Saturday, August 14, 2010

Economists: We Need Another Major Stimulus to Avoid Double-Dip Recession

Party Like Its 1929

By Mike Whitney

August 12, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- On Tuesday, the Fed announced that it will reinvest the proceeds from maturing mortgage-backed securities (MBS) into US Treasuries. The process is called Quantitative Easing. In theory, Q.E. increases inflation expectations so that consumers spend more and rev up the economy. That's the theory. But adding to bank reserves when the banks are already loaded to the gills, achieves nothing. It doesn't put money in the hands of people who will spend it, generate more economic activity or increase growth. It's a big zero. Oddly enough, the Fed even admits this. According to an article in Bloomberg News, "The Central Bank posted a paper co-written by Seth Carpenter, associate director of the Fed’s monetary-affairs division, finding that the “quantity of reserve balances itself is not likely to trigger a rapid increase in lending.” No "increase in lending" means no credit expansion and no rebound. Thus, QE will have no real impact.

From the FOMC Statement:

"Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June indicates that the pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months. Household spending is increasing gradually, but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Business spending on equipment and software is rising; however, investment in nonresidential structures continues to be weak and employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls. Housing starts remain at a depressed level. Bank lending has continued to contract. Nonetheless, the Committee anticipates a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability, although the pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated.....

The Committee will continue to monitor the economic outlook and financial developments and will employ its policy tools as necessary to promote economic recovery and price stability."

There's not a glimmer of light in the Fed's statement, and yet, "the Committee anticipates a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization". But how? And on what is the Fed basing its prediction? Certainly not the data. Maybe tea leaves? The truth is the economy is in very bad shape and getting worse. This is from Wednesday's New York Times:

"The government’s preliminary estimate for economic growth in the second quarter is likely to be revised substantially lower...."Combining the bigger-than-expected trade deficit with other weak data suggests that Q2 growth was only 1.2 percent rather than the 2.4 percent originally estimated, placing the economy on even shakier ground than it seemed,” wrote Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight." (New York Times)

The Fed has dramatically revised its growth forecast downward since its last meeting. The fiscal stimulus is petering out and inventory restocking is nearly over. Now the economy will have to stand on its own without the support of fiscal and monetary aid. But is it strong enough? Households are still patching their balance sheets, credit is tight, and businesses have no incentive to invest due to flagging demand. So where's the growth going to come from? If the government does not provide more stimulus, asset prices will tumble, unemployment will rise, and the economy will contract. This is from Wednesday's Wall Street Journal:

"A Wall Street Journal survey found that by a two-to-one margin Wall Street economists see deflation as a bigger threat to the U.S. economy over the next three years than inflation."

“Deflation is dangerously close,” said David Resler of Nomura Securities, one of 53 economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal. Among economists who answered the question, nearly two-thirds said that deflation poses the bigger risk to the economy over the next three years; the remainder said inflation is the bigger threat. That compares to an April survey, when the economists were split 50/50 over whether inflation or disinflation posed the bigger risk over the next year." ("WSJ Survey: Risks of Deflation on the Rise, Fed on Hold Longer", Phil Izzo, Wall Street Journal)

The looming risk of deflation is what makes the future so "unusually uncertain". (Bernanke words) But investors don't like uncertainty, which is why they pulling their money out of equities and moving it into bonds. That's also why the flight to safety has continued for more than 2 years since the crisis began. No one knows what the policy is or what the rules are. It's catch-as-catch-can. At the same time, falling bond yields are a referendum on Bernanke's performance. Historic low yields on Treasuries indicate that the Fed has been unable to restore confidence or allay investor fears. Recent surveys of small business owners (National Federation of Independent Business) and CEO's show that confidence continues to plunge. Consumer confidence is in the dumps, too. Bottom line: No one has faith in the Fed's approach.

Bernanke hoped that restarting his bond purchasing program would convince Wall Street that he was prepared to provide as much liquidity as needed. But traders saw through the ruse. The bond market cast its ballot immediately, driving yields into the ground. Investor pessimism pushed the 10-year below 3% while 2 year Treasuries slumped to historic lows. Investors are betting that the economy is headed into another vicious cycle of debt-liquidation and depression. They don't believe the Fed can stop the freefall, so they are shifting into risk-free liquid assets.
It took the stock market a bit longer to grasp what was going on, but 24 hours later, the rout on Wall Street began. Shares plunged throughout the session pushing down the Dow Jones 265 points by the end of the day. The other indexes were battered as well. The dollar strengthened on fears of deflation while bond yields on short-term notes fell sharply. Bernanke thinks the economy can muddle through on its own, but Wall Street isn't buying it. They want more monetary stimulus, and they want it now.



This is from David Rosenberg's "Breakfast with Dave":

"I know this sounds a bit dire, but little has changed from where we were a year ago......we had a huge bounce off the lows, but we had a similar bounce off the lows in 1930. The equity market was up something like 50% in the opening months of 1930, and while I am sure there was euphoria at the time that the worst of the recession and the contraction in credit was over, it’s interesting to see today that nobody talks about the great run-up of 1930 even though it must have hurt not to have participated in that wonderful rally. Instead, when we talk about 1930 today, the images that are conjured up are hardly very joyous. I’m not saying that we are into something that is entirely like the 1930s. But at the same time, we’re not in Kansas any more." ("Not in Kansas Anymore", David Rosenberg, Gluskin Schef)

The economy is on the rocks and another round of quantitative easing won't help. The Obama administration will have to toughen up and push through another fiscal stimulus program. It's the only way. QE, low interest loans, zero rates, consumer subsidies, tax cuts or more bank reserves will not do the trick. Private sector deleveraging is beginning to accelerate, which means that economic contraction is unavoidable unless government spending increases substantially for an extended period of time. The budget deficits are going to balloon. Get used to it. That's what it will take to get back on track. Obama's stimulus was never big enough. Experts like Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Obama's-own Christiana Romer figured it would take roughly $1.4 trillion to suck up the excess capacity in the system and really put a dent in unemployment. $787 billion is a pittance compared to the $6 trillion in home equity and $4 trillion in retirement funds that were lost in the housing bubble flameout. When that much money vanishes from the system, it takes time to regroup. It blows a hole in personal balance sheets and forces people to cut back on spending. That's why the personal savings rate has skyrocketed to 6.4% in a matter of months. People are strapped and trying to pull themselves out of the red. It's government's job to give them a hand.

Here's an excerpt from a report by Goldman Sachs:

"The economic landscape has changed significantly during the last two months. The macroeconomic data that seemed to indicate improvement in April and May deteriorated sharply in June and early July. Cutting our 2011 EPS estimate to $89 represents a reversal for us and reflects the more challenging economic environment we now face compared with the backdrop just a few months ago."

Bernanke maintains the recovery is on track and that the economy is slowly improving, but as economist Dean Baker points out, demand has been weak throughout the crisis and is showing no signs of a rebound. Here's Baker:

"Growth has been boosted over the last 4 quarters by an inventory cycle as firms went from depleting to building their inventories. This cycle has now ended. Inventory growth is unlikely to accelerate further in the quarters ahead. This means that GDP growth will be close to final demand growth. Final demand growth has averaged 1.2 percent in the last four quarters and was 1.3 percent in the most recent quarter. There is no obvious reason to expect that the rate will increase in the near future." (Dean Baker, CEPR)

Bernanke's no-jobs, no-growth recovery has run aground. Now we need a real solution, a fiscal solution; a solution that will lower unemployment, put the country back to work and restore public confidence in government. And there's not much time to act either. As pessimism spreads and economic atrophy sets in, the prospect of a general fall in the price level becomes more likely. That will lead to more layoffs, more excess capacity, more plummeting asset prices, more debt-liquidation, more defaults and more bankruptcies. It's up to Obama and Co. to get this thing right and change course fast. Otherwise, we'll be back in the soup.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Emperor Has no Clothes: America is Close to Bankrupt

U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know

By Laurence Kotlikoff

August 11, 2010 "Bloomberg" -- Let’s get real. The U.S. is bankrupt. Neither spending more nor taxing less will help the country pay its bills.

What it can and must do is radically simplify its tax, health-care, retirement and financial systems, each of which is a complete mess. But this is the good news. It means they can each be redesigned to achieve their legitimate purposes at much lower cost and, in the process, revitalize the economy.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund released its annual review of U.S. economic policy. Its summary contained these bland words about U.S. fiscal policy: “Directors welcomed the authorities’ commitment to fiscal stabilization, but noted that a larger than budgeted adjustment would be required to stabilize debt-to-GDP.”

But delve deeper, and you will find that the IMF has effectively pronounced the U.S. bankrupt. Section 6 of the July 2010 Selected Issues Paper says: “The U.S. fiscal gap associated with today’s federal fiscal policy is huge for plausible discount rates.” It adds that “closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 percent of U.S. GDP.”

The fiscal gap is the value today (the present value) of the difference between projected spending (including servicing official debt) and projected revenue in all future years.

Double Our Taxes

To put 14 percent of gross domestic product in perspective, current federal revenue totals 14.9 percent of GDP. So the IMF is saying that closing the U.S. fiscal gap, from the revenue side, requires, roughly speaking, an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal-income, corporate and federal taxes as well as the payroll levy set down in the Federal Insurance Contribution Act.

Such a tax hike would leave the U.S. running a surplus equal to 5 percent of GDP this year, rather than a 9 percent deficit. So the IMF is really saying the U.S. needs to run a huge surplus now and for many years to come to pay for the spending that is scheduled. It’s also saying the longer the country waits to make tough fiscal adjustments, the more painful they will be.

Is the IMF bonkers?

No. It has done its homework. So has the Congressional Budget Office whose Long-Term Budget Outlook, released in June, shows an even larger problem.

‘Unofficial’ Liabilities

Based on the CBO’s data, I calculate a fiscal gap of $202 trillion, which is more than 15 times the official debt. This gargantuan discrepancy between our “official” debt and our actual net indebtedness isn’t surprising. It reflects what economists call the labeling problem. Congress has been very careful over the years to label most of its liabilities “unofficial” to keep them off the books and far in the future.

