Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Collapse of the Old Oil Order

How the Petroleum Age Will End
By Michael T. Klare

March 04, 2011 --- Whatever the outcome of the protests, uprisings, and rebellions now sweeping the Middle East, one thing is guaranteed: the world of oil will be permanently transformed. Consider everything that’s now happening as just the first tremor of an oilquake that will shake our world to its core.

For a century stretching back to the discovery of oil in southwestern Persia before World War I, Western powers have repeatedly intervened in the Middle East to ensure the survival of authoritarian governments devoted to producing petroleum. Without such interventions, the expansion of Western economies after World War II and the current affluence of industrialized societies would be inconceivable.

Here, however, is the news that should be on the front pages of newspapers everywhere: That old oil order is dying, and with its demise we will see the end of cheap and readily accessible petroleum -- forever.

Ending the Petroleum Age

Let’s try to take the measure of what exactly is at risk in the current tumult. As a start, there is almost no way to give full justice to the critical role played by Middle Eastern oil in the world’s energy equation. Although cheap coal fueled the original Industrial Revolution, powering railroads, steamships, and factories, cheap oil has made possible the automobile, the aviation industry, suburbia, mechanized agriculture, and an explosion of economic globalization. And while a handful of major oil-producing areas launched the Petroleum Age -- the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Romania, the area around Baku (in what was then the Czarist Russian empire), and the Dutch East Indies -- it’s been the Middle East that has quenched the world’s thirst for oil since World War II.

In 2009, the most recent year for which such data is available, BP reported that suppliers in the Middle East and North Africa jointly produced 29 million barrels per day, or 36% of the world’s total oil supply -- and even this doesn’t begin to suggest the region’s importance to the petroleum economy. More than any other area, the Middle East has funneled its production into export markets to satisfy the energy cravings of oil-importing powers like the United States, China, Japan, and the European Union (EU). We’re talking 20 million barrels funneled into export markets every day. Compare that to Russia, the world’s top individual producer, at seven million barrels in exportable oil, the continent of Africa at six million, and South America at a mere one million.

As it happens, Middle Eastern producers will be even more important in the years to come because they possess an estimated two-thirds of remaining untapped petroleum reserves. According to recent projections by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Middle East and North Africa will jointly provide approximately 43% of the world’s crude petroleum supply by 2035 (up from 37% in 2007), and will produce an even greater share of the world’s exportable oil.

To put the matter baldly: The world economy requires an increasing supply of affordable petroleum. The Middle East alone can provide that supply. That’s why Western governments have long supported “stable” authoritarian regimes throughout the region, regularly supplying and training their security forces. Now, this stultifying, petrified order, whose greatest success was producing oil for the world economy, is disintegrating. Don’t count on any new order (or disorder) to deliver enough cheap oil to preserve the Petroleum Age.

To appreciate why this will be so, a little history lesson is in order.

The Iranian Coup

After the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) discovered oil in Iran (then known as Persia) in 1908, the British government sought to exercise imperial control over the Persian state. A chief architect of this drive was First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Having ordered the conversion of British warships from coal to oil before World War I and determined to put a significant source of oil under London’s control, Churchill orchestrated the nationalization of APOC in 1914. On the eve of World War II, then-Prime Minister Churchill oversaw the removal of Persia’s pro-German ruler, Shah Reza Pahlavi, and the ascendancy of his 21-year-old son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

Though prone to extolling his (mythical) ties to past Persian empires, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was a willing tool of the British. His subjects, however, proved ever less willing to tolerate subservience to imperial overlords in London. In 1951, democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq won parliamentary support for the nationalization of APOC, by then renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). The move was wildly popular in Iran but caused panic in London. In 1953, to save this great prize, British leaders infamously conspired with President Dwight Eisenhower‘s administration in Washington and the CIA to engineer a coup d’état that deposed Mossadeq and brought Shah Pahlavi back from exile in Rome, a story recently told with great panache by Stephen Kinzer in All the Shah’s Men.

Until he was overthrown in 1979, the Shah exercised ruthless and dictatorial control over Iranian society, thanks in part to lavish U.S. military and police assistance. First he crushed the secular left, the allies of Mossadeq, and then the religious opposition, headed from exile by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Given their brutal exposure to police and prison gear supplied by the United States, the shah’s opponents came to loathe his monarchy and Washington in equal measure. In 1979, of course, the Iranian people took to the streets, the Shah was overthrown, and Ayatollah Khomeini came to power.

Much can be learned from these events that led to the current impasse in U.S.-Iranian relations. The key point to grasp, however, is that Iranian oil production never recovered from the revolution of 1979-1980.

Between 1973 and 1979, Iran had achieved an output of nearly six million barrels of oil per day, one of the highest in the world. After the revolution, AIOC (rechristened British Petroleum, or later simply BP) was nationalized for a second time, and Iranian managers again took over the company’s operations. To punish Iran’s new leaders, Washington imposed tough trade sanctions, hindering the state oil company’s efforts to obtain foreign technology and assistance. Iranian output plunged to two million barrels per day and, even three decades later, has made it back to only slightly more than four million barrels per day, even though the country possesses the world’s second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.

Dreams of the Invader

Iraq followed an eerily similar trajectory. Under Saddam Hussein, the state-owned Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) produced up to 2.8 million barrels per day until 1991, when the First Gulf War with the United States and ensuing sanctions dropped output to half a million barrels daily. Though by 2001 production had again risen to almost 2.5 million barrels per day, it never reached earlier heights. As the Pentagon geared up for an invasion of Iraq in late 2002, however, Bush administration insiders and well-connected Iraqi expatriates spoke dreamily of a coming golden age in which foreign oil companies would be invited back into the country, the national oil company would be privatized, and production would reach never before seen levels.

Who can forget the effort the Bush administration and its officials in Baghdad put into making their dream come true? After all, the first American soldiers to reach the Iraqi capital secured the Oil Ministry building, even as they allowed Iraqi looters free rein in the rest of the city. L. Paul Bremer III, the proconsul later chosen by President Bush to oversee the establishment of a new Iraq, brought in a team of American oil executives to supervise the privatization of the country’s oil industry, while the U.S. Department of Energy confidently predicted in May 2003 that Iraqi production would rise to 3.4 million barrels per day in 2005, 4.1 million barrels by 2010, and 5.6 million by 2020.

None of this, of course, came to pass. For many ordinary Iraqis, the U.S. decision to immediately head for the Oil Ministry building was an instantaneous turning point that transformed possible support for the overthrow of a tyrant into anger and hostility. Bremer’s drive to privatize the state oil company similarly produced a fierce nationalist backlash among Iraqi oil engineers, who essentially scuttled the plan. Soon enough, a full-scale Sunni insurgency broke out. Oil output quickly fell, averaging only 2.0 million barrels daily between 2003 and 2009. By 2010, it had finally inched back up to the 2.5 million barrel mark -- a far cry from those dreamed of 4.1 million barrels.

One conclusion isn’t hard to draw: Efforts by outsiders to control the political order in the Middle East for the sake of higher oil output will inevitably generate countervailing pressures that result in diminished production. The United States and other powers watching the uprisings, rebellions, and protests blazing through the Middle East should be wary indeed: whatever their political or religious desires, local populations always turn out to harbor a fierce, passionate hostility to foreign domination and, in a crunch, will choose independence and the possibility of freedom over increased oil output.

The experiences of Iran and Iraq may not in the usual sense be comparable to those of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen. However, all of them (and other countries likely to get swept up into the tumult) exhibit some elements of the same authoritarian political mold and all are connected to the old oil order. Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Oman, and Sudan are oil producers; Egypt and Jordan guard vital oil pipelines and, in Egypt’s case, a crucial canal for the transport of oil; Bahrain and Yemen as well as Oman occupy strategic points along major oil sealanes. All have received substantial U.S. military aid and/or housed important U.S. military bases. And, in all of these countries, the chant is the same: “The people want the regime to fall.”

Two of these regimes have already fallen, three are tottering, and others are at risk. The impact on global oil prices has been swift and merciless: on February 24th, the delivery price for North Brent crude, an industry benchmark, nearly reached $115 per barrel, the highest it’s been since the global economic meltdown of October 2008. West Texas Intermediate, another benchmark crude, briefly and ominously crossed the $100 threshold.

Why the Saudis are Key

So far, the most important Middle Eastern producer of all, Saudi Arabia, has not exhibited obvious signs of vulnerability, or prices would have soared even higher. However, the royal house of neighboring Bahrain is already in deep trouble; tens of thousands of protesters -- more than 20% of its half million people -- have repeatedly taken to the streets, despite the threat of live fire, in a movement for the abolition of the autocratic government of King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa, and its replacement with genuine democratic rule.

These developments are especially worrisome to the Saudi leadership as the drive for change in Bahrain is being directed by that country’s long-abused Shiite population against an entrenched Sunni ruling elite. Saudi Arabia also contains a large, though not -- as in Bahrain -- a majority Shiite population that has also suffered discrimination from Sunni rulers. There is anxiety in Riyadh that the explosion in Bahrain could spill into the adjacent oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia -- the one area of the kingdom where Shiites do form the majority -- producing a major challenge to the regime. Partly to forestall any youth rebellion, 87-year-old King Abdullah has just promised $10 billion in grants, part of a $36 billion package of changes, to help young Saudi citizens get married and obtain homes and apartments.

Even if rebellion doesn’t reach Saudi Arabia, the old Middle Eastern oil order cannot be reconstructed. The result is sure to be a long-term decline in the future availability of exportable petroleum.

