasp of reality Lyndon B. Johnson had? Is there anyone comparable to Frederik de Klerk, capable of recognizing that a system founded on injustice could not morally survive? Yitzhak Rabin apparently reached that conclusion. Who is prepared to take up his legacy today?




3. Israel reportedly expressed surprise at criticism of its entry ban. “There is a clear policy,” a representative of the Foreign Ministry was quoted. “We have told the Europeans long ago that we do not allow high-level politicians to enter the Gaza Strip” (

4. Jerusalem Post, July 12, 2010.

5. See Preparations for a Hit Against Iran: Stopping Israel’s Next War,,
Gaza One Year After: The World Has Changed,, and
The Target is Iran: Israel’s Latest Gamble May Backfire,

6. “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” The document endorsed a “Change in the nature of its [Israel’s] relations with the Palestinians, including upholding the right of hot pursuit for self-defense into all Palestinian areas and nurturing alternatives to Arafat’s exclusive grip on Palestinian society.” See also, Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, Through the Wall of Fire: Armenia – Iraq – Palestine: From Wrath to Reconciliation, edition fischer, 2009.




10. (

11. Financial Times, May 18, http://www.ft.fom/cms/s/58caa4b4-62a4-11df-b1d1-00144feab49a,dwp_uuid=5aedc80.

12. “Showdown in the Red Sea: U.-S. Sends 11 Warships to Confront Iran,” (

13. “U.A.E.- diplomat mulls hit on Iran’s nukes: Prefers strike to armed foe,” by Eli Lake,


15. “Imagining an Israeli Strike on Iran,” by David E. Sanger,


17.,8816,2003921,00.html CHECK

Ran the story of the Resolution and included the full text. For Bolton’s article, “Beyond the Obama Nuke Policy,”

19. (


21. If Israel’s elite fears the loss of legitimacy in the eyes of the world as a consequence of the Gaza conflict, it is just as jittery about growing calls for the country’s nuclear arsenal to be placed under international supervision. For the first time, as reported by Haaretz on May 8, the IAEA was asked to place the issue on its board meeting agenda on June 7. This came in response to a letter on April 23 by Arab member nations addressed to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. Amano, in turn, reportedly asked for proposals from IAEA member states’ foreign ministries, on how to urge Israel to sign the NPT.

When, on May 28, the 189 signators to the NPT issued a document calling on Israel to join the NPT (and did not mention Iran), Netanyahu denounced it as “faulty” and “hypocritical.” In a statement, he regretted such pressure on the only democracy in the region (Israel), while the “terrorist regime in Iran” which allegedly wants to wipe Israel off the map, was not mentioned. Bibi’s response was not surprising; in an ABC interview April 19, when asked about joining the NPT, he had answered that was as unlikely as stopping settlement in East Jerusalem. “If the Middle East one day advances to a messianic age where the lion lies down with the lamb,” he said, “you can ask me that question again.” (

The U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, Glyn Davies, issued a statement during the Board of Governors meeting, regretting that the matter had come up. “Singling out Israel for censure is in our view both counterproductive and inappropriate,” it read. Though committed to the NPT and even a WMD-free Middle East, the U.S. view was that raising the issue further politicized the IAEA, and presented a “distraction from other pressing issues,” to wit, Iran. See

22. (


24. Siegman is director of the U.S./Middle East Project, a visiting professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was formerly Senior Fellow on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations, and earlier head of the AJC.

Siegman is not the first to explore ominous parallels with the Nazi era. Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy wrote of trends in Israel toward fascism, in an issue of Der Semit featuring “Jewish intellectuals against Israel.” His article is entitled, “Die Schnellbahn zu einem faschistischen Israerl,” (Express Train to a Fascist Israel), Der Semit: Unabhängige jüdische Zeitschrift, 2. Jahrgang – Nr. 03 Mai/Juni 2010, pp. 34-35.

25. “Psychiatrist of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Commits Suicide: Anguished Suicide Note Cites ‘Deluge of Doublethink’ In Driving Kind-Hearted Shrink to Despair,”, “Second Psychiatrist Suicide Rocks Israel: Defense Minister’s Analyst Overdoses on Valium – Wave of ‘Shrinkicide’ Feared,”

26. Justin A. Frank, M.D., Bush on the Couch, Regan Books, New York 2004.

Gulf OIl Update: Day 102

Dispersants from BP Spill May Have Entered Gulf Food Chain
Click HERE for Toxicity Update...

Published: Friday, July 30th, 2010

Scientists have raised yet another alarm about the dispersants BP has used in unprecedented amounts to break up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. According to, researchers have found an oil and dispersant mix beneath the shells of post-larval blue crabs. The discovery is one of the first signs that the BP disaster is impacting the Gulf of Mexico food chain.

More than 1.8 million gallons of dispersant chemicals have been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in attempts to break up the oil moving in from the Deepwater Horizon’s broken well. Concerns about the dispersant being used, Corexit 9500, prompted the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mandate that BP switch to a less-toxic alternative, but BP never complied.

Ultimately, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson order the agency to conduct its own testing of Corexit, along with seven dispersants from its approved list. According to the EPA, those tests showed Corexit to be slightly less toxic than the manufacturer’s data had suggested, so BP was allowed to continue using it.

Now it appears that dispersants have broken the oil up into droplets tiny enough to easily enter the food chain. According to, scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Center for Fisheries Research and Development said tiny droplets are visible under the transparent shells of 2-millimeter-sized post-larval blue crabs collected in Mississippi’s Davis Bayou.