For example, our Social Security FICA contributions are called taxes and our future Social Security benefits are called transfer payments. The government could equally well have labeled our contributions “loans” and called our future benefits “repayment of these loans less an old age tax,” with the old age tax making up for any difference between the benefits promised and principal plus interest on the contributions.

The fiscal gap isn’t affected by fiscal labeling. It’s the only theoretically correct measure of our long-run fiscal condition because it considers all spending, no matter how labeled, and incorporates long-term and short-term policy.

$4 Trillion Bill

How can the fiscal gap be so enormous? Simple. We have 78 million baby boomers who, when fully retired, will collect benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that, on average, exceed per-capita GDP. The annual costs of these entitlements will total about $4 trillion in today’s dollars. Yes, our economy will be bigger in 20 years, but not big enough to handle this size load year after year.

This is what happens when you run a massive Ponzi scheme for six decades straight, taking ever larger resources from the young and giving them to the old while promising the young their eventual turn at passing the generational buck.

Herb Stein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under U.S. President Richard Nixon, coined an oft-repeated phrase: “Something that can’t go on, will stop.” True enough. Uncle Sam’s Ponzi scheme will stop. But it will stop too late.

And it will stop in a very nasty manner. The first possibility is massive benefit cuts visited on the baby boomers in retirement. The second is astronomical tax increases that leave the young with little incentive to work and save. And the third is the government simply printing vast quantities of money to cover its bills.

Worse Than Greece

Most likely we will see a combination of all three responses with dramatic increases in poverty, tax, interest rates and consumer prices. This is an awful, downhill road to follow, but it’s the one we are on. And bond traders will kick us miles down our road once they wake up and realize the U.S. is in worse fiscal shape than Greece.

Some doctrinaire Keynesian economists would say any stimulus over the next few years won’t affect our ability to deal with deficits in the long run.

This is wrong as a simple matter of arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the government’s credit-card bill and each year’s 14 percent of GDP is the interest on that bill. If it doesn’t pay this year’s interest, it will be added to the balance.

Demand-siders say forgoing this year’s 14 percent fiscal tightening, and spending even more, will pay for itself, in present value, by expanding the economy and tax revenue.

My reaction? Get real, or go hang out with equally deluded supply-siders. Our country is broke and can no longer afford no- pain, all-gain “solutions.”

Laurence J. Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and author of “Jimmy Stewart Is Dead: Ending the World’s Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking.” The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Laurence Kotlikoff at


Reagan insider: 'GOP destroyed U.S. economy'

Paul B. Farrell
Aug. 10, 2010

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- "How my G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy." Yes, that is exactly what David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan's director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, "Four Deformations of the Apocalypse."

Get it? Not "destroying." The GOP has already "destroyed" the U.S. economy, setting up an "American Apocalypse."

Yes, Stockman is equally damning of the Democrats' Keynesian policies. But what this indictment by a party insider -- someone so close to the development of the Reaganomics ideology -- says about America, helps all of us better understand how America's toxic partisan-politics "holy war" is destroying not just the economy and capitalism, but the America dream. And unless this war stops soon, both parties will succeed in their collective death wish.

But why focus on Stockman's message? It's already lost in the 24/7 news cycle. Why? We need some introspection. Ask yourself: How did the great nation of America lose its moral compass and drift so far off course, to where our very survival is threatened?

We've arrived at a historic turning point as a nation that no longer needs outside enemies to destroy us, we are committing suicide. Democracy. Capitalism. The American dream. All dying. Why? Because of the economic decisions of the GOP the past 40 years, says this leading Reagan Republican.

Please listen with an open mind, no matter your party affiliation: This makes for a powerful history lesson, because it exposes how both parties are responsible for destroying the U.S. economy. Listen closely:

Reagan Republican: the GOP should file for bankruptcy

Stockman rushes into the ring swinging like a boxer: "If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing. The nation's public debt ... will soon reach $18 trillion." It screams "out for austerity and sacrifice." But instead, the GOP insists "that the nation's wealthiest taxpayers be spared even a three-percentage-point rate increase."

In the past 40 years Republican ideology has gone from solid principles to hype and slogans. Stockman says: "Republicans used to believe that prosperity depended upon the regular balancing of accounts -- in government, in international trade, on the ledgers of central banks and in the financial affairs of private households and businesses too."

No more. Today there's a "new catechism" that's "little more than money printing and deficit finance, vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes" making a mockery of GOP ideals. Worse, it has resulted in "serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy." Yes, GOP ideals backfired, crippling our economy.

Stockman's indictment warns that the Republican party's "new policy doctrines have caused four great deformations of the national economy, and modern Republicans have turned a blind eye to each one:"

Stage 1. Nixon irresponsible, dumps gold, U.S starts spending binge

Richard Nixon's gold policies get Stockman's first assault, for defaulting "on American obligations under the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement to balance our accounts with the world." So for the past 40 years, America's been living "beyond our means as a nation" on "borrowed prosperity on an epic scale ... an outcome that Milton Friedman said could never happen when, in 1971, he persuaded President Nixon to unleash on the world paper dollars no longer redeemable in gold or other fixed monetary reserves."

Remember Friedman: "Just let the free market set currency exchange rates, he said, and trade deficits will self-correct." Friedman was wrong by trillions. And unfortunately "once relieved of the discipline of defending a fixed value for their currencies, politicians the world over were free to cheapen their money and disregard their neighbors."

And without discipline America was also encouraging "global monetary chaos as foreign central banks run their own printing presses at ever faster speeds to sop up the tidal wave of dollars coming from the Federal Reserve." Yes, the road to the coming apocalypse began with a Republican president listening to a misguided Nobel economist's advice.

Stage 2. Crushing debts from domestic excesses, war mongering

Stockman says "the second unhappy change in the American economy has been the extraordinary growth of our public debt. In 1970 it was just 40% of gross domestic product, or about $425 billion. When it reaches $18 trillion, it will be 40 times greater than in 1970." Who's to blame? Not big-spending Dems, says Stockman, but "from the Republican Party's embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don't matter if they result from tax cuts."

Back "in 1981, traditional Republicans supported tax cuts," but Stockman makes clear, they had to be "matched by spending cuts, to offset the way inflation was pushing many taxpayers into higher brackets and to spur investment. The Reagan administration's hastily prepared fiscal blueprint, however, was no match for the primordial forces -- the welfare state and the warfare state -- that drive the federal spending machine."

OK, stop a minute. As you absorb Stockman's indictment of how his Republican party has "destroyed the U.S. economy," you're probably asking yourself why anyone should believe a traitor to the Reagan legacy. I believe party affiliation is irrelevant here. This is a crucial subject that must be explored because it further exposes a dangerous historical trend where politics is so partisan it's having huge negative consequences.

Yes, the GOP does have a welfare-warfare state: Stockman says "the neocons were pushing the military budget skyward. And the Republicans on Capitol Hill who were supposed to cut spending, exempted from the knife most of the domestic budget -- entitlements, farm subsidies, education, water projects. But in the end it was a new cadre of ideological tax-cutters who killed the Republicans' fiscal religion."

When Fed chief Paul Volcker "crushed inflation" in the '80s we got a "solid economic rebound." But then "the new tax-cutters not only claimed victory for their supply-side strategy but hooked Republicans for good on the delusion that the economy will outgrow the deficit if plied with enough tax cuts." By 2009, they "reduced federal revenues to 15% of gross domestic product," lowest since the 1940s. Still today they're irrationally demanding an extension of those "unaffordable Bush tax cuts [that] would amount to a bankruptcy filing."

Recently Bush made matters far worse by "rarely vetoing a budget bill and engaging in two unfinanced foreign military adventures." Bush also gave in "on domestic spending cuts, signing into law $420 billion in nondefense appropriations, a 65% percent gain from the $260 billion he had inherited eight years earlier. Republicans thus joined the Democrats in a shameless embrace of a free-lunch fiscal policy." Takes two to tango.

Stage 3. Wall Street's deadly 'vast, unproductive expansion'

Stockman continues pounding away: "The third ominous change in the American economy has been the vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector." He warns that "Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation." Wrong, not oblivious. Self-interested Republican loyalists like Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner knew exactly what they were doing.

They wanted the economy, markets and the government to be under the absolute control of Wall Street's too-greedy-to-fail banks. They conned Congress and the Fed into bailing out an estimated $23.7 trillion debt. Worse, they have since destroyed meaningful financial reforms. So Wall Street is now back to business as usual blowing another bigger bubble/bust cycle that will culminate in the coming "American Apocalypse."

Stockman refers to Wall Street's surviving banks as "wards of the state." Wrong, the opposite is true. Wall Street now controls Washington, and its "unproductive" trading is "extracting billions from the economy with a lot of pointless speculation in stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives." Wall Street banks like Goldman were virtually bankrupt, would have never survived without government-guaranteed deposits and "virtually free money from the Fed's discount window to cover their bad bets."

Stage 4. New American Revolution class-warfare coming soon

Finally, thanks to Republican policies that let us "live beyond our means for decades by borrowing heavily from abroad, we have steadily sent jobs and production offshore," while at home "high-value jobs in goods production ... trade, transportation, information technology and the professions shrunk by 12% to 68 million from 77 million."

As the apocalypse draws near, Stockman sees a class-rebellion, a new revolution, a war against greed and the wealthy. Soon. The trigger will be the growing gap between economic classes: No wonder "that during the last bubble (from 2002 to 2006) the top 1% of Americans -- paid mainly from the Wall Street casino -- received two-thirds of the gain in national income, while the bottom 90% -- mainly dependent on Main Street's shrinking economy -- got only 12%. This growing wealth gap is not the market's fault. It's the decaying fruit of bad economic policy."

Get it? The decaying fruit of the GOP's bad economic policies is destroying our economy.

Warning: this black swan won't be pretty, will shock, soon
His bottom line: "The day of national reckoning has arrived. We will not have a conventional business recovery now, but rather a long hangover of debt liquidation and downsizing ... it's a pity that the modern Republican party offers the American people an irrelevant platform of recycled Keynesianism when the old approach -- balanced budgets, sound money and financial discipline -- is needed more than ever."

