Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh: US Indirectly Funding Al-Qaeda Linked Sunni Groups in Move to Counter Iran
Wednesday, February 28th, 2007
John Negroponte was sworn in to his new position as Deputy Secretary of State on Tuesday at a ceremony attended by President Bush. Negroponte resigned from his post as National Intelligence Director in early January. His career includes stints as Ambassador to Iraq after the US invasion and ambassador to Honduras, where he was accused of overseeing the arming of Nicaraguan rebels during the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.
In an explosive new article, the New Yorker Magazine reports that Negroponte’s decision to resign as National Intelligence Director was made in part because of the Bush administration’s covert actions in the Middle East, which so closely echo Iran-Contra. According to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, the Bush administration, with Saudi Arabia, is secretly funding radical Sunni groups - some with ties to al-Qaeda - to counter Shiite groups backed by Iran. Moreover, this is being done without any Congressional authority or oversight.
Hersh also reports the Pentagon has established a special planning group within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to plan a bombing attack on Iran. The new panel has been charged with developing a plan that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President Bush. Hersh also reveals that U.S. military and special-operations teams have already crossed the border into Iran in pursuit of Iranian operatives. Seymour Hersh joins me now from Washington DC.
Seymour Hersh. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New Yorker magazine.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New Yorker magazine, joining us now from Washington, D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sy Hersh.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s nice to have you back from Egypt.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Yeah, that's right.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what you have found. Start off with John Negroponte.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I did not talk to him. He did not deny the story. He simply refused to comment when The New Yorker sent a series of questions to his office at the State Department. Essentially, it was simply that there were a couple of reasons that he wanted out of the job, the job that McConnell -- you just heard in your opening -- took after him. One was that he didn't get along with Cheney very well, because he was considered to be too much of a stickler, or “legalistic” was another term people used, in terms of agreeing with some of the covert and clandestine operations by the Pentagon. As many now know, the Pentagon has been running operations without any congressional oversight for years -- this has been written about -- on the basis that they are all part of the war, preparing the battlefield, having to do with military affairs, not intelligence, and therefore, since they were not intelligence, there was no reason to abide by legislation reporting covert intelligence operations. They were simply military activities that the President could authorize without Congress. And he disagreed with that. He disagreed. I guess you could say Negroponte found some of these operations to be risky and also perhaps illegal. But the one that really upset him the most was the covert operations that we’re doing in various places in the Middle East, targeted against the Iranians and also the Shia with funds used in some part by Bandar.
And, Amy, I should say one thing to correct what you said in the opening, just to adjust it. It’s not as if we’re ever going to find any evidence that American money went to any Sunni terrorist jihadist groups in Lebanon, which I allege. There is no direct connection. What there is is a flood of American money, none of it approved by Congress, into the government of Lebanon, which is Sunni. The government of Prime Minister Siniora. And they, in turn, funnel it into various -- at least three different Sunni jihadist groups.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain -- first of all, you talked about Prince Bandar, this, the former ambassador to the United States.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Twenty-two years here, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Known as “Bandar Bush.”
SEYMOUR HERSH: Not by me.
AMY GOODMAN: So he was the ambassador who sat with President Bush a few days after the 9/11 attacks, as they smoked cigars at the White House.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, he’s very close to Cheney. He was ambassador here for twenty-two years. He left a few years ago, replaced by a man named Prince Turkey, who’s a very eminent member of the royal family, was head of intelligence for the Saudi government, also ambassador to London. And Turkey came, and Turkey quit after less than two years on the job, because Bandar had a backdoor or private relationship with too many people in the administration. He was seeing Cheney without telling Turkey. You know, he was arranging meetings. So Bandar has a one-on-one relationship, I assume, with the President -- I can say firsthand with Cheney -- and also very close to certain members of people inside the White House, including Elliott Abrams, the former -- who’s now a -- I think he’s the senior advisor on the Middle East for the National Security Council and a Deputy National Security Advisor to the President.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what exactly is the role of Prince Bandar, who’s now no longer ambassador, back in Saudi Arabia?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you know, “exactly,” I don't know. We’re talking about a world that’s very murky and about which nobody wants to talk officially, unofficially even, except for a few people. In other words, I can't go to the Saudi Arabian government and say, “Give me an explanation of what’s going on.” That’s just -- you know, forget it. We try.
Bandar left here, and everybody thought his career was over, including -- he did, too. And he ended up being named National Security Advisor. And lo and behold, in the last three or four months he has emerged as a major player for the United States. He’s met with the Israelis. What’s happened very simply is the president decided some time in the last three or four months, perhaps earlier, but he’s put it into effect in the last three or four months, he has decided to work with the British, the UK, and the Israelis, and join up -- all three of those countries will join up with what we call the moderate Sunni governments -- that is, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- all very strongly Sunni, and those six countries would work together against the Shia and against Iran collectively.
And in Lebanon, for example, there is a longstanding political -- it’s been going on for months -- so really a political standoff between the Siniora government, the Sunni Siniora government, which supports us and we support, and a coalition headed by Hezbollah, the Shia group that we always call a terrorist group, that was a terrorist group but is now working pretty much in the last six or seven years domestically and politically inside Lebanon with still great capacity.
We’re also working against the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. He’s not a Sunni, he’s an Alawite, which is also a minority sect that the Sunni world -- you know, in the Sunni world, for the Sunni jihadists, if you’re not a Sunni and you don't support their particular view, political view of the Koran, you’re an infidel, you’re expendable. And as an Alawite, Bashar Assad is, too. And also, of course, everybody has also targeted Iran. So there’s been -- the article is called “The Redirection.” That’s what they call it in the White House. There’s been a sort of a massive shift of attention away from Iraq towards Iran, towards stopping Hezbollah in Lebanon and towards doing something about Assad.
AMY GOODMAN: So who is getting the money in Lebanon right now?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, it’s money that’s flowing in, covert money. A lot of it came when -- all of this started in Lebanon after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, whose assassination took place, I think, two years ago this month in February of ’05. Immediately, we, the United States and our allies, blamed Syria. There’s no empirical evidence Syria did it. That seems to be the prevailing view, but there’s just no evidence. There’s an awful lot of political assassinations in Lebanon. There’s twenty or so in the last ten years. It’s just that’s one aspect. And what happened is the Sunni government there became our big ally, and we did everything we could to support it. We flooded -- if somebody -- I think we called it the Cedar Revolution. And it was a sense of -- the Sunni government in opposition to Nasrallah, who we view as a major terrorist threat.
And I think I have to tell you, digress a second to say that I don't know a thing about Bush. I know something about what Cheney thinks, and that is in terms of having some people with firsthand access. And Cheney does believe that -- the core belief of Cheney is that Iran is going to get a bomb, no matter what the intelligence is. As you know, there’s not much intelligence supporting the fact that it has a bomb. Iran’s going to get a bomb, and once it gets a bomb, its agent, its brown shirt -- and that’s the phrase they use at least once or twice inside the White House -- its brown shirts will be Hezbollah. And they have a capacity in America. They have underground facilities, cells here, and when Iran gets the bomb, they will give it to Hezbollah to distribute it, and Washington and New York will be vulnerable. In other words, Cheney sees what’s going on now as a threat to the United States directly. He doesn't view this as simply something that’s happening in Western Europe or the Middle East. He is protecting America by taking a preemptive, a proactive action right now.
And so, in Lebanon, once Hariri fell and there was a crisis there, we immediately moved to support any group that was against Nasrallah and Hezbollah. And so, we’ve poured a lot of money, illicit money. It was not authorized by Congress. Money went pouring in there. Former retired CIA guys were put in there. Retired people went in there, other agencies. The funds came, nobody is quite sure where. There’s a lot of pools of black money around, a lot of money. Undoubtedly, some was, I’m told, came from Iraq. That is, as you know, there were hearings the other week that showed $9 billion in Iraqi oil money mysteriously disappeared and was unaccounted for. Some of that money was washed around. There was also a lot of money found after Saddam fell. We found several caches of huge amounts, you know, hundreds of millions, and billions of dollars in some cases, of cash. We also found money in various ministries. There’s no, really, accountability, and a lot of it could have ended up in black pools. It’s just not clear where the money came from, and it’s not supposed to be clear. What you do is you wash the money in. You get it to certain people. The government of Lebanon underwrites its internal security people.