To confirm their findings, the scientists sent some crabs to a testing firm in Pensacola, Florida, which also found evidence of hydrocarbons. In addition to blue crabs, the droplets were also seen in fiddler crab larvae.

The post-larval blue crabs are vital to Gulf Coast fisheries, GulfLive said, as they serve as food for all types of fish and shore birds.

One of the scientists involved in the study also told that there is a good chance that many young crabs will be lost because oil is covering so much of the ground 41 percent – where the larvae are.

According to a report on Huffington Post, other scientists involved in the study from Louisiana’s Tulane University used infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the droplets. In doing so, they discovered the chemical marker for Corexit. Two independent tests are being run to confirm those findings.

“Corexit is in the water column, just as we thought, and it is entering the bodies of animals. And it’s probably having a lethal impact there,” (Editor's bold emphasis throughout) Susan Shaw, director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, told Huffington Post.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

WikiLeaks founder fears arrest warrant

Press TV
Thu, 29 Jul 2010 12:31:54 GMT

Wikileaks director Julian Assange

The founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who is in London, says he would be arrested if he goes back to the US.

"I have been advised by my lawyers and by senior US national security reporters to not enter into the United States in relation with a previous…leak we did," he said, speaking to Press TV's correspondent in London, Roshan Mohammad Salih on Thursday.

Assange, whose website is known for exposing the US carnage of civilians, recounted the western medias' guardianship of the western governments.

He said the mainstream media maintain a close relationship with the western leadership.

The affinity, he added, would prevent the media outlets and broadcasters from revealing the wrongdoings sanctioned by the authorities.

In April, the website posted an explosive video of a US helicopter attack on Baghdad in 2007 that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the Reuters news agency.

"These pilots start thinking that it really was a videogame. And they got pleasure by getting a high score. And it was also a source or pride to them. So they brag to these ground forces…'Hey, we shot 12 to 15 people. You go there you find 12 to 15 bodies,' " Assange had said about the footage in an earlier interview with Press TV.

Earlier in the month, it published some 91,000 files containing highly confidential information about the US-led war in Afghanistan. The documents included accounts of how the coalition forces had killed or wounded Afghan civilians in unreported attacks.

Not the entire leaked materials have been examined yet, Assange said, thus raising the prospects of further unwelcome expositions. "Well, the entire teams of WikiLeaks, New York Times and Der Spiegel have only gone through in detail about 2,000 of these reports. That is about 2% of the total."

The so-called counter-insurgency operations, which Assange called disaster, have left many thousands of Afghan civilians dead since their 2001 initiation. "This war has continued for the past nine years. We can see from the start of the past six years, that is two-thirds of that time that the violence has been escalating…. This war is going to a bad place."

Investigators with the United States Defense Department launched a hunt for Assange last month as the website was feared to publish classified Pentagon cables.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Robert Mueller said the security apparatus would also assist an underway criminal investigation by the Pentagon into the thousands-strong war leaks.

Assange has, however, said, "We have a lot of supporters, including within the US military … They know that we are after the bad guys and we don't want to expose the good intelligence operations that are happening."

"War is the Business of America"

Down To The Last Trillion in Red Ink:
US Treasury Running on Fumes

By Paul Craig Roberts

July 27, 2010 "Information Clearing House" --The White House is screaming like a stuck pig. WikiLeaks’ release of the Afghan War Documents “puts the lives of our soldiers and our coalition partners at risk.”

What nonsense. Obama’s war puts the lives of American soldiers at risk, and the craven puppet state behavior of “our partners” in serving as US mercenaries is what puts their troops at risk.

Keep in mind that it was someone in the US military that leaked the documents to WikiLeaks. This means that there is a spark of rebellion within the Empire itself.

And rightly so. The leaked documents show that the US has committed numerous war crimes and that the US government and military have lied through their teeth in order to cover up the failure of their policies. These are the revelations that Washington wants to keep secret.

If Obama cared about the lives of our soldiers, he would not have sent them to a war, the purpose of which he cannot identify. Earlier in his regime, Obama admitted that he did not know what the mission was in Afghanistan. He vowed to find out what the mission was and to tell us, but he never did. After being read the riot act by the military/security complex, which recycles war profits into political campaign contributions, Obama simply declared the war to be “necessary.” No one has ever explained why the war is necessary.

The government cannot explain why the war is necessary, because it is not necessary to the American people. Any necessary reason for the war has to do with the enrichment of narrow private interests and with undeclared agendas. If the agendas were declared and the private interests being served identified, even the American sheeple might revolt.

The Obama regime has made war the business of America. Escalation in Afghanistan has gone hand in hand with drone attacks on Pakistan and the use of proxy forces to conduct wars in Pakistan and North Africa. Currently, the US is conducting provocative naval exercises off the coasts of China and North Korea and instigating war between Columbia and Venezuela in South America. Former CIA director Michael Hayden declared on July 25 that an attack on Iran seems unavoidable.

With the print and TV media captive, why doesn’t Washington simply tell us that the country is at war without going to the trouble of war? That way the munitions industry can lay off its workers and put the military appropriations directly into profits. We could avoid the war crimes and wasted lives of our soldiers.

The US economy and the well-being of Americans are being sacrificed to the regime’s wars. The states are broke and laying off teachers. Even “rich” California, formerly touted as “the seventh largest economy in the world,” is reduced to issuing script and cutting its state workers’ pay to the minimum wage.