Wrong: There are far bigger things to "pity."

First, that most Americans, 300 million, are helpless, will do nothing, sit in the bleachers passively watching this deadly partisan game like it's just another TV reality show.

Second, that, unfortunately, politicians are so deep-in-the-pockets of the Wall Street conspiracy that controls Washington they are helpless and blind.

And third, there's a depressing sense that Stockman will be dismissed as a traitor, his message lost in the 24/7 news cycle ... until the final apocalyptic event, an unpredictable black swan triggers another, bigger global meltdown, followed by a long Great Depression II and a historic class war.

So be prepared, it will hit soon, when you least expect.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gulf Oil Update: Day 114

Drew Wheelan
ABA Coordinator
American Birding Association Blog

08/07/2010 Grand Isle, LA, massive amounts of oil contaminate the beach while a Reddish Egret forages near by

I shot this video while volunteering for the Hermit Crab Survival Project at the State Park on Grand Isle. Park biologist, Leanne Sarco, having been denied any avenue to volunteer to help with the spill has taken it upon herself to rescue thousands of Hermit Crabs from a contaminated beach that BP has left oil on for more than 80 days now. She and volunteers wash the crabs individually, and put them through three tank cleansing process before releasing them on the less contaminated Bay side of Grand Isle. This beach has no public access, or visibility so it has been left alone, while hundreds of people have been cleaning the front beach, less than 150 meters away, even when there has been no oil.


Oil Everywhere

Drew Wheelan
ABA Coordinator
American Birding Association Blog

08/10/2010 In the last four days I have seen more oil, by volume than I had previously in my entire first 11 weeks here in Louisiana. On August 6th, I flew over Terrebonne and Barataria Bays with Southwings Aviation and the Lower Mississippi Riverkeepers. What I saw was horrifying. Oil blanketed every single beach and Gulf side marsh from Raccoon Island east to the Mississippi Delta. There was evidence of clean up on 5 beaches, but from the air it looked like the efforts were all but superficial, except on Grand Isle beach which looked pretty clean. However, on the eastern tip of the island we could see mats of weathered oil that extend for hundreds of meters along the coast, and have just begun to be dealt with by BP contractors. Nearly all of the marshes that we passed had a wide rim of orange and brown dead marsh grasses lining them. Also what was evident were dark blotches of probable submerged masses of thick oil in the nearshore areas. I learned last night that when the oil mixes with the sand, they call it asphalting, and this is what's happening nearly everywhere, as the sticky nature of the Louisiana crude bonds easily with anything that it touches, like feathers for example.

Oil found on the evening of August 9th in Grand Isle State Park. This was from a 30 inch deep hole that revealed oil existing in multiple layers under the sand.

I am so glad that I don't own a TV and have to listen to the propaganda being fed by BP on nearly every channel, and the main stream media and government reports that actually back up the claims that they are cleaning this oil up. In two hours of flying over the affected beaches, although we saw evidence of clean up crews, we saw not a single person working. Not one. Everyday more migratory birds arrive on these shores, and little to nothing is being done to safeguard them from a highly toxic environment.

I flew over 60 plus miles of coastline and nearly every marsh was oiled like this.

Marshes present a particular problem, in that they don't know how to clean them, but cleaning the beaches should only be limited to man power and resources which should be limited at about 97 billion dollars, so there is absolutely no reason why these beaches shouldn't be spotless.

A large accumulation of oil on Elmer's Island which has been there for more than 11 weeks. It appears that they have just begun to clean the northwest corner of the deposit.

This oil on Elmer's Island has been there since the very first days that the oil hit, somewhere around May 20th. From the air it is very apparent that they have just begun to scrape some oil out of the Northwest corner of the deposit. This oil has been there for literally two and a half months without effort to pick it up. When it firs hit shore it was the perfect type of conglomeration to be vacuumed up in a pump truck like the type used in Caminada Pass. In fact these trucks could have and should have been deployed on day one, but it wasn't until may 28th that any type of clean up began anywhere, and then it was just a poorly organized show dressed in red, white and blue uniforms sent to perform for the President.

One thing that this flight revealed was that the oil, like seaweed and other debris tends to accumulate on points and eddies and geographic changes in the shoreline. It then becomes apparent that much of the clean up effort should be focused in these areas, instead of ambling up and down beaches scooping up tarballs, there is real, heavy, thick oil in these locations. Many hundreds of barrels of oil are represented in the above picture, which is contrasted now by the aerial photograph taken on May 22 by Richard Shephard of the exact same location. Many more images of this oil can be seen on his website

Heavy oil on Elmer's Island in the very first days of oil hitting the shores of Louisiana. It remains to be cleaned up 80 days later.

A disconcerting thing is that not only does oil tend to make landfall on these points and eddies, but it is also exactly where birds tend to roost and loaf. Almost all of the large groups of birds that I have seen lately tend to congregate in these areas. Young of the year dispersing from the colonies are congregating in large numbers in the Gulf right now, as well as many migrants. I have not seen any effort to haze or keep birds form these areas where they can continually become fouled in this oil that, although weathered, becomes emulsified and nasty with the noon day sun. There is oil throughout the Louisiana coast, and a very obvious pull out of clean up workers here in Grand Isle. What will happen to all of this oil left behind? It will continue to seep into the ecosystem and contaminate everything from crabs to shrimp to Reddish Egrets. What is happening down here is not right.


BP Oil Spill Update
by Secretary Steven Chu
Energy Blog of the US Department of Energy
August 10, 2010 at 10:48 AM

As you may know, I’ve spent much of the last three months working to help contain the BP oil spill. I recently returned from my seventh trip to Houston, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to update you on our work to seal the damaged well in the Gulf.

My job has been to oversee the federal science team – a group of top scientists from the Department of Energy’s national labs, the federal government, and academia, along with outside industry experts. We have been working seven days a week to tackle this very challenging problem. Our focus has been on collecting as much data as possible and making sure we plot the best path forward based on the facts.

Because of the gravity of the situation, the Administration asserted its authority over BP’s actions. As we evaluated the scenarios for stopping the leak, BP was not allowed to move forward on a course of action without the government’s approval.

The results of the well integrity tests (including additional monitoring of the wellhead and the surrounding area, which we had insisted upon) indicated that the well was likely intact, and we saw no evidence that oil was leaking from the wellbore into the rock formation. This meant we would be able to safely pump fluid into the well to attempt to kill it.

After the science team reached a consensus that the static kill attempt could work with minimal risk, we gave BP the go-ahead to proceed. During the static kill, the damaged well was filled with mud, stabilizing the pressure within the well and relieving a lot of the excess pressure on the damaged blowout preventer and ceiling cap. I am pleased to tell you that it was completed successfully.

This success led to a much more difficult decision: should we follow the mud with cement to further ensure that the well stays killed? This procedure had a higher risk of something going wrong. With cement, a mistake in execution could be permanent. We also had to weigh the dangers of having so many ships conducting operations within 1,500 meters of the wellbore and of the strain already being placed on the blowout preventer. Continued operations were also taking a toll on the ships’ crews; the longer they worked, the greater the danger. Still, the risk of something going wrong was very small, and the potential for dramatic progress was very high. Successfully cementing the well would be a major step toward completely killing the well. We decided to proceed with the cement.

All signs indicate that the cement is holding. This is a significant step forward for the people of the Gulf, but our work is not done. The relief well is the permanent solution, and we hope to be able to intersect the Macondo well with the relief well soon.

We also must remain focused on helping the people, businesses and communities in the Gulf Coast region who have been affected by this spill. Restoring livelihoods and the environment in the region will take much more time than plugging the well.

We don’t want any chance that oil will flow from the well again. I will continue to work closely with the science team and the BP technical engineers in the coming days to make sure that the well is completely killed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On Wars and Empire

Pfc. Manning and the Value of Truth

By Ray McGovern

Information Clearing House Editor’s Note:

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern spoke at a rally on Sunday in support of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the young soldier who is alleged to have given classified material to WikiLeaks, including a 2007 video showing a U.S. helicopter gunship cavalierly mowing down a dozen Iraqi men, including two Reuters journalists.

While an intelligence specialist in Baghdad, Manning is also suspected of copying the 92,000 Afghan War documents that WikiLeaks passed on to three news organizations: the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel. WikiLeaks also posted about 75,000 of them at its own Web site.

Manning is currently detained by the U.S. military at Quantico, Virginia, where the rally was held. The rally was sponsored by Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and The Courage to Resist. The mayor of the small town, Iris Tharp, issued a permit for the rally at a municipal park along the Potomac River after the Marines denied permission.

The following are McGovern’s remarks:

August 09, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- We are living in a liminal time, that is to say we live on the threshold. So much that we have taken for granted is passing.

In times like this we must be careful to keep our bearings, lest we come to love the chaos that passes for reality.

This is why we need to honor our brother Bradley Manning. He was not afraid to face the unknown; not afraid to resist the seduction of conformity; not afraid to follow his conscience, AND not afraid to give us the wherewithal to distinguish truth from lies so that we, too, can follow our conscience.

The principalities and the powers, including the Fawning Corporate Media, have no hold on citizens like Private Manning, who refuse to live in a moral vacuum.

Bradley Manning dared to mock the falsity parading as reality after our country had a nervous breakdown as a result of 9/11 and the efforts of those who would use 9/11 to stoke our fear.

THAT false “reality” has lost its power, because it cannot live in the light of truth.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” THAT is the rock-solid truth.

I noticed that this Bible verse was chiseled into the marble wall of CIA Headquarters when I began working as an analyst there in April 1963. That was the same month that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned a “Letter From the Birmingham City Jail,” including graphic, earthy words in describing our duty to expose deceit and injustice:

“Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up, but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

What Private Manning is alleged to have done with the help of WikiLeaks is to puncture that boil of injustice and deceit.

Our Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs Chairman do not mind the blood on their hands — yes, on THEIR hands — not the hands of Manning or WikiLeaks. The Pentagon chiefs are but cogs in an imperial system; large-diameter cogs, but cogs nonetheless.