Three-quarters of the 1.7 million barrels of oil Libya produces daily were quickly taken off the market as turmoil spread in that country. Much of it may remain off-line and out of the market for the indefinite future. Egypt and Tunisia can be expected to restore production, modest in both countries, to pre-rebellion levels soon, but are unlikely to embrace the sorts of major joint ventures with foreign firms that might boost production while diluting local control. Iraq, whose largest oil refinery was badly damaged by insurgents only last week, and Iran exhibit no signs of being able to boost production significantly in the years ahead.

The critical player is Saudi Arabia, which just increased production to compensate for Libyan losses on the global market. But don’t expect this pattern to hold forever. Assuming the royal family survives the current round of upheavals, it will undoubtedly have to divert more of its daily oil output to satisfy rising domestic consumption levels and fuel local petrochemical industries that could provide a fast-growing, restive population with better-paying jobs.

From 2005 to 2009, Saudis used about 2.3 million barrels daily, leaving about 8.3 million barrels for export. Only if Saudi Arabia continues to provide at least this much oil to international markets could the world even meet its anticipated low-end oil needs. This is not likely to occur. The Saudi royals have expressed reluctance to raise output much above 10 million barrels per day, fearing damage to their remaining fields and so a decline in future income for their many progeny. At the same time, rising domestic demand is expected to consume an ever-increasing share of Saudi Arabia’s net output. In April 2010, the chief executive officer of state-owned Saudi Aramco, Khalid al-Falih, predicted that domestic consumption could reach a staggering 8.3 million barrels per day by 2028, leaving only a few million barrels for export and ensuring that, if the world can’t switch to other energy sources, there will be petroleum starvation.

In other words, if one traces a reasonable trajectory from current developments in the Middle East, the handwriting is already on the wall. Since no other area is capable of replacing the Middle East as the world’s premier oil exporter, the oil economy will shrivel -- and with it, the global economy as a whole.

Consider the recent rise in the price of oil just a faint and early tremor heralding the oilquake to come. Oil won’t disappear from international markets, but in the coming decades it will never reach the volumes needed to satisfy projected world demand, which means that, sooner rather than later, scarcity will become the dominant market condition. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout) Only the rapid development of alternative sources of energy and a dramatic reduction in oil consumption might spare the world the most severe economic repercussions.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is The US Attempting to Balkanize Libya: How Bad is Gadaffi Really?

Unverified Misreporting on Libya

By Stephen Lendman

March 01, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- America's media, Britain's state-controlled BBC, other Western sources, and Al Jazeera are spreading unverified or false reports on Libya's uprising.

On February 25, writer Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, a Middle East/Central Asian specialist, based on reliable in-country contacts, headlined an important article, "Libya: Is Washington Pushing for Civil War to Justify a US-NATO Military Intervention?" Access it through the following LINK

For greater readership, this article covers key information in it. Its entirety explains much about what's ongoing - what major media accounts misreport or suppress, especially television reaching large audiences, presenting distorted managed news. It shouldn't surprise. Representing powerful interests, carefully filtered sanitized reporting substitutes for the real kind.

Gaddafi indisputably is despotic, governing by "fear and cronyism," treating Libya as his "private estate," and spawning "an entire hierarchy of corrupt officials," disdainful of popular interests.

Nonetheless, something is "(r)otten in the so-called 'Jamahiriya' (state of the masses) of Libya." Popular anger is justified and real. At issue is whether it's spontaneous or externally generated, and, if so, by whom and for what reasons.

Western powers, especially America, gladly support despots. They only fall into disfavor by forgetting who's boss. Mubarak forgot. So did Gaddafi, long targeted for removal despite rapprochement with America and Western nations. As a result, in-country reports lack credibility without verifiable proof. Much of it is lacking.
At issue is removing an outlier while keeping his regime intact, one friendly to Washington and Western interests. Acquiescence assures support for the world's most ruthless tyrants. Straying gets them in trouble. Gaddafi strayed, leaving him vulnerable for removal.

Comparing Yugoslavia to Libya

In the 1990s, "pack (or) advocacy journalism" substituted for the real kind, including by promoting the 1999 US-led NATO war of aggression to complete Yugoslavia's long-planned balkanization, characterized as "humanitarian intervention," the same theme repeated now.

From March 24 - June 10, 1999, daily attacks were relentless. Around 600 aircraft flew about 3,000 sorties, dropping thousands of tons of ordinance as well as hundreds of ground-launched cruise missiles. Its ferocity to that time was unprecedented. Large numbers were killed, injured or displaced. Vast destruction was inflicted. Two million people lost their livelihoods, many their homes and communities, and for most their futures under military occupation.

Diana Johnstone's "Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions" remains the definitive Balkan wars history, explaining what Western media reports suppressed. For America and European powers, it was about deterring Slobodan Milosevic's "Greater Serbia" ambitions, a gross mischaracterization about 1990s events, culminating in naked aggression.

Libyan turmoil appears headed for a similar resolution, driven by unverified misreporting of events on the ground. In Yugoslavia, it was about removing Milosevic for a more accommodative replacement. In Libya, Gaddafi appears headed for the same fate, again by raw force, Washington's alternate "diplomacy," the same kind used to "liberate" Iraq and Afghanistan, destroying both countries, causing millions of deaths as well as vast devastation and despair.

Libyan Analysis in Bullet Points

-- Unlike Tunisia, Egypt, and other regional allies, "upsetting (Libya's) established order is a US and EU objective," by replacing one despot with another.

-- the West "seek('s) to capitalize on the revolt" for new leadership it controls.

-- Heavy weapons are coming in.

-- Destabilizing Libya affects its vast energy reserves and neighboring states, perhaps the entire region.

-- Tensions among Libyan factions complicate matters further, including between Gaddafi's son, Saif Al-Islam, "and his father's circle of older ministers. Libyan ministers are generally divided amongst those (close to Said) and" member's of the "old guard."

-- Other tensions exist between Gaddafi and his sons, perhaps one generation against another, each with its own ideas incompatible with the other.

-- Gaddafi spent years purging opposition. Even so, "little loyalty is felt for (him) and his family." Fear alone gives them power. Now it's gone, denunciation of his regime openly stated. "Aref Sharif, the head of Libyan Air Force," renounced him. Ministers and ambassadors resigned, some going abroad. "Defections are snowballing amongst the military and government." Yet what's ongoing may differ significantly from unverified or willful major media misreporting, including by Al Jazeera.

-- Authentic opposition is real, but not organized. It's "been encouraged and prompted from outside Libya through social media networks, international news stations, and events in the rest of the Arab World." As a result, major media reports are suspect. Accept nothing from them at face value.

-- Internal opposition leadership comes "from within the regime itself." However, corrupt officials aren't populists. They oppose Gaddafi but not tyranny, corruption, and other trappings of power and privilege. Some of them, in fact, wish "to save themselves, while others" want to "strengthen their positions." It's also possible or likely that they've allied with Western powers for their own self-interest.

-- Major media reports, including by Al Jazeera, "about Libyan jets firing on protesters in Tripoli and the major cities are unverified and questionable....No visual evidence of the jet attacks has been shown." Gaddafi, in fact, controls cities reported to be occupied by opponents. Moreover, some accounts of violence are spurious. Stories are invented to "justify no-fly zones," perhaps heading for war led by America and NATO.

-- Corporate and Western interests in Libya, not despotism, explain what's ongoing. They're fueling civil war to replace one despot with another, one they control. "Chaos in the Arab World has been viewed as beneficial (to) Washington, Tel Aviv," and other Western powers. Balkanization may be planned, similar to Yugoslavia, culminating as explained above - "liberation" for control, not democracy America won't tolerate, including at home. If it happens, regional destabilization may follow, leaders everywhere wondering who's next.

-- Henry Kissinger once said: "to be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal." If balkanization is planned, friends and foes alike may be targeted if thought unreliable. Libya's chaos also affects Europe and global energy issues, including price, for oil heading over $100 a barrel and maybe much higher, threatening fragile economies with deeper crisis.

-- Washington wanted Gaddafi replaced for years. Former NATO commander General Wesley Clark once included Libya among future targeted countries besides Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. Divide, conquer and control, a game way pre-dating modern America.

-- Libya conducted secret negotiations with Washington in 2001. Formal rapprochement followed, but doing business with imperial powers is dangerous, and in Gaddafi's case perhaps fatal with no safe haven if civil war or NATO ousts him. Either "provides the best cover" for controlling Libya's "energy sector and to appropriate (its) vast wealth."

-- Libyans should be wary. America and Western powers play hardball against popular interests throughout the region.

-- "Actions of opposition to Gaddafi are strong, but there is no strong organized 'opposition movement.' The two are different." Moreover, no opposition force wants democracy.

-- Serious discussion suggests a Yugoslav-type "humanitarian intervention." A "no-fly" zone is mentioned, an act of war if imposed, giving Western powers the right to intervene militarily the way Iraq was bombed in the 1990s. Invasion and occupation, in fact, could follow to replace the already weakened regime. Libya's assets would be plundered, its people left with one despot replacing another.

For decades, Gaddafi denied Libyans democratic freedoms. Imperial occupation, however, is worse, creating nightmarish conditions for Iraqis, Afghans, and others experiencing US-style rule, exceeding the worst of regional despots' harshness, making some look benign by comparison.