Supplemental war appropriations have become routine affairs, but the budget deficit is invoked to block any aid to Americans--but not to Israel. On July 25 the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported that the US and Israel had signed a multi-billion dollar deal for Boeing to provide Israel with a missile system.

Americans can get no help out of Washington, but the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, declared that Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security is “not negotiable.” Washington’s commitment to California and to the security of the rest of us is negotiable. War spending has run up the budget deficit, and the deficit precludes any help for Americans.

With the US bankrupting itself in wars, America’s largest creditor, China, has taken issue with America’s credit rating. The head of China’s largest credit rating agency declared: “The US is insolvent and faces bankruptcy as a pure debtor nation.” (Editor's bold emphasis throughout)

On July 12, Niall Ferguson, an historian of empire, warned that the American empire could collapse suddenly from weakness brought on by its massive debts and that such a collapse could be closer than we think.

Deaf, dumb, and blind, Washington policymakers prattle on about “thirty more years of war.”


Pentagon Papers’ Ellsberg weighs in on WikiLeaks

John Nichols,
Capital Times associate editor | Posted: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 6:23

The Obama White House was quick to condemn the publication Sunday evening of more than 91,000 secret documents detailing the monumentally misguided and frequently failed attempt by the United States to occupy Afghanistan.

National Security Adviser James Jones took the lead in attacking the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks for making the details of the war available to the American people -- who are, ultimately, supposed to define the direction of U.S. foreign policy -- by declaring: “The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.”

Despite the fact that the Afghan War Diary records, which are being published by the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Speigel, detail the mess in Afghanistan, and point to the bigger mess that will be made if the occupation is expanded as the Obama administration proposes, Jones offered a classic don’t-confuse-us-with-the-facts response to the release. “These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people.”

The echo you are hearing is that of the Nixon administration responding to the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

We can only hope that Obama and his aides have read enough history to recognize that Nixon’s over-reaction to the Pentagon Papers began a process that would lead -- at least in part -- to a House Judiciary Committee vote to impeach him, and to the only presidential resignation in the country’s history.

It happens that, on the eve of the publication of the Afghanistan logs, I was with Daniel Ellsberg, the prime player in the release of the Pentagon Papers. We were in Cleveland at the Progressive Democrats of America conference, where a terrific documentary on Ellsberg, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” was screened, and I then interviewed the man who exposed the truth about the Vietnam War.

Ellsberg is a fan of WikiLeaks in particular and whistle-blowers in general. He argues that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “is serving our democracy and serving our rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations, which are not laws in most cases, in this country.”

Of Obama administration attacks on Assange and others, and the administration’s broader crackdown on whistle-blowers, Ellsberg says wryly: “That’s not the kind of change I voted for when I voted for him.”

What’s the right response from officials who take seriously their oaths to obey a Constitution that places all power with the people -- and that necessarily requires that the people get information about wars being waged in their name but without their informed consent?

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., did a whole lot better than the administration.

“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said Kerry, whose discomfort with the Afghanistan operation has grown increasingly evident. “Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”

Kerry should hold hearings with regard to the Afghan War Diary.

Other members of the House and Senate should respond as the late Vermont Republican Sen. George Aiken did to the publication of the Pentagon Papers -- with an objection that “for a long time, the executive branch has tended to regard Congress as a foreign enemy -- to be told as little as possible,” Aiken charged.

Already, there are those who are trying to distinguish between the Pentagon Papers case and the Afghan War Diary. The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus argues that we all should “pause for a moment before accepting the comparison that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes between his release of more than 90,000 secret military documents about the Afghan fighting to that of the Pentagon Papers back in 1971.”

Pincus makes a credible point. Of course there are differences in content, and the character of that content, in the timing of the release and the identities of those responsible for the leaks.

But there is a fundamental similarity that makes Assange right when he tells The Guardian: “The nearest analogue is the Pentagon Papers that exposed how the United States was prosecuting the war in Vietnam.”

Ellsberg said in 1971, when he surrendered to authorities who planned to try him: “I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public.” Ellsberg’s argument was that the oaths he had sworn as a Marine and a military analyst were to the Constitution, a document that Jefferson said in his first inaugural address is best defended by “the diffusion of information and the arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason.”

WikiLeaks says today: “We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies. All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information.”

Ellsberg has frequently noted “immediate parallels” between the people who these days provide information about the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations to WikiLeaks and the leaking he did during the Vietnam War to the New York Times.

Those who get the truth to the American people, Ellsberg says, “(show) better judgment in putting it out than the people who keep it secret from the American people.”


U.S. Congress Passes $59 Bn Afghan War Funding Bill
7/28/2010 6:51 AM ET

(RTTNews) - The U.S. Congress on Tuesday approved $59 billion to pay for troop increase in Afghanistan and other emergency spending, sending the bill for President Barack Obama's signature.

The bill includes $37.1 billion to pay for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, $2.9 billion for earthquake relief in Haiti and other money for domestic programs. Provisions not related to the war brought the bill total to nearly $59 billion.

The new funding is on top of the $130 billion Congress already approved for Afghanistan and Iraq this year. The Congress has appropriated over 1 trillion dollars for the two unpopular wars since 2001.

House Democrats initially included $20 billion in domestic spending to the measure, but the Senate stripped it out, a process that took several weeks.