They have made their peace with the crimson red on their hands. What they do mind is the pus. Pus stinks — it stinks to high heaven and is more quickly smelled and pungent than blood.

We have no problem with Marines and soldiers who are taught to believe they must surrender their conscience to some kind of noble enterprise. We do have a BIG PROBLEM with those who send them off on missions that make the Charge of the Light Brigade look like a model of military planning.

Worse still, the gun-barrel video that WikiLeaks posted and titled “Collateral Murder” shows the degree to which our own soldiers have been brutalized by so-called Rules of Engagement that authorize them to brutalize others.

Our Secretary of Defense had not one word of regret about the dozen human beings, including two employees of Reuters, murdered on that fateful day in July 2007 — or about the now-fatherless children who were seriously wounded.

It is THAT kind of thing that needs to be exposed. And it is that video that Private Manning is accused of giving to WikiLeaks.

The more recent WikiLeaks disclosures expose much more. Did most Americans know, for example, that Washington is giving one billion dollars a year of our tax money to Pakistan; and that Pakistan turns around and uses some of that money to train, equip, and lead those who are killing our Marines and soldiers in Afghanistan?
Do Americans understand that, as far as our supposed “ally” Pakistan is concerned, the main game is about keeping the Taliban strong, in order to ensure that India does not regain predominant influence in Afghanistan?

What WikiLeaks has released is documentary evidence of what is really going on — otherwise known as the truth.

Pentagon and press protest the “granularity” of the documentary evidence. The appropriate word here is not “granularity” — the appropriate words are blood, fecklessness, and the absence of any common sense, including moral sense, in the Pentagon and, sadly, in the White House.

We are here today to help Private Manning lance the boil and to do what we can to help the pus flow freely. We are here to give him encouragement to keep living humanly, as we are trying to do, among the fallen powers.

We are here to say thank you and to tell Bradley Manning, loud and clear, “You are not alone. You are not alone.”


One More War, Please

David Bromwich
Professor of Literature at Yale
Huffington Post
Posted: August 7, 2010 10:04 AM

Will the summer of 2010 be remembered as the time when we turned into a nation of sleepwalkers? We have heard reports of the intrusion of the state into everyday life, and of miscarriages of American power abroad. The reports made a stir, but as suddenly as they came they were gone. The last two weeks of July saw two such stories on almost successive days.

First there was "Top Secret America," the three-part Washington Post report by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin on the hyperextension of private contracts, government buildings, and tax-funded expenditures in the secret surveillance economy. Since 2000 the new industries of data mining and analysis have yielded close to a million top secret clearances for Americans to spy on other Americans. Then at the end of July came the release of 90,000 documents by Wikileaks, as reported and linked by the New York Times, which revealed among other facts the futility of American "building" efforts in Afghanistan. We are making no headway there, in the face of the unending American killing of civilians; meanwhile, American taxes go to support a Pakistani intelligence service that channels the money to terrorists who kill American soldiers: a treadmill of violence. Both findings the mainstream media brought forward as legitimate stories, or advanced as raw materials of a story yet to be told more fully. This was an improvement on the practice of reporting stories spoon-fed to reporters by the government and "checked" by unnamed sources also in government. Yet, as has happened in many cases in the mass media after 2001 -- one thinks of David Barstow's story on the "war experts" coached by the Pentagon and hired by the networks -- the stories on secret surveillance and the Afghanistan documents were printed and let go: no follow-up either in the media or in Congress.

We seem to have entered a moral limbo where political judgment is suspended and public opinion cannot catch its breath.

Thomas Jefferson in April 1820, hearing the arguments on "the Missouri question" and seeing the passions heated by a compromise over slavery, said the conduct of his country then, "like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror." This seems a voice from another world. How many alarms we have had: about our Middle East wars, about the measures we took at home to secure ourselves against our adventures abroad. How dim and drugged our response has become. "It's awful -- we already knew -- it doesn't matter." That seems to be the order of response, by now well rehearsed, by the opinion-makers in the media that break the stories. It is a numb belief that ends with inert acceptance. And one sees the same unhappy attitude in the behavior of the leaders as much as the led. General Mattis, the new commander of CentCom, said the release of the Wikileaks documents was "an appallingly irresponsible act." He also said the cache of documents "doesn't tell us anything that we weren't already aware of."

Yet these two statements can't both be true. If an embarrassing secret was let out, with appalling consequences, then the revelation did say something we didn't know. On the other hand, if nothing was new in the documents, their release was a banal instance of background reporting, as inoffensive as it was derivative. One of the things about a moral lethargy like ours is that it cuts away logic as well as common feelings.

Something is rotten in our democracy. Like a family where everything goes wrong and nobody says a word, we suffer a load of unasked questions that have under them still more questions. Do Americans always need a war? That is a first question. It did not seem so before 2001. And the attacks that America endured then, attacks whose misery we have returned a hundredfold against actual and imagined enemies -- did those events and the interpretation put on them by Cheney and Bush (and ratified, with an agreeable change of tone, by Barack Obama ) trigger a mutation in the American character? In relation to the Constitution and our place in the world of nations, 2001 in that case must have assumed the status of the Big Bang in the universe of politics. Useless even to think of anything that came before.

To say we now act as if we need a war may underrate the syndrome. We seem to require three wars at a given time: a war to be getting out of, a war we're in the middle of, and a war we aim to step into. The three at present are Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. And the three to follow? Pakistan, Sudan, and Yemen, perhaps: we are already well along in all three -- well along in missile strikes, black ops, alienated people whom we say we support.

The commitment to war as a general need was not less wrong but it seemed more comprehensible when the president was George W. Bush. "All wars are boyish, and are fought by boys," wrote Melville; and it was evident to anyone with nerve-endings that Bush was an unsatisfied boy. The pursuit of multiple wars seems more exposed under Barack Obama because he fits a common idea of a grown-up. So we look more dryly now for the principle backing wars that once seemed driven by crude passions and a cruel simplicity of heart.

Consider Afghanistan. Two policies join there and are meant to advance each other. There is a counterinsurgency policy: "clear, hold, and build." And there is counterterrorism: kill, kill, and conceal. In practice the latter means: kill a terrorist, kill the people around him, and hide the killing of those other people.

The face of benevolence on counterinsurgency requires that we pretend the killing of the innocent has nothing to do with the growing numbers who commit acts of terror against the U.S. and its outposts. But it can't be denied -- and it is not denied, in fact, only mentioned sparingly -- that the new terrorists are often friends and relations of civilians we killed and tried to hide. The fact is that the two strategies of the war in Afghanistan -- counterterrorism and counterinsurgency -- deny each other's reasons and nullify each other's aims. These strategies, however, were assigned to be pursued in tandem by General McChrystal. And in pursuit of such contradictory purposes, he enjoyed the full support of Richard Holbrooke and the endorsement of the secretary of state and the president. That was the real import of the story by Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone whose unseemly quotations got McChrystal sacked. "It's awful -- we already knew -- it doesn't matter."

Hastings has now been denied permission to be "embedded" with American troops. Can they deny permission to enough reporters to change the story, though, once the story is out? It has many aspects and many angles, and it is hard to stop those who are embedded from using their minds. A reporter now embedded, Ann Jones, recently gave a striking picture of the failure of American troops to make friends with Afghan tribesmen. Gaining trust was hard enough when the soldiers crashed into village homes with their masks on and rifles out to "make sure" before making friends. The trouble was that the manner of the entrance cooled the hospitality of the reception. With new orders to improve that process, new setbacks have also occurred. Young soldiers, Jones reports, to warm the friendship and win the confidence of Afghans, have explored a technique that works nicely in American high schools, a jocular exchange of farts. The practice is looked on by their Afghan hosts as a sign of deep disrespect. In this way a fresh misstep comes in to replace every order that has been rightly countermanded. It is the trouble of an occupation. Suppose now the Afghans come to associate the cheerful inadvertence of the young soldiers with those other soldiers they have heard of, the ones who ordered an air strike against a wedding party. The complex of Afghan feelings about the help they are getting can only be imagined.

American troops in Afghanistan labor under two indispositions which the Petraeus counterinsurgency doctrine never held properly in view. His model was the British constabulary force in Northern Ireland. But the Americans in Afghanistan, unlike the English in Ireland, don't even speak the language of the occupied. Nor do they share any version, however reformed or qualified, of the people's religious beliefs. The language problem runs deeper than most Americans take the trouble to imagine. The official language of the Afghan air force, for example, is English. (How can we trust them if we can't understand what they say?) That is why there is no Afghan air force. The divergence of religious beliefs presents a difficulty no less intractable.

How does it look when American ingenuity has a shot at crossing the religious divide? Understandably, from one point of view, the solution was published in the New York Times, a paper that admits the Afghanistan war is badly tarnished but that wants American forces to stay. To solve the problem, the Times went to a sergeant from the 82nd Airborne Division, Mitchell LaFortune. "The insurgents' concept of Islam," writes LaFortune in his op-ed, "is objectionable to most Afghans, but there is little alternative, as most clerics who rejected the Taliban have been killed or have fled." American forces nonetheless must support an alternative. "Creating a network of more enlightened religious figures to compete with the hard-liners will take time," he admits, but "we could jump-start progress by creating a group of 'mobile mullahs.'" What exactly are mobile mullahs? "Well-protected clerics," says LaFortune, "who can travel through rural areas and settle land disputes and other issues." But how will they earn the trust of the natives, passing as they do from place to place? Again there is a ready answer: "These men should come from the general areas in which they will be performing their duties and be approved by community leaders." This apparently serious suggestion was given considerable space by our newspaper of record. And in doing so, the Times performed a kind of service. "Mobile mullahs" are a pure product of the counterinsurgency mind, naturally hopeful yet marooned in a country whose folkways it knows nothing of. The Mullah in a Humvee is the direct descendant of General McChrystal's "government in a box."