Under more populist leaders than Gaddafi and internal opposition forces, mobilized resistance may prevent it, but not easily or quickly. Libyans must now liberate themselves, independent of Western powers wanting to exploit them for their own self-interest.

World Cheers as the CIA Plunges Libya Into Chaos

By David Rothscum

March 01, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- February 23, 2011 -- How was Libya doing under the rule of Gadaffi? How bad did the people have it? Were they oppressed as we now commonly accept as fact? Let us look at the facts for a moment.

Before the chaos erupted, Libya had a lower incarceration rate than the Czech republic. It ranked 61st. Libya had the lowest infant mortality rate of all of Africa. Libya had the highest life expectancy of all of Africa. Less than 5% of the population was undernourished. In response to the rising food prices around the world, the government of Libya abolished ALL taxes on food.

People in Libya were rich. Libya had the highest gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita of all of Africa. The government took care to ensure that everyone in the country shared in the wealth. Libya had the highest Human Development Index of any country on the continent. The wealth was distributed equally. In Libya, a lower percentage of people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.

How does Libya get so rich? The answer is oil. The country has a lot of oil, and does not allow foreign corporations to steal the resources while the population starves, unlike countries like Nigeria, a country that is basically run by Shell.

Like any country, Libya suffers from a government with corrupt bureaucrats that try to gain a bigger portion of the pie at the cost of everyone else. In response to this, Kadaffi called for the oil revenue to be distributed directly to the people, because in his opinion, the government was failing the people. However, unlike the article claims, Kadaffi is not the president of Libya. In fact he holds no official position in the government. This is the big mistake that people make. They claim that Kadaffi rules over Libya when in fact he doesn't, his position is more or less ceremonial. He should be compared to a founding father.

The true leader of Libya is an indirectly elected prime-minister. The current prime-minister is Baghdadi Mahmudi. Calling Khadaffi the leader of Libya is comparable to calling Akihito the leader of Japan. Contrary to what your media is sketching, opinions in Libya vary. Some people support Gadaffi but want Mahmudi out. Others want both out. Many just want to live their life in peace. However, effort is taken to sketch the appearance of a popular revolt against the supposed leader of Libya, Gadaffi, when in fact he is just the architect of Libya's current political system, a mixture of pan-Arabism, socialism, and Islamic government.

Videos of Pro-Gaddafi protests are disappearing from Youtube as we speak. "Pro Gaddafi Anti Baghdadi Mahmudi demonstrations in" . "Pro Gaddafi protests in front of Libyan embassy London"  is gone. Youtube deletes any video containing gore normally, except when it's from Libya. Apparently more traumatizing to it's viewers than chopped up bodies are Libyans who do not jump on the bandwagon and enter the streets to force Gadaffi out.

Are the protesters in Libya comparable to the protesters in Egypt and Tunisia? Not at all. The governments reaction is more violent, and obviously excessive violence is being used. However let us look for a moment at the actions of the protesters. The building of the the general people's congress, the parliament of Libya, was put on fire by angry protestors. This is comparable to protesters putting the United States Capitol on fire. Do you think that for even a moment the US government would sit idly by as protesters put the US capitol on fire?

The riots erupting now are not secular youth desiring change, or anything like we saw in Egypt and Tunisia. A group calling itself "Islamic Emirate of Barka", the former name of the North-Western part of Libya, has taken numerous hostages, and killed two policemen. This is not a recent development. On Friday, the 18th of February, the group stole 70 military vehicles after attacking a port and killing four soldiers. Unfortunately, a military colonel has joined the group and provided them with further weapons. The uprising started in the eastern city of Benghazi. The Italian foreign minister has raised his fears of an Islamic Emirate of Benghazi declaring itself independent.

So where does this sudden uprising come from? The answer is that the same groups the US has been funding for decades are now taking their chance to gain control over the nation. A group recently arrested in Libya consisted of dozens of foreign nationals that were involved in numerous acts of looting and sabotage. The Libyan government could not rule out links to Israel.

Great Britain funded an Al Qaeda cell in Libya, in an attempt to assassinate Gadaffi. The main opposition group in Libya now is the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. This opposition group is being funded by Saudi Arabia, the CIA, and French Intelligence. This group unified itself with other opposition groups, to become the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition. It was this organization that called for the "Day of Rage" that plunged Libya into chaos on February 17 of this year.

It did this in Benghazi, a conservative city that has always been opposed to Gadaffi's rule. It should be noted that the National Front for the Salvation of Libya is well armed. In 1996 the group tried to unleash a revolution in the eastern part of Libya before. It used the Libyan National Army, the armed division of the NFSL to begin this failed uprising.

Why is the United States so opposed to Gadaffi? He is the main threat to US hegemony in Africa, because he attempts to unite the continent against the United States. This concept is called the United States of Africa. In fact, Gadaffi holds all sorts of ideas that are contrary to US interests. The man blames the United States government for the creation of HIV. He claims that Israel is behind the assasination of Martin Luther King and president John. F. Kennedy. He says that the 9/11 hijackers were trained in the US. He also urged Libyans to donate blood to Americans after 9/11. Khadaffi is also the last of a generation of moderate socialist pan-Arab revolutionaries that is still in power, after Nasser and Hussein have been eliminated, and Syria has aligned itself with Iran.

The United States and Israel however have no interest in a strong Arab world. In fact it seems that elementary to the plan is bringing Libya to its knees through chaos and anarchy. In late 2010, the United Kingdom was still propping up the Libyan government through lucrative arms sales. Nothing is a better guarantee to destroy Libya than a bloody civil war. The tribal system that is still strong in Libya is useful to exploit to generate such a war since Libya has historically been divided into various tribal groups.

This is also why the Libyan government responds by importing mercenaries. Tribal allegiances go before allegiance to the government, especially in Benghazi, and thus the central government has no control over the eastern part of the country anymore. The alternative to mercenaries is a conflict between the various ethnic groups. Gadaffi has tried for 41 years to make the country more homogeneous, but opposition groups funded by outside forces will take little more than a few days to put the country back into the 19th century, before the region was conquered and unified by Europeans. The violence is indeed excessive, but everyone seems to forget that the situation is not the same as in Tunis and Egypt. Tribal ties play a far greater role, and thus the conflict will unfortunately be bloodier.

Please remember at all times that the violent Libyan civil war unfolding now is not comparable to the revolutions seen in Tunisia and Egypt. Both of these revolutions involved peaceful protesters suffering from poverty, in opposition to their corrupt governments. The chaos in Libyan consists of a mixture of tribal conflicts, conflict over oil revenue (since most oil is in the east of the country), radical islamists opposed to Gadaffi's system of government, and outside destabilization by Western funded exile groups.

Gadaffi took control in a bloodless coup from a sick monarch away for medical treatment 41 years ago. His ideology is based on unification and he attempted to peacefully merge his country with Egypt and Syria. It would take a miracle for the violence unfolding now to lead to a single stable democratic government in Libya, with full control over the entire country. The country is more than twice the size of Pakistan, but with 6 million inhabitants. Endless deserts divide many of the cities in the nation. If anything we should ask ourselves how many more nations will be shattered into pieces in the coming months, as the world cheers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Operation Mockingbird Revisited: Elite Media Serves CIA Masters

CIA And Media Ventriloquism

The War Party’s Atrocity Porn

By William Norman Grigg

March 01, 2011 "Lew Rockwell" -- "This is a massacre," the frantic Libyan woman, speaking by telephone while cowering in her apartment in Tripoli, told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"I hope you know that people around the world are watching and praying and wanting to do something," Anderson told her, as if he were a stage prompter hinting at a performer's next line. Whether or not she had been given a copy of the script, the caller performed as expected: "[T]he first step [is to] make Libya a no-fly zone. If you make Libya a no-fly zone, no more mercenaries can come in.... There needs to be action. How much more waiting, how much more watching, how much more people dying?"

It's entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that the subject of Cooper's interview was simply a terrified but resolute woman who risked her life to describe the violence devouring her country amid the death throes of Khadaffy's police state.

It's likewise possible that her call for international action to impose a no-fly zone was a desperate plea from a victim, rather than an act of media ventriloquism in which an anonymous figure endorsed the first plank of a military campaign proposed by the same neo-conservative kriegsbund that manipulated us into Iraq.

Surely it was a coincidence that the "Cry in the Night" from Libya was echoed on the same network a few nights later by Iraq war architect, former World Bank president, and accused war criminal Paul Wolfowitz, who several days prior to Cooper's dramatic broadcast called for a NATO-enforced "no fly zone" over Libya.

In fact, the day following that interview, an ad hoc group calling itself the Foreign Policy Initiative, which coalesced from the remnants of the Project for a New American Century, published an "open letter" to Mr. Obama demanding military intervention – beginning with a no-fly zone – in Libya. The neo-con framework for managing the Libyan crisis would create a regional protectorate administered by NATO on behalf of the "international community." This would nullify any effort on the part of Libyans, Egyptians, Tunisians, and others to achieve true independence.

On previous experience with media campaigns on behalf of humanitarian conquest, my incurable cynicism leads me to hear in Cooper's "Cry in the Night" a faint but unmistakable echo of the tearful, palpably earnest testimony of "Nayirah" – the wide-eyed Kuwaiti girl who, using an assumed name to "protect her family," described what had befallen her country in the wake of the Iraqi invasion.

Bravely composing herself as she recounted horrors no human eyes should behold, the precociously self-possessed 15-year-old volunteer nurse related to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus how Iraqi soldiers stormed into the al-Addan Hospital, tore newborn infants from incubators, and hurled them to the floor. A short time later this testimony was "confirmed" by others who offered similarly anguished testimony before the UN Security Council.