The House of Representatives approved the spending measure with a 308 to 114 vote after it passed the Senate earlier. While 102 Democrats, who have stalled the measure for months, voted against the bill, 160 Republicans supported it despite their frequent opposition to Obama's policies.

The Democrats, who want a more definitive timetable for withdrawing troops, in their opposition to the measure said the country should be addressing pressing needs at home rather than a futile conflict thousands of miles away.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus said Congress could not continue to write a blank check for a war in Afghanistan that had ultimately made our county less safe.

"What has changed in my mind is I am so discouraged at the chances of our commitment in Afghanistan succeeding that I think it's time to say, no more," said Congressman Henry A. Waxman.

Senator Russ Feingold said the House vote showed growing concern with the President's flawed Afghan strategy.

"Unfortunately, the outcome of this vote means this war will continue to cost billions of taxpayer dollars, and more importantly, more American lives, for a strategy that is counterproductive in our global fight against al-Qaeda," he said.

He said rather than adding billions to the deficit for an open-ended war in Afghanistan, the administration should set a flexible timetable for ending US' massive and open-ended military presence in Afghanistan.

The growing number of Democrats opposing funding-- double the number who voted down a similar measure last year-- illustrates the widening divide between Obama and members of his party about Afghanistan, The Washington Post said.

However, Congressman Howard P 'Buck' McKeon, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee who backed the war funding, said he was confident General David Petraeus and his men would succeed in Afghanistan, if given the time, space and resources they needed.

"By passing this supplemental, we can continue funding a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan: a clear strategy after years of neglect under President Bush, and a strategy that can prevent Afghanistan from re-emerging as a terrorist-dominated state that poses a threat to the American people," said Senate Majority Leader Steny H Hoyer.

Asserting that under President Obama's renewed focus on Afghanistan, the United States has killed or captured hundreds of terrorist leaders, including much of the top leadership of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Hoyer said the President, at the same time, had also committed us to a clear time-frame to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts and to change our approach if it proved ineffective.

"The President is taking a wise and balanced approach in Afghanistan, and it deserves our support. The supplemental also funds our troops as they make a responsible redeployment from Iraq, allowing the Iraqi government to stand on its own two feet," he added.

"The delay in passing this legislation was caused by one thing and only one thing—the House Democratic majority's continuing and unwavering appetite for spending," said Rep. Jerry Lewis (R., Calif.), the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee.

The funds were requested in February, and the Pentagon warned Congress that it would run out of money for the wars by August if money was not appropriated by then.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gulf Oil Update: Day 100

Of Course Clean Up Workers Can't Find the Oil ... BP Used Dispersants to Temporarily Hide It, So Now It Will Plague the Gulf For Years

Washington's Blog, HERE...
July 27, 2010

News headlines state that cleanup workers are having a hard time finding oil.

Sounds good, right?

Actually, if BP had let things run their course:

--Oil-skimming vessels could have sucked up most of the oil
--Booms would have stopped most of the oil from hitting the shore
--And oil-eating bacteria would have broken down most of the remaining oil

Instead, BP has used millions of gallons of dispersants to hide the oil by breaking it up, so it sinks beneath the surface.

That means that oil-skimming vessels can't find it or suck it up. As the Times-Picayune pointed out on July 16th:

The massive "A Whale" oil skimmer has effectively been beached after it proved inefficient in sucking up oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill.

The oil is too dispersed to take advantage of the converted Taiwanese supertanker's enormous capacity, said Bob Grantham, a spokesman for shipowner TMT.

He said BP's use of chemical dispersants prevented A Whale, billed as the world's largest skimmer, from collecting a "significant amount" of oil during a week of testing that ended Friday.

"When dispersants are used in high volume virtually from the point that oil leaves the well, it presents real challenges for high-volume skimming," Grantham said in a written statement that did not include oil-collection figures from the test.

Similarly, the use of dispersants means that Booms can't stop it from hitting the shore. As marine biologist and oil spill expert Paul Horsman explains, using dispersants and oil booms are competing strategies. Specifically, breaking something down into tiny bits and dispersing it throughout a mile-plus deep and hundreds-miles wide region (the reason massive amounts of dispersants are being applied at the 5,000foot-deep spill site as well as at the surface) makes it more difficult to cordon off and contain oil on the surface (the reason booms are being used).

And Corexit might be killing the oil-eating bacteria which would otherwise break down the oil. University of Georgia scientist Samantha Joye notes that scientists have no idea how the large quanties of dispersant will effect the Gulf's microbial communities (for more information, watch part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5 of Dr. Joye's July 13th press conference).

Moreover, as MSNBC notes, oil-eating bacteria are less active in deepwater, where much of the oil sinks after treatment with dispersants:

Some note that little is known about the deepwater ecosystem — or how the oil and dispersants will react under extremely high water pressure, very low temperatures, limited oxygen and virtually no light.


The conditions at the bottom of the Gulf also could affect the bacteria that help break down the oil near the surface, as they are less active in cold temperatures than in the warm surface waters, and they may be less abundant in the deep.

“We know that the surface material has been degrading,” says Ralph J. Portier, professor of environmental studies at LSU. “But what about the microbial population at depth?”

As Scientific American points out:

The last (and only) defense against the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is tiny—billions of hydrocarbon-chewing microbes, such as Alcanivorax borkumensis. In fact, the primary motive for using the more than 830,000 gallons of chemical dispersants on the oil slick both above and below the surface of the sea is to break the oil into smaller droplets that bacteria can more easily consume.