Afghanistan, for now, is the war we are in. Iraq is the war we're getting out of -- even if tens of thousands of soldiers and mercenaries remain, and the bases that protect them, and the world's largest embassy. Yet our image of what we did to Iraq has been remarkably cleansed. The mainstream media have taken the cue of the president's pledge not to look at the past. So, when we get a story of the impoverishment and squalor of Iraq, nothing appears to trace such effects to the economic sanctions of 1990-2003. Those were part of the "decent" fight against Saddam Hussein, according to American mythology; the pressure skillfully applied under the older, wiser Bush and under Bill Clinton. But pass now from the American media to a review of the evidence on sanctions by Andrew Cockburn in the London Review of Books, and a different story emerges. To take one example: the sanctions kept out pumps for the treatment of dirty water; and, writes Cockburn,

Every year the number of children who died before they reached their first birthday rose, from one in 30 in 1990 to one in eight seven years later. Health specialists agreed that contaminated water was responsible.

The effect, meanwhile, of inflation and unemployment was to make the people of Iraq ever more dependent on their dictator. Madeleine Albright in March 1997 declared that even if Saddam Hussein complied with the inspection requirements, the sanctions should not be lifted, since they were there to help overthrow the dictator himself.

Thirteen years after an American secretary of state uttered those words, we come no closer to the truth about U.S. policy when we read of the "benchmark" of electrical competence in a recent Times story by Steven Lee Meyers. Meyers tells us that "chronic power shortages are the result of myriad factors, including war, drought and corruption, but ultimately they reflect a dysfunctional government." "Ultimately" must be taken here outside its normal usage to refer to the latest but not the largest cause. This mode of analysis is in keeping with other elements of Meyers's coverage; for example the way the brute fact of American destruction of the electrical grid (a central feature of Shock and Awe) is dropped into a sagging sentence whose tenor is the vague idea that things happen: "Before Mr. Hussein's invasion of Kuwait 20 years ago this month, Iraq had the capacity to produce 9,295 megawatts of power. By 2003, after American bombings and years of international sanctions, it was half that." Notice the reluctance to say it plain: "American bombs destroyed Iraq's electrical grid, and American insistence organized and maintained the sanctions." Yet the Times story by Steven Lee Meyers is hardly a terrible example; it is if anything more honest and less self-acquitting than most that appear in the Times and elsewhere.

So much for present and past wars. What of the future war, the war a significant body of Israeli and American opinion is already preparing, the war against Iran? President Obama has called Israel a "sacrosanct" ally, and even before he used language so pious, fulsome, and unsuitable to the leader of an independent republic, Iran did not entirely trust the United States. To remember why, we would have to violate President Obama's pledge to look only at the future, and actually look at the past. But let us follow his injunction for the moment; look only at the war of the future. How, then, does Iran link up with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? From the tenor of Obama's recent words about Afghanistan, one would suppose he is doing the best he thinks possible now -- namely, getting out -- but at the speed his domestic opponents compel, that is, more slowly than he knows it would be right to do. With Iran, by contrast, Obama seems to be doing what he believes is wrong -- namely adding momentum to the pressure for a future war -- but, again as with Afghanistan, he is doing it more slowly than he knows his opponents would wish in order to secure their ends. The war party within his administration is placated but not yet happy. Possibly the result Obama is hoping for is that these two manifestations of slowness, slow on the right side in Afghanistan, slow on the wrong side with Iran, will meet somewhere in the middle, and spare us two catastrophes at once. Yet time, in politics, doesn't work like that; a fact this president often seems unwilling to absorb. It is sometimes important to say No early and definitively. You must say it early and definitively if you don't want to get trapped into saying yes later in spite of yourself. History suggests that wars, by their nature, are not as well equipped for multitasking as the mind of Obama.

We are involved now in a slow effort to extricate ourselves from the defeat of our hopes for an empire in Asia. That seems the uncontroversial meaning behind Obama's recent words if not all his actions; yet he is trying to do it without surrendering the assumptions we began with. The strongest word that Obama ever said against the Cheney-Bush war in Iraq was not that it was unjust, impolitic, or ignoble, only that it was "dumb." A harsh condemnation in the idiom of technocrats, but not really in a league with Gladstone's appeal to the English people
to ask whether you are substantially to be governed, your future pledged, your engagements enormously extended, the necessity for your taxes enlarged and widened, not only without your assent, but without your knowledge, and not only without your knowledge, but with the utmost care to conceal from you the facts.
It is hard to say which is worse, the expenditure or the secrecy, but as Gladstone saw, both function on the same principle. Much of the spending goes to beneficiaries whose identity must be kept secret, and every blunder committed in secret requires fresh outlays to cover it up.

Like most Democrats after Franklin Roosevelt, Obama cares mainly for domestic policy. That is why, in a year of financial collapse and deep recession, with two wars on his hands, he chose to make his mark with National Health Care -- a daring choice but also a conventional one for a Democrat. He tried to reel in the leviathan of the health legislation while fighting a disaster that broke the banks and revising a security policy that had burst the bounds of the Constitution. This exorbitant ambition issued as much from the lack of one kind of imagination as from the prevalence of another kind.

Wars tend to lead to other wars. They do it even if you don't accept the belief that your country must always be fighting wars. Yet Barack Obama has shown certain indications of accepting that belief. He said in his speech at West Point on December 1, 2009:

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies.
He went out of his way to repeat the same assertion nine days later on an incongruous occasion, his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Peace. Obama there mentioned the particular responsibility of the U.S. for keeping peace by force of arms, and the gratitude properly owed by the world to America in consequence: "the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea." Granted, a major topic of the Nobel Prize Speech was the danger of nuclear proliferation. Yet Obama, adopting the privilege and immunity of an American statesman abroad, omitted to mention that the only use of nuclear weapons ever has been by the U.S. against Japan. The president spoke as a teacher -- a style that comes easily to him. But on this subject, as on some others, America cannot affect to teach a lesson to the world without also learning a lesson from itself.

At any time in history, it has required the most exigent efforts of the will and understanding combined to stop the next war from emerging out of the last. John Maynard Keynes, writing, in his memoir Dr. Melchoir, of the negotiations before Versailles on the lifting of the postwar blockade against Germany, described with precision the way that war delivers us to war. Keynes recalled the speech by Lloyd George to the representatives of France and America that finally broke the stalemate. "The allies," he reports Lloyd George as saying in March 1919,

were now on top, but the memories of starvation might one day turn against them. The Germans were being allowed to starve whilst at the same time hundreds of thousands of tons of food were lying at Rotterdam. These incidents constituted far more formidable weapons for use against the Allies than any of the armaments which it was sought to limit. The Allies were sowing hatred for the future: they were piling up agony, not for the Germans, but for themselves. . . .As long as order was maintained in Germany, a breakwater would exist between the countries of the Allies and the waters of revolution beyond. Once that breakwater was swept away, he could not speak for France, but he trembled for his own country.

Should we Americans also tremble for our country when we think of the wind we are sowing in Iran?

There is little disagreement about the facts. "No one believes," as Philip Giraldi put it recently, "that Iran is anything but a nation that is one small step away from becoming a complete religious dictatorship, but the country has a small economy, a tiny defense budget, and, as far as the world's intelligence services can determine, neither nuclear weapons nor a program to develop them." Yet President Obama and his advisers, if they dare to look, can watch House Resolution 1553 gaining signatures and stealing a march on their policy. The resolution is a demagogue's dream of bogus collective security. It declares American support, in advance, for an Israeli attack on Iran, and gives the unheard-of approval by the U.S. to a foreign power to use "all means necessary" to advance its own interests, and to follow its own definition of those interests. The resolution incidentally adopts the language of Israeli propaganda when it refers to Iran as an "immediate and existential threat."

Will Iran become our third war of the moment? Sanctions which, Benjamin Netanyahu has said, should soon become "crippling sanctions" already have us in lockstep on that path. To be satisfied with his advice, we have only to believe the Likud theory that Iran is a "suicide nation" whose rulers would gladly send their first nuclear weapon (still some years off) to destroy Israel and kill the Arabs in Israel along with the Jews; and that they would do it in the certain knowledge of bringing annihilation upon Iran itself. For Israel, unlike Iran, is known to have a large nuclear arsenal and the ability to launch a nuclear attack. It is a projection of fantasy not of policy to suppose the United States has a duty to join or support an Israeli attack on Iran. Yet not one word has thus far been spoken by anyone around the president to counteract the fantasy.

Those who pushed hardest for the Iraq war, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Liz and Dick Cheney and many others familiar and obscure are now turning up the heat for an attack on Iran. Why so much pressure so early? The reason may lie in the very improbability of the cause. Given the geographical position of the U.S. and the overwhelming strength of our offensive weapons and armed forces, the only way that we could possibly feel threatened by Iran is by taking Israel's side early and acquiring Israel's enemies as our enemies. Determined American hostility toward Iran is seen as the major step here. Vestigial decencies oblige the sane among the war party to admit there is no danger to Israel from Iran, just now, let alone an "existential threat" that implicates the United States. This will cease to matter if the enmity can be carved in deep enough grooves in the coming months.

To maintain the old wars and give us a new, the war party have now to argue, as they did in Iraq, that the only intelligent war is preventive war, and that nuclear ambitions mark a special case. Besides, they can add, as they did in Iraq, and as they did in Afghanistan until a few weeks ago, an Israeli or American attack will bring the added benefit of improved democracy in Iran. There is a difference however. In Iraq, the war party successfully inducted a few native Iraqis into their cause. They called them the Iraqi National Congress, and rewarded with money and status the confidence man who led them, Ahmed Chalabi. They have not yet found a comparable party of Iranians, however minuscule, to defend the theory of the emancipationist bombing of Iran. People don't want to be bombed, as a general thing. Also, as the electrical grid of Iraq may suggest, and as the design of "mobile mullahs" for Afghanistan may confirm, a set of conquerors who know nothing about the objects of their actions can be relied on to translate even what successes they gain into disasters.

