Saturday, December 29, 2007

Noam Chomsky interviewed by the BBC's Francine Stock

Noam Chomsky speaks to BBC's Francine Stock at London's St Paul's Cathedral, 2 December, 2005.

" ... Francine Stock: Since you first started in political activism in the sixties, do you feel that you have made a great deal of headway?

Noam Chomsky: I think the country has made a great deal of headway and I'm happy to participate in it, but it's not traceable to individuals....If you go back to the sixties…there was no feminist movement, no Third World solidarity movements, no substantial anti-nuclear movement, no global justice movements. These are all developments of the last twenty or thirty years and they come from all over the place. For example, the solidarity movements...are quite unique - there's never been a time when people from the aggressor country went to the victims and lived with them to try to protect them.

That happened in the eighties - tens of thousands of Americans did it and they came from conservative circles. A lot of it was church based. And it came from Main Street in the United States, and now it's all over the world..."

Secret US Human Biological Experimentation

1931  Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, under the auspices of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Investigations, infects human subjects with cancer cells. He later goes on to establish the U.S. Army Biological Warfare facilities in Maryland, Utah, and Panama, and is named to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. While there, he begins a series of radiation exposure experiments on American soldiers and civilian hospital patients.

1932  The Tuskegee Syphilis Study begins. 200 black men diagnosed with syphilis are never told of their illness, are denied treatment, and instead are used as human guinea pigs in order to follow the progression and symptoms of the disease. They all subsequently die from syphilis, their families never told that they could have been treated.

1935  The Pellagra Incident. After millions of individuals die from Pellagra over a span of two decades, the U.S. Public Health Service finally acts to stem the disease. The director of the agency admits it had known for at least 20 years that Pellagra is caused by a niacin deficiency but failed to act since most of the deaths occured within poverty-striken black populations.

1940  Four hundred prisoners in Chicago are infected with Malaria in order to study the effects of new and experimental drugs to combat the disease. Nazi doctors later on trial at Nuremberg cite this American study to defend their own actions during the Holocaust.

1942  Chemical Warfare Services begins mustard gas experiments on approximately 4,000 servicemen. The experiments continue until 1945 and made use of Seventh Day Adventists who chose to become human guinea pigs rather than serve on active duty.

1943  In response to Japan's full-scale germ warfare program, the U.S. begins research on biological weapons at Fort Detrick, MD.

1944 U.S. Navy uses human subjects to test gas masks and clothing. Individuals were locked in a gas chamber and exposed to mustard gas and lewisite.

1945  Project Paperclip is initiated. The U.S. State Department, Army intelligence, and the CIA recruit Nazi scientists and offer them immunity and secret identities in exchange for work on top secret government projects in the United States.

1945  "Program F" is implemented by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). This is the most extensive U.S. study of the health effects of fluoride, which was the key chemical component in atomic bomb production. One of the most toxic chemicals known to man, fluoride, it is found, causes marked adverse effects to the central nervous system but much of the information is squelched in the name of national security because of fear that lawsuits would undermine full-scale production of atomic bombs.

1946  Patients in VA hospitals are used as guinea pigs for medical experiments. In order to allay suspicions, the order is given to change the word "experiments" to "investigations" or "observations" whenever reporting a medical study performed in one of the nation's veteran's hospitals.

1947  Colonel E.E. Kirkpatrick of the U.S. Atomic Energy Comission issues a secret document (Document 07075001, January 8, 1947) stating that the agency will begin administering intravenous doses of radioactive substances to human subjects.

1947  The CIA begins its study of LSD as a potential weapon for use by American intelligence. Human subjects (both civilian and military) are used with and without their knowledge.

1950  Department of Defense begins plans to detonate nuclear weapons in desert areas and monitor downwind residents for medical problems and mortality rates.

1950 I n an experiment to determine how susceptible an American city would be to biological attack, the U.S. Navy sprays a cloud of bacteria from ships over San Franciso. Monitoring devices are situated throughout the city in order to test the extent of infection. Many residents become ill with pneumonia-like symptoms.

1951  Department of Defense begins open air tests using disease-producing bacteria and viruses. Tests last through 1969 and there is concern that people in the surrounding areas have been exposed.

1953  U.S. military releases clouds of zinc cadmium sulfide gas over Winnipeg, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, the Monocacy River Valley in Maryland, and Leesburg, Virginia. Their intent is to determine how efficiently they could disperse chemical agents.

1953  Joint Army-Navy-CIA experiments are conducted in which tens of thousands of people in New York and San Francisco are exposed to the airborne germs Serratia marcescens and Bacillus glogigii.

1953  CIA initiates Project MKULTRA. This is an eleven year research program designed to produce and test drugs and biological agents that would be used for mind control and behavior modification. Six of the subprojects involved testing the agents on unwitting human beings.

1955  The CIA, in an experiment to test its ability to infect human populations with biological agents, releases a bacteria withdrawn from the Army's biological warfare arsenal over Tampa Bay, Fl.

1955  Army Chemical Corps continues LSD research, studying its potential use as a chemical incapacitating agent. More than 1,000 Americans participate in the tests, which continue until 1958.

1956  U.S. military releases mosquitoes infected with Yellow Fever over Savannah, Ga and Avon Park, Fl. Following each test, Army agents posing as public health officials test victims for effects.

1958  LSD is tested on 95 volunteers at the Army's Chemical Warfare Laboratories for its effect on intelligence.

1960  The Army Assistant Chief-of-Staff for Intelligence (ACSI) authorizes field testing of LSD in Europe and the Far East. Testing of the european population is code named Project THIRD CHANCE; testing of the Asian population is code named Project DERBY HAT.

1965  Project CIA and Department of Defense begin Project MKSEARCH, a program to develop a capability to manipulate human behavior through the use of mind-altering drugs.

1965  Prisoners at the Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia are subjected to dioxin, the highly toxic chemical component of Agent Orange used in Viet Nam. The men are later studied for development of cancer, which indicates that Agent Orange had been a suspected carcinogen all along.

1966  CIA initiates Project MKOFTEN, a program to test the toxicological effects of certain drugs on humans and animals.

1966  U.S. Army dispenses Bacillus subtilis variant niger throughout the New York City subway system. More than a million civilians are exposed when army scientists drop lightbulbs filled with the bacteria onto ventilation grates.

1967  CIA and Department of Defense implement Project MKNAOMI, successor to MKULTRA and designed to maintain, stockpile and test biological and chemical weapons.

1968  CIA experiments with the possibility of poisoning drinking water by injecting chemicals into the water supply of the FDA in Washington, D.C.

1969  Dr. Robert MacMahan of the Department of Defense requests from congress $10 million to develop, within 5 to 10 years, a synthetic biological agent to which no natural immunity exists.

1970  Funding for the synthetic biological agent is obtained under H.R. 15090. The project, under the supervision of the CIA, is carried out by the Special Operations Division at Fort Detrick, the army's top secret biological weapons facility. Speculation is raised that molecular biology techniques are used to produce AIDS-like retroviruses.

1970  United States intensifies its development of "ethnic weapons" (Military Review, Nov., 1970), designed to selectively target and eliminate specific ethnic groups who are susceptible due to genetic differences and variations in DNA.

1975  The virus section of Fort Detrick's Center for Biological Warfare Research is renamed the Fredrick Cancer Research Facilities and placed under the supervision of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) . It is here that a special virus cancer program is initiated by the U.S. Navy, purportedly to develop cancer-causing viruses. It is also here that retrovirologists isolate a virus to which no immunity exists. It is later named HTLV (Human T-cell Leukemia Virus).

1977  Senate hearings on Health and Scientific Research confirm that 239 populated areas had been contaminated with biological agents between 1949 and 1969. Some of the areas included San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Key West, Panama City, Minneapolis, and St. Louis.

1978  Experimental Hepatitis B vaccine trials, conducted by the CDC, begin in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Ads for research subjects specifically ask for promiscuous homosexual men.

1981  First cases of AIDS are confirmed in homosexual men in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, triggering speculation that AIDS may have been introduced via the Hepatitis B vaccine

1985  According to the journal Science (227:173-177), HTLV and VISNA, a fatal sheep virus, are very similar, indicating a close taxonomic and evolutionary relationship.

