1) Ayumi Temlock leads us to yet another story of the Bush regime's
pure fabrications: See "IRAN NUKE LAPTOP DATA CAME FROM TERROR GROUP"
2) Greg Palast explains how the $200 billion bail-out for predator
banks and Spitzer charges are intimately linked. See below.
3) The Northeast Impeachment Coalition is looking for help with HR24
in New Hampshire: See below.
4) Admiral Fallon fired for preventing Bush & Cheney from pursuing
criminal aggression against Iran. See below.
5) The rich get richer while the poor get poorer for the rather
obvious reason that the rich steal from the poor. David Walsh of the
World Socialist Website reviews the Wall Street Journal's report on
"The Fortunate 400," the IRS report on the wealthiest, and information
on the super-wealthy world-wide. See below.
6) Amy Goodman interviews Noam Chomsky on the implications of
the presidential campaign. See below.
2) By Greg Palast
Reporting for Air America Radio's Clout
Listen to Palast on Clout at
While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an 'escort' $4,300 in
a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush's new
Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing
over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.
Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there's a BIG difference.
The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush's man Bernanke was
This week, Bernanke's Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a
selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee
these banks' mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was
an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought
two million families to the brink of foreclosure.
Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood
in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers' bordello:
Who are they kidding?Spitzer's lynching and the bankers' enriching are
How? Follow the money.
The press has swallowed Wall Street's line that millions of US
families are about to lose their homes because they bought homes they
couldn't afford or took loans too big for their wallets. Ba-LON-ey.
That's blaming the victim.
Here's what happened. Since the Bush regime came to power, a new
species of loan became the norm, the 'sub-prime' mortgage and it's
variants including loans with teeny "introductory" interest rates.
From out of nowhere, a company called 'Countrywide' became America's
top mortgage lender, accounting for one in five home loans, a large
chuck of these 'sub-prime.'
Here's how it worked: The Grinning Family, with US average household
income, gets a $200,000 mortgage at 4% for two years. Their $955 a
month payment is 25% of their income. No problem. Their banker
promises them a new mortgage, again at the cheap rate, in two years.
But in two years, the promise ain't worth a can of spam and the
Grinnings are told to scram - because their house is now worth less
than the mortgage. Now, the mortgage hits 9% or $1,609 plus fees to
recover the "discount" they had for two years. Suddenly, payments
equal 42% to 50% of pre-tax income. Grinnings move into their Toyota.
Now, what kind of American is 'sub-prime.' Guess. No peeking. Here's a
hint: 73% of HIGH INCOME Black and Hispanic borrowers were given
sub-prime loans versus 17% of similar-income Whites. Dark-skinned
borrowers aren't stupid - they had no choice. They were 'steered' as
it's called in the mortgage sharking business.
'Steering,' sub-prime loans with usurious kickers, fake inducements to
over-borrow, called 'fraudulent conveyance' or 'predatory lending'
under US law, were almost completely forbidden in the olden days
(Clinton Administration and earlier) by federal regulators and state
laws as nothing more than fancy loan-sharking.
But when the Bush regime took over, Countrywide and its banking
brethren were told to party hardy - it was OK now to steer'm, fake'm,
charge'm and take'm.
But there was this annoying party-pooper. The Attorney General of New
York, Eliot Spitzer, who sued these guys to a fare-thee-well. Or tried
Instead of regulating the banks that had run amok, Bush's regulators
went on the warpath against Spitzer and states attempting to stop
predatory practices. Making an unprecedented use of the legal power of
"federal pre-emption," Bush-bots ordered the states to NOT enforce
their consumer protection laws.
Indeed, the feds actually filed a lawsuit to block Spitzer's
investigation of ugly racial mortgage steering. Bush's banking buddies
were especially steamed that Spitzer hammered bank practices across
the nation using New York State laws.
Spitzer not only took on Countrywide, he took on their predatory
enablers in the investment banking community. Behind Countrywide was
the Mother Shark, its funder and now owner, Bank of America. Others
joined the sharkfest: Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup's
Citibank made mortgage usury their major profit centers. They did this
through a bit of financial legerdemain called "securitization."
What that means is that they took a bunch of junk mortgages, like the
Grinnings, loans about to go down the toilet and re-packaged them into
"tranches" of bonds which were stamped "AAA" - top grade - by bond
rating agencies. These gold-painted turds were sold as sparkling safe
investments to US school district pension funds and town governments
in Finland (really).
When the housing bubble burst and the paint flaked off, investors were
left with the poop and the bankers were left with bonuses.
Countrywide's top man, Angelo Mozilo, will 'earn' a $77 million
buy-out bonus this year on top of the $656 million - over half a
billion dollars - he pulled in from 1998 through 2007.
But there were rumblings that the party would soon be over. Angry
regulators, burned investors and the weight of millions of homes about
to be boarded up were causing the sharks to sink. Countrywide's stock
was down 50%, and Citigroup was off 38%, not pleasing to the Gulf
sheiks who now control its biggest share blocks.
Then, on Wednesday of this week, the unthinkable happened. Carlyle
Capital went bankrupt. Who? That's Carlyle as in Carlyle Group. James
Baker, Senior Counsel. Notable partners, former and past: George Bush,
the Bin Laden family and more dictators, potentates, pirates and
presidents than you can count.
The Fed had to act. Bernanke opened the vault and dumped $200 billion
on the poor little suffering bankers. They got the public treasure -
and got to keep the Grinning's house. There was no 'quid' of a
foreclosure moratorium for the 'pro quo' of public bail-out. Not one
family was saved - but not one banker was left behind.
Every mortgage sharking operation shot up in value. Mozilo's
Countrywide stock rose 17% in one day. The Citi sheiks saw their
company's stock rise $10 billion in an afternoon.