November 2010 may well turn the president's majority into a minority party. What then becomes of our past, present, and future wars? The Likud, in both Israel and America, may prove itself ready for action sooner than President Obama would like, just as the Tea Party picked up energy faster and harder than he looked for in the spring of 2009. In that earlier contest (and the same will hold true in this), a slow response and a delayed counterstatement did not earn a credit for prudence to offset the support it squandered on the way. When your reactions fall so far behind the pace of events, your footing is altogether lost. We have a president now whose most reliable quality is to remove the sting of panic but also the prod of urgency from every political situation. That trait has turned out to be far from an obvious asset. "It's awful -- I already knew -- and we have everything under control." The temperamental posture calls for him to strike an attitude of calm indifference to violent passions. Yet nowhere does political passion so quickly exceed all measure as in the craving for a war which no one in command has unmistakably discouraged.


Targeting Iran: Is the US Administration Planning a Nuclear Holocaust?

By Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research
August 9, 2010

The US and its allies are preparing to launch a nuclear war directed against Iran with devastating consequences.

This military adventure in the real sense of the word threatens the future of humanity.

While one can conceptualize the loss of life and destruction resulting from present-day wars including Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible to fully comprehend the devastation which might result from a Third World War, using "new technologies" and advanced weapons, until it occurs and becomes a reality.

The international community has endorsed nuclear war in the name of World Peace. "Making the World safer" is the justification for launching a military operation which could potentially result in a nuclear holocaust.

But nuclear holocausts are not front page news! In the words of Mordechai Vanunu,

The Israeli government is preparing to use nuclear weapons in its next war with the Islamic world. Here where I live, people often talk of the Holocaust. But each and every nuclear bomb is a Holocaust in itself. It can kill, devastate cities, destroy entire peoples. (See interview with Mordechai Vanunu, December 2005).

Realities are turned upside down. In a twisted logic, a "humanitarian war" using tactical nuclear weapons, which according to "expert scientific opinion" are "harmless to the surrounding civilian population" is upheld as a means to protecting Israel and the Western World from a nuclear attack. (Editor's NOTE: It is completely absurd to allege that tactical nuclear weapons can be used in a way which is safe for the surrounding civilian population. It is amazing that such blatent lies can go unchallenged by the scientific academy who appear to have been cowed in to utter silent complicity)

America's mini-nukes with an explosive capacity of up to six times a Hiroshima bomb are upheld by authoritative scientific opinion as a humanitarian bomb, whereas Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapons are branded as an indisputable threat to global security.

When a US sponsored nuclear war become an "instrument of peace", condoned and accepted by the World's institutions and the highest authority, including the United Nations, there is no turning back: human society has indelibly been precipitated headlong onto the path of self-destruction.

The following article first published in February 2006 under the title Is the Bush Administration Planning a Nuclear Holocaust? Will the US launch "Mini-nukes" against Iran in Retaliation for Tehran's "Non-compliance"? documents in detail America's doctrine of preemptive nuclear war, including war plans directed against Iran. What is important to underscore is that five years ago, these war preparations were already in an advanced stage of readiness.

The operational procedures for launching a nuclear war under the umbrella of US Strategic Command are examined.

We are at a dangerous crossroads: The rules and guidelines governing the use nuclear weapons have been "liberalized" (i.e. "deregulated" in relation to those prevailing during the Cold War era). The new doctrine states that Command, Control, and Coordination (CCC) regarding the use of nuclear weapons should be "flexible", allowing geographic combat commanders to decide if and when to use of nuclear weapons: "Geographic combat commanders would be in charge of Theater Nuclear Operations (TNO), with a mandate not only to implement but also to formulate command decisions pertaining to nuclear weapons." ( Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations Doctrine )

We have reached a critical turning point in our history. It is absolutely essential that people accross the land, nationally and internationally, understand the gravity of the present situation and act forcefully against their governments to reverse the tide of war.

Michel Chossudovsky, August 9, 2010


"We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.... This weapon is to be used against Japan ... [We] will use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new. ... The target will be a purely military one... It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful."

(President Harry S. Truman, Diary, July 25, 1945)

"The World will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.." (President Harry S. Truman in a radio speech to the Nation, August 9, 1945).

[Note: the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; the Second on Nagasaki, on August 9, on the same day as Truman's radio speech to the Nation]

At no point since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, has humanity been closer to the unthinkable, a nuclear holocaust which could potentially spread, in terms of radioactive fallout, over a large part of the Middle East.

All the safeguards of the Cold War era, which categorized the nuclear bomb as "a weapon of last resort" have been scrapped. "Offensive" military actions using nuclear warheads are now described as acts of "self-defense".

The distinction between tactical nuclear weapons and the conventional battlefield arsenal has been blurred. America's new nuclear doctrine is based on "a mix of strike capabilities". The latter, which specifically applies to the Pentagon's planned aerial bombing of Iran, envisages the use of nukes in combination with conventional weapons.

As in the case of the first atomic bomb, which in the words of President Harry Truman "was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base", today's "mini-nukes" are heralded as "safe for the surrounding civilian population".

Known in official Washington, as "Joint Publication 3-12", the new nuclear doctrine (Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations , (DJNO) (March 2005)) calls for "integrating conventional and nuclear attacks" under a unified and "integrated" Command and Control (C2).

It largely describes war planning as a management decision-making process, where military and strategic objectives are to be achieved, through a mix of instruments, with little concern for the resulting loss of human life.

Military planning focuses on "the most efficient use of force" , -i.e. an optimal arrangement of different weapons systems to achieve stated military goals. In this context, nuclear and conventional weapons are considered to be "part of the tool box", from which military commanders can pick and choose the instruments that they require in accordance with "evolving circumstances" in the war theater. (None of these weapons in the Pentagon's "tool box", including conventional bunker buster bombs, cluster bombs, mini-nukes, chemical and biological weapons are described as "weapons of mass destruction" when used by the United States of America and its coalition partners).

The stated objective is to:

"ensure the most efficient use of force and provide US leaders with a broader range of [nuclear and conventional] strike options to address immediate contingencies. Integration of conventional and nuclear forces is therefore crucial to the success of any comprehensive strategy. This integration will ensure optimal targeting, minimal collateral damage, and reduce the probability of escalation." (Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations p. JP 3-12-13)

The new nuclear doctrine turns concepts and realities upside down. It not only denies the devastating impacts of nuclear weapons, it states, in no uncertain terms, that nuclear weapons are "safe" and their use in the battlefield will ensure "minimal collateral damage and reduce the probability of escalation". The issue of radioactive fallout is barely acknowledged with regard to tactical nuclear weapons. These various guiding principles which describe nukes as "safe for civilians" constitute a consensus within the military, which is then fed into the military manuals, providing relevant "green light" criteria to geographical commanders in the war theater.

"Defensive" and "Offensive" Actions

While the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review sets the stage for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, specifically against Iran (see also the main PNAC document Rebuilding America`s Defenses, Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century )

The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations goes one step further in blurring the distinction between "defensive" and "offensive" military actions:

"The new triad offers a mix of strategic offensive and defensive capabilities that includes nuclear and non-nuclear strike capabilities
, active and passive defenses, and a robust research, development, and industrial infrastructure to develop, build, and maintain offensive forces and defensive systems ..." (Ibid)

The new nuclear doctrine, however, goes beyond preemptive acts of "self-defense", it calls for "anticipatory action" using nuclear weapons against a "rogue enemy" which allegedly plans to develop WMD at some undefined future date:

"Responsible security planning requires preparation for threats that are possible, though perhaps unlikely today. The lessons of military history remain clear: unpredictable, irrational conflicts occur. Military forces must prepare to counter weapons and capabilities that exist or will exist in the near term even if no immediate likely scenarios for war are at hand. To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use." (Ibid, p. III-1, italics added)

Nukes would serve to prevent a non-existent WMD program (e.g. Iran) prior to its development. This twisted formulation goes far beyond the premises of the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review and NPSD 17. which state that the US can retaliate with nuclear weapons if attacked with WMD:

"The United States will make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force – including potentially nuclear weapons – to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies." ... (NSPD 17)

"Integration" of Nuclear and Conventional Weapons Plans

The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations outlines the procedures governing the use of nuclear weapons and the nature of the relationship between nuclear and conventional war operations.

The DJNO states that the:

"use of nuclear weapons within a [war] theater requires that nuclear and conventional plans be integrated to the greatest extent possible"

(DJNO, p 47 italics added, italics added, For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 )

The implications of this "integration" are far-reaching because once the decision is taken by the Commander in Chief, namely the President of the United States, to launch a joint conventional-nuclear military operation, there is a risk that tactical nuclear weapons could be used without requesting subsequent presidential approval. In this regard, execution procedures under the jurisdiction of the theater commanders pertaining to nuclear weapons are described as "flexible and allow for changes in the situation":

"Geographic combatant commanders are responsible for defining theater objectives and developing nuclear plans required to support those objectives, including selecting targets. When tasked, CDRUSSTRATCOM, as a supporting combatant commander, provides detailed planning support to meet theater planning requirements. All theater nuclear option planning follows prescribed Joint Operation Planning and Execution System procedures to formulate and implement an effective response within the timeframe permitted by the crisis..

Since options do not exist for every scenario, combatant commanders must have a capability to perform crisis action planning and execute those plans. Crisis action planning provides the capability to develop new options, or modify existing options, when current limited or major response options are inappropriate.

...Command, control, and coordination must be flexible enough to allow the geographic combatant commander to strike time-sensitive targets such as mobile missile launch platforms." Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations Doctrine (italics added)

Theater Nuclear Operations (TNO)

While presidential approval is formally required to launch a nuclear war, geographic combat commanders would be in charge of Theater Nuclear Operations (TNO), with a mandate not only to implement but also to formulate command decisions pertaining to nuclear weapons. ( Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations Doctrine )

We are no longer dealing with "the risk" associated with "an accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch" as outlined by former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara , but with a military decision-making process which provides military commanders, from the Commander in Chief down to the geographical commanders with discretionary powers to use tactical nuclear weapons.

Moreover, because these "smaller" tactical nuclear weapons have been "reclassified" by the Pentagon as "safe for the surrounding civilian population", thereby "minimizing the risk of collateral damage", there are no overriding built-in restrictions which prevent their use. (See Michel Chossudovsky, The Dangers of a Middle East Nuclear War , Global Research, February 2006) .