1986  According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (83:4007-4011), HIV and VISNA are highly similar and share all structural elements, except for a small segment which is nearly identical to HTLV. This leads to speculation that HTLV and VISNA may have been linked to produce a new retrovirus to which no natural immunity exists.

1986  A report to Congress reveals that the U.S. Government's current generation of biological agents includes: modified viruses, naturally occurring toxins, and agents that are altered through genetic engineering to change immunological character and prevent treatment by all existing vaccines.

1987  Department of Defense admits that, despite a treaty banning research and development of biological agents, it continues to operate research facilities at 127 facilities and universities around the nation.

1990  More than 1500 six-month old black and hispanic babies in Los Angeles are given an "experimental" measles vaccine that had never been licensed for use in the United States. CDC later admits that parents were never informed that the vaccine being injected to their children was experimental.

1994  With a technique called "gene tracking," Dr. Garth Nicolson at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX discovers that many returning Desert Storm veterans are infected with an altered strain of Mycoplasma incognitus, a microbe commonly used in the production of biological weapons. Incorporated into its molecular structure is 40 percent of the HIV protein coat, indicating that it had been man-made.

1994  Senator John D. Rockefeller issues a report revealing that for at least 50 years the Department of Defense has used hundreds of thousands of military personnel in human experiments and for intentional exposure to dangerous substances. Materials included mustard and nerve gas, ionizing radiation, psychochemicals, hallucinogens, and drugs used during the Gulf War .

1995  U.S. Government admits that it had offered Japanese war criminals and scientists who had performed human medical experiments salaries and immunity from prosecution in exchange for data on biological warfare research.

1995  Dr. Garth Nicolson, uncovers evidence that the biological agents used during the Gulf War had been manufactured in Houston, TX and Boca Raton, Fl and tested on prisoners in the Texas Department of Corrections.

1996  Department of Defense admits that Desert Storm soldiers were exposed to chemical agents.

1997  Eighty-eight members of Congress sign a letter demanding an investigation into bioweapons use & Gulf War Syndrome.

A Palestinian love story

Ghassan Abdullah writing from Ramallah, occupied West Bank
Live from Palestine
27 Dec 2007
 A few months ago, a European professional in Ramallah threw a farewell party after completing part of the project for which he was recruited. The European himself, a Belgian, spent many years previously in the Palestinian territories and was very well liked locally, not least because he married a Palestinian woman, but that's another story.

A friend and old colleague of mine came up to me at the party and asked me discretely about A., a good-looking and outgoing woman who works with us: "What religion is she?" "Muslim, I said." "Good," he said. "What sort of ID does she hold?" I replied, "She is Palestinian with a Jordanian passport who overstayed here. Why?" "What a pity," he said, "because a friend of mine, Y., who has just met and chatted with her likes her and wanted to find out."

Such a question might seem odd elsewhere. But in Palestine it is very relevant.

There are tens of thousands of Palestinians with Jordanian or other foreign passports who are denied by the Israeli occupying army, or by the Israeli ministries of interior or labor, from residing in the Palestinian territories. Others are prevented from visiting or returning to the territories, although they have family, friends, business or studies, in a very arbitrary manner. The reason given by the Israeli authorities is often bitakhon, or security, without bothering to give any shred of justification. This has led many Palestinians, and even non-Palestinian wives and relatives, to overstay their Israeli permits for fear of not being allowed back. This was the case of A.

So many families in Palestine, and also in Israel, are separated by different passports. A Palestinian orange ID holder marrying a Palestinian with an Israeli nationality will not be allowed to live in Israel and the spouse with Israeli nationality will be not allowed to live in the Palestinian Authority areas. Even a Jerusalem blue ID holder marrying a West Banker will not be permitted to have her spouse live with her in Jerusalem. So the question of what ID is held by the subject of one's fancy has to be asked before one falls in love with her or him.

This Israeli policy was met with resistance prompted by an active grassroots campaign and pressure from the governments of nationals denied entry or re-entry to the occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli overtures towards the Palestinian Authority in response included the granting of family unification to members of families torn apart by differing nationalities and IDs. A. was eventually among the lucky ones, but not all her family.

I have never seen A. so ecstatic as when her name appeared on the list of those to be allowed to apply for a Palestinian ID, itself issued by the Israeli occupying army. She immediately sent in her papers and a week later went to Jordan to see her sisters and relatives that she had not seen for close to ten years. She also found that there is more choice in shopping there than the confines of Ramallah which she was always afraid to leave lest she be caught at an Israeli army checkpoint.

A. came into my office this week, with a broad and telling smile, to say that her admirer Y., who stayed mostly away after the party, has turned up again to visit A., showing renewed interest. The rest might become history.

Ghassan Abdullah is a computer adviser in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Remembering Raul Hilberg

by Norman G. Finkelstein
15 August 2007
Raul Hilberg passed away on August 4. A refugee from Nazi-occupied Austria, Hilberg was the founder of the field of Holocaust studies.

I cannot now remember when I first read Hilberg's magnum opus The Destruction of the European Jews, but it must have been in my early youth. In fact I wasn't even sure whether I did plow my way through the first edition, published in 1961 by Quadrangle Books, with its forbidding double columns of text in 10-point font but I just pulled it off the shelf, binding broken, pages loose, and sure enough it was all marked up.

I read the expanded three-volume Holmes & Meier edition published in 1985 many times. Whenever I ventured to write something on the Nazi holocaust I would again peruse all the volumes cover to cover. They provided the psychological security I needed before daring to render a judgment of my own. Wanting to stand on the firmest possible intellectual foundations I reflexively reached for Hilberg. As it happens, in preparation for a statement I was commissioned to write on the Nazi holocaust, I was just in the midst of reading the three-volume third edition published by Yale University Press in 2003 when news of his death arrived.

Hilberg was not pleased with the first edition - a vital table he pored over many weeks to get just right was botched in the cramped composition - but he couldn't do better: no major publishing house expressed interest in his groundbreaking study, and he only managed to find any publisher due to a private benefactor who agreed to defray indirectly some of the costs. (The Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem had also rejected the manuscript and initially even barred him from its archive.)

In his melancholy memoir The Politics of Memory Hilberg tells the story that when he first proposed studying the Jewish genocide to his advisor at Columbia University, the great German-Jewish sociologist Franz Neumann (author of Behemoth, a classic study of the organization of the Nazi state), he was warned that "this will be your funeral."

It is hard now to remember that the Nazi holocaust was once a taboo subject. During the early years of the Cold War, mention of the Nazi holocaust was seen as undermining the critical U.S.-West German alliance. It was airing the dirty laundry of the barely de-Nazified West German elites and thereby playing into the hands of the Soviet Union, which didn't tire of remembering the crimes of the West German "revanchists." The major American Jewish organizations rushed to make their peace with Konrad Adenauer's government (the Anti-Defamation League took the lead) while those holding commemorations for the Jewish dead were tagged communists, which as a rule they were.

In Eichmann in Jerusalem, published in the mid-1960s, Hannah Arendt could draw on only one other scholarly study apart from Hilberg's on the Nazi holocaust in the English language. Nowadays there are enough studies to fill a good-sized library, although it is perhaps not accurate to grace all these publications with the descriptive "scholarly."

Arendt borrowed extensively from Hilberg's work with less-than-generous attribution. He never forgave her this oversight and - what truly is unforgivable - her condescending references to his study in private correspondence and her recommending against its publication by Princeton University Press. In his memoir Hilberg parries the insult, asserting, wrongly in my opinion, that Arendt's study The Origins of Totalitarianism lacked originality. It is true that Arendt could be lazy about facts, which might account for Hilberg's harsh judgment, but the first part of Origins contains many shrewd insights on the dilemmas of Jewish assimilation and paradoxes of the nation-state.