"If the oil is in very small droplets, microbial degradation is much quicker," says microbial ecologist Kenneth Lee, director of the Center for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, who has been measuring the oil droplets in the Gulf of Mexico to determine the effectiveness of the dispersant use. "The dispersants can also stimulate microbial growth. Bacteria will chew on the dispersants as well as the oil."


[But] colder, deeper waters inhibit microbial growth. "Metabolism slows by about a factor of two or three for every 10 degree[s] Celsius you drop in temperature," notes biogeochemist David Valentine of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who just received funding from the National Science Foundation to characterize the microbial response to the ongoing oil spill. "The deeper stuff, that's going to happen very slowly because the temperature is so low."

At the same time, the addition of ... dispersants deep beneath the surface is having uncertain effects; it may even end up killing the microbes it is meant to help thanks to the fact that Corexit 9527A contains the solvent 2-butoxyethanol, which is a known human carcinogen and toxic to animals and other life.

Mother Jones provides additional details:

David Valentine ... warns the stuff may be riskier than just its toxicity. Corexit may undermine the microbes that naturally eat oil.

Some of the most potent oil-eaters—Alcanivorax borkumensis —are relatively rare organisms that have evolved to eat hydrocarbons from naturally occurring oil seeps. Valentine tells Eli Kintisch at Science Insider that after spills, Alcanivorax tend to be the dominant microbes found near the oil and that they secrete their own surfactant molecules to break up the oil before consuming the hydrocarbons. Other microbes don't make surfactants but devour oil already broken into small enough globs—including those broken down by Alcanivorax.

What we don't know is how the surfactants in Corexit and its ilk might affect the ability of Alcanivorax and other surfactant-makers to eat oil. Could Corexit exclude Alcanivorax from binding to the oil? Could it affect the way microbes makes their own surfactants? Could Corexit render natural surfactants less effective?

The National Science Foundation has awarded Valentine a grant to study the problem.

So it's not a good thing that clean up workers can't find the oil. It means that the oil will lurk under the surface, in deeper waters where bacterial activity is slower, poisoning the sealife that lives beneath the surface, and washing back up during storms for years to come.

Even Admiral Thad Allen, the government's point man for the crisis, said that breaking up the oil has complicated the cleanup. As AP reported on June 7th:

The hopeful report was offset by a warning that the farflung slick has broken up into hundreds and even thousands of patches of oil that may inflict damage that could persist for years.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the crisis, said the breakup has complicated the cleanup."

Dealing with the oil spill on the surface is going to go on for a couple of months," he said at a briefing in Washington. But "long-term issues of restoring the environment and the habitats and stuff will be years."

And Admiral Allen admitted in his press conference yesterday that oil could re-surface far into the future:

[Question] There have been reports of very large undersea plumes of oil thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface. So when you say there’s the possibility of the shore being impacted for four to six weeks, how do you come up with that four to six week number? And are you taking into account these very large plumes of oil that are out there and very difficult to sort of gauge where they’re going?

[Admiral Allen] What we’re going to continue to watch for is the oil we can’t see.... But the ultimate impact of this spill… whether or not oil surfaces at a later date will be the subject of long-term surveillance.... Impacts are going to go on for a long, long time.

As Congressman Markey said today, BP has made the Gulf “a toxic bowl” that will “haunt this region” for years, because “all of that oil is still under the surface”:

Different "Party" Same Old War

House Approves More Afghan War Funding:
Congressmen Embrace Escalation as Evidence of War's Folly Grows

by Jason Ditz,
July 27, 2010

Though one would have expected that the massive release of some 92,000 classified documents Sunday underscoring just how poorly the war is going would have changed some minds, the Obama Administration has gotten its way once again, with the House of Representatives approving the $59 billion emergency funding bill to keep the war going by a 308-114 vote.

There was, at the very least, some vigorous debate in the House today, with Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D – OH) and Ron Paul (R – TX) at the center of the opposition to continuing the war. At the end of the day, however, all the new evidence about the disastrous war was ignored in favor of pumping tens of billions of dollars into the conflict.

The 308-114 vote was saw a majority from both parties supporting the war, with only 12 Republican and 102 Democrats opposing the conflict. A secondary vote calling for US troops to withdraw from Pakistan was voted down 38-372.

The House was forced into the direct vote last week after the Senate rejected a number of domestic spending amendments attached to the bill in a procedural effort by the House early in the month.

The Pentagon had been complaining about the delays in the funding and warned that it was running out of cash to continue the war. The “emergency” funds were intended to pay for the Obama Administration’s December escalation of the conflict.

The vote was a surprisingly major win for the Obama Administration, following evidence that a large number of Congressmen were already bristling at the expense of the war, and the dramatic release of the WikiLeaks War Logs just two days before the vote.

But pro-war Congressmen were quick to disregard the logs, insisting that the 92,000 documents detailing the war’s enormous shortcomings and massive civilian toll were “outdated” because they were from late 2009 and before. Though all of the evidence is that the situation has only worsened in the last seven months, it seems officials were able to shrug off the embarrassment with relatively little effort, and secure the funds to continue their ill-conceived conflict.
Video: Dan Ellsberg With John Nichols the Day Before the Wikileaks Papers Released

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More on US Wars of Agression and the Wikileaks Document Dump

Afghan War Leaks Expose Costly Folly

By Ray McGovern

July 26, 2010 "Information Clearing House" --- The brutality and fecklessness of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan have been laid bare in an indisputable way just days before the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on whether to throw $33.5 billion more into the Afghan quagmire, when that money is badly needed at home.