During the three-month build-up to the January 1991 attack on Baghdad, the image of Kuwaiti "incubator babies" was endlessly recycled as a talking point in media interviews, presidential speeches, and debates in Congress and the UN. A post-war opinion survey found that the story of the "incubator babies" was the single most potent weapon deployed by the Bush administration in its campaign to build public support for the attack on Iraq.

This atrocity account was particularly effective in overcoming the skepticism of people espousing a progressive point of view.

"A pacifist by nature, my brother was not in a peaceful mood that day," recalled Christian Science Monitor columnist Tom Regan, describing his sibling's reaction to "Nayirah's" testimony. "We've got to go and get Saddam Hussein – now," Regan's brother insisted.

"I completely understood his feelings," Regan pointed out. After all, "who could countenance such brutality? The news of the slaughter had come at a key moment in the deliberations about whether the U.S. would invade Iraq. Those who watched the non-stop debates on TV saw that many of those who had previously wavered on the issue had been turned into warriors by this shocking incident. Too bad it never happened."

"Nayirah" was not a traumatized ingénue who had witnessed an act of barbarism worthy of the Einsatzgruppen; she was actually the daughter of Saud Nasi al-Sabah, Kuwait's ambassador to the United States (and a member of the emirate's royal family). Her script had been written by the Washington-based PR firm Hill and Knowlton, which – under the supervision of former Bush administration Chief of Staff Craig Fuller – had put together a campaign to build public support for the impending war.

It wasn't difficult to convince the public that Saddam was a hideous thug. Selling the idea of a major war in the Middle East was a more daunting proposition. In late 1990, Hal Steward, a retired Army propaganda officer, defined the problem for the administration: "If and when the shooting starts, reporters will begin to wonder why American soldiers are dying for oil-rich sheiks. The U.S. military had better get cracking to come up with a public relations plan that will supply the answers the public can accept."

The image of newborn Kuwaiti infants being ripped from incubators was an updated riff on a classic war propaganda theme performed by British intelligence – and its American fellow travelers – in their efforts to provoke U.S. intervention in World War I.
The WWI-era equivalent of the Kuwaiti "incubator babies" were the Belgian infants who were supposedly spitted on bayonets by hairy-knuckled Huns in Pickelhaube helmets. German soldiers did this to amuse themselves once they could no longer sate their prurient interests by raping Belgian women and then amputating their breasts. So the American public was told, in all seriousness, by people working on behalf of a secretive British propaganda committee headed by Charles Masterman.

In 1915, an official Commission headed by Viscount James Bryce, a notable British historian, "verified" those atrocity stories without naming a specific witness or victim. This didn't satisfy Clarence Darrow, who offered a reward of $1,000 to anyone who could produce a Belgian or French victim who had been mutilated by German troops. That bounty went unclaimed.

"After the war," recounts Thomas Fleming in his book Illusion of Victory, "historians who sought to examine the documentation for Bryce's stories were told that the files had mysteriously disappeared. This blatant evasion prompted most historians to dismiss 99 percent of Bryce's atrocities as fabrications."

War emancipates every base and repulsive impulse to which fallen man is susceptible. So it's certain that some German troops (like their French, Belgian, British, and American counterparts) exploited opportunities to commit individual acts of depraved cruelty. But the purpose of the war propaganda peddled by the Anglo-American elite, as Fleming observes, was to create a widespread public image of Germans as "monsters capable of appalling sadism" – thereby coating an appeal to murderous collective hatred with a lacquer of sanctimony.

I've described agitprop of this variety as "atrocity porn." It is designed to appeal to prurient interests and manipulate a dangerous appetite – in this case, what Augustine calls the libido dominandi, or the lust to rule over others.

The trick is to leave the target audience at once shivering in horror at a spectacle of sub-human depravity, panting with a visceral desire for vengeance, and rapturously self-righteous about the purity of its humane motives. People who succumb to it are easily subsumed into a hive mind of officially sanctioned hatred, and prepared to perpetrate crimes even more hideous than those that they believe typify the enemy.

Rhetoric of that kind abounded during the French Revolution, particularly the Jacobin regime's war to annihilate the rebellious Vendee. It also figured prominently in the Lincoln regime's war to conquer the newly independent southern states. However, it's difficult to find a better expression of that mindset than the one offered in an editorial published in 1920 by Krasni Mech (The Red Sword), a publication of the Soviet Cheka secret police:

"Our morality has no precedent, and our humanity is absolute, because it rests on a new ideal. Our aim is to destroy all forms of oppression and violence. To us, everything is permitted, for we are the first to raise the sword not to oppress races and reduce them to slavery, but to liberate humanity from its shackles ... Blood? Let blood flow like water ... for only through the death of the old world can we liberate ourselves forever." (Emphasis added.)

In pursuing his Grand Crusade for Democracy, Woodrow Wilson was squarely in that tradition, extolling the supposed virtue of "Force without stint or limit ... the righteous and triumphant Force which shall make Right the law of the world and cast every selfish dominion in the dust." To fortify the American "war will" through a steady diet of atrocity porn, the Wilson administration created a Department of Public Information that liaised with its British equivalent, as well as quasi-private British propaganda fronts such as the Navy League. That organization, Fleming points out, included "dozens of major bankers and corporate executives, from J.P. Morgan Jr. to Cornelius Vanderbilt."

Through absolutely no fault of his own, Anderson Cooper is a great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Of considerably greater interest is the fact that as a student at Yale, Cooper spent two summers as an intern at Langley in a CIA program designed to cultivate future intelligence operatives. (Editor's NOTE: Yale University sends a larger percentage of graduates into US intelligence work than any other)
When asked about Cooper's background with the CIA, a CNN spokeswoman insisted that he chose not to pursue a job with the Agency after graduating from Yale. The same can be said, however, of many of the CIA's most valuable media assets.

As Carl Bernstein documented decades ago, the CIA "ran a formal training program in the 1950s to teach its agents to be journalists. Intelligence officers were 'taught how to make noises like reporters,' explained a high CIA official, and were then placed in major news organizations with help from management. 'These were the guys who went through the ranks and were told, 'You're going to be a journalist,' the CIA official said. Relatively few of the 400-some [media] relationships described in Agency files followed that pattern, however; most involved persons who were already bona fide journalists when they began undertaking tasks for the Agency."

By way of an initiative called "Operation Mockingbird," the CIA built a large seraglio of paid media courtesans. (Editor's NOTE: e.g. the late Walter Cronkite) This was carried out through the Office of Policy Coordination, which was created by Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner – the latter being the official who went on to organize coups (and the attendant propaganda campaigns) against governments in Iran and Guatemala. (Wisner's son and namesake, incidentally, was a vice chairman at AIG – the CIA's favorite global insurance conglomerate – until 2009; more recently he was tapped by the Obama administration to serve as a back-channel contact with Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman.)

The tendrils of "Operation Mockingbird" extended through every significant national media organ, from the Washington Post and Newsweek to the Time-Life conglomerate, from the New York Times to CBS. As a result, according to former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, the Fourth Estate "has been captured by government and corporations, the military-industrial complex, the intelligence apparatus." It is, in everything but name, an appendage of the Regime. This is clearly seen every time the Regime decides the time has come to mount another campaign of humanitarian bloodshed abroad.

Having "learned nothing from the horrors that they cheer-led like excitable teenage girls over the past 15 years, these bohemian bombers, these latte-sipping lieutenants, these iPad imperialists are back," sighs a wearily disgusted Brendan O'Neill in the London Telegraph. "This time they're demanding the invasion of Libya."

On O'Neill's side of the Atlantic, the Fleet Street Samurai are peddling "rumors of systematic male rape" in Libya. Others insist that the prospective war in Libya would in no way resemble "the foolishness of the Iraq invasion" – just as similar self-appointed sages promised that the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, each of which has lasted at least as long as the Vietnam War, would not be "another Vietnam."

For some reason, this brings to mind the image of Bullwinkle repeatedly trying to pull a rabbit from his hat, blithely batting aside Rocky's complaint that the trick "never works" by exclaiming, "This time for sure!" This time, we're supposed to believe – or at least, pretend to believe – that the atrocity accounts are true, that military action sanctified by the "international community" is a moral obligation, that warlust and hatred are virtuous, and that the impending bloodshed will be a cleansing stream.

As is the case, one supposes, with any other variety, war pornography is nothing if not predictable. However, unlike Bullwinkle's inept, war porn is a trick that seems to work every time.


Walter Cronkite: Most Trusted Asset of Operation Mockingbird

Kurt Nimmo

July 18, 2009

“It is impossible to imagine CBS News, journalism or indeed America without Walter Cronkite,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS News, on the passing on Walter Cronkite. “More than just the best and most trusted anchor in history, he guided America through our crises, tragedies and also our victories and greatest moments.”

I wonder if Mr. McManus knew the real Cronkite — Cronkite the a former intelligence officer who was lured away from his UPI Moscow desk by Operation Mockingbird’s Phil Graham.

Of course he did. Because the corporate media, at least at the level Walter Cronkite occupied, is rife with spooks, government agents, and disinfo operatives. The CIA has “important assets” inside every major news publication in the country, a fact established by numerous FOIA documents. A rare glimpse was also provided by Frank Church’s committee in the mid-70s.