Hilberg reserved even greater contempt (and loathing) for Lucy Dawidowicz, author of the highly touted The War Against the Jews. Here it can be said that his verdict was faultless. During the heyday of the Holocaust religion in the 1970s-1980s, Dawidowicz was its designated high priestess. The problem was that, as Hilberg brutally demonstrates in his memoir, she got the most elementary facts wrong. I once asked my late mother, who survived Maidanek concentration camp, about Dawidowicz's depiction of all the Jews in the ghettos and camps furtively staying faithful to their religion until their final steps into the gas chambers. "When I first entered my block at Maidanek, all the women inmates had dyed-blond hair," my mother laughed. "They had been trying to pass as Gentiles." The shocking accounts of Jewish corruption that could be found in conveniently forgotten memoirs like Bernard Goldstein's The Stars Bear Witness were deleted in Dawidowicz's fantasy.

Hilberg's reputation for mastery of the primary sources was such that my former coauthor (and an authority in her own right on the Nazi holocaust) Ruth Bettina Birn feared their first meeting: no mortal being, she thought, could have stored so many Nuremberg Tribunal documents in his brain. The magnitude of Hilberg's achievement is hard to appreciate today because the scholarly breakthrough has passed into commonplace. His sequential-chronological account of the steps pressing ineluctably from the Nazi definition of Jews to their expropriation, massacre, deportation and assembly-line extermination has been assimilated into the infrastructure of all subsequent scholarship.

Stylistically Hilberg's study might be said to be the opposite of current Holocaust fare: short on adjectives and adverbs such that when he reaches for one it packs unusual intensity. Apart from professional discipline his dry-as-dust rendering was perhaps also meant to capture the desiccated esprit of the bureaucratic - dare I say banal? - process through which millions of Jews were shoved along to their deaths.

Hilberg didn't truck in the pieties of what became the Holocaust industry that exploited the colossal suffering of Jews for political and financial gain. He rejected the notion that the Nazi holocaust sprang uniquely from virulent anti-Semitism and concomitantly maintained that "Jews were only the first victims" of the German bureaucracy's genocidal juggernaut, which also targeted Gypsies and Poles, among others. He reckoned Jewish resistance to be negligible but Jewish cooperation (which however he distinguished from collaboration) to be significant, while he reckoned the total number of Jewish victims at closer to 5.1 million. The third volume contains a 20-page appendix detailing his complex calculations of Jewish dead. In contrast Dawidowicz gives a figure for each country and then totals the number, as if this calculation were simply an addition problem whereas, as Hilberg notes, "the raw data are seldom self-explanatory, and…their interpretation often requires the use of voluminous background materials that have to be analyzed in turn."

It should go without saying that whether the figure is closer to five than six million is of zero moral significance - except for a moral cretin, who could utter "only five million"? - although Hilberg believed it was of historical significance. Even if it weren't he almost certainly would still have insisted on the 5.1 million figure if his research showed it was closer to the truth. "Always in my life," Hilberg wrote unaffectedly in his memoir, "I had wanted the truth about myself." This was also how he approached the study of the Nazi holocaust.

His confident knowledge of the field no doubt accounted for Hilberg's easygoing tolerance of Holocaust deniers. Those who want to suppress them do so not only in disgust at what they might say but also in dread of the inability to answer them. (The hysterical allegation of Holocaust deniers lurking in every corner is apparently also contrived to justify the endless proliferation of Holo-trash.) Hilberg recently made the provocative statement that whereas the Nazi holocaust is an irrefutable fact this was "more easily said than demonstrated."

It is indeed easy for the non-expert to be tripped up on the details especially when on crucial matters like the gas chambers (a favorite target of the deniers), there exist, as historian Arno Mayer noted, "many contradictions, ambiguities, and errors in the existing sources," none of which however "put in question the use of gas chambers in the mass murder." On a personal note I myself vividly recall reading Arthur Butz's Hoax of the Twentieth Century and not being able at the time to answer many of his simplest challenges. (If the figure for Jews killed right after the war was put at six million, and the total number of Jews killed at Auschwitz was then estimated at three million, how - he asked - can the figure still stand at six million if the estimate of the number killed at Auschwitz has now been scaled down by scholars to one million?) Her lawyers imposed a gag rule on Deborah Lipstadt during her trial with David Irving - she was banned not only from testifying in court but also from speaking to the press - because they knew full well that a single word from this know-nothing's mouth would sink the ship. In her account of the trial Lipstadt can barely conceal the lawyers' contempt for her, yet she is too thick-headed to notice the absurdity of her smug two thumbs-up after the jury announced its verdict. She had as much to do with the victory as I did with last night's performance of the Bolshoi.

Mention of Irving's name didn't evoke howls of indignation or torrents of abuse from Hilberg. Instead he recognized Irving's impressive apprehension of some of the subject matter, although qualifying it - with a touch of snobbery - as "self-taught," and speculated that his preposterous statements sprung less from anti-Semitism than love of the spotlight. Of Holocaust denial in the Arab world Hilberg observed that "they are as confused about the West as we are about them," while he casually dismissed the Holocaust denial conference in Teheran as "needless difficulty and trouble," and said he was "not terribly worried about it." Echoing John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, Hilberg even declared that Holocaust deniers served the useful purpose of posing questions that everyone else assumed were already settled.

Hilberg was equally derisive of another of the Holocaust industry's shibboleths, the "New anti-Semitism." The much-ballyhooed resurgence of anti-Semitism, he said, amounted to "picking up a few pebbles from the past and throwing them at windows." In his last interview Hilberg also sharply criticized Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians, which, I suspect, couldn't have been easy for him. (His daughter lives in Jerusalem.)

Although Hilberg suffered professionally because he chose to study the Nazi holocaust when it was politically imprudent and because he later resisted the orthodoxies of the Holocaust industry, those wanting truly to understand the unfolding horror have benefited from his independence of spirit. Like the best memoirs of the Nazi holocaust (many of which are out of print), his study was written before ideological exigencies deformed and debased much of the scholarship on the subject. In recent years Hilberg was given to observing that most serious scholarship on the Nazi holocaust was coming out of Germany while "there are not many Holocaust researchers worth mentioning in this country." It is hard to conceive a more withering indictment of the Holocaust industry's multibillion-dollar operation.


For reasons that frankly still perplex me, Hilberg was a stalwart and vocal supporter of mine. Truth be told I was always careful to keep my distance. I didn't feel worthy of his praise and feared alienating him. We couldn't have been more different in academic styles and I am a person of the Left whereas he was a lifelong Republican.

When Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners was released in 1996, I approached it with an open mind. Both my late parents were of the conviction that all Germans wanted the Jews dead (my father survived Auschwitz) so I figured maybe there was something to Goldhagen's thesis. Reading the book was quite the shock. The reasoning was bizarre, the evidence nonexistent. In debates on it I was accused of polemical overkill. It couldn't be that bad: look at what reviewers were saying. Indeed, who can forget the endless months of breathless prose in the New York Times for the Holocaust industry's new poster boy? It was a singular relief when I read Hilberg's verdict: "worthless."

After a division of Henry Holt (Metropolitan) agreed to publish my critical essay on Goldhagen (together with one by Birn), the Holocaust industry went ballistic. Its attempts to halt the book's publication were neutralized, however, when Hilberg stepped forward to praise my contribution. But Adam Shatz, wielding the hatchet in Slate, breezily surmised that Hilberg, along with the half dozen other leading scholars who blurbed the book, hadn't read carefully what I wrote. In light of what is known about Hilberg's fastidiousness, this would have been strangely out of character.

When my book The Holocaust Industry could no longer be ignored in the U.S. (it had created a huge stir in Europe), the floodgates of vitriol opened wider still. New York Times reviewer Omer Bartov apparently consulted the unabridged edition of Roget's Ad Hominems, while Peter Novick, author of The Holocaust in American Life, declared that not a word I wrote could be trusted. (Novick's study of Holocaust commemoration in the U.S. originally elicited outrage as well but, after joining in the assault on The Holocaust Industry, he was heralded as a responsible critic in contrast to me.) Hilberg stepped forward again to support my most controversial contention in The Holocaust Industry that the campaign for Holocaust compensation was a "double shakedown" of the European states as well as the Holocaust survivors. Hilberg told me that the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Elie Wiesel relentlessly pleaded with him to retract his endorsement of my book. He refused.