And what we do know is, in the last few years, or less than that, the last year or so, three jihadist groups, three Sunni Salafi or Wahhabi -- these are the religious sects out of Saudi Arabia, and don’t forget, fifteen of the nineteen guys who went into the building in New York, the two towers, were Saudis and from the extreme religious -- they were jihadists from -- either Salafis or Wahhabis. And we know that the groups now -- there are three groups, similar in character -- according to reports I’ve read, some of the people in these groups were trained in Afghanistan, closely associated with al-Qaeda, not everybody. It’s a loose network. What you have around the world is these terror groups operating independently of Osama bin Laden, although it’s not clear they don’t have some ways of communicating. Through the web or what, we’re not sure. But these three groups, two years ago, we would have done everything we could in the United States to arrest them and sent them to Gitmo, Guantanamo, or some other place. Instead, we’re throwing money into the country, into the government, into the internal security apparatus, and the internal security facilities or mechanisms inside Lebanon are underwriting these groups. They, as soon as one group came across the border from Syria, were immediately giving material, a place to live, arms, and resupplied. There are three such groups that are operating.
And why are they there? Because in case things go bad in Lebanon and we end up in a civil war between Hezbollah and its partners in the coalition and the Sunni government, this is a very tough bunch of guys that can handle, we think, the tough guys inside Hezbollah. It’s sort of a matching game. And so, in effect, you sleep with the -- you know, the enemy of your enemy is your friend.
Bandar, as I wrote in this article, Bandar has assured us that the Salafi groups in Lebanon are OK. Don't worry about them. I think somebody said -- described it to me, he said at one point, “I’m a Wahhabi.” He’s a member of that austere religious sect, himself, in Saudi Arabia. “I can go and pray and then come back from the mosque and sit down, have a business meeting and have a drink.” And he said these groups in Lebanon, he told us, are targeted, not at America necessarily, they’re targeted at Iran, at Hezbollah, at Shias elsewhere, at Syria. That’s their prime target, and they’re OK. I quote others, including senior people from Saudi Arabia, saying this is really nutty, because these people are not controllable. So that’s where we are in that situation. It’s complicated. It’s very cynical, in a way. And what you have is a major sort of redirection. I had one military friend describe it as failing forward, talking about the failures in Iraq driving this policy. And you got it, kid.
AMY GOODMAN: And the US is also funding, supporting, training the Sunni police in Iraq -- rather, the Shia police.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well -- the Shia police, no. Here’s the wonderful irony of it, of course, is that after 9/11, after we invaded Iraq, the neoconservatives in Washington wanted nothing to do with the Baathist party -- that’s Saddam’s party, most of them were Sunnis -- disbanded the Baathist party, disbanded the military -- a lot of Sunnis, a lot of Shia in the military, too, of course -- and threw in our weight with the Shia.
Within months, the American intelligence community was raising a lot of questions internally. I was talking to people about this by the late spring of ’03. They were trying to tell the White House: you guys are making a big mistake, because Iran is the big winner of this war, particularly when we began to see signs of the insurgency, and the Shia are going to support Iran. The Shia are going to go with the Shia of Iran over you.
And the neocon mantra -- there had been a war between Iran and Iraq for eight years during the 1980s, a very, very devastating war, thousands killed in any one set-piece battle. They would just rush each other. And the assumption of the neoconservatives was that the Iraqi Shiites, having fought the Iranian Shiites for so long and so brutally, would be loyal to Iraq.
Well, it turned out the Shia tie, particularly when the occupation began and the American troops began, like all occupiers, became hated, I don’t think there was much we could do. We certainly --- our activities and the bombing and the violence didn't help, but no matter how we behave, occupiers historically are always hated. And so, once that happened, and we became -- the Americans became essentially the 200-octane fuel that drove the resistance, once that began, the Shiite immediately began to work with the Iranians much more. And all of this was ignored by the White House for years, because it didn't fit in with their preconceptions.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New Yorker magazine. Don't go away. When we come back from our break, we’re going to ask him about this planning group within the Joint Chiefs of Staff that is planning to attack Iran. And, he says, once it gets the word, it could happen within twenty-four hours. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh is our guest, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New Yorker magazine. He has an explosive new piece called "The Redirection." Before we go to the planning group that is ready to attack Iran within the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I want to ask you about this group of players you’ve laid out, Sy. You’re talking about Elliott Abrams, about Prince Bandar and their connections to twenty years ago to the Iran-Contra scandal. Explain.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, it’s interesting. One of my favorite paragraphs in the story -- it’s unsourced -- but it describes a meeting within the last two years that Elliott Abrams called. Elliott Abrams, as some may remember, was a key player. He was in the Reagan White House in the National Security Council.
And what happened is, twenty-some-odd years ago, Ronald Reagan wanted very much to stop what he saw as the revolutionary government of Nicaragua, the Sandinista government. He thought they were pro-communist. It’s a little bit like the Chavez issue today. And the CIA began supporting a group of opposition people known as the Contras, a pretty violent bunch of people. Congress authorized an amendment called the Boland Amendment. The congressmen just -- they passed an amendment saying no money for the Contras. So instead of adhering to that, the government then -- if you remember the name Ollie North and the National Security Advisor John Poindexter -- set up a sort of a Rube Goldberg scheme to sell arms through Israel to Iran. The Iranians were our bitter enemies at that time. We were only seven years from the overthrow of the Shah and the capture of our embassy people. If you remember, they were kept for more than a year. So, and the idea was to generate profits that would -- the sale would generate a lot of profits that would be used to fund the Contras. Well, this, of course, blew up in everybody's face. There were sort of inconclusive hearings in the Senate. A few people were charged, I don’t remember. Nothing much came out of it. They never got to the bottom of it. Nobody wanted to go after Reagan. It was ’87, etc., etc., whatever happened.
So two years ago, Abrams, who’s still now in the government, even more important than ever, very conservative -- Elliott Abrams -- pro-Israel, etc., etc. He convened a meeting of all of those people in the Bush administration who had been connected to Iran-Contra. It was like a reunion, somebody said to me. And they did a “lessons learned.” What was the good thing? Well, the good thing is you could do things outside of Congress, who would stop you, those bad guys in Congress. You could do things for the good of the nation. That was the plus.
The negatives were pretty extreme, because, of course, it got blown. Let's see, the negatives included, you don't trust your friends, you don't trust the uniformed military, you don't trust the CIA, and you don't let it be run by the NSC, by somebody like Poindexter. You move it into the Vice President's office, Cheney, Cheney’s office.
I gather that was the time that they began thinking about this possibility, and obviously they were talking to Bandar all along, as I say, the former ambassador. He later became, when he left, he became the National Security Advisor of Saudi Arabia, sort of a surprise job, a new job they set up for him. And I think at that point, some point a long time ago, they began thinking about doing what they’re doing now, using Saudi money and some of the American funds wherever they get it, whether Iraq or other pools -- there’s a lot of black pools of money around, undeclared pools -- using American and Saudi money without going to Congress for anything to fund the kind of operations they want to fund, as I was describing, against Hezbollah, against etc., etc., etc.
And so, this is the genesis, if you will, history, you know -- of course, I have never known an American government to learn from history. And once again, they haven't. They have now done another Rube Goldberg scheme here. I just don't know if Congress -- I can assure you that Congress knows very little about what’s going on now in Iran. They’re not being briefed. They know nothing about the money going in there, at least I’ve been told by people who are in a position to know. There’s been no real findings.