And that very same day the bail-out was decided - what a coinkydink! -
the man called, 'The Sheriff of Wall Street' was cuffed. Spitzer was
Do I believe the banks called Justice and said, "Take him down today!"
Naw, that's not how the system works. But the big players knew that
unless Spitzer was taken out, he would create enough ruckus to spoil
the party. Headlines in the financial press - one was "Wall Street
Declares War on Spitzer" - made clear to Bush's enforcers at Justice
who their number one target should be. And it wasn't Bin Laden.
It was the night of February 13 when Spitzer made the bone-headed
choice to order take-out in his Washington Hotel room. He had just
finished signing these words for the Washington Post about predatory
"Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers,
it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent
states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which
he federal government was turning a blind eye."
Bush, said Spitzer right in the headline, was the "Predator Lenders'
Partner in Crime." The President, said Spitzer, was a fugitive from
justice. And Spitzer was in Washington to launch a campaign to take on
the Bush regime and the biggest financial powers on the planet.
Spitzer wrote, "When history tells the story of the subprime lending
crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many
innocent homeowners the Bush administration will not be judged
But now, the Administration can rest assured that this love story - of
Bush and his bankers - will not be told by history at all - now that
the Sheriff of Wall Street has fallen on his own gun.
A note on "Prosecutorial Indiscretion."
Back in the day when I was an investigator of racketeers for
government, the federal prosecutor I was assisting was deciding
whether to launch a case based on his negotiations for airtime with 60
Minutes. I'm not allowed to tell you the prosecutor's name, but I want
to mention he was recently seen shouting, "Florida is Rudi country!
Florida is Rudi country!"
Not all crimes lead to federal bust or even public exposure. It's up
to something called "prosecutorial discretion."
Funny thing, this 'discretion.' For example, Senator David Vitter,
Republican of Louisiana, paid Washington DC prostitutes to put him
diapers (ewww!), yet the Senator was not exposed by the US prosecutors
busting the pimp-ring that pampered him.
Naming and shaming and ruining Spitzer - rarely done in these cases -
was made at the 'discretion' of Bush's Justice Department.
Or maybe we should say, 'indiscretion.'
Greg Palast, former investigator of financial fraud, is the author of
the New York Times bestsellers
Madhouse and <http://mailings.gregpalast.com/lt/t_go.php?i=71&e=NTMyNjc=&l=-http--www.palastinvestigativefund.org/the-best-democracy-money-can-buy-extended-election-version>The
Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
Hear The Palast Report weekly on
America Radio's Clout.
And next Wednesday March 19, join Palast and Clout host Richard Greene
on a dinner cruise on the Potomac River. For more information click
And this Sunday, at noon, on WABC-TV New York, catch Amy Goodman, Les
Payne and Greg Palast on Like It Is with Gil Noble.
3) The Northeast Impeachment Coalition is looking for help with HR24
in New Hampshire:
OK - it's time to begin - NOW!
We need CAPTAINS to recruit and lead our "foot soldiers" on passing
out the attached flyers asking NH residents to urge their reps to vote
YES on HR24 New Hampshire Petition to Impeach Bush and Cheney.
Call: 508-243-4473 FOR YOUR LOCATION ASSIGNMENT AND DAYS
Northeast Impeachment Coalition
This is your time to shine you juicy peachy patriots - your moment in
history. You can tell your grandchildren that democracy was saved in
America because YOU tipped it - you led your team to inform the public
in NH that they were empowered to urge their state to pass impeaching
the fascists in the White House, therefore rescuing democracy for a
free society for future generations!
4) Admiral Fallon fired for preventing Bush & Cheney from pursuing
criminal aggression against Iran. See below.
Fallon's Greatest Secret Accomplishment
By JC Garrett: right wing watch 3-12-08, 9:41 am
After nearly a half century of service Admiral William J. Fallon
resigned Tuesday from his post as top U.S. military commander for the Middle
East because of growing publicity of his differences of opinion over Bush
Administration policy on Iran. Bush's beef with Fallon:
"He doesn't react like Pavlov's dog to inflammatory rhetoric from
inflammatory little men."
A Mar. 11 article in "Esquire" speculated on the longevity of Fallon's
"How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander
The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer.
President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as
freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough."
How very "Nostradamus" of them.
However, their next prediction proved the absence of total
omnipotence, suggesting that Fallon might last until this summer when Bush
would replace him with a more deferential commander who would chase whatever
stick the neocons threw into Iran.
One can only hope that "Esquire's" third prediction proves them to be
charlatans and false prophets:
"If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and
vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of
this year and don't want a commander standing in their way."
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has tried to downplay the existence
of any disagreement, going so far as to declare, "I don't think there were
any differences at all."
Wanna know just how much "difference" there is between Fallon and the
Bush Admin's policy?
You may recall the very under-reported story about a B-52 bomber
carrying six live nuclear warheads across the country to Louisiana. It was
scheduled to continue to the Middle East after refueling. Fallon and a few
other sane Intel and Air Force officials found out and stopped it before it
could take off.
To put it politely, Fallon was royally perturbed.
When the incident was leaked to the press by high-level officials,
distinguished patriots all, concerned about the possibility of being dragged
into another aggressive, unprovoked war-- this time a nuclear one-- the
inconceivable explanation offered by the morons in charge was:
It was an accident.
The "Bent Spear" B-52 incident of August 30 was no accident. Live
nuclear warheads stored in impenetrable underground bunkers, at heavily
guarded sites do not "accidentally" attach themselves to cruise missiles,
drive themselves out on a fork truck, and jump into place on a bomber that
has for several years been prohibited from carrying nukes because the B-52
has been deemed too unsafe for that purpose.