Prior to publication of The Holocaust Industry Hilberg had himself denounced American Jews for resorting to the "blackmail weapon" against Europe. His disgust for the megalomaniacal Edgar Bronfman and the irredeemably vulgar Rabbi Israel Singer of the World Jewish Congress, which orchestrated the shakedown, is barely disguised in the recently updated Yale edition of his study.

The charges Hilberg and I independently leveled back in 2000 have since been vindicated. The $1.5 billion extracted from the Swiss banks bore no relationship to the pittance they actually owed, while Holocaust survivors have complained of receiving only a pittance of the fully $20 billion extracted from Europe in their names.

Recent revelations get worse. A report by Israel's state comptroller found that Israel's record on Holocaust compensation "is far behind Germany and other countries in Europe." While Singer was denouncing secret Swiss bank accounts, he was squirreling away WJC monies in his own secret Swiss bank account and allegedly had also filched Bronfman's piggy bank of a half million dollars. Alan Hevesi, the New York City comptroller who headed up the economic blackmail of Switzerland, had to step down from his current office due to financial improprieties and is again under investigation for more financial shenanigans. Lead counsel for Holocaust plaintiffs Burt Neuborne, a liberal N.Y.U. law professor, piously declared that he was donating his services pro bono in memory of his prematurely deceased daughter. But then he put in a bill for $6 million for the Swiss case, after having raked in $5 million from the German case, which outraged even the Times's editorial board.

I only met Hilberg once. I was asked to be the presenter for a documentary to be shown on British television on Holocaust compensation ("The Final Insult"), and he was one of the expert commentators.

Hilberg lived in a modestly furnished home in Burlington, Vermont. His wife worked in a hospice. He showed me the various foreign translations of his study in which he took obvious pride (in particular the Japanese edition), not least for their physical workmanship. I doubt he ever used the internet, just as it is unimaginable that a citation of an old-fashioned scholar like him would begin www.

During breaks in the filming I put to him many questions on the Nazi holocaust - the role of Nazi ideology (he was skeptical of its importance), the female block in Maidanek (he said very few survived), the Holocaust industry's claim that millions of Jews survived (he put his index finger to his temple, made a circular motion, and said "cuckoo"), other Holocaust scholars (he was uniformly generous in his appraisals, even of those whom, he said, would "whisper the worst things about me behind my back"). What Hilberg never did was lapse into Holocaust cliché which, along with Holocaust kitsch, he detested.

Hilberg's last statement for the camera was that next to the likes of Bronfman and Singer, even Shylock looked good. Fully aware of just how incendiary the juxtaposition was, Hilberg chuckled after the camera stopped rolling that he'd probably gotten himself into a lot of trouble. Ironically the British television station forced the producer to edit out this statement. Not even Hilberg could be allowed to utter certain truths.

When my tenure troubles at DePaul University reached a crescendo, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! rang up Hilberg for a comment. It was a sobering occasion. Ruth Conniff and Mathew Rothschild of The Progressive had denounced me as a "Holocaust minimizer" for citing Hilberg's 5.1 million figure. Jon Wiener, writing in The Nation, another left-of-center publication, "defended" me by quoting Peter Novick's "thoughtful" remark that Alan Dershowitz and I "deserve each other." Yet Hilberg, the lifelong Republican, once again stinted no words on my behalf. Character not ideology, Birn once counseled me, is the better measure of a person.

Hilberg famously used the triad Perpetrators-Victims-Bystanders to catalogue the main protagonists in the Nazi holocaust. It is notable that he didn't include a category for givers of succor, presumably because they were so few in number. Judging by the life he lived, my guess is that, had the tables been turned, Hilberg would have been among those few.

Primo Levi originally titled his memoir of Auschwitz If This is a Man. Of Raul Hilberg it might be said, There went a man.

Norman G. Finkelstein
New York City
15 August 2007

"the astonishing speed with which IFCJ and the evangelical movement...have grown in stature as supporters of Israel"

26 Dec 2007
" ... About a decade ago, the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel refused to be photographed taking a check from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. This past week, the agency accepted a hefty donation from the evangelical-backed organization and offered Eckstein a seat on two of its most powerful committees.

Eckstein’s organization and the Jewish Agency, which helped found the State of Israel, announced that IFCJ would donate $45 million to the agency over the next three years, almost all of it raised from evangelical Christians in North America. As part of the agreement, IFCJ will be declared a funding partner of the Jewish Agency. Eckstein will also receive new voting powers that will include spots on the committees that oversee the agency’s budget and that meet with the prime minister and his Cabinet.

“For the first time, Christians, who are mainly my constituency, will have a seat at the table,” Eckstein told the Forward.

The moves underscore the astonishing speed with which IFCJ and the evangelical movement in general have grown in stature as supporters of Israel. Even 10 years ago, Eckstein was shunned not only by Jewish Agency head Avraham Burg but also by many American donors.

Some Jewish leaders remain uneasy about allying themselves with evangelicals. But the support, both political and financial, seems to have proved irresistible.

As part of the agreement, which still must be approved by the Jewish Agency’s board, IFCJ will donate $15 million a year to the Jewish Agency’s core budget for immigration and resettlement, historically IFCJ priorities. This is nearly double IFCJ’s donation of $8 million last year. The IFCJ will also be described as one of the Jewish Agency’s funding partners, a status previously shared only by United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for American federations, and Keren Hayesod, which represents international federations. Eckstein will also become a voting member of the executive board and will gain seats on the budget and finance committee, which makes recommendations for how the Jewish Agency allocates its funds, and the coordinating committee, which meets with the prime minister and Cabinet members. Eckstein had previously been a nonvoting member of the executive board. Both Eckstein and a Jewish Agency representative stressed that Eckstein would continue to be IFCJ’s representative on the board.

“It’s not like all of a sudden you’re going to have Pat Robertson on the committee,” Eckstein joked. ... "

"It is essential to take this craft to the next level and professionalize it"

In other words, torture is not the problem?
CIA Needs More Taping, Experts Say 
By Josh Meyer 
The Los Angeles Times 
23 Dec 2007