AMY GOODMAN: So will they hold hearings?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, will anybody do anything? I don't know. I don't know. You know, you pump out this stuff. I started writing about Iran, I think, almost a year ago, about covert operations in Iran. And for the longest time, I felt a little bit like Chicken Little, you know, the guy running around saying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Well, now a lot of people are very interested in Iran. But still, I haven't seen -- as you know, there’s a vibrant -- in Europe the story like I write is huge, and this story is huge around the world. But it’s hard to -- you know, the major newspapers have troubles, because -- I don't think it’s because they don't want to run the story. They can't find people that will verify it for them, because this is such inside stuff, I guess.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, can you talk about the planning group within the Joint Chiefs of Staff?
SEYMOUR HERSH: That is nothing new, really. It’s just the same old story. That’s all contingency planning. There’s been no execute order. In other words, there’s no order to bomb Iran. The President has now -- a lot of the planning was done at a place in Virginia, a very secret joint staff facility, where the services would get together and discuss what to hit. And they moved it within the last three months. They’ve set up a special cell inside the Joint Chiefs, very secret. That’s sort of normal. Everything is secret in there.
And they’ve been giving a number of -- at least two new developments have taken place. One is the President or the White House has asked for a bombing raid that can be put on within twenty-four hours. What can we hit if the President wakes up one morning and scratches something and says, “I want to go”? What can you do in the next twenty-four hours? They’ve done that, or they are doing that.
The other significant change is, the debate all along about bombing internally, with the Air Force being very much for it, and a lot of the other services being very much against it -- there’s been tremendous dissension about this in the Joint Chiefs -- the initial targeting was what they call counter-proliferation -- that is, against the Iranian nuclear targets. As you know, Iran is a member of the nonproliferation regime and has released or made public all of its facilities, at least all of -- it’s declared many facilities, perhaps not all, but they say it’s all, to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So, using what we know from the IAEA, we’ve targeted a lot of things that we would destroy in case of a major assault.
There’s also been something called regime change targeting. The wonderful word they use inside in the system is “decapitation.” You go after leadership nodules. You hit the leaders where they live, where they work. And you get rid of the top player, the mullahs running the government, and presumably in the fantasyland that exists among the neocons, the people then rush and take over, and they set up a democratic Iran that’s secular and pro-American.
But what’s happened in the last month or two, in the wake of the President’s new campaign that’s very clear, since January 10th, I think, when he made his speech, we’ve seen an absolute drumbeat of allegations that Iran is involved in operations directly against America and responsible for killing Americans, you know, the stuff about bombs that they give. And I think it’s Article 51 of the UN, I see it, some of my friends see this, as a legal argument the President’s making. Under the UN articles, you have a right of self-defense. And if some country is killing your troops or acting against them, you can attack them. That seems to be one of the bases for why the President is saying what he’s saying.
The Iranians are all over Iraq. They’ve been all over Iraq. There’s thousands inside Iraq at any time. They were there very early, walking around in black suits, white shirts with no ties, black shoes, white socks. They’re very clear. They’re not hiding themselves. Many did humanitarian things and other social things, really. Iran has a strong presence in Iraq and has all along. There is no evidence they’re shooting guns. They’re certainly helping to supply them, etc., etc., which, of course, makes sense for Iran. Why shouldn't they? The longer we are stalemated in Iraq, the better it is for them. They’re the winners of this war.
So, in any case, the President then asked for a new wave of targeting to take place -- that is, targeting against terrorism targets inside Iran. I’m not sure what they’re talking about, maybe base camps, etc. And we’ve also, since last summer, dramatically increased cross-border operations, very aggressive activities, sometimes hot pursuit of what we claim are Iranians. We’re attacking the border more, going across more and more. There’s some people who think we could be looking for some sort of a response by Iran that would create casus belli so that we can do some actual physical assault with some justification. It’s not clear. I’m not clear why we’re being more aggressive. It seems -- I guess common sense would tell you maybe we are looking for some response. But the Iranians have not done it.
AMY GOODMAN: And Iran has just accused the United States of attacking and killing eleven Iranian soldiers.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, this is part of the game. And don't forget, as I wrote -- you know, I hate to say it, but as I wrote a year ago, we have been deeply involved with Azeris and Baluchis and Iranian Kurds in terror activities inside the country. I mean, this is -- and, of course, the Israelis have been involved in a lot of that through Kurdistan. So this has been going on for a year. Iran has been having sort of a series of backdoor fights, the Iranian government, because they are -- they have a significant minority population. Not everybody there is a Persian. If you add up the Azeris and Baluchis and Kurds, you’re really 30-some thousand, maybe even 40% of the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, Dick Cheney went to Saudi Arabia in November. Now, well, he went to Asia and then showed up suddenly, a surprise visit, both to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and supposedly there was an attempted assassination, a bombing outside the base where he was. What is Cheney doing right now?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, how do I know?
AMY GOODMAN: You seem to know a lot about a lot of things, especially around Dick Cheney.
SEYMOUR HERSH: No, I don’t know. No, I just know -- well, you know, I think he's the horse. I don’t think -- there’s always -- every two weeks there’s a story in some newspaper saying he’s lost power. I don't think so. I think he still runs things. I think, you know, if Rice is going to do anything, attend some meeting, some ambassadorial minister-level meeting, it’s only done with Cheney's approval. But, of course, that’s just my heuristic thought.
AMY GOODMAN: And the latest news yesterday of, the US will be involved in direct negotiations with Iran and Syria?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Our definition of negotiations with Iran are very interesting. Our definition of a negotiating offer with Iran -- remember there was a big flurry last year, where we announced we would sit down at the table with Iran. Well, here’s the way we put it. The issue for us is Iran is continuing to do nuclear research and presumably, whether or not they have a bomb, they’re learning the techniques of making a weapon. And this is probably absolutely accurate. That’s what they are learning. They’re increasing the number of centrifuges they’re running, etc., etc., albeit with a lot of problems. And they’re nowhere down near a weapon. But they’re going for that process.
So our position is that we will negotiate with Iran on that issue, on what they’re doing in terms of nuclear development, only after they stop all nuclear development. So our bargaining position is we will not negotiate with you about what you’re doing in terms of the nuclear development until you stop it. I mean, it is a total nonstarter. And so, I just am very skeptical about anything that’s going to come out of any ministerial or subsequent meeting with the Iranians and the Syrians. I don't think the President of the United States and the Vice President want to leave office with things as they are right now.
AMY GOODMAN: You have always said you’re afraid of President Bush as a lame-duck president. Do you seriously think -- I know you’ve been writing about it for a year in The New Yorker magazine -- that he will attack Iran? Or do you see Israel attacking Iran?
SEYMOUR HERSH: No. Israel would never attack Iran. The best they could do is fire some missiles from the Indian Ocean. They have submarines with cruise missiles. No, that’s not nearly enough. What’s a small attack? A major attack, if you’re going to do one, would have to come from the Americans. And Cheney has said internally he will never let the Israelis do it, it’s much better if we do it. But that I feel reasonably rational, I can say with some confidence. I can’t say anything at all about what the President will or will not do.
There are people inside the military -- there’s two aircraft carrier groups in the region right now. One is inside the Straits of Hormuz, which is that narrow straits where all of the oil passes through, going from the Middle East to Asia. And it’s such a narrow channel that the US Navy never even had a carrier go into the Straits of Hormuz, because they’re accompanied by five or six ships, destroyers, etc., and they don’t have much maneuverability. They’re very vulnerable to attack. And I’m told by people that there will be two more carriers sent this spring to relieve the two ships, fleets that are there now. And they will all be kept there for a little while. One off Oman, one in what they call the North Arabian Sea, NAS, one in the Indian Ocean, and one in the Straits of Hormuz. And once those four groups are out there, you’re dealing -- you’re talking about an enormous amount of firepower.