The timeline tells the tale here. One week after the "accident", on
Sept. 5, the story was leaked to the Military Times. The next day, Sept. 6,
Israel bombed a compound in Syria that was rumored to be a "suspected
nuclear facility" where the Syrians were cooperating with North Korea on a
secret project that was partially funded by Iran.
How convenient that those three nations turned out to be the exact
ones in Bush's "Axis of Evil."
Asked about the incident, Bush refused to speak one word on the
subject. To this day, nobody in the administration has offered any
substantive information on the bombing of Syria.
Just before Fallon stopped the nuclear-armed bomber from delivering
its cargo, Robert Gates had matter-of-factly announced that the new National
Intelligence Estimate on Iran would not be released publicly. After Fallon
realized exactly how maniacal the Bush regime was, he and other military and
intel officers forced the release of the NIE, which said Iran had not had a
nuclear weapons program since 2003, and was unlikely to resume it. It
contradicted everything the White House had been selling.
How did they force Bush's compliance? They threatened to tell the
whole story to every reporter in Washington - that Bush was trying to sneak
nukes to the Middle East with the intent of bombing Iran's nuclear energy
plants at the same time Israel bombed Syria.
British intel sources say the Israeli attack on Syria was originally
intended to coincide with a U.S. attack on Iran. After the mutiny over
sending nuclear-armed missiles to the Middle East, Israel proceeded with its
attack on Syria.
Remember how passively Bush and Cheney took the disclosure of the NIE?
Normally, they would have shouted and wailed, aggressively attacking such a
repudiation of all the rhetoric they had been spouting for years. What
caused their uncharacteristic calm and deference when the NIE was first
They were scared. If the public discovered the extent and scope of
their plans, they might finally insist that Speaker Nancy Pelosi to return
the nourishing meal of impeachment to the table from which she swiped it,
thereby depriving the children of Democracy of the sustenance provided by
the Constitution. More than that, Bush and Cheney were afraid of going to
prison for their highly illegal trespasses. Fallon had their cajones in his
fists, and had convinced them that he would not hesitate to twist them off
if they continued to do everything possible to get us into a third idiotic
Remember just days after that NIE was made public, when Bush suggested
that other countries better fall in line if they were "interested in
avoiding World War III"?
That is exactly what Admiral Fallon helped to prevent.
Hopefully, his retirement will allow him the freedom to expose the
reckless insanity of the worst administration in the history of America.
5) From the World Socialist Website: wsws.org
America's "Fortunate 400" control vast wealth
By David Walsh
7 March 2008
The richest four hundred American taxpayers have amassed immense
wealth, and that amount is steadily increasing, according to figures
reported by the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.
The Journal piece and the latest celebration of the world's
billionaires carried out by Forbes magazine point to an increasingly
and malignantly polarized American and global social order, with
fabulous riches accumulated at one pole and widespread social
wretchedness at the other.
The data published in the Wall Street Journal article come from an
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) study of wealthy US taxpayers in 2005,
an update of a report conducted five years earlier. The study reveals
that the 400 super-rich—who represent approximately .0003 percent of
the nation's 134 million taxpayers—reported total income of $85.6
billion in 2005, an average of $213.9 million each.
To be a member of this exclusive crowd, "the Fortunate 400," as one
academic terms the group, an individual had to report an income of at
least $100.3 million in 2005, a sharp increase from the $74.5 million
such membership would have required only the year before.
The increase in the fortunes of the 400 wealthiest taxpayers over the
four years 2002-2005 was phenomenal. In 2002 the average income of the
400 was 'merely' $104.1 million, little more than the "entry level" in
2005. The 2002 total income of the group was $41.6 billion, less than
half the 2005 total.
The 400 wealthiest absorbed 1.15 percent of total national income in
2005 (in other words, three-millionths of the taxpaying population
took in an eighty-seventh of total income), an increase from 1.02
percent in 2004 and more than double the 0.49 percent in 1995. After
adjusting for inflation, the minimum income required for entry into
the club of 400 has tripled since 1992. This provides a snapshot of a
social process that has gone on uninterruptedly under both Democratic
and Republican administrations.
The Journal emphasizes that the figures "actually understate the group
of 400's remarkable performance." The IRS measured the 2005 earnings
by what is known as "adjusted gross income," and does not include
tax-exempt interest income from state and local government bonds. In
addition, adjusted gross income is only calculated after deducting for
various expenses, including moving, alimony and the self-employed
health insurance deduction.
The newspaper also notes, "The IRS relied only on what taxpayers
actually reported, without making any independent effort to estimate
The parasitic character of the wealth accumulation found expression in
the fact that a majority of the income accumulated by the super-rich
in 2005 came from capital gains—the amount by which the selling price
of an asset exceeds the purchase price. Presumably, much of this came
from the stock market boom.
The 400, according to the IRS, reported net capital gains in 2005 of
nearly $50 billion, an average of $125 million per tax return, or 58
percent of their total income.
The Bush tax cuts helped this group enrich itself to the tune of
billions of dollars. The individuals paid an average federal income
tax rate of 18.23 percent in 2005, an increase from 18.16 percent the
year prior, but otherwise a lower percentage than in any year since
1992. The richest 400 paid an average tax rate of 30 percent as
recently as 1995.
It is some measure of the social regression that has occurred in the
US that this tiny handful of obscenely wealthy individuals paid only
slightly more than the average income tax rate for all taxpayers in
2005, 12.6 percent.
The IRS study reveals that 322 of the 400 reported total salaries and
wages of $7.38 billion, or some $22 million per tax return. Three
hundred ninety three reported income from dividends, some $5.9
billion, an average of $15 million each.