The videos could have given analysts valuable information about terrorism interrogations, according to some observers.
Washington - The controversy over destroyed CIA videotapes has highlighted weaknesses in American intelligence agencies' methods of interrogation of Al Qaeda suspects, according to current and former officials and experts, who say those methods are compromising the ability to extract critically important information about the threat from Islamic extremism.
Congress, the Justice Department and the CIA inspector general are investigating why the CIA destroyed tapes of its 2002 interrogations of two alleged senior Al Qaeda leaders, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. Investigators think Zubaydah was recorded being waterboarded - a controversial tactic that mimics the experience of drowning. The tapes were destroyed in 2005.
By their own accounting, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have not videotaped the interrogations of potentially hundreds of other terrorism suspects. That indicates an outmoded level of secrecy and unprofessionalism, the interrogation experts contend.
They say that the U.S. is behind the curve of current best practices, and that videotaping is an essential tool in improving the methods - and results - of terrorism interrogations. And the accountability provided by recording is needed to address international concerns about the United States' use of harsh, potentially illegal techniques, these experts add.
They say that the United States could learn a lot from methods used by Israel, Britain and other countries with decades of experience in interrogating terrorists but that so far, it has not. 
"We are operating in a vacuum," said Col. Steven M. Kleinman, a reserve senior intelligence officer for the Air Force's Special Operations Command who was a military interrogator in Panama, during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and in Iraq in 2003. "We are not giving our interrogators the skill set or the tool chest to get the information that we need in the war on terrorism." 
 Kleinman is one of several government experts participating in a study of interrogation for the Intelligence Science Board, an advisory body of the national intelligence director's office and other U.S. intelligence agencies.
Last year the board issued its first report, a politely worded but critical document titled "Educing Information: Interrogation: Science and Art." It concluded that the U.S. government had not in any scientific manner studied the effectiveness of its methods of interrogation since the end of World War II and that it was still using the same unproven techniques. 
 Time to 'Professionalize'
If the CIA had videotaped its interrogations of as many as 100 "high-value" terrorism suspects, Kleinman and other study participants said, then details could have been archived for in-depth comparison and analysis by a range of government experts. 
"It is essential to take this craft to the next level and professionalize it," Kleinman said.
CIA spokesman George E. Little said he could not discuss internal interrogation practices, including whether the CIA had reviewed terrorism interrogation videos recorded by countries that work closely with the United States.
"The fact of the matter is that the careful, professional and lawful questioning of hardened terrorists has produced thousands of intelligence reports, revealed exceptionally valuable insights on Al Qaeda's operations and organization, foiled terrorist plots, and saved innocent lives," said Little. 
The Intelligence Science Board's report concluded that U.S. intelligence agencies had done so little questioning of hostile subjects since the 1950s that individual interrogators "were forced to 'make it up' on the fly" after the Sept. 11 attacks. And little has changed since then, the report said. 
"This shortfall in advanced, research-based interrogation methods ... may have contributed significantly to the unfortunate cases of abuse that have recently come to light," such as Abu Ghraib and the controversy over the CIA's interrogation of suspects, the report said.
The board issued recommendations this year about how the government should improve interrogation efforts, including identifying ways to build a cadre of well-trained professionals who could use noncoercive techniques in line with international norms.
Those recommendations have gone largely unheeded, several study participants said.
"There doesn't seem to be a core agency in the U.S. government that has this on its radar screen," said participant Randy Borum, a forensic psychologist who recently served as the principal investigator on a "Psychology of Terrorism" initiative for U.S. intelligence agencies. 
The report said the government needed to conduct more research on whether coercive methods ever work.
Such methods are sometimes necessary, said one counter- terrorism official. 
"If someone is implying that professional interrogation always has to involve rapport-building and stroking, I wouldn't want to defend that position were the country facing an imminent terrorist attack," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the U.S. interrogation program is classified. "Some people think that Perry Mason-style questioning works against hardened terrorists. That's sometimes not the case."
Debating the Tapes' Value
Current investigations aim to determine why the CIA destroyed the tapes in 2005 and why it had stopped making new ones in 2002. 
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has said that the agency destroyed the tapes largely to protect the identities of the interrogators.
Hayden also has said that the tapes were destroyed only after they were determined to be of no further intelligence value, and that detailed summaries of the interrogations of Zubaydah and Nashiri were cabled back to headquarters, where they became "the products that our analysts use to create the actionable intelligence that we move on."
But much of the value of an interrogation cannot be captured in a summary of it, or even a transcript or audiotape, according to retired CIA case officer Robert Baer.
He said that when he was overseeing terrorism investigations in the 1980s and 1990s, he videotaped as many interrogations as possible because it would often take years for a single utterance, bit of body language or other visual clue to become relevant.
"So when Hayden says there is no intelligence value there, he is patently wrong," said Baer.
"The largest criminal case in American history, and we don't keep the evidence?
"Come on."
Interrogation 101
Such interrogations are often marathons over a period of days, weeks or months.
Visual cues known as psychometrics are invaluable in helping detect whether someone is lying and in yielding a host of other important clues, said Magnus Ranstorp, a veteran counter- terrorism expert with the Swedish Defence College.
He said that some foreign intelligence agencies videotape their interrogations and others don't, but that all of them should.
"You have a unique moment when you engage the adversary. The way we communicate, the way we react and conceal, can be more revealing than what we say ... and none of that shows up on a transcript," Ranstorp said.
"It's Interrogation 101," he said.
If agencies don't save and analyze tape, Ranstorp said, "they have been derelict in their duty."
Kleinman, an interrogation instructor for the Pentagon and some foreign governments, said that such videotapes are an invaluable research and teaching tool in determining which techniques work. He also said that tapes allow supervisors to vet the intelligence gained and determine whether interrogators failed to ask important questions, asked leading questions, or used inappropriate or possibly illegal tactics.
Many interrogation experts, including some involved in the ongoing Intelligence Science Board study, say they have urged U.S. intelligence officials to look to Israel, Britain and other countries with decades of experience in dealing with terrorism to learn from their successes - and their mistakes.
Israel and Britain both adopted a scientific approach to interrogations long ago, using videotape and other documentary evidence to help determine which techniques work and which don't in getting violent extremists to disclose operational details of their networks and more strategic subjects such as what motivated them in the first place.
Rapport Versus Coercion
Dropping coercive methods that it had used on Irish Republican Army members, Britain developed noncoercive techniques that have served it well in dealing with Islamic extremists since Sept. 11, according to Louise Richardson of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, who has studied Britain's interrogations of IRA militants for decades.
Israel also dropped coercive techniques and now spends months interviewing terrorism suspects and convicts, establishing a rapport with them and then getting them to open up, said Amos N. Guiora, a former senior Israeli counter-terrorism official and judge.
The results are then added to a comprehensive database of terrorists and are studied for trends.
Israel's methodical research has provided breakthroughs into how to persuade individuals not to become terrorists in the first place, how to create dissension within their ranks, and how to marginalize terrorist organizations and delegitimize their leadership, according to Dr. Jerrold Post, a psychiatrist who used to be the CIA's top psychological profiler.
Richardson said the United States' continued reliance on coercive techniques shows that it has far to go in understanding what kinds of interrogation methods work.
She wrote the 2006 book "What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat."
"The U.S. is repeating the same mistakes that other democracies have made," she said. 
 "They overreact initially by relying on force, and over time learn that force is not the most productive response."

Privacy Rights: Spying on us

The thought that telecommunications companies might be granted retroactive immunity from lawsuits for cooperating with the government's warrantless wiretapping programs ought to keep lawmakers up at night.

On Monday, the telecom companies won an early round (which was later postponed) to make them accountable for violating the privacy of their customers without so much as alerting them to what was being done. That's when, for reasons that defy sense and conscience, lawmakers voted to advance the bill, which is meant to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act would protect telecoms from having to answer to their wronged customers in court.

Only 10 voted to halt the bill -- among them Sen. Maria Cantwell -- which leads us to believe that only few senators are able to see what is plainly put before them. According to The New York Times, some of those who voted to advance the bill said they did so in order to shoot it down later. Talk about convoluted strategey.

"For the last six years, our largest telecommunications companies have been spying on their own American customers," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, who led the effort to kill the bill. "Secretly and without a warrant, they delivered to the federal government the private, domestic communications records of millions of Americans -- records this administration has compiled into a data base of enormous scale and scope." He also added that he's never seen a president with "a contempt for the rule of law equal to this."

Supporters of the dodgy electronic surveillance program say it's necessary for national security. Oh sure. We couldn't possibly have security in the Fatherland/Homeland without giving up your rights. Consider that, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the software used by the FBI to spy on phone calls intercepted 27,728,675 calls (or "sessions") in 2006. And how many FISA court orders did the FBI get in the same year? Just 2,176, which means that one court order can cover a lot of ground. Just think of what they're doing without the court orders.

As it turned out, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yanked the bill later on Monday, but the fight is far from over. It's merely delayed. With telecoms looking to get off the hook, a government anxious to spy with impunity and a public and a president who has vowed to veto any bill that doesn't protect the telecom companies from lawsuits, lawmakers have a moral obligation to fight to protect the rights of American citizens. Doing any less amounts to tossing us to the wolves.

What is a Freegan?

One-day general strike in Greece

By Markus Salzmann
22 December 2007
" ... On December 11-12, a 24-hour general strike paralysed large areas of Greece. Air traffic and shipping were almost brought to a standstill. Many of the Greek islands were cut off from the external world for the duration of the walkout. It was the biggest strike in Greece in more than 10 years.

According to trade union officials, approximately 2.5 million workers supported the strike call—nearly half of all Greek employees. This included sections of workers who are rarely involved in strikes and protests. Among white-collar workers who participated were bank employees, civil servants, attorneys and teachers, leading to the closure of numerous schools, banks and other public facilities.

In medical clinics and hospitals, only urgent cases were treated, as physicians and maintenance personnel followed the strike call. As a result of broad participation by journalists, there was no news on the radio or TV on December 12. On the following day, no newspapers appeared. A large number of pilots and flight crews working for Olympic Airways protested against the planned privatisation of the company. The courts were also closed for two days.

Further 24-hour strikes were announced, which are to include pharmacists, dentists and other medical personnel.