Some of the journalists working the CIA’s side of the street “were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors-without-portfolio for their country,” Carl Bernstein wrote in an article published in Rolling Stone in October, 1977:

“Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested it the derring-do of the spy business as in filing articles, and, the smallest category, full-time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad.”

“It was not until 1982 that the Agency openly admitted that reporters on the CIA payroll have acted as case officers to agents in the field,” writes Alex Constantine in The Depraved Spies and Moguls of the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD. “Most consumers of the corporate media were — and are — unaware of the effect that the salting of public opinion has on their own beliefs.

“In the 1950s, outlays for global propaganda climbed to a full third of the CIA’s covert operations budget. Some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts. The cost of disinforming the world cost American taxpayers an estimated $265 million a year by 1978, a budget larger than the combined expenditures of Reuters, UPI and the AP news syndicates.”

Cronkite was a trusted and valued part of that huge mass propaganda effort.

Cronkite betrayed his kindly and fatherly demeanor in 1999 when he accepted the Norman Cousins Global Governance Award at the ceremony at the United Nations:

It seems to many of us that if we are to avoid the eventual catastrophic world conflict we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government patterned after our own government with a legislature, executive and judiciary, and police to enforce its international laws and keep the peace. To do that, of course, we Americans will have to yield up some of our sovereignty. That would be a bitter pill. It would take a lot of courage, a lot of faith in the new order. But the American colonies did it once and brought forth one of the most nearly perfect unions the world has ever seen.

It is said Cronkite “somehow spoke for the nation he spoke to,” according to the Los Angeles Times, when in fact — like all corporate media figures — Cronkite was reading from a script provided by the CIA at the behest of the ruling elite.

An Empire of Lies: Why Our Media Betrays Us

By Jonathan Cook

February 28, 2011 "Information Clearing House" --- Last week the Guardian, Britain’s main liberal newspaper, ran an exclusive report on the belated confessions of an Iraqi exile, Rafeed al-Janabi, codenamed “Curveball” by the CIA. Eight years ago, Janabi played a key behind-the-scenes role — if an inadvertent one — in making possible the US invasion of Iraq. His testimony bolstered claims by the Bush administration that Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, had developed an advanced programme producing weapons of mass destruction.

Curveball’s account included the details of mobile biological weapons trucks presented by Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, to the United Nations in early 2003. Powell’s apparently compelling case on WMD was used to justify the US attack on Iraq a few weeks later.

Eight years on, Curveball revealed to the Guardian that he had fabricated the story of Saddam’s WMD back in 2000, shortly after his arrival in Germany seeking asylum. He told the paper he had lied to German intelligence in the hope his testimony might help topple Saddam, though it seems more likely he simply wanted to ensure his asylum case was taken more seriously.

For the careful reader — and I stress the word “careful” — several disturbing facts emerged from the report.

One was that the German authorities had quickly proven his account of Iraq’s WMD to be false. Both German and British intelligence had travelled to Dubai to meet Bassil Latif, his former boss at Iraq’s Military Industries Commission. Dr Latif had proven that Curveball’s claims could not be true. The German authorities quickly lost interest in Janabi and he was not interviewed again until late 2002, when it became more pressing for the US to make a convincing case for an attack on Iraq.

Another interesting disclosure was that, despite the vital need to get straight all the facts about Curveball’s testimony — given the stakes involved in launching a pre-emptive strike against another sovereign state — the Americans never bothered to interview Curveball themselves.

A third revelation was that the CIA’s head of operations in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, passed on warnings from German intelligence that they considered Curveball’s testimony to be highly dubious. The head of the CIA, George Tenet, simply ignored the advice.

With Curveball’s admission in mind, as well as these other facts from the story, we can draw some obvious conclusions — conclusions confirmed by subsequent developments.

Lacking both grounds in international law and the backing of major allies, the Bush administration desperately needed Janabi’s story about WMD, however discredited it was, to justify its military plans for Iraq. The White House did not interview Curveball because they knew his account of Saddam’s WMD programme was made up. His story would unravel under scrutiny; better to leave Washington with the option of “plausible deniability”.

Nonetheless, Janabi’s falsified account was vitally useful: for much of the American public, it added a veneer of credibility to the implausible case that Saddam was a danger to the world; it helped fortify wavering allies facing their own doubting publics; and it brought on board Colin Powell, a former general seen as the main voice of reason in the administration.

In other words, Bush’s White House used Curveball to breathe life into its mythological story about Saddam’s threat to world peace.

So how did the Guardian, a bastion of liberal journalism, present its exclusive on the most controversial episode in recent American foreign policy?

Here is its headline: “How US was duped by Iraqi fantasist looking to topple Saddam”.

Did the headline-writer misunderstand the story as written by the paper’s reporters? No, the headline neatly encapsulated its message. In the text, we are told Powell’s presentation to the UN “revealed that the Bush administration’s hawkish decisionmakers had swallowed” Curveball’s account. At another point, we are told Janabi “pulled off one of the greatest confidence tricks in the history of modern intelligence”. And that: “His critics — who are many and powerful — say the cost of his deception is too difficult to estimate.”

In other words, the Guardian assumed, despite all the evidence uncovered in its own research, that Curveball misled the Bush administration into making a disastrous miscalculation. On this view, the White House was the real victim of Curveball’s lies, not the Iraqi people — more than a million of whom are dead as a result of the invasion, according to the best available figures, and four million of whom have been forced into exile.

There is nothing exceptional about this example. I chose it because it relates to an event of continuing and momentous significance.

Unfortunately, there is something depressingly familiar about this kind of reporting, even in the West’s main liberal publications. Contrary to its avowed aim, mainstream journalism invariably diminishes the impact of new events when they threaten powerful elites.

We will examine why in a minute. But first let us consider what, or who, constitutes “empire” today? Certainly, in its most symbolic form, it can be identified as the US government and its army, comprising the world’s sole superpower.

Traditionally, empires have been defined narrowly, in terms of a strong nation-state that successfully expands its sphere of influence and power to other territories. Empire’s aim is to make those territories dependent, and then either exploit their resources in the case of poorly developed countries, or, with more developed countries, turn them into new markets for its surplus goods. It is in this latter sense that the American empire has often been able to claim that it is a force for global good, helping to spread freedom and the benefits of consumer culture.

Empire achieves its aims in different ways: through force, such as conquest, when dealing with populations resistant to the theft of their resources; and more subtly through political and economic interference, persuasion and mind-control when it wants to create new markets. However it works, the aim is to create a sense in the dependent territories that their interests and fates are bound to those of empire.

In our globalised world, the question of who is at the centre of empire is much less clear than it once was. The US government is today less the heart of empire than its enabler. What were until recently the arms of empire, especially the financial and military industries, have become a transnational imperial elite whose interests are not bound by borders and whose powers largely evade legislative and moral controls.

Israel’s leadership, we should note, as well its elite supporters around the world — including the Zionist lobbies, the arms manufacturers and Western militaries, and to a degree even the crumbling Arab tyrannies of the Middle East — are an integral element in that transnational elite.

The imperial elites’ success depends to a large extent on a shared belief among the western public both that “we” need them to secure our livelihoods and security and that at the same time we are really their masters. Some of the necessary illusions perpetuated by the transnational elites include:

– That we elect governments whose job is to restrain the corporations;

– That we, in particular, and the global workforce, in general, are the chief beneficiaries of the corporations’ wealth creation;

– That the corporations and the ideology that underpins them, global capitalism, are the only hope for freedom;

– That consumption is not only an expression of our freedom but also a major source of our happiness;

– That economic growth can be maintained indefinitely and at no long-term cost to the health of the planet; and,

– That there are groups, called terrorists, who want to destroy this benevolent system of wealth creation and personal improvement.

These assumptions, however fanciful they may appear when subjected to scrutiny, are the ideological bedrock on which the narratives of our societies in the West are constructed and from which ultimately our sense of identity derives. This ideological system appears to us — and I am using “we” and “us” to refer to western publics only — to describe the natural order.

The job of sanctifying these assumptions — and ensuring they are not scrutinised — falls to our mainstream media. Western corporations own the media, and their advertising makes the industry profitable. In this sense, the media cannot fulfil the function of watchdog of power because, in fact, it is power. It is the power of the globalised elite to control and limit the ideological and imaginative horizons of the media’s readers and viewers. It does so to ensure that imperial interests, which are synonymous with those of the corporations, are not threatened.

The Curveball story neatly illustrates the media’s role.

His confession has come too late — eight years too late, to be precise — to have any impact on the events that matter. As happens so often with important stories that challenge elite interests, the facts vitally needed to allow western publics to reach informed conclusions were not available when they were needed. In this case, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are gone, as are their neoconservative advisers. Curveball’s story is now chiefly of interest to historians.

That last point is quite literally true. The Guardian’s revelations were of almost no concern to the US media, the supposed watchdog at the heart of the US empire. A search of the Lexis Nexis media database shows that Curveball’s admissions featured only in the New York Times, in a brief report on page 7, as well as in a news round-up in the Washington Times. The dozens of other major US newspapers, including the Washington Post, made no mention of it at all.

Instead, the main audience for the story outside the UK was the readers of India’s Hindu newspaper and the Khaleej Times.

But even the Guardian, often regarded as fearless in taking on powerful interests, packaged its report in such a way as to deprive Curveball’s confession of its true value. The facts were bled of their real significance. The presentation ensured that only the most aware readers would have understood that the US had not been duped by Curveball, but rather that the White House had exploited a “fantasist” — or desperate exile from a brutal regime, depending on how one looks at it — for its own illegal and immoral ends.