The $85 billion in income reported by 400 US taxpayers in a single
year is equal to the entire amount that the Bush administration claims
it has committed to helping rebuild the Gulf Coast in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina, a disaster that devastated the lives of hundreds of
thousands. The income of this group in 2005 alone could pay off all
outstanding student loans in the US.
Over the last several decades, a transfer of vast amounts of wealth
has taken place in the US, to the benefit of the very rich. According
to Gregory D. Squires, professor of sociology and public policy and
public administration at George Washington University, Washington,
D.C., on the Economic Policy Institute web site, between 1967 and 2005
the share of income going to the top quintile of all households
increased from 43.6 percent to 50.4 percent, while the share going to
the bottom fifth fell from 4 percent to 3.4 percent. In 2004 those in
the top one percent experienced a 12.5 percent increase in their
incomes while everyone else, the other 99 percent of the population,
saw an increase of only 1.5 percent.
In January 2008 workers' real hourly and weekly earnings in the US
were both down by 1 percent from the year before.
The IRS figures for 2005, and there is every reason to believe the
process has continued unabated, reveal that the greatest increase in
wealth has occurred within a small layer, a tiny fraction of the
population. These are the people who "count" in America, the ones who
ultimately decide the economic fate of tens of millions, determine the
principal actions of the two big business parties and shape the
officially-sanctioned "public opinion" daily transmitted through the
airwaves and in countless newspaper columns and editorials.
The figures on the "Fortunate 400" shocked even quite respectable
members of the establishment. The Journal cited the comment of Michael
Graetz, a professor of law at Yale University and a Treasury
Department official under President George H. W. Bush: "Those numbers
are really stunning. One hundred million dollars is an enormous estate
to be accumulated over a lifetime, and not what we think of as one
year's income for anybody."
1,125 billionaires worldwide
Meanwhile the world's billionaires continue to grow fatter and fatter.
This year's crop of 1,125, according to Forbes, are worth a total of
$4.4 trillion among them, an increase of 26 percent from the year
before. On the annual list published a year ago, the magazine
calculated 946 billionaires, with combined income of $3.5 trillion.
The existence of this group of financial and corporate predators, who
cohabit the planet with some three billion human beings who survive
(or fail to) on less than $2 a day, is a symptom of a diseased and
doomed social order. In its usual manner, Forbes treated the cancerous
growth of personal wealth as the opportunity for a special kind of
Investor Warren Buffett displaced Microsoft's Bill Gates as the
world's richest individual, according to Forbes. Buffett was worth
some $62 billion as of February 11, an increase of $10 billion from a
year ago. Gates gained $2 billion in net worth during the past 12
months, but lost ground to Buffett as the result of his company's
recent unsolicited bid for Yahoo! Gates actually slipped to third
place, with $58 billion, falling behind Mexican telecom mogul Carlos
Slim Helu ($60 billion).
Reflecting the general drift of the US in the world economy, only four
of the world's 20 richest individuals were Americans, down from ten
only two years ago. India now claims four of the world's ten
wealthiest men and women. Russia, 16 years after the collapse of the
Soviet Union, is now home to 87 billionaires, second only to the US.
Germany comes in third, with 59 billionaires.
Of the 226 newcomers to the list, 77 come from the US, "half of whom
made their fortunes in finance and investments, including John Paulson
and Philip Falcone, both of whom became wealthy shorting subprime
In countries where millions go to sleep hungry every night, a handful
is enriching itself. According to Forbes' Luisa Kroll, "Another third
of the new billionaires comes from Russia (35), China (28) and India
(19). Two of the most noteworthy new entrants are South Africa's
Patrice Motsepe and Nigeria's Aliko Dangote, the first black Africans
to make their debut among the world's richest. Dangote is also the
first-ever Nigerian billionaire."
The social type is revealing. Of Motsepe, Forbes writes: "Over 15
years Motsepe, preaching free market capitalism, turned a low-level
mining services business into the country's first black-owned mining
company, African Rainbow Minerals, with 2007 revenue of $875 million.
Driven by the Asian commodities boom, ARM's share price has rocketed
in the past year from $12 to $24, pushing the value of Motsepe's net
worth to $2.4 billion."
The magazine feels obliged to acknowledge: "But for all the adulation,
in South Africa such success comes with a price: being labeled an
oligarch. Even many blacks have complained that the country's 1994
transformation from apartheid to democracy has benefited only the
elite few. The criticism stems from laws that require substantial
black ownership in certain industries, including mining. A handful of
politically connected individuals have grown enormously wealthy as a
result. One of Motsepe's sisters, Bridgette Radebe, who's married to
transport minister Jeffrey Radebe, heads a mining company and is said
to be among the wealthiest black women in the country."
Overall, Forbes notes that not all is "rosy," pointing out that
economic volatility "has been wreaking havoc on these fortunes on a
daily basis for months." Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing lost $5.5
billion of his net worth over a span of 37 days in January and
February. China's richest person, Yang Huiyan, lost some $10 billion
over the past year. Others fell off the list entirely, including
Lehman Brothers chief Richard Fuld and Bear Stearns ex-chief James
Cayne (who lost his job), "both victims of the world's credit crunch,"
and William Pulte of Pulte Homes, "whose stock collapsed along with
the housing market."
The various reports underscore the state of world capitalism in 2008:
unrestrained growth of social inequality, economic instability—and the
inevitability of social upheaval.
Record Christmas bonuses on Wall Street
[27 December 2007]
Record inequality in the US: Billions for Wall Street bosses as
workers' share of income shrinks
[20 December 2007]
The filthy rich: Forbes lists America's top 400 for 2007
[27 November 2007]
6) Amy Goodman interviews Noam Chomsky on the implications of the
AMY GOODMAN: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will face off tonight in
their final debate before the crucial primaries in Ohio and Texas next
week. Over the past few days, the two Democratic candidates have
traded barbs over trade, foreign and domestic policies, as the
rhetoric from both campaigns heats up.