More than 100,000 people took part in rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki. In the capital, bus, tram and underground drivers broke off their strike in order to transport participants to the demonstrations. Many school pupils, college students and pensioners joined in the protests. In Athens, there were clashes with the police, who used tear gas against demonstrators.

The strikes and protests are directed primarily against the programme of pension cuts being advanced by the conservative government headed by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. The government pension “reform” would increase the number of years an employee must work to qualify for full benefits under the state pension scheme. The retirement age is presently set at 65..."

~ Read more... ~


Church bells silenced in Gaza

" ... I was reminded by this story of the text of the 7th century "Pact of Umar", in which Chrisitans, when surrendering to Islam, agreed to silence their bells: "We shall use only [wooden] clappers in our churches very softly."

The prohibition on ringing bells was one of the universal restrictions imposed by Islamic law upon 'dhimmis' - non-Muslims living under Islam after conquest. The bells of Middle Eastern Christians fell silent for more than a thousand years, until the European Powers dismantled the dhimmi system during the 19th and 20th centuries. Now the age-old discriminatory laws are being enforced again, and Hamas is proving as good as its word, for when it took power in Gaza the local Christians were
told that as they were now in a full Islamic system they 'must accept Islamic law'. The silence of the bells bears witness that Hamas has told the truth about its intentions. ... "
22 Dec 2007
Christmas under Hamas rule
By Katya Adler
BBC News, Gaza City
Earlier this year, the Islamist Hamas party took control of Gaza, home to a thriving Christian community now preparing to celebrate their first Christmas under Hamas rule.

Manawel Musallam - priest, headmaster and Gazan - is a rotund, avuncular man, fond of wearing berets.

I have come to his office to ask how Christians in Gaza were faring on this, their first Christmas under the full internal control of Hamas.

"You media people!" Father Musallam boomed at me when I first poked my head around his door.

"Hamas this, Hamas that. You think we Christians are shaking in our ghettos in Gaza? That we're going to beg you British or the Americans or the Vatican to rescue us?" he asked.

"Rescue us from what? From where? This is our home."

Extended family

The pupils at the Holy Family School, Gaza City, all call Manawel Musallam "Abunah" - Our Father in Arabic.

His is a huge family of 1,200 children and, although the school is part-funded by the Vatican, here, as in all of Gaza, Christians are the minority.

Ninety-nine percent of the pupils here are Muslim. This is one of the reasons Fr Musallam says he does not fear the Islamists.

"They should be afraid. Not me," he chuckled.

"Their children are under my tutelage, in my school. Hamas mothers and fathers are here at parents' day along with everyone else."

But there is more that binds Christians and Muslims in Gaza than their children's shared playground.

After the bloody scenes of Palestinian infighting this year, it is easy to assume Gazan society is irreconcilably split - both politically and along religious lines.

There were those chilling incidents in June when men with beards were shot for looking like Islamists.

Men without beards were shot by Islamist extremists who thought they were non-believers, even traitors.

But actually the situation is far less clear cut.

Take the music room-cum-prayer hall at the Holy Family School.

Nativity play

On one of the walls hang huge photos of what the irreverent might be tempted to describe as the Gazan Catholic's Holy Trinity - the Pope, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the (Muslim) Palestinian president.

I found a group of 10-year-olds on stage, rehearsing their Nativity play, watched, with great enthusiasm, by a group of their Muslim friends.

Mary and Joseph squatted on stage. The girl playing Mary, clasped a tube of scrunched-up brown paper wrapped in a scarf, which, for rehearsal purposes, was posing as baby Jesus.

"You see," Fr Musallam told me, as he gazed indulgently at the goings-on on stage. "Our identity is a multi-layered one."

"Of course, I am a Christian believer, but politically I am a Palestinian Muslim. I resist Israel's military occupation, obviously not with weapons.

"The Jihad can never be mine but with my words, my sermons, I am a Palestinian priest."

On stage, four wise men, instead of three (probably due to a casting struggle) were paying their respects to the paper bag.

"We have lived alongside Muslims here since Islam was born," said Fr Musallam, waving his arm at the stage.

"They have a special word for us, the Christians of Palestine. They call us Nasserine - the people of Nazareth. They recognise that we have always been here.

"Even the more extreme Muslims see a difference between us and other Christians they regard as enemies and call Crusaders."

There is no evidence to suggest the Hamas government here officially discriminates against Christians but its takeover in Gaza - its military wing's leading role in armed resistance against Israel, along with the Islamic Jihad faction - have all led to the increasing Islamisation of Gazan society.

And that has encouraged some extremist Muslims to take action.

A Christian bookshop owner was killed here a couple of months ago.

There was a kidnap attempt on another Christian recently.

And a number of Christian families we spoke to say they had received death threats.

They question Hamas' willingness to take action to protect them.

However, it was under Hamas armed escort that we met the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, on a special pre-Christmas visit to Gaza.

It was quite a spectacle.

The Patriarch, dressed in a purple cassock, stepped out of a black, shiny Mercedes at the Latin Church in Gaza City.

'God's creatures'

A crowd of police cars screeched to a halt all around him, lights flashing and sirens screaming. Bearded gunmen dressed in black jumped out to guard him.

In previous years, the Patriarch's Christmas sermon has concentrated on the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli military occupation but this year he preached steadfastness in the face of intimidation by Islamist fanatics.

"They forget we are all God's creatures," he told a concerned-looking congregation.

"But nobody can tell us Christians how to dress, how to live or how to pray".

The patriarch called on the Hamas government to take responsibility and to protect the Christian citizens of Gaza, along with everyone else.

As the crowded church was belting out hallelujahs, I stepped into the church courtyard for some fresh air.

The Muslim call to prayer was beginning to echo from the myriad of mosques all around.

I thought how this reflected the situation in Gaza in Christmas 2007 - that while the muezzin were on loudspeaker, the church bells here are played from a cassette tape.

A nervous young nun adjusted the volume - loud enough to peel through the church but not to penetrate its walls - it might risk offending Muslim Gazans passing by.

~ Link ~


Taxing E-Shoppers

26 Dec 2007

Just in time for the holidays, Congress is reviving a plan to increase tax collections on Internet consumers. Congressman William Delahunt's (D., Mass.) bill, subject of a recent House Judiciary hearing, would give new powers to America's tax collectors.

Right now, online stores that don't have a building in your state don't have to collect state and local taxes on your purchases. That's because of a 1992 Supreme Court decision called Quill. The Supremes ruled that forcing such obligations on companies with no physical presence in a state could cripple interstate commerce. They also ruled that Congress can have the last word on this question under the Constitution's commerce clause.

Mr. Delahunt's bill would make mandatory the inappropriately named "Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement," forcing all but the tiniest businesses to answer to every one of America's 7,500 taxing jurisdictions. If making a small Web operator calculate, collect and remit taxes to every locality where he has a customer doesn't sound like "streamlining," wait, there's more.

Each merchant would also have to submit to audits from governments coast to coast. And while "only" 7,500 state and local governments currently collect sales taxes in the U.S., more than 22,000 other governments can choose to collect them in the future, and there's no limit on the creation of new taxing entities. Did we mention that the "streamlined" plan allows every jurisdiction to create two separate tax rates, depending on the good or service sold?

Anticipating growth in government and complexity, the plan limits the tax collectors to two rates per zip code. Multiply that by America's 43,000 zip codes and small merchants could potentially have to keep track of 86,000 different tax rates, depending on what they sell and to whom. But what about nine-digit zip codes? Could governments create different rates within each one? Yes indeed.

Believe it or not, it gets worse. The board of state and local tax collectors that administers the "streamlined" plan recently amended the agreement. Now the plan would allow some states to choose whether to tax online purchases at the seller's address or the buyer's, depending on whether they're in the same state. The end result will be different tax rates for in-state and out-of-state vendors -- a clear Constitutional violation.

This change is reason enough for Mr. Delahunt to withdraw his bill, but there are others. Most states, the intended beneficiaries of this new tax bureaucracy, have not endorsed the agreement. Money-hungry revenue departments have largely failed to convince their home legislatures to sign off. So they've gone to Congress to whine about revenue "lost" to e-commerce transactions. We like Presidential candidate Fred Thompson's view of similar claims by federal bureaucrats: "It ain't lost. It's in my pocket."