And it’s at that point some people inside the military are worried about what the President might or might not do. I don't think he’s going to do anything next year. It’s an election year. And he’s got to spend -- you know, he’s not an old man. He doesn't want to be hated by the Republican Party all the rest of his life. He’s damaging it enough now. But in ’08, he’s got to be careful. He’s got to give the Republicans a shot at the presidency. And the way he’s carrying on right now, he’s helping the Democrats. So, if he does it, it’ll be this year. And, you know, people worry about spring. And if he is in a position where he can authorize something on short notice, and you could with carriers all over the place -- there’s an awful lot of planes. They carry -- the carrier squadrons have destroyers with cruise missiles that can fire. You can hit a lot of things in Iran if you want.
The Iranians, I should tell you, are absolutely preparing for the worst. They have been digging holes. They’ve been digging what they call bunkers for their leadership, survival bunkers, and not in Tehran, outside. We know where they’re digging. They’re going to move the leadership to underground facilities. The Russians did the same thing during the Cold War, and we, of course, have the same thing, underground bunkers to protect our leaders. They’re reinforcing a lot of buildings. They’ve moved most of the sensitive nuclear stuff, I think, out of the buildings where we think they are into -- probably into Tehran in the very heavily densely populated areas. So if we’re going to bomb nuclear facilities, we’re going to have to take a chance of an awful lot of collateral damage.
And there’s also the possibility -- this is always raised -- that all of this is just some big send-up, that people like me are being used, stories are planted, that this is all part of a propaganda operation by the White House to put pressure on Iran. The only argument against that is, of course, it’s not going to work, and the Iranians will never back off.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, what about the report in the Times of London that says five or six US generals will resign if the US attacks Iran?
SEYMOUR HERSH: What paper was that? That’s of interest to me. Was it the Telegraph?
AMY GOODMAN: I think it was the Times of London.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you know, it depends. The Telegraph, I always think, have tremendous intelligence about the Americans. It’s the conservative paper there that does a great job. A year ago, I wrote that officers are willing to resign inside, high-level officers inside the Joint Chiefs, on the basis of the fact that the White House refused to take out the nuclear option in the plans that were going on. And the military won that battle. The President agreed to a new plan that did not include a nuclear option. And so, that didn’t happen.
So the only thing I know is that there is a precedent for it. When you talk about resignations in the Joint Chief, what you’re really talking about are not public resignations; you’re talking about early retirements. People just say, “I’m out of here.” Nobody goes public. They just don't do that in the middle of a war, because it’s just not seen as a senior officer as something you want to do to your troops on the ground. You don’t do something to walk away from them. So it would be -- my understanding is, if they did leave, it would be quiet.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, I want to thank you very much for being with us.
SEYMOUR HERSH: No sweat.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with The New Yorker magazine. His latest piece that has caused such a stir, the explosive findings in this, called "The Redirection: Is the Administration's New Policy Benefiting Our Enemies in the War on Terrorism?"
Monday, February 26, 2007
Last Tuesday, a second US aircraft carrier arrived in the Sea of Oman off the southern coast of Iran1 giving a whole new meaning to the term "escalation." The Bush administration is hell-bent on sending up to 48,000 more troops to Iraq against the wishes of most Americans, but now it seems like they might not stop there.
While the war in Iraq grows worse by the day, the White House seems to be turning its sights toward neighboring Iran which could escalate the current conflict into a regional one. This reckless move comes despite the fact that most experts believe diplomacy is the way to go with Iran.
President Bush is out of control, and Congress needs to step in immediately to rein him in.
Please sign this petition to Congress asking that they require the president seek their authorization before taking military action in Iran. Clicking here will add your name to the petition:
The President claimed that Iran is aiding the Iraqi insurgency, but analysts continue to cast doubt on the evidence. Even General Peter Pace of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has questioned the claims that the Iranian government is directly involved.2 After all, we are already in a war founded on disproved claims of WMDs.
But the reporting of this news is just the latest. Already we have two aircraft carriers in the region—unprecedented outside of war—and Patriot missiles have been deployed. Neither of these will help to protect our troops in Iraq where most of the fighting is on the ground.
One thing is clear—military action in Iran would further endanger our troops in Iraq and threaten to destabilize the entire Middle East. It could even prop up the Iranian president who is quickly losing popularity in his own country.
We have options: Experts say that sanctions and diplomacy can work. They just worked with North Korea, where we reached a deal last week for them to disarm. And we owe it to our troops to use all of our resources before sending them into harm's way. UN sanctions just went into effect late last week, and the UN Security Council is meeting again today to discuss options. We need to give this process a chance to work before provoking a regional conflict.
Sen. Hillary Clinton has provided some much needed leadership on this:
It would be a mistake of historical proportion if the Administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further Congressional authorization. Nor should the President think that the 2001 resolution authorizing force after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in any way, authorizes force against Iran. If the Administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary, the President must come to Congress to seek that authority.
Can you send a message to your representatives to join Hillary in demanding that Congress check our out-of-contol president?
Clicking here will add your name to the petition:
Please also support General Wesley Clark and Iraq veterans who have also mounted a petition against war with Iran, just announced today at:
General Wesley Clark helped them launch their effort with these words:
War with Iran is not the answer now. We must work with our allies, talk with Iran, and use all diplomatic, political, and economic options at our disposal. Military force in Iran is not the solution.
Thank you for all you do.
–Eli, Wes, Mari, Justin and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team Monday, February 26th, 2007
1. "USS Stennis Carrier Group Deploys Into Gulf Region," Bloomberg News, February 20, 2007 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=2378&id=9939-7636740-fyodeL&t=5
2. "Pace Questions Whether Iran Arming Iraq," ABC News, February 13, 2007http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=2871267
3. Hillary Clinton for President. Transcript of floor speech. February 14, 2007 http://www.hillaryclinton.com/news/speech/view/?id=1328
Support our member-driven organization: MoveOn.org Political Action is entirely funded by our 3.2 million members. We have no corporate contributors, no foundation grants, no money from unions. Our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. If you'd like to support our work, you can give now at:
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Saturday, February 24, 2007
Child-Safety Experts Call For Restrictions On Childhood Imagination
February 20, 2007 Issue 43•08 Satire from The Onion
WASHINGTON, DC—The Department of Health and Human Services issued a series of guidelines Monday designed to help parents curtail their children's boundless imaginations, which child-safety advocates say have the potential to rival motor vehicle accidents and congenital diseases as a leading cause of disability and death among youths ages 3 to 14.
"Defuse the ticking time-bomb known as your child's imagination before it explodes and destroys her completely," said child-safety expert Kenneth McMillan, who advised the HHS in composing the guidelines. "New data shows a disturbing correlation between serious accidents and the ability of children to envision a world full of exciting possibility."
The guidelines, titled "Boundless Imagination, Boundless Hazards: Ways To Keep Your Kids Safe From A World Of Wonder," are posted on the HHS website, and will also be available in brochure form in pediatricians' offices across the country.
According to McMillan, children can suffer broken bones, head trauma, and even fatal injuries from unsupervised exposure to childlike awe. "If your children are allowed to unlock their imaginations, anything from a backyard swing set to a child's own bedroom can be transformed into a dangerous undersea castle or dragon's lair," McMillan said. "But by encouraging your kids to think linearly and literally, and constantly reminding them they can never be anything but human children with no extraordinary characteristics, you can better ensure that they will lead prolonged lives."
Although the exact number of child fatalities connected to an active imagination is unknown, experts say the danger is very real. According to a 2006 estimate, children who regularly engage in imagination are 10 times more likely to suffer injuries such as skinned knees from mythical quests, or bruises and serious falls from the peak of Bookcase Mountain.
One of the HHS recommendations emphasizes increased communication between parents and children about the truths behind outlandish fantasies. "Speak with your children about the absolute impossibility of time travel, magical powers, and animals and toys that talk when adults are not around," reads one excerpt. "If this fails to quell their imaginations, encourage them to stare at household objects and think clearly and objectively about their actual, physical characteristics."