Since the presidential race began well over a year ago, Iraq has been
one of many topics of debate. However, the war has not been the
central issue of the campaign as it was in the midterm elections in
2006, and there are still more than 160,000 US troops deployed in
Iraq. Why is this?
That was the subject of a recent talk by Noam Chomsky. A professor of
linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a
half-century, Noam Chomsky is the author of scores of books on US
foreign policy. His most recent is called Failed States: The Abuse of
Power and the Assault on Democracy. We spend the rest of the hour with
Noam Chomsky. He recently spoke before a packed audience in
Massachussetts at an event sponsored by Bikes Not Bombs.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Not very long ago, as you all recall, it was taken for
granted that the Iraq war would be the central issue in the 2008
election, as it was in the midterm election two years ago. However,
it's virtually disappeared off the radar screen, which has solicited
some puzzlement among the punditry.
Actually, the reason is not very obscure. It was cogently explained
forty years ago, when the US invasion of South Vietnam was in its
fourth year and the surge of that day was about to add another 100,000
troops to the 175,000 already there, while South Vietnam was being
bombed to shreds at triple the level of the bombing of the north and
the war was expanding to the rest of Indochina. However, the war was
not going very well, so the former hawks were shifting towards doubts,
among them the distinguished historian Arthur Schlesinger, maybe the
most distinguished historian of his generation, a Kennedy adviser,
who—when he and Kennedy, other Kennedy liberals were beginning
to—reluctantly beginning to shift from a dedication to victory to a
more dovish position.
And Schlesinger explained the reasons. He explained that—I'll quote
him now—"Of course, we all pray that the hawks are right in thinking
that the surge of that day will work. And if it does, we may all be
saluting the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in
winning a victory in a land that we have turned," he said, "to wreck
and ruin. But the surge probably won't work, at an acceptable cost to
us, so perhaps strategy should be rethought."
Well, the reasoning and the underlying attitudes carry over with
almost no change to the critical commentary on the US invasion of Iraq
today. And it is a land of wreck and ruin. You've already heard a few
words; I don't have to review the facts. The highly regarded British
polling agency, Oxford Research Bureau, has just updated its estimate
of deaths. Their new estimate a couple of days ago is 1.3 million.
That's excluding two of the most violent provinces, Karbala and Anbar.
On the side, it's kind of intriguing to observe the ferocity of the
debate over the actual number of deaths. There's an assumption on the
part of the hawks that if we only killed a couple hundred thousand
people, it would be OK, so we shouldn't accept the higher estimates.
You can go along with that if you like.
Uncontroversially, there are over two million displaced within Iraq.
Thanks to the generosity of Jordan and Syria, the millions of refugees
who have fled the wreckage of Iraq aren't totally wiped out. That
includes most of the professional classes. But that welcome is fading,
because Jordan and Syria receive no support from the perpetrators of
the crimes in Washington and London, and therefore they cannot accept
that huge burden for very long. It's going to leave those
two-and-a-half million refugees who fled in even more desperate
The sectarian warfare that was created by the invasion never—nothing
like that had ever existed before. That has devastated the country, as
you know. Much of the country has been subjected to quite brutal
ethnic cleansing and left in the hands of warlords and militias.
That's the primary thrust of the current counterinsurgency strategy
that's developed by the revered "Lord Petraeus," I guess we should
describe him, considering the way he's treated. He won his fame by
pacifying Mosul a couple of years ago. It's now the scene of some of
the most extreme violence in the country.
One of the most dedicated and informed journalists who has been
immersed in the ongoing tragedy, Nir Rosen, has just written an
epitaph entitled "The Death of Iraq" in the very mainstream and quite
important journal Current History. He writes that "Iraq has been
killed, never to rise again. The American occupation has been more
disastrous than that of the Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in the
thirteenth century," which has been the perception of many Iraqis, as
well. "Only fools talk of 'solutions' now," he went on. "There is no
solution. The only hope is that perhaps the damage can be contained."
But Iraq is, in fact, the marginal issue, and the reasons are the
traditional ones, the traditional reasoning and attitudes of the
liberal doves who all pray now, as they did forty years ago, that the
hawks will be right and that the US will win a victory in this land of
wreck and ruin. And they're either encouraged or silenced by the good
news about Iraq.
And there is good news. The US occupying army in Iraq—euphemistically
it's called the Multi-National Force–Iraq, because they have, I think,
three polls there somewhere—that the occupying army carries out
extensive studies of popular attitudes. It's an important part of
counterinsurgency or any form of domination. You want to know what
your subjects are thinking. And it released a report last December. It
was a study of focus groups, and it was uncharacteristically upbeat.
The report concluded—I'll quote it—that the survey of focus groups
"provides very strong evidence" that national reconciliation is
possible and anticipated, contrary to what's being claimed. The survey
found that a sense of "optimistic possibility permeated all focus
groups…and far more commonalities than differences are found among
these seemingly diverse groups of Iraqis" from all over the country
and all walks of life. This discovery of "shared beliefs" among Iraqis
throughout the country is "good news, according to a military analysis
of the results," Karen de Young reported in the Washington Post a
couple of weeks ago.
Well, the "shared beliefs" are identified in the report. I'll quote de
Young: "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the US
military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among
them, and see the departure of [what they call] 'occupying forces' as
the key to national reconciliation." So those are the "shared
beliefs." According to the Iraqis then, there's hope of national
reconciliation if the invaders, who are responsible for the internal
violence and the other atrocities, if they withdraw and leave Iraq to
Iraqis. That's pretty much the same as what's been found in earlier
polls, so it's not all that surprising. Well, that's the good news:
The report didn't mention some other good news, so I'll add it.