On Sunday, the Web site Wikileaks posted 75,000 reports written mostly by U.S. forces in Afghanistan during a six-year period from January 2004 to December 2009. The authenticity of the material - published under the title "Afghan War Diaries" - is not in doubt.

The New York Times, which received an embargoed version of the documents from Wikileaks, devoted six pages of its Monday editions to several articles on the disclosures, which reveal how the Afghan War slid into its current morass while the Bush administration concentrated U.S. military efforts on Iraq.

Wikileaks also gave advanced copies to the British newspaper, The Guardian, and the German newsmagazine, Der Spiegel, thus guaranteeing that the U.S. Fawning Corporate Media could not ignore these classified cables the way it did five years ago with the "Downing Street Memo," a leaked British document which described how intelligence was "fixed" around President George W. Bush's determination to invade Iraq.

The Washington Post also led its Monday editions with a lengthy article about the Wikileaks' disclosure of the Afghan War reports.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the new evidence of a foundering war in Afghanistan will lead to a public groundswell of opposition to expending more billions of dollars there when the money is so critically needed to help people to keep their jobs, their homes and their personal dignity in the United States.

But there may be new hope that the House of Representatives will find the collective courage to deny further funding for feckless bloodshed in Afghanistan that seems more designed to protect political flanks in Washington than the military perimeters of U.S. bases over there.

Assange on Pentagon Papers

Wikileaks leader Julian Assange compared the release of "The Afghan War Diaries" to Daniel Ellsberg's release in 1971 of the Pentagon Papers. Those classified documents revealed the duplicitous arguments used to justify the Vietnam War and played an important role in eventually getting Congress to cut off funding.

Ellsberg's courageous act was the subject of a recent Oscar-nominated documentary, entitled "The Most Dangerous Man in America," named after one of the less profane sobriquets thrown Ellsberg's way by then-national security adviser Henry Kissinger.

I imagine Dan is happy at this point to cede that particular honorific to the Wikileaks' leaker, who is suspected of being Pfc. Bradley Manning, a young intelligence specialist in Iraq who was recently detained and charged with leaking classified material to Wikileaks.

An earlier Wikileaks' disclosure - also reportedly from Manning - revealed video of a U.S. helicopter crew cavalierly gunning down about a dozen Iraqi men, including two Reuters journalists, as they walked along a Baghdad street.

Wikileaks declined to say whether Manning was the source of the material. However, possibly to counter accusations that the leaker (allegedly Manning) acted recklessly in releasing thousands of secret military records, Wikileaks said it was still withholding 15,000 reports "as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source."

After Ellsberg was identified as the Pentagon Papers leaker in 1971, he was indicted and faced a long prison sentence if convicted. However, a federal judge threw out the charges following disclosures of the Nixon administration's own abuses, such as a break-in at the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist.

In public speeches over the past several years, Ellsberg has been vigorously pressing for someone to do what he did, this time on the misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ellsberg also has praised Assange for providing a means for the documents to reach the public.

Ellsberg and other members of The Truth Telling Coalition established on Sept. 9, 2004, have been appealing to government officials who encounter "deception and cover-up" on vital issues to opt for "unauthorized truth telling." [At the end of this story, see full text of the group's letter, which I signed available HERE...]

Emphasizing that "citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not have the facts," the Truth Telling Coalition challenged officials to give primary allegiance to the Constitution, and noted the readiness of groups like the ACLU and The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to offer advice and support.

What's New?

In a taped interview, Assange noted in his understated way that, with the Internet, the "situation is markedly different" from Pentagon Papers days. "More material can be pushed to bigger audiences, and much sooner."

Also, the flow of information can evade the obstructions of traditional news gatekeepers who failed so miserably to inform the American people about the Bush administration's deceptions before the Iraq War.

People all over the world can get "the whole wad at once" and put the various reports into context, which "is not something that has previously occurred; that is something that can only be brought about as a result of the Internet," Assange said.

However, Assange also recognized the value of involving the traditional news media to ensure that the reports got maximum attention. So, he took a page from Ellsberg's experience by creating some competitive pressure among major news outlets, giving the 75,000 reports to the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel. Beginning Sunday afternoon, all three posted articles about the huge dump of information.

Assange noted that the classified material includes many heart-rending incidents that fit into the mosaic of a larger human catastrophe. These include one depicted in Der Spiegel's reportage of accidental killings on June 17, 2007, when U.S. Special Forces fired five rockets at a Koran school in which a prominent al-Qaeda functionary was believed to be hiding.

When the smoke cleared, the Special Forces found no terrorist, but rather six dead children in the rubble of the school and another who died shortly after.

Role of Pakistan

Perhaps the most explosive revelations disclose the double game being played by the Pakistani Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). Der Spiegel reported: "The documents clearly show that this Pakistani intelligence agency is the most important accomplice the Taliban has outside of Afghanistan."

The documents also show ISI envoys not only are present when insurgent commanders hold war councils, but also give specific orders to carry out assassinations - including, according to one report, an attempt on the life of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in August 2008.

Former Pakistani intelligence chief, Gen. Hamid Gul, is depicted as an important source of aid to the Taliban, and even, in another report, as a "leader" of the insurgents. The reports show Gul ordering suicide attacks, and describe him as one of the most important suppliers of weaponry to the Talban.