The HHS also discourages aimless playtime activities that lack a rigid, repetitive structure: "Opt instead for safe activities like untying knots, sticking and unsticking two pieces of Velcro, drawing straight lines of successively longer lengths, and quietly humming a single note for two to three hours."
But even these relatively safe activities can become imaginative, experts warn, without proper precautions. "Do not let children know that, for example, sailors and pirates untie knots," McMillan said.
Although no cure has yet been developed for childhood imagination, preventative measures can deter children from potentially hazardous bouts of make-believe.
"Many of the suggestions are really quite simple, like breaking down cardboard boxes or sewing cushions to couches so they cannot be converted into forts or playhouses," McMillan said. "Blank pieces of paper, which can inspire non-reality-based drawings, should be discarded unless they are used in one of our recommended diagonal folding and unfolding activities. And all loose sticks left lying in the yard should be carefully labeled 'Not a Sword.'"
Unfortunately, removing everything from a child's field of view that could stimulate his active young mind is extremely time-consuming, and infeasible as a long-term solution, McMillan acknowledges. "To truly protect your children, you must go to great lengths to completely eliminate their curiosity, crush their spirit of amazement, and eradicate their childlike glee. Watch for the danger signs: faraway expressions, giggle fits, and a general air of carefree contentment."
Added McMillan: "Remember, if you see a single sparkle of excitement in their eyes, you haven't done enough."
© Copyright 2007, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Print Now Brought to you by FREE PRESS, on the web at www.freepress.net
Report Sees Few Funding Alternatives for PBS
From TV Week, February 20, 2007
By Ira Teinowitz
A new Government Accountability Office study is lending some weight to warnings about the Bush administration’s proposal to cut federal funding of public TV.
Unless Congress wants to allow stations to air program underwriting messages far closer to traditional ads-a step many public TV stations oppose-other revenue sources aren’t likely to make up for government cuts, the report says.
Secondary revenues from book, toy and DVD deals generate $7 million to $10 million annually, but they come from relatively few shows and at best merely help offset the Corporation of Public Broadcasting and PBS’ limited ability to fund upfront development costs for suppliers and stations.
“Given its statutorily defined mission and limited financial resources, public television is unlikely to greatly increase back-end revenues,” says the study, which was requested by U.S. Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., and Candice S. Miller, R-Mich.
The report says stations are pushing hard for more corporate contributions, but find it harder to get them.
“According to many licensees, corporate consolidation and an increased focus on advertising among businesses have made garnering underwriting support increasingly difficult.
”The report said 30 of the 54 public TV stations interviewed said cuts in federal funding “could lead to a reduction in staff, local programming or services” and 11 small stations said the cuts could lead to their shutting down.
The two congresswomen did not immediately return calls for comment.President Bush has proposed a cut of $114 million-nearly 25 percent-in the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in his 2007 fiscal year budget.
MoveOn.org has kicked off a petition drive urging Congress to provide permanent funding to CPB and claims it has more than 600,000 signatures so far. Meanwhile, the American Family Association has started its own petition drive urging Congress to halt CPB funding.
This article is from TV Week. If you found it informative and valuable, we strongly encourage you to visit their Web site and register an account, if necessary, to view all their articles on the Web. Support quality journalism.
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Be Afraid: Powder-Sized RFID Chips
Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:58AM EST
From Yahoo! Tech
See Comments (1091)
Everyone's so paranoid about the RFID chips that are already in place in so many parts of our lives, so here's an item (via Engadget and Pink Tentacle) about Hitachi's new powder-sized RFID chips to make us even more scared of Big Brother (or little-Brother-ID thief). RFID chips are tiny microchips that use radio waves to do everything from conduct credit card transactions (as on those little key-fob-Paypass MasterCard thingies) and pay for tolls (EZ Pass and its ilk) to keeping track of your devices and travel (U.S. passports).
Hitachi plans to start marketing these new chips—seriously no bigger than a speck of dust at 0.05 x 0.05 mm—in two to three years. The company says this super-tiny chip can be used in paper, currency, gift certificates, and the like, but as some sites have pointed out, today's chips are already small enough for those uses. So, as Engadget cracked, does this mean we should be watching what we eat in case of some James-Bond-style pepper-shaker swap?
Maybe, but is the terror around RFID over-hyped? According to most proponents of the technology, and my own experiences paying with PayPass at my local drug store, you really need to physically tap the RFID chip to something for the transaction to go through. And yet, when I go through a toll booth, my RFID-enabled EZ Pass box is only about ten feet away from the sensor. So maybe it is time to watch what you eat, lest Big Brother starts to track you wirelessly (or you spill some RFID powder from which evil ID thieves can extract your vital stats!)
What do you think? Is RFID worth the convenience or is it setting up some dangerous privacy-invasion precedents?
Is RFID On Your Radar?
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
Chris Hedges on “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America”
Monday, February 19th, 2007
A new book by Chris Hedges called “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America” investigates the highly organized and well-funded "dominionist movement." The book investigates their agenda, examines the movement's origins and motivations and uncovers its ideological underpinnings. “American Fascists” argues that dominionism seeks absolute power in a Christian state. According to Hedges, the movement bears a strong resemblance to the young fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and '30s.
Chris Hedges was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times for many years where he won a Pulitzer Prize. He is also the author of "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" and "Losing Moses on the Freeway." Chris has a Master's degree in theology from Harvard University and is the son of a Presbyterian minister. He is currently a senior fellow at the Nation Institute - and he is here with me now in the studio.
*Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times who has reported from more than 50 countries over the last 20 years. Chris is currently a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He is author of "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" and "Losing Moses on the Freeway." Chris has a master's degree in theology from Harvard University and is the son of a Presbyterian minister. His new book is "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America."
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the religious right and the rise of it in this country. A new book by Chris Hedges is called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. It investigates the highly organized and well-funded dominionist movement. The book looks at their agenda, examines the movement’s origins and motivations and uncovers its ideological underpinnings. American Fascists argues that dominionism seeks absolute power in a Christian state. According to Hedges, the movement bears a strong resemblance to the young fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and ’30s.
Chris Hedges was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times for many years, where he won a Pulitzer Prize. He’s also the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and Losing Moses on the Freeway. Chris Hedges has a Master's degree in theology from Harvard University and is the son of a Presbyterian minister. He is currently a senior fellow at the Nation Institute and joins me in studio now. Welcome to Democracy Now!
CHRIS HEDGES: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Why did you write this book?
CHRIS HEDGES: Anger. I mean, I grew up in the Church and, of course, as you mentioned, graduated from seminary, and I think these people have completely perverted and distorted and manipulated the Christian message into something that is the very antithesis of certainly what Jesus preached in the Gospels.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are “these people”?
CHRIS HEDGES: These are -- you know, they’re not -- we use terms like “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” to describe them, and I think that those are incorrect terms. Traditional fundamentalists always called on believers to remove themselves from the contaminants of secular society, shun involvement in politics. Evangelical leaders like Billy Graham's always warned followers to keep their distance from political power. He, of course, was burned by Richard Nixon, came to Nixon’s defense and then when it publicly came out that Nixon lied, it taught a lesson to Graham.
This is a new movement, as embodied by people like James Dobson or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, who call for the creation of a Christian state, who talk about attaining secular power. And they are more properly called dominionists or Christian reconstructionists, although it’s not a widespread term, but they're certainly not traditional fundamentalists and not traditional evangelicals. They fused the language and iconography of the Christian religion with the worst forms of American nationalism and then created this sort of radical mutation, which has built alliances with powerful rightwing interests, including corporate interests, and made tremendous inroads over the last two decades into the corridors of power.
AMY GOODMAN: Why the term “dominionist”?
CHRIS HEDGES: It come out of Genesis, you know, where God gives humankind dominion over creation. It’s articulated by ideologues, such as Rousas Rushdoony, Francis Schaeffer and others, and essentially is a new concept within the radical Christian right, and it’s used sparingly. And some dominionists don’t like the term, but I think it denotes or is probably a better term for denoting those people who want to take political power.