Iraqis, it appears, accept the highest values of Americans. That ought
to be good news. Specifically, they accept the principles of the
Nuremberg Tribunal that sentenced Nazi war criminals to hanging for
such crimes as supporting aggression and preemptive war. It was the
main charge against von Ribbentrop, for example, whose position was—in
the Nazi regime was that of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. The
Tribunal defined aggression very straightforwardly: aggression, in its
words, is the "invasion of its armed forces" by one state "of the
territory of another state." That's simple. Obviously, the invasion of
Iraq and Afghanistan are textbook examples of aggression. And the
Tribunal, as I'm sure you know, went on to characterize aggression as
"the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes
in that it contains within itself all the accumulated evil of the
whole." So everything that follows from the aggression is part of the
evil of the aggression.
Well, the good news from the US military survey of focus groups is
that Iraqis do accept the Nuremberg principles. They understand that
sectarian violence and the other postwar horrors are contained within
the supreme international crime committed by the invaders. I think
they were not asked whether their acceptance of American values
extends to the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson, chief prosecutor
for the United States at Nuremberg. He forcefully insisted that the
Tribunal would be mere farce if we do not apply the principles to
Well, needless to say, US opinion, shared with the West generally,
flatly rejects the lofty American values that were professed at
Nuremberg, indeed regards them as bordering on obscene, as you could
quickly discover if you try experimenting by suggesting that these
values should be observed, as Iraqis insist. It's an interesting
illustration of the reality, some of the reality, that lies behind the
famous "clash of civilizations." Maybe not exactly the way we like to
look at it.
There was a poll a few days ago, a really major poll, just released,
which found that 75 percent of Americans believe that US foreign
policy is driving the dissatisfaction with America abroad, and more
than 60 percent believe that dislike of American values and of the
American people are also to blame. Dissatisfaction is a kind of an
understatement. The United States has become increasingly the most
feared and often hated country in the world. Well, that perception is
in fact incorrect. It's fed by propaganda. There's very little dislike
of Americans in the world, shown by repeated polls, and the
dissatisfaction—that is, the hatred and the anger—they come from
acceptance of American values, not a rejection of them, and
recognition that they're rejected by the US government and by US
elites, which does lead to hatred and anger.
There's other "good news" that's been reported by General Petraeus and
Ambassador Ryan Crocker that was during the extravaganza that was
staged last September 11th. September 11th, you might ask why the
timing? Well, a cynic might imagine that the timing was intended to
insinuate the Bush-Cheney claims of links between Saddam Hussein and
Osama bin Laden. They can't come out and say it straight out, so
therefore you sort of insinuate it by devices like this. It's intended
to indicate, as they used to say outright but are now too embarrassed
to say, except maybe Cheney, that by committing the supreme
international crime, they were defending the world against terror,
which, in fact, increased sevenfold as a result of the invasion,
according to a recent analysis by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen
and Paul Cruickshank.
Petraeus and Crocker provided figures to explain the good news. The
figures they provided on September 11th showed that the Iraqi
government was greatly accelerating spending on reconstruction, which
is good news indeed and remained so until it was investigated by the
Government Accountability Office, which found that the actual figure
was one-sixth of what Petraeus and Crocker reported and, in fact, a 50
percent decline from the previous year.
Well, more good news is the decline in sectarian violence, that's
attributable in part to the murderous ethnic cleansing that Iraqis
blame on the invasion. The result of it is there are simply fewer
people to kill, so sectarian violence declines. It's also attributable
to the new counterinsurgency doctrine, Washington's decision to
support the tribal groups that had already organized to drive out
Iraqi al-Qaeda, to an increase in US troops, and to the decision of
the Sadr's Mahdi army to consolidate its gains to stop direct
fighting. And politically, that's what the press calls "halting
aggression" by the Mahdi army. Notice that only Iraqis can commit
aggression in Iraq, or Iranians, of course, but no one else.
Well, it's possible that Petraeus's strategy may approach the success
of the Russians in Chechnya, where—I'll quote the New York Times a
couple of weeks ago—Chechnya, the fighting is now "limited and
sporadic, and Grozny is in the midst of a building boom" after having
been reduced to rubble by the Russian attack. Well, maybe some day
Baghdad and Fallujah also will enjoy, to continue the quote,
"electricity restored in many neighborhoods, new businesses opening
and the city's main streets repaved," as in booming Grozny. Possible,
but dubious, in the light of the likely consequence of creating
warlord armies that may be the seeds of even greater sectarian
violence, adding to the "accumulated evil" of the aggression. Well, if
Russians share the beliefs and attitudes of elite liberal
intellectuals in the West, then they must be praising Putin's "wisdom
and statesmanship" for his achievements in Chechnya, formerly that
they had turned into a land of wreck and ruin and are now rebuilding.
A few days ago, the New York Times—the military and Iraq expert of the
New York Times, Michael Gordon, wrote a comprehensive review,
first-page comprehensive review, of the options for Iraq that are
being faced by the candidates. And he went through them in detail,
described the pluses and minuses and so on, interviewing political
leaders, the candidates, experts, etc. There was one voice missing:
Iraqis. Their preference is not rejected; rather, it's not mentioned.
And it seems that there was no notice of that fact, which makes sense,
because it's typical. It makes sense on the tacit assumption that
underlies almost all discourse on international affairs. The tacit
assumption, without which none of it makes any sense, is that we own
the world. So, what does it matter what others think? They're
"unpeople," nice term invented by British diplomatic historian [Mark]
Curtis, based on a series of outstanding volumes on Britain's crimes
of empire—outstanding work, therefore deeply hidden. So there are the
"unpeople" out there, and then there are the owners—that's us—and we
don't have to listen to the "unpeople."