Though the Pakistani government has angrily denied U.S. government complaints about Gul and the ISI regarding secret ties to the Taliban and even to al-Qaeda, the new evidence must raise questions about what the Pakistanis have been doing with the billions of dollars that Washington has given them.

Two Ex-Generals Got It Right

We have another patriotic truth-teller to thank for leaking the texts of cables that Ambassador (and former Lt. Gen.) Karl Eikenberry sent to Washington on Nov. 6 and 9, 2009, several weeks before President Barack Obama made his fateful decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

In a somewhat condescending tone, Eikenberry described the request from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, for more troops as "logical and compelling within his narrow mandate to define the needs" of the military campaign.

But then Eikenberry warned repeatedly about "unaddressed variables" like militants' "sanctuaries" in Pakistan. For example, the ambassador wrote:

"More troops won't end the insurgency as long as Pakistan sanctuaries remain ... and Pakistan views its strategic interests as best served by a weak neighbor."

In Eikenberry's final try at informing the White House discussion (in his cable of Nov. 9), the ambassador warned pointedly of the risk that "we will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves."

At the time, it seemed that Eikenberry's message was getting through to the White House. On Nov. 7, Der Spiegel published an interview with National Security Adviser (former Marine General) James Jones, who was asked whether he agreed with Gen. McChrystal that a substantial troop increase was needed. Jones replied:

"Generals always ask for more troops; I believe we will not solve the problem with more troops alone. You can keep on putting troops in, and you could have 200,000 troops there and Afghanistan will swallow them up as it has done in the past."

However, McChrystal and his boss, then-Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus pressed the case for more troops, a position that had strong support from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Vice President Dick Cheney, key hawks in Congress and Washington's neoconservative-dominated opinion circles.

After months of internal debate, President Obama finally caved in and gave McChrystal nearly all the troops that he had requested. (McChrystal has since been replaced by Petraeus as commander of forces in Afghanistan.)

Despite the fact that the Wikileaks disclosures offer fresh support for the doubters on the Afghan War escalation, Jones acted as the good soldier on Sunday, decrying the unauthorized release of classified information, calling Wikileaks "irresponsible."

Jones also lectured the Pakistanis:

"Pakistan's military and intelligence services must continue their strategic shift against insurgent groups. The balance must shift decisively against al-Qaeda and its extremist allies. U.S. support for Pakistan will continue to be focused on building Pakistani capacity to root out violent extremist groups."

[Note: Okay; he's a general. But the grammatical mood is just a shade short of imperative. And the tone is imperial/colonial through and through. I'll bet the Pakistanis are as much swayed by that approach as they have been by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's admonitions not to be concerned about India - just terrorists.]

And regarding "progress" in Afghanistan? Jones added that "the U.S. and its allies have scored several significant blows against the insurgency."

However, that's not the positive spin that Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen was offering just four weeks ago. On his way to Kabul, again, Mullen spoke of "recent setbacks in the Afghan campaign."

"We underestimated some of the challenges" in Marja, the rural area of Helmand province that was cleared in March by U.S. Marines, only to have Taliban fighters return. "They're coming back at night; the intimidation is still there," Mullen said.

Of the much more ambitious (and repeatedly delayed) campaign to stabilize the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Mullen said: "It's going to take until the end of the year to know where we are there."

Would you say yes to an additional $33.5 billion for this fool's errand?


Julian Assange on the Afghanistan war logs: 'They show the true nature of this war'


Afghanistan war logs: Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of occupation

• Hundreds of civilians killed by coalition troops
• Covert unit hunts leaders for 'kill or capture'
• Steep rise in Taliban bomb attacks on Nato
• Read the Guardian's full war logs investigation

Nick Davies and David Leigh,
Sunday 25 July 2010 22.03 BST

The war logs reveal civilian killings by coalition forces, secret efforts to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, and discuss the involvement of Iran and Pakistan in supporting insurgents.

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama's "surge" strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US naval personnel captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

The war logs also detail:

• How a secret "black" unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for "kill or capture" without trial.

• How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.

• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

In a statement, the White House said the chaotic picture painted by the logs was the result of "under-resourcing" under Obama's predecessor, saying: "It is important to note that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009."

The White House also criticised the publication of the files by Wikileaks: "We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact the US government about these documents, which may contain information that endanger the lives of Americans, our partners, and local populations who co-operate with us."

The logs detail, in sometimes harrowing vignettes, the toll on civilians exacted by coalition forces: events termed "blue on white" in military jargon. The logs reveal 144 such incidents.

Some of these casualties come from the controversial air strikes that have led to Afghan government protests, but a large number of previously unknown incidents also appear to be the result of troops shooting unarmed drivers or motorcyclists out of a determination to protect themselves from suicide bombers.

At least 195 civilians are admitted to have been killed and 174 wounded in total, but this is likely to be an underestimate as many disputed incidents are omitted from the daily snapshots reported by troops on the ground and then collated, sometimes erratically, by military intelligence analysts.

Bloody errors at civilians' expense, as recorded in the logs, include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.

Questionable shootings of civilians by UK troops also figure. The US compilers detail an unusual cluster of four British shootings in Kabul in the space of barely a month, in October/November 2007, culminating in the death of the son of an Afghan general. Of one shooting, they wrote: "Investigation controlled by the British. We are not able to get [sic] complete story."