Why did the Guardian miss the main point in its own exclusive? The reason is that all our mainstream media, however liberal, take as their starting point the idea both that the West’s political culture is inherently benevolent and that it is morally superior to all existing, or conceivable, alternative systems.

In reporting and commentary, this is demonstrated most clearly in the idea that “our” leaders always act in good faith, whereas “their” leaders — those opposed to empire or its interests — are driven by base or evil motives.

It is in this way that official enemies, such as Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, can be singled out as personifying the crazed or evil dictator — while other equally rogue regimes such as Saudi Arabia’s are described as “moderate” — opening the way for their countries to become targets of our own imperial strategies.

States selected for the “embrace” of empire are left with a stark choice: accept our terms of surrender and become an ally or defy empire and face our wrath.

When the corporate elites trample on other peoples and states to advance their own selfish interests, such as in the invasion of Iraq to control its resources, our dominant media cannot allow its reporting to frame the events honestly. The continuing assumption in liberal commentary about the US attack on Iraq, for example, is that, once no WMD were found, the Bush administration remained to pursue a misguided effort to root out the terrorists, restore law and order, and spread democracy.

For the western media, our leaders make mistakes, they are naïve or even stupid, but they are never bad or evil. Our media do not call for Bush or Blair to be tried at the Hague as war criminals.

This, of course, does not mean that the western media is Pravda, the propaganda mouthpiece of the old Soviet empire. There are differences. Dissent is possible, though it must remain within the relatively narrow confines of “reasonable” debate, a spectrum of possible thought that accepts unreservedly the presumption that we are better, more moral, than them.

Similarly, journalists are rarely told — at least, not directly — what to write. The media have developed careful selection processes and hierarchies among their editorial staff — termed “filters” by media critics Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky — to ensure that dissenting or truly independent journalists do not reach positions of real influence.

There is, in other words, no simple party line. There are competing elites and corporations, and their voices are reflected in the narrow range of what we term commentary and opinion. Rather than being dictated to by party officials, as happened under the Soviet system, our journalists scramble for access, to be admitted into the ante-chambers of power. These privileges make careers but they come at a huge cost to the reporters’ independence.

Nonetheless, the range of what is permissible is slowly expanding — over the opposition of the elites and our mainstream TV and press. The reason is to be found in the new media, which is gradually eroding the monopoly long enjoyed by the corporate media to control the spread of information and popular ideas. Wikileaks is so far the most obvious, and impressive, outcome of that trend.

The consequences are already tangible across the Middle East, which has suffered disproportionately under the oppressive rule of empire. The upheavals as Arab publics struggle to shake off their tyrants are also stripping bare some of the illusions the western media have peddled to us. Empire, we have been told, wants democracy and freedom around the globe. And yet it is caught mute and impassive as the henchmen of empire unleash US-made weapons against their peoples who are demanding western-style freedoms.

An important question is: how will our media respond to this exposure, not just of our politicians’ hypocrisy but also of their own? They are already trying to co-opt the new media, including Wikileaks, but without real success. They are also starting to allow a wider range of debate, though still heavily constrained, than had been possible before.

The West’s version of glasnost is particularly obvious in the coverage of the problem closest to our hearts here in Palestine. What Israel terms a delegitimisation campaign is really the opening up — slightly — of the media landscape to allow a little light where until recently darkness reigned.

This is an opportunity and one that we must nurture. We must demand of the corporate media more honesty; we must shame them by being better-informed than the hacks who recycle official press releases and clamour for access; (Editor's bold emphasis throughout)  and we must desert them, as is already happening, for better sources of information.

We have a window. And we must force it open before the elites of empire try to slam it shut.

Passive Resistance or Civil Disobedience: How to Stop the Endless Wars?

No Other Way Out

By Chris Hedges
Posted on Feb 28, 2011

I have watched mothers and fathers keening in grief over the frail corpses of their children in hospitals in Gaza and rural villages in El Salvador, Bosnia and Kosovo. The faces of these dead children, their bodies ripped apart by iron fragments or bullets tumbling end over end through their small, delicate frames, appear to me almost daily like faint and sadly familiar ghosts. The frailty and innocence of my own children make these images difficult to bear.

A child a day dies in war-related violence in Afghanistan. Children die in roadside explosions. They die in airstrikes. They die after militants lure them to carry suicide bombs, usually without their knowledge. They die in firefights. They are executed by the Taliban after being accused, sometimes correctly, of spying for the Afghan National Army. They are tiny pawns in a futile and endless war. They are robbed of their childhood. They live in fear and surrounded by the terror of indiscriminate violence. The United Nations, whose most recent report on children in Afghanistan covered a two-year period from Sept. 1, 2008, to Aug. 30, 2010, estimates that in the first half of last year at least 176 children were killed and 389 more wounded. But the real number is probably much, much higher. There are big parts of the country where research can no longer be carried out.

We will not stop the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will not end this slaughter of innocents, unless we are willing to rise up as have state workers in Wisconsin and citizens on the streets of Arab capitals. Repeated and sustained acts of civil disobedience are the only weapons that remain to us. Our political system is as broken and dysfunctional as that once presided over in Egypt by Hosni Mubarak. We must be willing to accept personal discomfort, to put our bodies in the way of the machine, if we hope to expose the lies of war and blunt the abuse by corporate profiteers. To do nothing, to refuse to act, to be passive, is to be an agent of injustice and to be complicit in murder. The U.N. report estimates that during the two-year period it studied almost 1,800 children were killed or injured in conflict-related violence, but numbers can never transmit the reality of such suffering.

On March 19, the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I will join a coalition of U.S. military veterans from Iraq Veterans Against the War, March Forward!, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace who will gather in Lafayette Park across from the White House. The veteran-led action will result in numerous arrests, as did a Dec. 16 protest organized by Veterans for Peace. It will seek, because it is all we have left, to use our bodies to challenge the crimes of the state.

It does not matter if this protest or any other does not work. It does not matter if we are 500, as we were in December, or 50. It does not matter if the event is covered in the press or ignored. It matters only that those of us who believe in the rule of law, who find the organized sadism of war and militarism repugnant and who seek to protect the sanctity of life rise up. If we do not defend these virtues they will be extinguished. No one in power will defend them for us. Protests are rending the fabric of the U.S.-backed dictatorships in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and Libya. They are flickering to life in the U.S. in states like Wisconsin. And they are beginning to convulse Iraq. Iraqis, for whom eight years of war and occupation have brought nothing but misery and death, are surrounding government buildings to denounce their puppet government. They are rising up to demand jobs, basic services including electricity, a reining in of our mercenary killers, some of whom have been used to quell restless crowds, and a right to determine their own future. These protesters are our true allies, not the hired thugs we pay to repress them.

We are wasting $700 million a day to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while our teachers, firefighters and police lose their jobs, while we slash basic assistance programs for the poor, children and the elderly, while we turn our backs on the some 3 million people being pushed from their homes by foreclosures and bank repossessions and while we do nothing to help the one in six American workers who cannot find work. These wars have taken hundreds of thousands of lives. They have pushed millions into refugee or displacement camps. They have left young men and women severely crippled and maimed. They have turned our nation into an isolated pariah, fueling the very terrorism we seek to defeat. And they cannot be won. The sooner we leave Iraq and Afghanistan the sooner we will save others and finally save ourselves.

There will be veterans in the park who carry with them physical and emotional wounds of great magnitude, who remain crippled by the dead hand of war, who never sleep well, who struggle in the black pit of depression and with post-traumatic stress disorder, and who will bear the cross that war inflicted upon them until the end of their days. They will have surmounted tremendous psychic and physical pain to make it to Lafayette Park, to defy what they know must be defied. And if they can walk their trail of tears to the White House so can you. They are our wounded healers, our disregarded prophets.

Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot who while flying saw the killings of unarmed Vietnamese civilians in what later became known as the My Lai massacre, landed in the village during the slaughter. He spotted a group of about 10 civilians, including children, running toward a homemade bomb shelter. Soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, C Company, were chasing the civilians. Thompson, dismounting from the cockpit, put himself between the civilians and the soldiers. He ordered his gunner to open fire on the Americans if they began to shoot the villagers or him. Later, Thompson, who crusaded for justice after then-Maj. Colin Powell led the official whitewash of My Lai, received death threats. Mutilated animals were tossed on his doorstep. He was unsung for decades and forgotten until shortly before his death in 2006. He exhibited real courage, moral courage, the kind of courage the state detests, the kind of courage for which they do not mint medals.

Bradley Manning, who allegedly downloaded thousands of documents and videos that confirmed war crimes by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and passed them on to WikiLeaks, is being held in a military brig in Quantico, Va. He has been kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and denied exercise, a pillow or sheets for the last nine months. His prolonged isolation is designed to break him physically and psychologically. There will be a protest outside Quantico on March 20 in support of Manning, another soldier from another war whom Thompson would have understood.

The documents published by WikiLeaks detailed for the world the widespread use of torture by Iraqi and Afghan security forces and the silent complicity of Washington. They confirmed that civilians, including children, are routinely murdered by occupation forces and that the killings are not investigated. The documents lifted the veil on our undeclared, black war in Pakistan, including drone strikes that have killed more than 900 civilians in Pakistan since Barack Obama took office. They shed light on the gross corruption, drug trafficking and crimes committed by the Afghan president as well as the reign of terror carried out by the Afghan National Army. These documents confirm that huge numbers of Iraqi civilians have been killed by U.S. troops at checkpoints, and that since the invasion tens of thousands of civilians have died as a result of the war. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout) These documents illustrate in page after page that our government makes no effort to protect liberty, democracy or human rights, but instead prefers crude and brutal mechanisms of power.