Once a decision to launch a military operation is taken (e.g. aerial strikes on Iran), theater commanders have a degree of latitude. What this signifies in practice is once the presidential decision is taken, USSTRATCOM in liaison with theater commanders can decide on the targeting and type of weaponry to be used. Stockpiled tactical nuclear weapons are now considered to be an integral part of the battlefield arsenal. In other words, nukes have become "part of the tool box", used in conventional war theaters.

Planned Aerial Attacks on Iran

An operational plan to wage aerial attacks on Iran has been in "a state of readiness" since June 2005. Essential military hardware to wage this operation has been deployed. (For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 ).

Vice President Dick Cheney has ordered USSTRATCOM to draft a "contingency plan", which "includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons." (Philip Giraldi, Attack on Iran: Pre-emptive Nuclear War , The American Conservative, 2 August 2005).

USSTRATCOM would have the responsibility for overseeing and coordinating this military deployment as well as launching the military operation. (For details, Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 ).

In January 2005 a significant shift in USSTRATCOM's mandate was implemented. USSTRATCOM was identified as "the lead Combatant Command for integration and synchronization of DoD-wide efforts in combating weapons of mass destruction." To implement this mandate, a brand new command unit entitled Joint Functional Component Command Space and Global Strike , or JFCCSGS was created.

Overseen by USSTRATCOM, JFCCSGS would be responsible for the launching of military operations "using nuclear or conventional weapons" in compliance with the Bush administration's new nuclear doctrine. Both categories of weapons would be integrated into a "joint strike operation" under unified Command and Control.

According to Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists,

"The Defense Department is upgrading its nuclear strike plans to reflect new presidential guidance and a transition in war planning from the top-heavy Single Integrated Operational Plan of the Cold War to a family of smaller and more flexible strike plans designed to defeat today's adversaries. The new central strategic war plan is known as OPLAN (Operations Plan) 8044.... This revised, detailed plan provides more flexible options to assure allies, and dissuade, deter, and if necessary, defeat adversaries in a wider range of contingencies....

One member of the new family is CONPLAN 8022, a concept plan for the quick use of nuclear, conventional, or information warfare capabilities to destroy--preemptively, if necessary--"time-urgent targets" anywhere in the world. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued an Alert Order in early 2004 that directed the military to put CONPLAN 8022 into effect. As a result, the Bush administration's preemption policy is now operational on long-range bombers, strategic submarines on deterrent patrol, and presumably intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)."

The operational implementation of the Global Strike would be under CONCEPT PLAN (CONPLAN) 8022, which now consists of "an actual plan that the Navy and the Air Force translate into strike package for their submarines and bombers,' (Japanese Economic Newswire, 30 December 2005, For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, op. cit.).

CONPLAN 8022 is 'the overall umbrella plan for sort of the pre-planned strategic scenarios involving nuclear weapons.'

'It's specifically focused on these new types of threats -- Iran, North Korea -- proliferators and potentially terrorists too,' he said. 'There's nothing that says that they can't use CONPLAN 8022 in limited scenarios against Russian and Chinese targets.' (According to Hans Kristensen, of the Nuclear Information Project, quoted in Japanese Economic News Wire, op. cit.)

Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization

The planning of the aerial bombings of Iran started in mid-2004, pursuant to the formulation of CONPLAN 8022 in early 2004. In May 2004, National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 35 entitled Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization was issued.

The contents of this highly sensitive document remains a carefully guarded State secret. There has been no mention of NSPD 35 by the media nor even in Congressional debates. While its contents remains classified, the presumption is that NSPD 35 pertains to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East war theater in compliance with CONPLAN 8022.

In this regard, a recent press report published in Yeni Safak (Turkey) suggests that the United States is currently:

"deploying B61-type tactical nuclear weapons in southern Iraq as part of a plan to hit Iran from this area if and when Iran responds to an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities".
(Ibrahim Karagul, "The US is Deploying Nuclear Weapons in Iraq Against Iran", (Yeni Safak,. 20 December 2005, quoted in BBC Monitoring Europe).

This deployment in Iraq appears to be pursuant to NSPD 35,

What the Yenbi Safak report suggests is that conventional weapons would be used in the first instance, and if Iran were to retaliate in response to US-Israeli aerial attacks, tactical thermonuclear B61 weapons could then be launched This retaliation using tactical nuclear weapons would be consistent with the guidelines contained in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review and NSPD 17
(see above).

Israel's Stockpiling of Conventional and Nuclear Weapons

Israel is part of the military alliance and is slated to play a major role in the planned attacks on Iran. (For details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 ).

Confirmed by several press reports, Israel has taken delivery, starting in September 2004 of some 500 US produced BLU 109 bunker buster bombs (WP, January 6, 2006). The first procurement order for BLU 109 [Bomb Live Unit] dates to September 2004. In April 2005, Washington confirmed that Israel was to take delivery of 100 of the more sophisticated bunker buster bomb GBU-28 produced by Lockheed Martin ( Reuters, April 26, 2005). The GBU-28 is described as "a 5,000-pound laser-guided conventional munitions that uses a 4,400-pound penetrating warhead." It was used in the Iraqi war theater:

The Pentagon [stated] that ... the sale to Israel of 500 BLU-109 warheads, [was] meant to "contribute significantly to U.S. strategic and tactical objectives." .

Mounted on satellite-guided bombs, BLU-109s can be fired from F-15 or F-16 jets, U.S.-made aircraft in Israel's arsenal. This year Israel received the first of a fleet of 102 long-range F-16Is from Washington, its main ally. "Israel very likely manufactures its own bunker busters, but they are not as robust as the 2,000-pound (910 kg) BLUs," Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons, told Reuters. (Reuters, 21 September 2004)

The report does not confirm whether Israel has stockpiled and deployed the thermonuclear version of the bunker buster bomb. Nor does it indicate whether the Israeli made bunker buster bombs are equipped with nuclear warheads. It is worth noting that this stock piling of bunker buster bombs occurred within a few months after the Release of the NPSD 35¸ Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization (May 2004).

Israel possesses 100-200 strategic nuclear warheads. In 2003, Washington and Tel Aviv confirmed that they were collaborating in "the deployment of US-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Israel's fleet of Dolphin-class submarines." (The Observer, 12 October 2003). In more recent developments, which coincide with the preparations of strikes against Iran, Israel has taken delivery of two new German produced submarines "that could launch nuclear-armed cruise missiles for a "second-strike" deterrent." (Newsweek, 13 February 2006. See also CDI Data Base)

Israel's tactical nuclear weapons capabilities are not known

Israel's participation in the aerial attacks will also act as a political bombshell throughout the Middle East. It would contribute to escalation, with a war zone which could extend initially into Lebanon and Syria. The entire region from the Eastern Mediterranean to Central Asia and Afghanistan's Western frontier would be affected..

The Role of Western Europe

Several Western European countries, officially considered as "non-nuclear states", possess tactical nuclear weapons, supplied to them by Washington.

The US has supplied some 480 B61 thermonuclear bombs to five non-nuclear NATO countries including Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, and one nuclear country, the United Kingdom. Casually disregarded by the Vienna based UN Nuclear Watch, the US has actively contributed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Western Europe.

As part of this European stockpiling, Turkey, which is a partner of the US-led coalition against Iran along with Israel, possesses some 90 thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs at the Incirlik nuclear air base. (National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005)

Consistent with US nuclear policy, the stockpiling and deployment of B61 in Western Europe are intended for targets in the Middle East. Moreover, in accordance with "NATO strike plans", these thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs (stockpiled by the "non-nuclear States") could be launched "against targets in Russia or countries in the Middle East such as Syria and Iran" ( quoted in National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005)

Moreover, confirmed by (partially) declassified documents (released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act):

"arrangements were made in the mid-1990s to allow the use of U.S. nuclear forces in Europe outside the area of responsibility of U.S. European Command (EUCOM). As a result of these arrangements, EUCOM now supports CENTCOM nuclear missions in the Middle East, including, potentially, against Iran and Syria"

(quoted in italics added)

With the exception of the US, no other nuclear power "has nuclear weapons earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear countries." (National Resources Defense Council, op cit)

While these "non-nuclear states" casually accuse Tehran of developing nuclear weapons, without documentary evidence, they themselves have capabilities of delivering nuclear warheads, which are targeted at Iran. To say that this is a clear case of "double standards" by the IAEA and the "international community" is a understatement.

Germany: De Facto Nuclear Power

Among the five "non-nuclear states" "Germany remains the most heavily nuclearized country with three nuclear bases (two of which are fully operational) and may store as many as 150 [B61 bunker buster ] bombs" (Ibid). In accordance with "NATO strike plans" (mentioned above) these tactical nuclear weapons are also targeted at the Middle East.

While Germany is not officially a nuclear power, it produces nuclear warheads for the French Navy. It stockpiles nuclear warheads and it has the capabilities of delivering nuclear weapons. The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company - EADS , a Franco-German-Spanish joint venture, controlled by Deutsche Aerospace and the powerful Daimler Group is Europe's second largest military producer, supplying .France's M51 nuclear missile.

France Endorses the Preemptive Nuclear Doctrine

In January 2006, French President Jacques Chirac announced a major shift in France's nuclear policy.

Without mentioning Iran, Chirac intimated that France's nukes should be used in the form of "more focused attacks" against countries, which were "considering" the deployment of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

He also hinted to the possibility that tactical nuclear weapons could be used in conventional war theaters, very much in line with both US and NATO nuclear doctrine (See Chirac shifts French doctrine for use of nuclear weapons , Nucleonics Week January 26, 2006).