AMY GOODMAN: On the back of your book, Chris, is a quote from your professor at Harvard, Dr. James Luther Adams, who said that in a few decades we would all be fighting “Christian fascists.” Who was he, and why did he think this?
CHRIS HEDGES: James Luther Adams was my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School. He had spent the years 1935 and 1936 in Germany working with Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Confessing Church or anti-Nazi church and eventually was picked up by the Gestapo and told to leave the country. He came back -- and this was in the early 1980s, when I was in seminary -- and saw the articulation of this new political religion, this religion that talked about seizing control of mainstream denominations, as well as institutions, creating a parallel media empire through Christian radio and broadcasting, and ultimately taking control of the government itself.
And he understood, in a visceral way, how when countries fall into despair -- of course, this began -- it was the time that began the assault on the American working class, which has been accelerated and essentially left tens of millions of people within our own country dispossessed -- he understood how demagogues use that despair. And I think we can say there, in many ways, has been a kind of Weimarization of the American working class. And he saw what we were doing through globalization, what we were doing to our working class and our middle class, coupled with the rise of these so-called Christian demagogues, as a frightening and toxic combination, which, if left unchecked, would destroy our democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you begin with Umberto Eco? And explain who he is.
CHRIS HEDGES: Umberto Eco is the great Italian writer -- I mean, he wrote that very popular book, The Name of the Rose, and he had a nice little book of essays called Five Moral Pieces, and in it he writes about the salient qualities of what he calls “Ur-Fascism,” or eternal fascism. And I wanted to list those -- I thought it was probably as good a list as I’d ever seen compiled on what the main tenets of fascism are -- to begin the book, because my argument is that this is not a religious movement. Although it certainly depends on the support of many earnest, well-meaning, decent people who are religious, I would argue that they are manipulated not only, of course, to be fleeced for their own money, but essentially to give up moral choice and surrender to the authoritarian demands of these leaders to march forward and essentially dismantle our democratic state. And I think that when we look closely at what it is that this Christian right movement espouses, it does bear many similarities to, you know, the main pillars of fascist movements: the cult of masculinity, the war against --
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “the cult of masculinity”?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, the fact that, you know, they elevate male figures within the megachurches, who cannot be questioned, who speak directly for God. Any kind of questioning or self-criticism becomes essentially battling the forces of Satan. That power structure is to be replicated in the family. Much of this movement is about the disempowerment of women. Children have to be obedient. And so, that power structure of the family with the dominant male and everyone else submissive is replicated in the megachurches, which oftentimes -- and I’ve been in many over the last two years -- revolve around cults of personality.
When we look at the sort of empires that people like Pat Robertson run, you know, this man is worth hundreds of millions, some people say up to $1 billion, surrounded by bodyguards, flying around on private jets, investing in blood diamonds in Sierra Leone. He has rock star status. I mean, if you’ve ever been to an event where he appears, people are weeping and want to be touched by him. There is no question. He essentially runs a despotic little fiefdom.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the blood diamonds part.
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, he uses the money, which he takes from, really, people who live on the fringes of American society and should not be mailing him their checks, in all sorts of very dirty investments in Africa. And one of them was essentially getting involved in the trade of diamonds essentially for weapons that rend Sierra Leone.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Chris Hedges. He’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, went to seminary and has written a number of books. His latest is called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. We’ll be back with him in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Chris Hedges. His latest book called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. We were just talking about Pat Robertson. I wanted to go back to that famous quote of his. This had to do with foreign policy and the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
PAT ROBERTSON: You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don’t think any oil shipments will stop, but this man is a terrific danger. This is in our sphere of influence, so we can’t let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine. We have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
AMY GOODMAN: Pat Robertson. Your response, Chris Hedges?
CHRIS HEDGES: That’s a deeply Christian message, calling for assassination. You know, I covered the war in Central America, and Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell came down to support the murderous rampages of Rios Montt in Guatemala, the military dictatorship that were running death squads that were killing 800 to 1,000 people a month in El Salvador, and, of course, the Contras, whose main contribution in Nicaragua was walking into towns drunk out of their mind, raping the women and killing the men and burning the villages. And they describe these battles as essentially a war against Satan, against Satanic forces, godless communism that had to be defeated. There are no international boundaries in Satan’s kingdom, if you look at it from their ideology. I think that the kinds of the wholehearted support for genocidal killers in Central America, which Pat Robertson was one of the stalwarts, is a tip-off as to, you know, without legal restraints, what they would like to do within our own borders.
And I think that the quote or the clip that you just played is a perfect illustration of how dark the intentions of this movement is and how, if we don’t begin to stand up and fight back, if we believe that these people can be domesticated and brought into the political arena where they will act responsibly, we’re very, very naive. And we should all sit down, and as unpalatable as it is, and listen to Christian -- so-called Christian radio and television to see the kinds of messages of hate and exclusion that they are spewing out over the airwaves.
AMY GOODMAN: The quote of Jerry Falwell right after September 11th that became quite famous: “I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’” He was speaking on September 13, 2001, on Pat Robertson's 700 Club program.
CHRIS HEDGES: That’s right. And, you know, this is -- I mean, essentially, when you follow the logical conclusion of the ideology they preach, there really are only two options for people who do not submit to their authority. And it’s about submission, because these people claim to speak for God and not only understand the will of God, but be able to carry it out. Either you convert, or you’re exterminated. That’s what the obsession with the End Times with the Rapture, which, by the way, is not in the Bible, is about. It is about instilling -- it’s, of course, a fear-based movement, and it’s about saying, ultimately, if you do not give up control to us, you will be physically eradicated by a vengeful God. And that lust for violence, I think that sort of -- you know, the notion, that final aesthetic being violence is very common to totalitarian movements, the belief that massive catastrophic violence can be used as a cleansing agent to purge the world. And that’s, you know, something that this movement bears in common with other despotic and frightening radical movements that we’ve seen over the past -- throughout the past century.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about some of the meetings you attended, from the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation to the Evangelism Explosion that was a seminar taught by Dr. D. James Kennedy?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, the Evangelism Explosion was a one-week seminar taught by Kennedy, was about certifying people to be able to go out and teach this conversion technique. And what was fascinating about it is how manipulative and dishonest it was. You know, what they do is essentially they cook the testimonies. They promise people that if they commit themselves to Christ, they can get rid of the deepest existential dreads of human existence: the fear of mortality, you know, grief, one of the -- we were supposed to read testimonies. We would turn them into the teachers, and they would send them back. And it was always about, you know, I have 100% certainty that I know that if I die tomorrow, I will go to heaven. Or, I lost my son -- one of the examples was -- in the war in Vietnam, but I don’t grieve, because I know I’m going to meet him in heaven.
And they talked about targeting people who are vulnerable. They used a technique very common to cults. It’s called love-bombing -- it’s a term taken from Margaret Singer -- where you -- three or four people go and you sort of focus intently on the person and are fascinated by everything that they say. You build false friendships. And eventually, of course, the goal is to draw them into these megachurches.
This movement talks about family, but it is the great destroyer of family. And I would stand up in these -- or I would be in these meetings and see people stand up weeping, and they would be weeping for unsaved spouses or children, because once you get sucked into these organizations, your leisure time, your religious worship time, you end up becoming involved in groups, you’re essentially removed from your old community and placed into this authoritarian community, where there is no questioning of those above you. You’re often assigned -- you’re called a baby Christian when you first come, and you’re assigned spiritual guides to teach you to think and act in the appropriate manner.
When I went to the National Religious Broadcasters Association in California, the most interesting thing about it was how these radical dominionists, these people who have built an alliance around the drive to create a Christian state, have taken over virtually all Christian radio and television stations. And there are traditional evangelicals who would like to step back from this political agenda, and they have been very ruthlessly brushed aside.