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Noam Chomsky speaking in Arlington,
Massachusetts. We'll come back to that speech in a minute here on
Democracy Now! And you can get a copy of this speech at
democracynow.org. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to Professor Noam Chomsky, teaches linguistics
at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over half-a-century. Noam
Chomsky is the author of more than a hundred books on US foreign
policy. He was speaking before a packed audience in Arlington,
NOAM CHOMSKY: Last month, Panama declared a Day of Mourning to
commemorate the US invasion—that's under George Bush no. 1—that killed
thousands of poor Panamanians when the US bombed the El Chorillo slums
and other poor areas, so Panamanian human rights organizations claim.
We don't actually know, because we never count our crimes. Victors
don't do that; only the defeated. It aroused no interest here; there's
barely a mention of the Day of Mourning. And there's also no interest
in the fact that Bush 1's invasion of Panama was a clear case of
aggression, to which the Nuremberg principles apply, and it was
apparently more deadly, in fact possibly much more deadly, than Saddam
Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, happened a few months later. But it
makes sense that there would be no interest in that, because we own
the world, and Saddam didn't, so the acts are quite different.
It's also of no interest that, at that time of the time of Saddam's
invasion of Kuwait, the greatest fear in Washington was that Saddam
would imitate what the United States had just done in Panama, namely
install a client government and then leave. That's the main reason why
Washington blocked diplomacy in quite interesting ways, with almost
complete media cooperation. There's actually one exception in the US
media. But none of this gets any commentary. However, it does merit a
lead story a few days later, when the Panamanian National Assembly was
opened by President Pedro Gonzalez, who's charged by Washington with
killing two American soldiers during a protest against President Bush
no.1, against his visit two years after the invasion. The charges were
dismissed by Panamanian courts, but they're upheld by the owner of the
world, so he can't travel, and that got a story.
Well, to take just one last illustration of the depth of the imperial
mentality, New York Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino, veteran
correspondent, writes that "Iran's intransigence [about nuclear
enrichment] appears to be defeating attempts by the rest of the world
to curtail Tehran's nuclear ambitions." Well, the phrase "the rest of
the world" is an interesting one. The rest of the world happens to
exclude the vast majority of the world, namely the non-aligned
movement, which forcefully endorses Iran's right to enrich uranium in
accordance with the rights granted by its being a signatory to the
Non-Proliferation Treaty. But they're not part of the world, even
though they're the large majority, because they don't reflexively
accept US orders, and commentary like that is unremarkable and
unnoticed. You're part of the world if you do what we say, obviously.
Otherwise, you're "unpeople."
Well, we might, since we're on Iran, might tarry for a moment and ask
whether there's any solution to the US-Iran confrontation over nuclear
weapons, which is extremely dangerous. Here's one idea. First point,
Iran should be permitted to develop nuclear energy, but not nuclear
weapons, as the Non-Proliferation Treaty determines.
Second point is that there should be a nuclear weapons-free zone in
the entire region, Iran to Israel, including any US forces that are
present there. Actually, though it's never reported, the United States
is committed to that position. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it
appealed to a UN resolution, Resolution 687, which called upon Iraq to
eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. That was the flimsy legal
principle invoked to justify the invasion. And if you look at
Resolution 687, you discover that one of its provisions is that the US
and other powers must work to develop a nuclear weapons-free zone in
the Middle East, including that entire region. So we're committed to
it, and that's the second element of this proposal.
The third element of the proposal is that the United States should
accept the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position which happens to be
supported by 82 percent of Americans, namely that it should accept the
requirement, in fact the legal requirement, as the World Court
determined, to move to make good-faith efforts to eliminate nuclear
And a fourth proposal is that the US should turn to diplomacy, and it
should end any threats against Iran. The threats are themselves
crimes. They're in violation of the UN Charter, which bars the threat
or use of force.
Well, of course, these four proposals—again, Iran should have nuclear
energy, but not nuclear weapons; there should be a weapons-free zone
throughout the region; the US should accept the Non-Proliferation
Treaty; there should be a turn to diplomacy and an end to
threats—these are almost unmentionable in the United States. Not a
single candidate would endorse any part of them, and they're never
discussed, and so on.
However, the proposals are not original. They happen to be the
position of the overwhelming majority of the American population. And
interestingly, that's also true in Iran; roughly the same overwhelming
majority accepts all of these proposals. But that's—the results come
from the world's most prestigious polling agency, but not reported, as
far as I could discover, and certainly not considered. If they were
ever mentioned, they would be dismissed with the phrase "politically
impossible," which is probably correct. It's only the position of the
large majority of the population, kind of like national healthcare,
but not of the people that count. So there are plenty of "unpeople"
here, too—in fact, the large majority. Americans share this property
of being "unpeople" with most of the rest of the world. In fact, if
the United States and Iran were functioning, not merely formal,
democracies, then this dangerous crisis might be readily resolved by a
functioning democracy—I mean, one in which public opinion plays some
role in determining policy, rather than being excluded—in fact,
unmentioned, because, after all, they're "unpeople."
Well, while we're on Iran, I guess I might as well turn to the third
member of the famous Axis of Evil: North Korea. There is an official
story—read it right now—is that the official story is this, that after
having been compelled to accept an agreement on dismantling its
nuclear weapons and the facilities, after having been compelled to
agree to that, North Korea is again trying to evade its commitments in
its usual devious way. So the New York Times headline on this ten days
ago reads "The United States Sees Stalling by North Korea on Nuclear
Pact." And the article then details the charges of how North Korea is
not going through with its responsibility. It's not releasing
information that it's promised to release. If you read the story to
the last paragraph—and that's always a good idea; that's where the
interesting news usually is when you read a news story—but if you
manage to get to the last paragraph, you discover that it's the United
States that has backed down on the pledges made in the agreement. The
United States had promised to provide a million tons of fuel and—
What do I do? I couldn't see you. I'm sorry.