The fact is that our various levels of government have been doing just fine in the era of electronic commerce. State and local tax collectors have enjoyed 18 consecutive quarters of increasing revenues. A Tax Foundation analysis shows that, even after adjusting for inflation, state and local tax revenues have increased almost 48% since 1992, when Quill was decided. Throw in the generous federal-to-state transfers, and the states and locals are now collecting almost $2 trillion annually. For consumers, on the other hand, sluggish retail sales demonstrate that Congress's timing could not be worse.

~ Link ~


U.S. Troops to Head to Pakistan

26 Dec 2007
By William M. Arkin

Beginning early next year, U.S. Special Forces are expected to vastly expand their presence in Pakistan, as part of an effort to train and support indigenous counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counterterrorism units, according to defense officials involved with the planning.

These Pakistan-centric operations will mark a shift for the U.S. military and for U.S. Pakistan relations. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the U.S. used Pakistani bases to stage movements into Afghanistan. Yet once the U.S. deposed the Taliban government and established its main operating base at Bagram, north of Kabul, U.S. forces left Pakistan almost entirely. Since then, Pakistan has restricted U.S. involvement in cross-border military operations as well as paramilitary operations on its soil.

But the Pentagon has been frustrated by the inability of Pakistani national forces to control the borders or the frontier area. And Pakistan's political instability has heightened U.S. concern about Islamic extremists there.

According to Pentagon sources, reaching a different agreement with Pakistan became a priority for the new head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Adm. Eric T. Olson. Olson visited Pakistan in August, November and again this month, meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen. Tariq Majid and Lt. Gen. Muhammad Masood Aslam, commander of the military and paramilitary troops in northwest Pakistan. Olson also visited the headquarters of the Frontier Corps, a separate paramilitary force recruited from Pakistan's border tribes.

Now, a new agreement, reported when it was still being negotiated last month, has been finalized. And the first U.S. personnel could be on the ground in Pakistan by early in the new year, according to Pentagon sources.

U.S. Central Command Commander Adm. William Fallon alluded to the agreement and spoke approvingly of Pakistan's recent counterterrorism efforts in an interview with Voice of America last week.

"What we've seen in the last several months is more of a willingness to use their regular army units," along the Afghan border, Fallon said. "And this is where, I think, we can help a lot from the U.S. in providing the kind of training and assistance and mentoring based on our experience with insurgencies recently and with the terrorist problem in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think we share a lot with them, and we'll look forward to doing that."

If Pakistan actually follows through, perhaps 2008 will be a better year.

~ Link ~

'Endgame' - Alex Jones

Blueprint for global enslavement

'The torture tape fingering Bush as a war criminal'

By Andrew Sullivan
23 Dec 2007
" ... Almost all of the time, the Washington I know and live in is utterly unrelated to the Washington you see in the movies. The government is far more incompetent and amateur than the masterminds of Hollywood darkness.

There are no rogue CIA agents engaging in illegal black ops and destroying evidence to protect their political bosses. The kinds of scenario cooked up in Matt Damon’s riveting Bourne series are fantasy compared with the mundane, bureaucratic torpor of the Brussels on the Potomac.

And then you read about the case of Abu Zubaydah. He is a seriously bad guy – someone we should all be glad is in custody. A man deeply involved in Al-Qaeda, he was captured in a raid in Pakistan in March 2002 and whisked off to a secret interrogation, allegedly in Thailand.

President George Bush claimed Zubaydah was critical in identifying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind behind 9/11. The president also conceded that at some point the CIA, believing Zubaydah was withholding information, “used an alternative set of procedures”, which were “safe and lawful and necessary”.
[ ... ]
 The Washington Post reported that “current and former officials” said the torture lasted weeks and even, according to some, months, and that the techniques included hypothermia, long periods of standing, sleep deprivation and multiple sessions of waterboarding. All these “alternative procedures”, as Bush described them, are illegal under US law and the Geneva conventions. They are, in fact, war crimes. And they were once all treated by the US as war crimes when they were perpetrated by the Nazis. Waterboarding has been found to be a form of torture in various American legal cases.

And that is where the story becomes interesting. The Bush administration denies any illegality at all, insists it does not “torture” but refuses to say whether it believes waterboarding is torture or not. But hundreds of hours of videotape were recorded of Zubaydah’s incarceration and torture. That evidence would settle the dispute over the extremely serious question of whether the president of the United States authorised war crimes.

And now we have found out that all the tapes have been destroyed.
[ ... ]
The administration has admitted that several prisoners have been killed in interrogation, and dozens more have died in the secret network of interrogation sites the US has set up across the world. The policy of rendition has sent countless suspects into torture cells in Uzbekistan, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere to feed the West’s intelligence on jihadist terrorism.

But this case is more ominous for the administration because it presents a core example of what seems to be a cover-up, obstruction of justice and a direct connection between torture and the president, the vice-president and their closest aides.

Because several courts had pending cases in which testimony from Zubaydah’s interrogation was salient, the destruction of such evidence triggers a legal process that is hard for the executive branch to stymie or stall - and its first attempt was flatly rebuffed by a judge last week.

Its key argument is a weakly technical one: that the interrogation took place outside US territory - and therefore the courts do not have jurisdiction over it. It’s the same rationale for imprisoning hundreds of suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba - a legal no man’s land. But Congress can get involved - especially if it believes that what we have here is a cover-up.

What are the odds that a legal effective interrogation of a key Al-Qaeda operative would have led many highly respected professionals in the US intelligence community to risk their careers by leaking top-secret details to the press?

What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?

What are the odds that, under congressional grilling, the new attorney-general would also refuse to say whether he believed waterboarding was illegal, if there was any doubt that the president had authorised it? The odds are beyond minimal.

Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have - without any bias - would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, the respected top Democrat on the House intelligence committee in 2003-06, put it as simply as she could: “I am worried. It smells like the cover-up of the cover-up.”

It’s a potential Watergate. But this time the crime is not a two-bit domestic burglary. It’s a war crime that reaches into the very heart of the Oval Office. ... "

We Are All Prisoners Now

By Paul Craig Roberts
26 Dec 2007

“They’re locking them up today 

They’re throwing away the key  

I wonder who it’ll be tomorrow, you or me?”   

The Red Telephone  (LOVE, 1967)

At Christmas time it has been my habit to write a column in remembrance of the many innocent people in prisons whose lives have been stolen by the US criminal justice (sic) system that is as inhumane as it is indifferent to justice. Usually I retell the cases of William Strong and Christophe Gaynor, two men framed in the state of Virginia by prosecutors and judges as wicked and corrupt as any who served Hitler or Stalin.

This year is different. All Americans are now imprisoned in a world of lies and deception created by the Bush Regime and the two complicit parties of Congress, by federal judges too timid or ignorant to recognize a rogue regime running roughshod over the Constitution, by a bought-and-paid-for media that serves as propagandists for a regime of war criminals, and by a public who have forsaken their Founding Fathers.

Americans are also imprisoned by fear, a false fear created by the hoax of "terrorism." It has turned out that headline terrorist events since 9/11 have been orchestrated by the US government. For example, the alleged terrorist plot to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower was the brainchild of a FBI agent who searched out a few disaffected people to give lip service to the plot devised by the FBI agent. He arrested his victims, whose trial ended in acquittal and mistrial.

Raising doubts among Americans about the government is not a strong point of the corporate media. Americans live in a world of propaganda designed to secure their acquiescence to war crimes, torture, searches and police state measures, military aggression, hegemony and oppression, while portraying Americans (and Israelis) as the salt of the earth who are threatened by Muslims who hate their "freedom and democracy."

Americans cling to this "truth" while the Bush regime and a complicit Congress destroy the Bill of Rights and engineer the theft of elections.

Freedom and democracy in America have been reduced to no-fly lists, spying without warrants, arrests without warrants or evidence, permanent detention despite the constitutional protection of habeas corpus, torture despite the prohibition against self-incrimination – the list goes on and on.