You saw it in the purging of the Southern Baptist Convention, when essentially dominionists like Richard Land took it over in 1980. There were many ministers who were very conservative and thought abortion was murder, were no friends to sort of gays and lesbians, but they didn’t buy into that political agenda, which of course has been fused with rapacious capitalism.
I mean, this movement talks about acculturating the society with a Christian religion. In fact, it’s the inverse. What they’ve done is acculturate the Christian religion with the worst aspects of American imperialism and American capitalism. And there’s that kind of uneasy alliance with many of these corporate interests. But it serves their turn. I mean, when you’re creating the corporate state, it’s very convenient to have an ideology that says, “Don’t worry. You don’t need health insurance, because if you have enough faith, Jesus will cure you. It doesn’t matter if all of your jobs are outsourced and there are no labor unions, because, you know, God takes care of his own. And not only that, but God will make you materially wealthy.” This is, you know, the gospel of prosperity. So, essentially, what we’ve seen is that fusion between those who want to build a corporate state and this ideological movement that thrusts believers who come out of deep despair into a world of magic and miracles and angels.
AMY GOODMAN: And what are the corporations that are part of this?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, DeVos, a guy who founded Amway; Target; Sam's Club. You know, they bring in -- a lot of these corporations like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club and others bring in these sort of dominionist or evangelical ministers into the plants as a way to mollify workers. Subscribing to this belief system is essentially about disempowerment.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Chris Hedges. He has written the book, American Fascists. How does this fit into the race for president in 2008?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, certainly this movement has tremendous reach within the Republican Party, Amy, and I think we could argue it all but controls the Republican Party at this point. We see it with John McCain, who in 2000 called Falwell and Robertson “agents of intolerance” and is now sort of falling all over himself to court this movement.
I think it’s a mistake to think that George Bush somehow embodies the movement. I think there’s a great deal of frustration with Bush, remember, on the issue of immigration, and there is a tension, an uneasy alliance between these corporate interests and this radical movement, and I think, you know, we should also say, as Robert Paxton points out in his book, Anatomy of Fascism, that fascist movements always build alliances with conservative or industrial interests, and oftentimes these alliances are not seamless. But on the issue of immigration, Bush sided with the corporations, who want illegal immigrants for cheap labor. There’s a huge nativist element, a huge hostility towards immigrants within the movement, and that angered the Christian right.
I think they’re going to go searching for another candidate -- maybe Brownback, I don't know -- who they feel -- I mean, it boils down to the fact that they feel Bush was not radical enough. And they’re going to go searching for a candidate that is going to swing further right, further towards the radical agenda that they have at their core. And this clip from Robertson, I think, is a public display of -- you know, unleashed how far they would like to go.
AMY GOODMAN: Chris Hedges, Iran. Let's talk about Iraq, Iran, war, and what you call the American fascists.
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, that’s a really important point, because none of these movements can take power unless there is a period of prolonged instability or a crisis. They can make creeping gains, and they have made tremendous gains, including taking hundreds of millions of dollars of American taxpayer money through the faith-based initiative program. But I think, as weak as our democracy is, we can hold them off, unless we enter a period of instability.
From my reading of the Bush White House, I think there's a very strong possibility that before the end of the Bush administration, they will make a strike against Iran. I think that what they’ve done is -- or what Karl Rove has done is essentially adopt a corruption of Leon Trotsky's notion of a permanent revolution -- only, it’s permanent war. Now, you know, the military-industrial complex, which is making huge profits off the war in Iraq, let's not forget, is essentially driving this administration. I think these people live in an alternate reality. I think they really do believe that they dropping cruise missiles and bunker busters and making conventional air strikes against supposed sites that they’ve targeted in Iran -- 700 to 1000, according to Sy Hersh -- will bring the Iranian regime down. Having spent seven years in the Middle East, a lot of that time in Iran and Iraq, I’m quite certain that they will have no more success in Iran than the Israelis had in Lebanon.
The problem with striking Iran is that it has the potential to create a regional conflict. I mean, we’re already fighting a proxy war with Iran through Hezbollah in Iraq -- there’s no question that the Iraqi Shiites are getting assistance from Iran and always have been -- and to a certain extent with the conflict with Hamas, which probably gets some help from Iran, as well. But a strike against Iran would be, in the eyes of Shiites throughout the Middle East, a strike against Shiism. You have two million Shiites in Saudi Arabia, many of whom work in the oil sector, Bahraini Shia, huge Shia minority in Pakistan, and, of course, most of Iraq is Shia. And I think that that kind of a hit would -- has the potential to unleash a regional conflict.
I think we should remember that Iran does not have the conventional capacity to do anything to the United States, but they could very well strike Israel, especially. Of course, there’s talk of Israeli involvement in some kinds of air strikes. That would provoke a retaliation. Hezbollah would not sit by quietly. I think that in sort of unconventional weapons -- I don’t know what those would be -- I mean, you know, Iran, it’s an unprovoked attack. I mean, under international law, Iran has a right to strike back, and I think that they would. And that could really create a spiral, a kind of death spiral that frightens me deeply. And I think what really frightens me is that no one in the Democratic Party is speaking up, with the exception of Kucinich. Nobody has spoken out against hitting Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about this latest headline that we read today. You have, what came out in the last few weeks, reporters in Baghdad getting this unusual briefing where there weren’t allowed to name names or even take in their video cameras, being told that Iran was supplying -- what was it? -- highest levels of the Iranian government sending sophisticated roadside bombs to Iraq that have killed 170 coalition troops since 2004. I wanted to ask about Michael Gordon, your former colleague at the New York Times, the person who was so-called breaking the story, who was deeply involved with the weapons of mass destruction myths also in his writings with Judith Miller, and now this latest today, the Iranian government accusing the US and Britain of being involved in an attack last week that killed eleven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Start with Michael Gordon.
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, that’s probably the best reason to watch Democracy Now!, rather than read the New York Times, about the war in Iraq. It’s almost -- one’s left sort of speechless. I guess it’s proof that some people never learn anything. I mean, I was on the investigative team and got briefly sort of tarnished with that dirt. I was based in Paris covering al-Qaeda but did get sucked into one of these sort of sham Chalabi stories.
AMY GOODMAN: Which one?
CHRIS HEDGES: It was the one where they supposedly had a defector in Lebanon. It wasn’t my story, but, I mean, it ended up -- you tend on investigative units to work as teams. It was Lowell Bergman’s story, which was broadcast on Frontline, but he could not fly to Beirut to interview the guy, so I did. But, I mean, it was my body. I was there. And --
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who he was, the person you interviewed?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, he was an impostor. Supposedly, he was a general, and he was talking about training camps that were being run in Iraq for al-Qaeda. I think it’s been pretty well discredited. So I find it -- I mean, I find the tactics -- and we see it, you know, ratcheting up with the rhetoric with Iran. I mean, we see that they're familiar tactics and familiar lies. And it’s just stunning that people as bright as Michael Gordon buy into it. I don’t get it.
AMY GOODMAN: Of course, it’s not just Michael Gordon. He writes the piece, and then the institution of the Times, well, they put it on the front page --
CHRIS HEDGES: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: -- and they’re the ones that make it the big exclusive story based on unnamed sources. And it beats this drum for war.
CHRIS HEDGES: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: What will you do if the US attacks Iran?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, I’m not going to pay my income taxes. I just am in such despair over the consequences of that war and the fact that there just really is no -- seems to be no organized opposition. And I think that I have a kind of moral responsibility as someone who comes out of the Middle East and has, I mean, directly, you know, friends throughout the years that I spent there who would suffer tremendously from that. And I sort of -- it may not change anything, and it may be sort of futile, but I think that at least when it’s over, I’ll have earned the right to ask for their forgiveness.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian Zionist Movement, how does it fit into this?