The Obama administration, which has proved as efficient in serving the war machine and the corporate state as the Bush administration did, is attempting to destroy not only Manning but WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The state seeks to silence anyone who practices moral courage. It does not want the truth heard. It does not want the reality seen. If these forces of war and greed triumph, and we do not, there will be darkness. But if on March 19 there is at least one person willing to defy the state, to demand justice at the cost of his or her freedom, there will be a flame held to light the way for us all.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Control of Oil Behind Revolution in Libya?

Libya and Imperialism

by Sara Flounders
Global Research
February 24, 2011

Of all the struggles going on in North Africa and the Middle East right now, the most difficult to unravel is the one in Libya.

What is the character of the opposition to the Gadhafi regime, which reportedly now controls the eastern city of Benghazi?

Is it just coincidence that the rebellion started in Benghazi, which is north of Libya’s richest oil fields as well as close to most of its oil and gas pipelines, refineries and its LNG port? Is there a plan to partition the country?

What is the risk of imperialist military intervention, which poses the gravest danger for the people of the entire region?

Libya is not like Egypt. Its leader, Moammar al-Gadhafi, has not been an imperialist puppet like Hosni Mubarak. For many years, Gadhafi was allied to countries and movements fighting imperialism. On taking power in 1969 through a military coup, he nationalized Libya’s oil and used much of that money to develop the Libyan economy. Conditions of life improved dramatically for the people.

For that, the imperialists were determined to grind Libya down. The U.S. actually launched air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 that killed 60 people, including Gadhafi’s infant daughter – which is rarely mentioned by the corporate media. Devastating sanctions were imposed by both the U.S. and the U.N. to wreck the Libyan economy.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and leveled much of Baghdad with a bombing campaign that the Pentagon exultantly called “shock and awe,” Gadhafi tried to ward off further threatened aggression on Libya by making big political and economic concessions to the imperialists. He opened the economy to foreign banks and corporations; he agreed to IMF demands for “structural adjustment,” privatizing many state-owned enterprises and cutting state subsidies on necessities like food and fuel.

The Libyan people are suffering from the same high prices and unemployment that underlie the rebellions elsewhere and that flow from the worldwide capitalist economic crisis.

There can be no doubt that the struggle sweeping the Arab world for political freedom and economic justice has also struck a chord in Libya. There can be no doubt that discontent with the Gadhafi regime is motivating a significant section of the population.

However, it is important for progressives to know that many of the people being promoted in the West as leaders of the opposition are long-time agents of imperialism. The BBC on Feb. 22 showed footage of crowds in Benghazi pulling down the green flag of the republic and replacing it with the flag of the overthrown monarch King Idris – who had been a puppet of U.S. and British imperialism.

The Western media are basing a great deal of their reporting on supposed facts provided by the exile group National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which was trained and financed by the U.S. CIA. Google the front’s name plus CIA and you will find hundreds of references.

The Wall Street Journal in a Feb. 23 editorial wrote that “The U.S. and Europe should help Libyans overthrow the Gadhafi regime.” There is no talk in the board rooms or the corridors of Washington about intervening to help the people of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or Bahrain overthrow their dictatorial rulers. Even with all the lip service being paid to the mass struggles rocking the region right now, that would be unthinkable. As for Egypt and Tunisia, the imperialists are pulling every string they can to get the masses off the streets.

There was no talk of U.S. intervention to help the Palestinian people of Gaza when thousands died from being blockaded, bombed and invaded by Israel. Just the opposite. The U.S. intervened to prevent condemnation of the Zionist settler state.

Imperialism’s interest in Libya is not hard to find. wrote on Feb. 22 that while Libya is Africa’s third-largest producer of oil, it has the continent’s largest proven reserves – 44.3 billion barrels. It is a country with a relatively small population but the potential to produce huge profits for the giant oil companies. That’s how the super-rich look at it, and that’s what underlies their professed concern for the people’s democratic rights in Libya.

Getting concessions out of Gadhafi is not enough for the imperialist oil barons. They want a government that they can own outright, lock, stock and barrel. They have never forgiven Gadhafi for overthrowing the monarchy and nationalizing the oil. Fidel Castro of Cuba in his column “Reflections” takes note of imperialism’s hunger for oil and warns that the U.S. is laying the basis for military intervention in Libya.

In the U.S., some forces are trying to mobilize a street-level campaign promoting such U.S. intervention. We should oppose this outright and remind any well-intentioned people of the millions killed and displaced by U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Progressive people are in sympathy with what they see as a popular movement in Libya. We can help such a movement most by supporting its just demands while rejecting imperialist intervention, in whatever form it may take. It is the people of Libya who must decide their future.


U.S.: Neo-Con Hawks Take Flight over Libya

By Jim Lobe

February 27, 2011 "IPS" -- WASHINGTON - In a distinct echo of the tactics they pursued to encourage U.S. intervention in the Balkans and Iraq, a familiar clutch of neo-conservatives appealed Friday for the United States and NATO to "immediately" prepare military action to help bring down the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and end the violence that is believed to have killed well over a thousand people in the past week.

The appeal, which came in the form of a letter signed by 40 policy analysts, including more than a dozen former senior officials who served under President George W. Bush, was organized and released by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a two-year-old neo-conservative group that is widely seen as the successor to the more-famous – or infamous – Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

Warning that Libya stood "on the threshold of a moral and humanitarian catastrophe", the letter, which was addressed to President Barack Obama, called for specific immediate steps involving military action, in addition to the imposition of a number of diplomatic and economic sanctions to bring "an end to the murderous Libyan regime". In particular, it called for Washington to press NATO to "develop operational plans to urgently deploy warplanes to prevent the regime from using fighter jets and helicopter gunships against civilians and carry out other missions as required; (and) move naval assets into Libyan waters" to "aid evacuation efforts and prepare for possible contingencies;" as well as "(e)stablish the capability to disable Libyan naval vessels used to attack civilians."

Among the letter's signers were former Bush Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Bush's top global democracy and Middle East adviser; Elliott Abrams; former Bush speechwriters Marc Thiessen and Peter Wehner; Vice President Dick Cheney's former deputy national security adviser, John Hannah, as well as FPI's four directors: Weekly Standard editor William Kristol; Brookings Institution fellow Robert Kagan; former Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor; and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Ambassador to Turkey, Eric Edelman.

It was Kagan and Kristol who co-founded and directed PNAC in its heyday from 1997 to the end of Bush's term in 2005.

The letter comes amid growing pressure on Obama, including from liberal hawks, to take stronger action against Gaddafi.

Two prominent senators whose foreign policy views often reflect neo-conservative thinking, Republican John McCain and Independent Democrat Joseph Lieberman, called Friday in Tel Aviv for Washington to supply Libyan rebels with arms, among other steps, including establishing a no-fly zone over the country.
On Wednesday, Obama said his staff was preparing a "full range of options" for action. He also announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet fly to Geneva Monday for a foreign ministers' meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council to discuss possible multilateral actions.

"They want to keep open the idea that there's a mix of capabilities they can deploy – whether it's a no-fly zone, freezing foreign assets of Gaddafi's family, doing something to prevent the transport of mercenaries (hired by Gaddafi) to Libya, targeting sanctions against some of his supporters to persuade them to abandon him," said Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, who took part in a meeting of independent foreign policy analysts, including Abrams, with senior National Security Council staff at the White House Thursday.

During the 1990s, neo-conservatives consistently lobbied for military pressure to be deployed against so-called "rogue states", especially in the Middle East.

After the 1991 Gulf War, for example, many "neo-cons" expressed bitter disappointment that U.S. troops stopped at the Kuwaiti border instead of marching to Baghdad and overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein.

When the Iraqi president then unleashed his forces against Kurdish rebels in the north and Shia insurgents in the south, they – along with many liberal interventionist allies – pressed President George H.W. Bush to impose "no-fly zones" over both regions and take additional actions - much as they are now proposing for Libya - designed to weaken the regime's military repressive capacity.

Those actions set the pattern for the 1990s. To the end of the decade, neo-conservatives, often operating under the auspices of a so-called "letterhead organization", such as PNAC, worked – often with the help of some liberal internationalists eager to establish a right of humanitarian intervention - to press President Bill Clinton to take military action against adversaries in the Balkans – in Bosnia and then Kosovo – as well as Iraq.

Within days of 9/11, for example, PNAC issued a letter signed by 41 prominent individuals – almost all neo- conservatives, including 10 of the Libya letter's signers – that called for military action to "remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq", as well as retaliation against Iran and Syria if they did not immediately end their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

PNAC and its associates subsequently worked closely with neo-conservatives inside the Bush administration, including Abrams, Wolfowitz, and Edelman, to achieve those aims.
While neo-conservatives were among the first to call for military action against Gaddafi in the past week, some prominent liberals and rights activists have rallied to the call, including three of the letter's signatories: Neil Hicks of Human Rights First; Bill Clinton's human rights chief, John Shattuck; and Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic, who also signed the PNAC Iraq letter 10 years ago.

In addition, Anne-Marie Slaughter, until last month the influential director of the State Department's Policy Planning office, cited the U.S.-NATO Kosovo campaign as a possible precedent. "The international community cannot stand by and watch the massacre of Libyan protesters," she wrote on Twitter. "In Rwanda we watched. In Kosovo we acted."