In today’s fearful America, a US Senator, whose elder brothers were (1) a military hero killed in action, (2) a President of the United States assassinated in office, (3) an Attorney General of the United States and likely president except he was assassinated like his brother, can find himself on the no-fly list. Present and former high government officials, with top-secret security clearances, cannot fly with a tube of toothpaste or a bottle of water despite the absence of any evidence that extreme measures imposed by "airport security" makes flying safer.

Elderly American citizens with walkers and young mothers with children are meticulously searched because US Homeland Security cannot tell the difference between an American citizen and a terrorist.

All Americans should note the ominous implications of the inability of Homeland Security to distinguish an American citizen from a terrorist.

When Airport Security cannot differentiate a US Marine General recipient of the Medal of Honor from a terrorist, Americans have all the information they need to know.

Any and every American can be arrested by unaccountable authority, held indefinitely without charges and tortured until he or she can no longer stand the abuse and confesses.

This predicament, which can now befall any American, is our reward for our stupidity, our indifference, our gullibility, and our lack of compassion for anyone but ourselves.

Some Americans have begun to comprehend the tremendous financial costs of the "war on terror." But few understand the cost to American liberty. Last October a Democrat-sponsored bill, "Prevention of Violent Radicalism and Homegrown Terrorism," passed the House of Representatives 404 to 6.

Only six members of the House voted against tyrannical legislation that would destroy freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and that would mandate 18 months of congressional hearings to discover Americans with "extreme" views who could be preemptively arrested.

What better indication that the US Constitution has lost its authority when elected representatives closest to the people pass a bill that permits the Bill of Rights to be overturned by the subjective opinion of members of an "Extremist Belief Commission" and Homeland Security bureaucrats? Clearly, Americans face no greater threat than the government in Washington.

December 27, 2007

Paul Craig Roberts [send him mail] wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is author or coauthor of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He is also coauthor with Karen Araujo of Chile: Dos Visiones – La Era Allende-Pinochet (Santiago: Universidad Andres Bello, 2000).

~ Source: ~

"a good aid for psychotherapy"

LSD set to make a medical comeback
20 Dec 2007
The psychedelic drug LSD is a step closer to making its long-awaited comeback as a medicine.

Swiss medical authorities have given a doctor approval to carry out LSD-assisted psychotherapy trials on patients suffering from advanced-stage cancer and other terminal illnesses.

This will be the first government-approved study looking into LSD's therapeutic benefits on humans in over 35 years.

Lysergic acid diethyladmide, better known as LSD and famed for its hallucinogenic trips, was also once a well-respected treatment for a variety of psychiatric disorders.

"I am convinced that LSD can be a good aid for psychotherapy," Peter Gasser, the psychotherapist from Solothurn who is leading the trials, told swissinfo.

"You have to imagine that people are facing death and are terrified of dying... even panicking. They look back on their lives for a spiritual meaning. It is well known that LSD can often help this happen."

In the three-month-long trials that are due to begin in January, 12 patients will be given either an active 200-microgram dose of LSD or a placebo.

Intensive daydream

"The patients will have two full days when LSD is administered under observation. It's like an intensive daydream during which they can lie down quietly and listen to music. The LSD influence lasts for about eight hours."

The trials are being sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and will cost around $150,000 (SFr190,000).

"My personal vision is that one day LSD will become a drug like morphine and that only trained people will be able to give LSD to patients," he said.

LSD was chosen for the trials because of its ability to induce mental states where the senses, perceptions and moods are intensified and altered.

But critics say it can also cause terrifying "bad trips" in which the user suffers panic attacks and paranoia.

Generally Safe

LSD is one of the best-studied medicines in the world. Previous studies revealed that LSD was generally safe for therapeutic use. Before it was declared illegal in 1966, many therapists hailed the drug a miraculous tool for psychotherapy.

But support for the drug dwindled among practitioners after it was made illegal and therapists could no longer provide it for medical use.

Gasser said it had been "very difficult" to gain approval from the Aargau cantonal ethics committee, Swissmedic, the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products and the Federal Health Office. Final clearance came through on December 5.

Elisabeth Grimm-Bättig, president of the Aargau cantonal ethics committee, said the main question mark concerned the special situation in which the patients find themselves.

"They know that they don't have too much time left to live; another question we had was about how exactly the patient would be told about the usefulness... and also the risks of a bad trip. We want them to understand and not feel under pressure."

"More liberal" climate

Despite the tough approval process, Gasser acknowledged that he had been aided by a "more liberal" climate in Switzerland and an "unprejudiced" ethical committee.

"Over the past 20 to 30 years it wouldn't have been possible to do such as study as the climate surrounding the drug was very negative – the hippy and techno movements with people taking the drug for recreational use," he said.

"But last year I wrote a letter to Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, who answered saying that if the ethical and scientific requirements were fulfilled there would be no problem to get permission."

Albert Hofmann, the Swiss scientist who accidentally discovered LSD in 1938 while working for the Basel-based pharmaceutical company, Sandoz, told Swiss television that he was delighted to be able to celebrate the rehabilitation of his problem child.

"My wish has come true. I didn't think I'd live to find out that LSD had finally taken its place in medicine," he said.

Hofmann, who is still in excellent health, is due to celebrate his 102nd birthday in January.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley


'Bhutto's assassination could cause "Doomsday Clock" to tick forward'

Opposition leader's assassination 'moves us closer' to potential nuclear apocalypse, expert says
27 Dec 2007
Filed by Nick Juliano
Predicts Pakistan will not dissolve, but US lacks options dealing with nuke-armed country

The death of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has left the US lacking in options for dealing with the tumultuous, nuclear-armed, militant-rich nation and has raised the possibility that the country's weapons will fall into the wrong hands, leading to a possible apocalypse, a foreign policy expert tells RAW STORY.

"When people aren't looking, you have a question of command and control of their nuclear warheads," Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at The New America Foundation, said in an interview Thursday.

Clemons said Bhutto's assassination could cause the "Doomsday Clock" to tick forward. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists maintains the clock, which depicts how close the world is to midnight, representing a nuclear catastrophe. At the beginning of this year, the clock was set at 11:55 p.m.

"I think we've moved closer to midnight ... to a potential apocalyptic situation," Clemons said. "It doesn't mean we're going to get there, but we have moved closer."

Based on conversations he's had with associates of Bhutto, Clemons predicted the country "would not disintegrate." However, he told RAW STORY that Bhutto's death likely would prevent next month's scheduled election and could lead to more security crackdowns against Pakistani citizens.

As for the US approach toward Pakistan, options are now "very, very narrow," he said.

"It blows up America's effort to manage the Pakistan mess. ... Now we don't have an alternative to Musharraf," Clemons noted. "The timing of this is amazingly bad; she probably would've been elected Prime Minister next week."

Other observers were more pessimistic about Pakistan's future now that Bhutto is dead.

"The impact will be that Pakistan is in more turmoil -- it will be the start of civil war in Pakistan," said Riaz Malik of the opposition party Pakistan Movement for Justice, according to The Guardian. "There is a very real danger of civil war in Pakistan."

Questions have swirled around potential flaws in Bhutto's security detail. The former prime minister, who had recently returned to Pakistan after years in self-imposed exile, was shot at close range by a gunman, then hit with shrapnel from a suicide bomb, according to news reports. It was the second attempt on her life since her return.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, implied in a statement Thursday that more could have been done to protect Bhutto.

“This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October," Biden said. "The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered."

Clemons said that, both Bhutto and Musharraf were seen by the average Pakistani as US "puppets," but that now the US has no option except Musharraf in trying to quell an increasingly unstable country.

Musharraf himself is believed to be under threat of assassination attempts by foreign extremists because of his perceived closeness to the US. At the same time, he has come under fire from American politicians for not doing enough to root out elements of al Qaeda believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

Whatever happens, a resolution of the turmoil seems farther away that it was Wednesday night, while threats are still prevalent within Pakistan.

"It's going to take time," Clemons said. "And we still have a nuclear Pakistan with Osama bin Laden and [Ayman al-]Zawahiri residing in their country."

~ Source: Raw Story ~



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