A second cluster of similar shootings, all involving Royal Marine commandos in Helmand province, took place in a six-month period at the end of 2008, according to the log entries. Asked by the Guardian about these allegations, the Ministry of Defence said: "We have been unable to corroborate these claims in the short time available and it would be inappropriate to speculate on specific cases without further verification of the alleged actions."

Rachel Reid, who investigates civilian casualty incidents in Afghanistan for Human Rights Watch, said: "These files bring to light what's been a consistent trend by US and Nato forces: the concealment of civilian casualties. Despite numerous tactical directives ordering transparent investigations when civilians are killed, there have been incidents I've investigated in recent months where this is still not happening.

Accountability is not just something you do when you are caught. It should be part of the way the US and Nato do business in Afghanistan every time they kill or harm civilians." The reports, many of which the Guardian is publishing in full online, present an unvarnished and often compelling account of the reality of modern war.

Most of the material, though classified "secret" at the time, is no longer militarily sensitive. A small amount of information has been withheld from publication because it might endanger local informants or give away genuine military secrets. Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, obtained the material in circumstances he will not discuss, said it would redact harmful material before posting the bulk of the data on its "uncensorable" servers.

Wikileaks published in April this year a previously suppressed classified video of US Apache helicopters killing two Reuters cameramen on the streets of Baghdad, which gained international attention. A 22-year-old intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, was arrested in Iraq and charged with leaking the video, but not with leaking the latest material. The Pentagon's criminal investigations department continues to try to trace the leaks and recently unsuccessfully asked Assange, he says, to meet them outside the US to help them. Assange allowed the Guardian to examine the logs at our request. No fee was involved and Wikileaks was not involved in the preparation of the Guardian's articles.


'Scores die' in Afghan village raid
Tuesday, July 27, 2010, 09:21 Mecca time, 06:21 GMT

A Nato rocket attack on a village in Afghanistan last week killed 52 civilians, including women and children, the office of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has said in a statement.

Based on reports from the Afghan National Directorate of Security, a house in Regey village in Sangin district of the southern Helmand province was hit with a rocket launched by Nato troops on Friday.

Karzai has offered his condolences via telephone to the mourning families and called on Nato troops to "put into practice every possible measure to avoid harming civilians during military operations".

The Afghan president has ordered the National Security Council to investigate the incident, Sediq Sediqqi, head of media relations at the presidency, said earlier.

Helicopter attack

Reports surfaced on Saturday that a helicopter gunship fired on villagers who had been told by fighters to leave their homes as a firefight with troops from Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) was imminent.

According to witness accounts, men, women and children fled to Regey village and were fired on from helicopter gunships as they took cover.

Abdul Ghafar, 45, told AFP, a French press agency, that he lost "two daughters and one son and two sisters" in the attack.

He and six other families fled to Regey, about 500 metres from their village of Ishaqzai, after being warned about the imminent battle, he said.

Men and women took shelter in separate compounds, he said, ahead of an expected firefight between Taliban fighters and Nato troops.

"Helicopters started firing on the compound killing almost everyone inside," he said, speaking at the Mirwais hospital in Kandahar city.

"We rushed to the house and there were eight children wounded and around 40 to 50 others killed."

Ghafar said he took three girls and four boys to the Kandahar hospital.

"Three of the wounded are my nephews and one is my son. One of the wounded children is four years old and has lost both parents."

The British broadcaster BBC quoted villagers saying they had buried 39 people.

Isaf investigation

Civilian casualties are an incendiary topic in Afghanistan, though surveys have shown that most are caused by Taliban attacks.

Colonel Wayne Shanks, an Isaf spokesman, said the location of the reported deaths was "several kilometres away from where we had engaged enemy fighters".

Isaf forces had fought a battle with the Taliban, Shanks said, but an investigation team dispatched after the casualty reports emerged "had accounted for all the rounds that were shot at the enemy".

"We found no evidence of civilian casualties," he said.

Leaked documents carried by Wikileaks, a whistleblower website, on Sunday pointed to under-reporting of civilian casualties, which Waheed Omar, the presidential spokesman, said were a cause of concern for the Afghan government.

The Pentagon files and field reports, spanning the period from January 2004 to December 2009, detail hundreds of unreported civilian deaths caused by Nato and Taliban attacks.

"We have continuously stated that the Afghan government and Afghan people were upset about civilian casualties," Omar told reporters, adding that Karzai had found nothing new in the leaked documents.

The White House condemned the leaks, saying the information could endanger US lives but also pointed to the administration's long-held concerns about alleged links between Pakistani intelligence agents and Afghan insurgents.

Editor's NOTE:

There is no moral justification for the US presence in Afghanistan. Clearly, the US and Nato (whether by design or by accident) are routinely responsible for the killing of innocent civilians. Doing so is apparently unavoidable given the nature of the occupation. Killing civilians when it is foreseeable and routine is without question a violation of international law as well. It cannot be condoned for any reason. Not only does the current killing of civilians represent a breach in the requirement of distinction (failure to differentiate combatants from civilians) but it is a total failure to apply the principle of proportionality as well.

In Iraq, Afghanistan and now in Pakistan US and coalition forces have consistently broken the moral law as well as international laws which regulate armed conflict. The only morally just thing to do at this point is for the US and its allies to leave Afghanistan forth with and to cease the UAV (drone) bombing in Pakistan.

The conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan all represent fruit from the poisonous tree of preventive war--the notorious or so-called "Bush/Neoconservative Doctrine."

--Dr. J. P. Hubert