MODERATOR: Ten minutes.
NOAM CHOMSKY: I should hurry up? Yeah, OK. Alright, just start
screaming at me if I go on too long.
The US just refused to supply it. It's refused only—it's supplied only
85 percent of the fuel that it promised, and it was supposed to
improve diplomatic relations, of course not doing that. Well, that's
If you want to find out what's going on in the US-North Korea nuclear
standoff, it's better—you have to go to the specialist literature,
which is uniform on it, nothing hidden, and in fact sort of sneaks out
into small print in the press reports, as I mentioned. What you find
is that North—I mean, North Korea may be the most hideous state in the
world, but that's not the point here. Its position has been pretty
pragmatic. It's kind of tit-for-tat. The United States gets more
aggressive, they get more aggressive. The United States moves towards
diplomacy and negotiations, they do the same.
So when President Bush came in, there was an agreement—it was called
the Framework Agreement that had been established in 1994—and neither
the US nor North Korea was quite living up to it. But it was more or
less functioning. At that time, North Korea, under the Framework
Agreement, had stopped any testing of long-range missiles. It had
maybe one or two bombs worth of plutonium, and it was verifiably not
making more. Now, that was when George Bush entered the scene. And now
it has eight to ten bombs, long-range missiles, and it's developing
And there's a reason. The Bush regime immediately moved to a very
aggressive stance. The Axis of Evil speech was one example.
Intelligence was released claiming that North Korea was carrying
out—was cheating, had clandestine programs. It's rather interesting
that these intelligence reports, five years later, have been quietly
rescinded as probably inadequate. The reason presumably is that if an
agreement is reached, there will be inspectors in North Korea, and
they'll find that this intelligence had as much validity as the claims
about Iraq, so they're being withdrawn. Well, North Korea responded to
all of this by ratcheting up its missile and weapons development.
In September 2005, under pressure, the United States did agree to
negotiations, and there was an outcome. September 2005, North Korea
agreed to abandon—quoting— "all nuclear weapons and existing weapons
programs" and to allow international inspection. That would be in
return for international aid, mainly from the United States, and a
non-aggression pledge from the US and an agreement that the two
sides—I'm quoting—would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist
peacefully together and take steps to normalize relations."
Well, the United States, the Bush administration, had an instant
reaction. It instantly renewed the threat of force. It froze North
Korean funds in foreign banks. It disbanded the consortium that was
supposed meet to provide North Korea with a light-water reactor. So
North Korea returned to its weapons and missile development, carried
out a weapons test, and confrontation escalated. Well, again, under
international pressure and with its foreign policy collapsing,
Washington returned to negotiations. That led to an agreement, which
Washington is now scuttling.
There's an earlier history, an interesting one. You recall a couple of
weeks ago, there was a mysterious Israeli bombing in northern Syria,
never explained, but it a sort of hinted that this had something to do
with Syria building nuclear facilities with the help of North Korea.
Pretty unlikely, but whether it's true or not, there's an interesting
background, which wasn't mentioned. In 1993, Israel and North Korea
were on the verge of an agreement, in which Israel would recognize
North Korea and in return North Korea would agree to terminate any
weapons-related—missile, nuclear, other—any weapons-related activity
in the Middle East. That would have been an enormous boon to Israel's
security. But the owner of the world stepped in. Clinton ordered them
to refuse. Of course, you have to listen to the master's voice. So
that ended that. And it may be that there are North Korean activities
in the Middle East that we don't know about.
Well, let me finally return to the first member of the Axis of Evil:
Iraq. Washington does have expectations, and they're explicit. There
are outlined in a Declaration of Principles that was agreed upon, if
you can call it that, between the United States and the US-backed,
US-installed Iraqi government, a government under military occupation.
The two of them issued the Declaration of Principles. It allows US
forces to remain indefinitely in Iraq in order to "deter foreign
aggression"—well, the only aggression in sight is from the United
States, but that's not aggression, by definition—and also to
facilitate and encourage "the flow of foreign investments [to] Iraq,
especially American investments." I'm quoting. That's an unusually
brazen expression of imperial will.
In fact, it was heightened a few days ago, when George Bush issued
another one of his signing statements declaring that he will reject
crucial provisions of congressional legislation that he had just
signed, including the provision that forbids spending taxpayer
money—I'm quoting—"to establish any military installation or base for
the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of [United
States} Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise [United States] control
of the oil resources of Iraq." OK? Shortly after, the New York Times
reported that Washington "insists"—if you own the world, you
insist—"insists that the Baghdad government give the United States
broad authority to conduct combat operations," a demand that "faces a
potential buzz saw of opposition from Iraq, with its…deep
sensitivities about being seen as a dependent state." It's supposed to
be more third world irrationality.
So, in brief, the United States is now insisting that Iraq must agree
to allow permanent US military installations, provide the United—grant
the United States the right to conduct combat operations freely, and
to guarantee US control over the oil resources of Iraq. OK? It's all
very explicit, on the table. It's kind of interesting that these
reports do not elicit any reflection on the reasons why the United
States invaded Iraq. You've heard those reasons offered, but they were
dismissed with ridicule. Now they're openly conceded to be accurate,
but not eliciting any retraction or even any reflection.
Well, there's a lot more to say about good news, but I was told to
shut up, so I will just say that thinking about these things really
does give some insight into the famous "clash of civilizations" and
its actual substance, topics that really ought to be foremost in our
minds, I believe. Thanks.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He's taught there for over
half-a-century. He was speaking in Arlington, Massachusetts at an
event sponsored by Bikes Not Bombs.