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, the relationship between this radical movement and the radical right in Israel is one that really brings together Messianic Jews and Messianic Christians who believe that they have been given a divine or a moral right to control one-fifth of the world's population who are Muslim. It’s a really repugnant ideology. The radical Christian right in this country is deeply anti-Semitic. I mean, look at what they -- you know, when the end times come, except for this 144,000 Jews who flee to Petra and are converted -- I think this was a creation of Tim LaHaye -- Jews will be destroyed, along with all other nonbelievers, including people like myself who are nominal Christians, in their eyes. You know, there is no respect for Judaism in and of itself. It’s an abstraction. It’s, you know, Jews have to control Israel, because that is one more step towards Armageddon. And I find that alliance strange and very shortsighted on the part of many rightwing Israelis and rightwing Jews in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: This latest story, the Anti-Defamation League calling on Georgia State Rep. Ben Bridges to apologize for a memo distributed under his name that says the teaching of evolution should be banned in public schools, because it is a religious deception stemming from an ancient Jewish sect. The memo calls on lawmakers to introduce legislation that would end the teaching of evolution in public schools, because it's “a deception that is causing incalculable harm to every student and every truth-loving citizen.”
CHRIS HEDGES: And there’s a bill now in the Texas state legislature that will abolish all mention of evolution in school textbooks and make Bible study mandatory in public schools. And the role of creationism is extremely important in this movement. It’s not just wacky pseudoscience. It is really a war against truth. It is not about presenting an alternative. It’s about saying facts are interchangeable with opinions, that lies are true, that we can believe whatever we want. And once they successfully elevate creationism, which, of course, is a myth -- I mean, teaching creation out of the Book of Genesis is an absurdity. The writers of the Book of Genesis thought the earth was flat with rivers of above and below us. But what it does is destroy the possibility or sanctity of honest, dispassionate, intellectual and scientific inquiry. And when they do that, they have made a huge step towards creating a totalitarian state.
AMY GOODMAN: Chris Hedges, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Chris Hedges is the Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, currently a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. His latest book is called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. Thanks for joining us.
CHRIS HEDGES: Thanks, Amy.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Though the air is full of singing
my head is loud
with the labor of words.
Though the season is rich
with fruit, my tongue
hungers for the sweet of speech.
Though the beech is golden
I cannot stand beside it
mute, but must say
"It is golden," while the leaves
stir and fall with a sound
that is not a name.
It is in the silence
that my hope is, and my aim.
A song whose lines
I cannot make or sing
sounds men's silence
like a root. Let me say
and not mourn: the world
lives in the death of speech
and sings there
Friday, February 16, 2007
By Meirion JonesBBC Newsnight
February 14, 2007 — On Thursday 15 February a high court judge in London will rule whether a vulture fund can extract more than $40m from Zambia for a debt which it bought for less than $4m.
There are concerns that such funds are wiping out the benefits which international debt relief was supposed to bring to poor countries.
Martin Kalunga-Banda, Zambian presidential adviser and a consultant to Oxfam told Newsnight, “That $40m is equal to the value of all the debt relief we received last year.”
Vulture funds - as defined by the International Monetary Fund and Gordon Brown amongst others - are companies which buy up the debt of poor nations cheaply when it is about to be written off and then sue for the full value of the debt plus interest - which might be ten times what they paid for it.
Caroline Pearce from the Jubilee Debt campaign told Newsnight it makes a mockery of all the work done by governments to write off the debts of the poorest.
“Profiteering doesn’t get any more cynical than this. Zambia has been planning to spend the money released from debt cancellation on much-needed nurses, teachers and infrastructure: this is what debt cancellation is intended for not to line the pockets of businessmen based in rich countries.”
Debt Advisory International (DAI) manages a number of vulture funds which buy up the debts of highly indebted poor countries cheaply and then sue for the original value of the debt plus interest. Zambia - where the average wage is just over a dollar a day - is one of the highly indebted poor countries which the world’s governments agreed needed debt relief.
In 1979 the Romanian government lent Zambia money to buy Romanian tractors. Zambia was unable to keep up the payments and in 1999 Romania and Zambia negotiated to liquidate the debt for $3m.
Before the deal could be finalised one of DAI’s vulture funds stepped in and bought the debt from Romania for less than $4m. They are now suing the Zambian government for the original debt plus interest which they calculate at over $40m and they expect to win.
Like the other vulture funds DAI refuse to do interviews but reporter Greg Palast caught up with the company founder Michael Sheehan outside his home in Virginia.
Greg Palast: “I just want to ask you Mr Sheehan - why are you squeezing the poor nation of Zambia for $40 million - doesn’t that make you a vulture? Michael Sheehan: “No comment I’m in litigation. It’s not my debt.” Greg Palast: Aren’t you just profiteering from the work of good people who are trying to save lives by cutting the debt of these poor nations? Michael Sheehan: Well there was a proposal for investment. That’s all I can talk about right now.Five years ago Gordon Brown told the United Nations that the vulture funds were perverse and immoral: “We particularly condemn the perversity where Vulture Funds purchase debt at a reduced price and make a profit from suing the debtor country to recover the full amount owed - a morally outrageous outcome”. But the vulture funds are still operating.
‘We don’t do interviews’
The London case is just one of many which are running around the world.Newsnight went to New York to try to interview Paul Singer - the reclusive billionaire who virtually invented vulture funds.
In 1996 his company they paid $11m for some discounted Peruvian debt and then threatened to bankrupt the country unless they paid $58m. They got their $58m.
Now they’re suing Congo Brazzaville for $400m for a debt they bought for $10m.
We didn’t get our interview. His spokesman told us, “We have nothing to hide; we just don’t do interviews”.
The vulture funds raise most of their money through legal actions in US courts. Those actions against foreign governments can be stayed by the word of the US President and that is where lobbying and political influence becomes important.
Debt Advisory International are very generous to their lobbyists in Washington. They have been paying $240,000 a year to the lobby firm Greenberg Traurig - although recently they jumped ship to another firm after Greenberg Traurig’s top lobbyist was put in jail.
Paul Singer has more direct political connections. He was the biggest donor to George Bush and the Republican cause in New York City - giving $1.7m since Bush started his first presidential campaign.
Rudy Guiliani is the favourite to be the next Republican presidential candidate and a leaked memo from his campaign shows that Paul Singer has pledged to raise $15m for Guiliani’s campaign.
The vulture funds have teams of lawyers combing the world for assets which can be seized to settle their claims. There have also been claims of dubious tactics.
Back in Britain the Zambian case has seen much legal discussion about allegations of bribery. The Zambian legal team - led by William Blair QC - Tony Blair’s brother, has argued that a $2m bribe was offered to the former Zambian President to make it easier for the vulture funds to claim their money.
They showed the court an email disclosed in the Zambia case saying that a payment to the “President’s favourite charity” had allowed them to do a more favourable deal.
When we caught up with Michael Sheehan outside his house in Virginia he told us it was not a bribe but a charitable donation.He told us, “We offered to donate debt to a low income housing initiative which was a charitable initiative which did end up building several thousand houses” before adding “you’re contorting the facts, you’re on my property and I would ask you to step off”.
The Jubilee Debt Campaign told Newsnight that they are calling on Gordon Brown to turn his moral outrage about vulture funds into action if he becomes Prime Minister and change the law to make the Zambian case the last to appear in a British court.
Meirion Jones produced Greg Palast’s investigation into Vulture Funds
Thursday, February 15, 2007
What a concept. End homelessness by giving the homeless a home. I just watched this story of a program that is working, saving money, and spreading across the country. The Bush administration is even supporting it. Check it out. Here is a description of the show and a link to watch it:
What will most help homeless people reenter the fabric of society? Some say the answer is right there in the question: a home. This week, NOW investigates a program that secures apartments for the long-term homeless, even if they haven't kicked their bad habits. If you think that sounds crazy, think again. Advocates say this approach reduces costs, encourages self-help and counseling participation, and restores self-esteem.
The evidence seems to be with them, and the program is spreading to hundreds of cities across the country. NOW follows a man nicknamed 'Footie' who invited us to see this idea in action in New York City.