Such comments evoked strong reactions from some military experts, however.
"I'm horrified to read liberal interventionists continue to suggest the ease with which humanitarian crises and regional conflicts can be solved by the application of military power," wrote Andrew Exum, a counter-insurgency specialist at the Center for a New American Security, whose Abu Muqawama blog is widely read here. "To speak so glibly of such things reflects a very immature understanding of the limits of force and the difficulties and complexities of contemporary military operations."
Other commentators noted that a renewed coalition of neo- conservatives and liberal interventionists would be much harder to put together now than during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

"We now have Iraq and Afghanistan as warning signs, as well as our fiscal crisis, so I don't think there's an enormous appetite on Capitol Hill or among the public for yet another military engagement," said Charles Kupchan, a foreign policy specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

"I support diplomatic and economic sanctions, but I would stop well short of advocating military action, including the imposition of a no-fly zone," he added, noting, in any event, that most of the killing in Libya this week has been carried out by mercenaries and paramilitaries on foot or from vehicles.

"There may be some things we can do – such as airlifting humanitarian supplies to border regions where there are growing number of refugees, but I would do so only with the full support of the Arab League and African Union, if not the U.N.," said Clemons.

"(The neo-conservatives) are essentially pro-intervention, pro-war, without regard to the costs to the country," he told IPS. "They don't recognize that we're incredibly over-extended and that the kinds of things they want us to do actually further weaken our already-eroded stock of American power."

© 2011 Inter Press Service

Sunday, February 27, 2011

All War All the Time: Good for Business?

Editor's NOTE:

I encourage all visitors to obtain copies of Colonel Fletcher Prouty's two books, The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World (Second Edition) and JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate JFK. For additional information on the work of Colonel Prouty see Len Osanic's site Black Op Radio.

The late Colonel Fletcher Prouty has undoubtedly provided the best explanation of how the "High Cabal" has operated since 1945 and did so from an insider's perspective. Prouty had a front-row seat from which to observe all the clandestine US action carried out across the world.

For those struggling to understand how the United States can continue to act against the interest and desires of a majority of its citizens, Prouty supplies the answers.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

War Über Alles

by Paul Craig Roberts

February 26, 2011
Antiwar Forum

The United States government cannot get enough of war. With Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s regime falling to a rebelling population, CNN reports that a Pentagon spokesman said that the U.S. is looking at all options from the military side.

Allegedly, the Pentagon, which is responsible for one million dead Iraqis and an unknown number of dead Afghans and Pakistanis, is concerned about the deaths of 1,000 Libyan protesters.

While the Pentagon tries to figure out how to get involved in the Libyan revolt, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific is developing new battle plans to take on China in her home territory. Four-star Admiral Robert Willard thinks the U.S. should be able to whip China in its own coastal waters.

The admiral thinks one way to do this is to add U.S. Marines to his force structure so that the U.S. can eject Chinese forces from disputed islands in the East and South China seas.

It is not the U.S. who is disputing the islands, but if there is a chance for war anywhere, the admiral wants to make sure we are not left out.

The admiral also hopes to develop military ties with India and add that country to his clout. India, the admiral says, "is a natural partner of the United States" and "is crucial to America’s 21st-century strategy of balancing China." The U.S. is going to seduce the Indians by selling them advanced aircraft.

If the plan works out, we will have India in NATO helping us to occupy Pakistan and presenting China with the possibility of a two-front war.

The Pentagon needs some more wars so there can be some more "reconstruction." Reconstruction is very lucrative, especially as Washington has privatized so many of the projects, thus turning over to well-placed friends many opportunities to loot. Considering all the money that has been spent, one searches hard to find completed projects. The just released report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting can’t say exactly how much of the $200 billion in Afghan "reconstruction" disappeared in criminal behavior and blatant corruption, but $12 billion alone was lost to "overt fraud."

War makes money for the politically connected. While the flag-waving population remains proud of the service of their sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, cousins, wives, mothers and daughters, the smart boys who got the fireworks started are rolling in the mega-millions.

As General Smedley Butler told the jingoistic American population, to no avail, "war is a racket." As long as the American population remains proud that their relatives serve as cannon fodder for the military/security complex, war will remain a racket.


How will America handle the fall of its Middle East empire?

By Peter Oborne
The Telegraph
Last updated: February 24th, 2011

Empires can collapse in the course of a generation. At the end of the 16th century, the Spanish looked dominant. Twenty-five years later, they were on their knees, over-extended, bankrupt, and incapable of coping with the emergent maritime powers of Britain and Holland. The British empire reached its fullest extent in 1930. Twenty years later, it was all over.

Today, it is reasonable to ask whether the United States, seemingly invincible a decade ago, will follow the same trajectory. America has suffered two convulsive blows in the last three years. The first was the financial crisis of 2008, whose consequences are yet to be properly felt. Although the immediate cause was the debacle in the mortgage market, the underlying problem was chronic imbalance in the economy.

For a number of years, America has been incapable of funding its domestic programmes and overseas commitments without resorting to massive help from China, its global rival. China has a pressing motive to assist: it needs to sustain US demand in order to provide a market for its exports and thus avert an economic crisis of its own. This situation is the contemporary equivalent of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the doctrine which prevented nuclear war breaking out between America and Russia.

Unlike MAD, this pact is unsustainable. But Barack Obama has not sought to address the problem. Instead, he responded to the crisis with the same failed policies that caused the trouble in the first place: easy credit and yet more debt. It is certain that America will, in due course, be forced into a massive adjustment both to its living standards at home and its commitments abroad.

This matters because, following the second convulsive blow, America’s global interests are under threat on a scale never before seen. Since 1956, when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles pulled the plug on Britain and France over Suez, the Arab world has been a US domain. At first, there were promises that it would tolerate independence and self-determination. But this did not last long; America chose to govern through brutal and corrupt dictators, supplied with arms, military training and advice from Washington.

The momentous importance of the last few weeks is that this profitable, though morally bankrupt, arrangement appears to be coming to an end. One of the choicest ironies of the bloody and macabre death throes of the regime in Libya is that Colonel Gaddafi would have been wiser to have stayed out of the US sphere of influence. When he joined forces with George Bush and Tony Blair five years ago, the ageing dictator was leaping on to a bandwagon that was about to grind to a halt.

In Washington, President Obama has not been stressing this aspect of affairs. Instead, after hesitation, he has presented the recent uprisings as democratic and even pro-American, indeed a triumph for the latest methods of Western communication such as Twitter and Facebook. Many sympathetic commentators have therefore claimed that the Arab revolutions bear comparison with the 1989 uprising of the peoples of Eastern Europe against Soviet tyranny.

I would guess that the analogy is apt. Just as 1989 saw the collapse of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe, so it now looks as if 2011 will mark the removal of many of America’s client regimes in the Arab world. It is highly unlikely, however, that events will thereafter take the tidy path the White House would prefer. Far from being inspired by Twitter, a great many of Arab people who have driven the sensational events of recent weeks are illiterate. They have been impelled into action by mass poverty and unemployment, allied to a sense of disgust at vast divergences of wealth and grotesque corruption. It is too early to chart the future course of events with confidence, but it seems unlikely that these liberated peoples will look to Washington and New York as their political or economic model.

The great question is whether America will take its diminished status gracefully, or whether it will lash out, as empires in trouble are historically prone to do. Here the White House response gives cause for concern. American insensitivity is well demonstrated in the case of Raymond Davis, the CIA man who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore. Hillary Clinton is trying to bully Pakistan into awarding Davis diplomatic immunity. This is incredible behaviour, which shows that the US continues to regard itself as above the law. Were President Zardari, already seen by his fellow countrymen as a pro-American stooge, to comply, his government would almost certainly fall.

Or take President Obama’s decision last week to veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Even America itself accepts that these settlements are illegal. At a time when the Middle East is already mutinous, this course of action looks mad.

The biggest problem is that America wants democracy, but only on its own terms. A very good example of this concerns the election of a Hamas government in Gaza in 2006. This should have been a hopeful moment for the Middle East peace process: the election of a government with the legitimacy and power to end violence. But America refused to engage with Hamas, just as it has refused to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or to acknowledge the well-founded regional aspirations of Iran.

The history of the Arab world since the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate in 1922 can be divided schematically into two periods: open colonial rule under the British and French, followed by America’s invisible empire after the Second World War. Now we are entering a third epoch, when Arab nations, and in due course others, will assert their independence. It is highly unlikely that all of them will choose a path that the Americans want. From the evidence available, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are muddled and incapable of grasping the nature of current events.

This is where the British, who have deep historical connections with the region, and whose own loss of empire is still within living memory, ought to be able to offer wise and practical advice. So far the Prime Minister, a neophyte in foreign affairs, has not done so. His regional tour of Middle Eastern capitals with a caravan of arms dealers made sense only in terms of the broken settlement of the last 50 years. His speeches might have been scripted by Tony Blair a decade ago, with the identical evasions and hypocrisies. There was no acknowledgment of the great paradigm shift in global politics.

The links between the US and British defence, security and foreign policy establishments are so close that perhaps it is no longer possible for any British government to act independently. When challenged, our ministers always say that we use our influence “behind the scenes” with American allies, rather than challenge them in the open. But this, too, is a failed tactic. I am told, for example, that William Hague tried hard to persuade Hillary Clinton not to veto last week’s Security Council resolution, but was ignored. It is time we became a much more candid friend, because the world is changing faster than we know.