The French president seems to have embraced the US sponsored "War on Terrorism". He presented nuclear weapons as a means to build a safer World and combat terrorism:

Nuclear weapons are not meant to be used against "fanatical terrorists," nevertheless "the leaders of states which used terrorist means against us, as well as those who considered using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they are exposing themselves to a firm, appropriate response on our side...".(Ibid)

Although Chirac made no reference to the preemptive use of nuclear weapons, his statement broadly replicates the premises of the Bush administration's 2001 Nuclear Posture Review , which calls for the use of tactical nuclear weapons against ''rogue states" and "terrorist non-state organizations".
Building a Pretext for a Preemptive Nuclear Attack

The pretext for waging war on Iran essentially rests on two fundamental premises, which are part of the Bush administration's National Security doctrine.

1. Iran's alleged possession of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD), more specifically its nuclear enrichment program.

2. Iran's alleged support to "Islamic terrorists".

These are two interrelated statements which are an integral part of the propaganda and media disinformation campaign.

The "Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)" statement is used to justify the "pre-emptive war" against the "State sponsors of terror", --i.e. countries such as Iran and North Korea which allegedly possess WMD. Iran is identified as a State sponsor of so-called "non-State terrorist organizations". The latter also possess WMDs and potentially constitute a nuclear threat. Terrorist non-state organizations are presented as a "nuclear power".

"The enemies in this [long] war are not traditional conventional military forces but rather dispersed, global terrorist networks that exploit Islam to advance radical political aims. These enemies have the avowed aim of acquiring and using nuclear and biological weapons to murder hundreds of thousands of Americans and others around the world." (2006 Quadrennial Defense Review ),

In contrast, Germany and Israel which produce and possess nuclear warheads are not considered "nuclear powers".

In recent months, the pretext for war, building on this WMD-Islamic terrorist nexus, has been highlighted ad-nauseam, on a daily basis by the Western media.

In a testimony to the US Senate Budget Committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran and Syria of destabilizing the Middle East and providing support to militant Islamic groups. She described Iran as the "a central banker for terrorism", not withstanding the fact amply documented that Al Qaeda has been supported and financed from its inception in the early 1980s by none other than the CIA. (See Michel Chossudovsky, Who is Osama bin Laden, Global Research 2001).

"It's not just Iran's nuclear program but also their support for terrorism around the world. They are, in effect, the central banker for terrorism," (Statement to the Senate Budget Committee, 16 February 2006)

"Second 9/11": Cheney's "Contingency Plan"

While the "threat" of Iran's alleged WMD is slated for debate at the UN Security Council, Vice President Dick Cheney is reported to have instructed USSTRATCOM to draw up a contingency plan "to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States". This "contingency plan" to attack Iran uses the pretext of a "Second 9/11" which has not yet happened, to prepare for a major military operation against Iran.

The contingency plan, which is characterized by a military build up in anticipation of possible aerial strikes against Iran, is in a "state of readiness".

What is diabolical is that the justification to wage war on Iran rests on Iran's involvement in a terrorist attack on America, which has not yet occurred:

The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections. (Philip Giraldi, Attack on Iran: Pre-emptive Nuclear War , The American Conservative, 2 August 2005)

Are we to understand that US military planners are waiting in limbo for a Second 9/11to launch a military operation directed against Iran, which is currently in a "state of readiness"?

Cheney's proposed "contingency plan" does not focus on preventing a Second 9/11. The Cheney plan is predicated on the presumption that Iran would be behind a Second 9/11 and that punitive bombings would immediately be activated, prior to the conduct of an investigation, much in the same way as the attacks on Afghanistan in October 2001, allegedly in retribution for the role of the Taliban government in support of the 9/11 terrorists. It is worth noting that the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan had been planned well in advance of 9/11. As Michael Keefer points out in an incisive review article:

"At a deeper level, it implies that “9/11-type terrorist attacks” are recognized in Cheney’s office and the Pentagon as appropriate means of legitimizing wars of aggression against any country selected for that treatment by the regime and its corporate propaganda-amplification system.... (Keefer, February 2006 )

Keefer concludes that "an attack on Iran, which would presumably involve the use of significant numbers of extremely ‘dirty’ earth-penetrating nuclear bombs, might well be made to follow a dirty-bomb attack on the United States, which would be represented in the media as having been carried out by Iranian agents" (Keefer, February 2006 )

The Battle for Oil

The Anglo-American oil companies are indelibly behind Cheney's "contingency plan" to wage war on Iran. The latter is geared towards territorial and corporate control over oil and gas reserves as well as pipeline routes.

There is continuity in US Middle East war plans, from the Democrats to the Republicans. The essential features of Neoconservative discourse were already in place under the Clinton administration. US Central Command's (USCENTCOM) theater strategy in the mid-1990s was geared towards securing, from an economic and military standpoint, control over Middle East oil.

"The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President's National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman's National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command's theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM's theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States' vital interest in the region - uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.


Iran possesses 10 percent of global oil and gas reserves, The US is the first and foremost military and nuclear power in the World, but it possesses less than 3 percent of global oil and gas reserves.

On the other hand, the countries inhabited by Muslims, including the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, West and Central Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, possess approximately 80 percent of the World's oil and gas reserves.

The "war on terrorism" and the hate campaign directed against Muslims, which has gained impetus in recent months, bears a direct relationship to the "Battle for Middle East Oil". How best to conquer these vast oil reserves located in countries inhabited by Muslims? Build a political consensus against Muslim countries, describe them as "uncivilized", denigrate their culture and religion, implement ethnic profiling against Muslims in Western countries, foster hatred and racism against the inhabitants of the oil producing countries. The values of Islam are said to be tied into "Islamic terrorism". Western governments are now accusing Iran of "exporting terrorism to the West" In the words of Prime Minister Tony Blair:

"There is a virus of extremism which comes out of the cocktail of religious fanaticism and political repression in the Middle East which is now being exported to the rest of the world. "We will only secure our future if we are dealing with every single aspect of that problem. Our future security depends on sorting out the stability of that region." "You can never say never in any of these situations." (quoted in the Mirror, 7 February 2006)

Muslims are demonized, casually identified with "Islamic terrorists", who are also described as constituting a nuclear threat. In turn, the terrorists are supported by Iran, an Islamic Republic which threatens the "civilized World" with deadly nuclear weapons (which it does not possess). In contrast, America's humanitarian "nuclear weapons will be accurate, safe and reliable."

The World is at a Critical Cross-roads

It is not Iran which is a threat to global security but the United States of America and Israel.

In recent developments, Western European governments --including the so-called "non-nuclear states" which possess nuclear weapons-- have joined the bandwagon. In chorus, Western Europe and the member states of the Atlantic alliance (NATO) have endorsed the US-led military initiative against Iran.

The Pentagon's planned aerial attacks on Iran involve "scenarios" using both nuclear and conventional weapons. While this does not imply the use of nuclear weapons, the potential danger of a Middle East nuclear holocaust must, nonetheless, be taken seriously. It must become a focal point of the antiwar movement, particularly in the United States, Western Europe, Israel and Turkey.

It should also be understood that China and Russia are (unofficially) allies of Iran, supplying them with advanced military equipment and a sophisticated missile defense system. It is unlikely that China and Russia will take on a passive position if and when the aerial bombardments are carried out.

The new preemptive nuclear doctrine calls for the "integration" of "defensive" and "offensive" operations. Moreover, the important distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons has been blurred..

From a military standpoint, the US and its coalition partners including Israel and Turkey are in "a state of readiness."

Through media disinformation, the objective is to galvanize Western public opinion in support of a US-led war on Iran in retaliation for Iran's defiance of the international community.

War propaganda consists in "fabricating an enemy" while conveying the illusion that the Western World is under attack by Islamic terrorists, who are directly supported by the Tehran government.

"Make the World safer", "prevent the proliferation of dirty nuclear devices by terrorists", "implement punitive actions against Iran to ensure the peace". "Combat nuclear proliferation by rogue states"...

Supported by the Western media, a generalized atmosphere of racism and xenophobia directed against Muslims has unfolded, particularly in Western Europe, which provides a fake legitimacy to the US war agenda. The latter is upheld as a "Just War". The "Just war" theory serves to camouflage the nature of US war plans, while providing a human face to the invaders.

What can be done?

The antiwar movement is in many regards divided and misinformed on the nature of the US military agenda. Several non-governmental organizations have placed the blame on Iran, for not complying with the "reasonable demands" of the "international community". These same organizations, which are committed to World Peace tend to downplay the implications of the proposed US bombing of Iran.

To reverse the tide requires a massive campaign of networking and outreach to inform people across the land, nationally and internationally, in neighborhoods, workplaces, parishes, schools, universities, municipalities, on the dangers of a US sponsored war, which contemplates the use of nuclear weapons. The message should be loud and clear: Iran is not the threat. Even without the use of nukes, the proposed aerial bombardments could result in escalation, ultimately leading us into a broader war in the Middle East.

Debate and discussion must also take place within the Military and Intelligence community, particularly with regard to the use of tactical nuclear weapons, within the corridors of the US Congress, in municipalities and at all levels of government. Ultimately, the legitimacy of the political and military actors in high office must be challenged.

The corporate media also bears a heavy responsibility for the cover-up of US sponsored war crimes. It must also be forcefully challenged for its biased coverage of the Middle East war.

For the past year, Washington has been waging a "diplomatic arm twisting" exercise with a view to enlisting countries into supporting of its military agenda. It is essential that at the diplomatic level, countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America take a firm stance against the US military agenda.

Condoleezza Rice has trekked across the Middle East, "expressing concern over Iran's nuclear program", seeking the unequivocal endorsement of the governments of the region against Tehran. (Editor's NOTE: Rice the former US Secretary of State is in reality an unindicted war criminal as are former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) Meanwhile the Bush administration has allocated funds in support of Iranian dissident groups within Iran.

What is needed is to break the conspiracy of silence, expose the media lies and distortions, confront the criminal nature of the US Administration and of those governments which support it, its war agenda as well as its so-called "Homeland Security agenda" which has already defined the contours of a police State.

The World is at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. The US has embarked on a military adventure, "a long war", which threatens the future of humanity.

It is essential to bring the US war project to the forefront of political debate, particularly in North America and Western Europe. Political and military leaders who are opposed to the war must take a firm stance, from within their respective institutions. Citizens must take a stance individually and collectively against war.